Posts Tagged ‘shorebirds’

We’re coming to a close here on Metinic. Most of our tern chicks are flying around or landing near the water’s edge. We’ve taken down most of our productivity plots, since we can’t monitor chicks that can fly out when we get close. The guillemot chicks get closer to fledging every time we check the burrows.

Shorebirds are becoming more and more plentiful, with dozens of short-billed dowitchers and semipalmated sandpipers flitting around the north end of the island every day. Several whimbrels have taken up residence atop the hill by the gull colony and a few semipalmated plovers, least sandpipers, ruddy turnstones, and yellowlegs have been gleaning the tide line for food.


Short-billed dowitchers use their long bills to probe deep into the seaweed


Ruddy turnstones got their name from their habit of flipping small rocks to seek food

It’s the time of year for berries, and the island is covered in raspberry bushes in full fruit. A few early blueberries can also be found growing low to the ground. On one of our birding trips through the woods, we came across a bountiful clearing rife with raspberries. It was a great spot for a snack break.


Snack time!

We’ll be heading back to the mainland on Tuesday. It’s been a great summer out here of monitoring birds, racking up bird species (still at 96), and chasing sheep. The weather has generally been fantastic, and the sunsets continue to be beautiful. It’s bittersweet to leave, but as the terns depart, so must we.


Sunset from the tern colony

So long, and thanks for reading!

-Mark and Helen

Metinic 2016 Crew

Metinic 2016 crew banding an arctic tern

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It’s the end of the season and migration time for all of us. Hard as it is to believe, Zak and I have already been off Metinic for more than week.  We’re not the only ones heading out – our tern chicks will soon be off on their own travels.
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Common Terns will head for South America, a pretty long haul for chicks only a few weeks old. The Arctic Terns have even farther to go – all the way to Antarctica! Lucky for them, they’ve got parents to guide them. Chicks will often complete their first migration by following Mom or Dad. This is because tern parents usually have lots of migratory experience – Common Terns can live to be twenty years old, Arctic Terns more than thirty, and they typically migrate every year.


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The rest of our feathered friends are getting geared up for migration too. Shorebirds that we haven’t seen since May are flying south from their Arctic breeding grounds and stopped by to say hi before we left. It’s only a matter of time before the songbirds head out, too.
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It’s been a pretty good breeding season for our terns, especially in light of last’s years troubles. The Arctic Terns in particular did very well thanks to good food, good weather, and few problems with predators. We hope this bodes well for future years on Metinic. We (or next year’s crew) will let you know, starting next May!


Thanks for following along with our work here on Metinic. Zak and I have had a fantastic time out here and we hope you’ve enjoyed reading about what we and the birds have been up to.

Wish our terns chicks luck!

– Amy

(All photos by Zak)

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Our Island Home

The cabin we are going to call home for the summer.

Finally, after weeks of anticipation and planning, we (Julia and Katie) have arrived at the island we are going to call home for an entire summer. Our island is called Ship Island, and it lies in Blue Hill Bay, Maine, just a few miles off shore. At just 11 acres, the small island will be called home to not just ourselves, but to a variety of various song birds, sparrows, and seabirds. Our focus, of course, will be on the seabirds, and we are looking forward to a wonderful summer with them.

May on the islands provides a fantastic opportunity to witness the migration of birds. As islands along critical oceanic migration routes, the Refuge’s islands are essential to providing migrating birds a place to refuel and refresh. For the biologists, it is an exciting time to witness new species and observe them closely as they forage voraciously in trees and shrubs just feet away.

Northern Parula

Northern Parula from the back window.

Like Petit Manan and other islands, Ship Island has been privy to sundry migrants: 72 in total at the close of today. It seems that nearly every morning we wake up to a new bird song. This morning, it was the Bobolink with his “R2D2” voice.


Bobolink singing his “R2D2” song in front of a tern blind and West Barge Island

But the migrants are not the only exciting birds we see here – shorebirds flock to our sandy beaches, scouring the rack line for tasty morsels as they probe incessantly with their long bills. Lately we have been seeing up to 50 Black-bellied Plovers, still in the process of molting into their striking summer plumage. Others have included Least, Semipalmated, and Purple Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstones, Dunlin, Willets, Whimbrels, Short-billed Dowitchers, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Semipalmated and Piping Plovers.

Until next time,



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