Posts Tagged ‘USFWS’

Hello friends, Hallie here from Petit Manan Island!

Life here on Petit Manan is going so well. Our tern chicks are hatched and getting close to fledging, our pufflings are fluffier and plumper than ever, and we even have our first black guillemot and razorbill chicks.

One of the cool things about working on such a small island like this is when you have a new avian visitor, you notice. We are up to 110 bird species recorded on Petit Manan Island this season, which is remarkable in itself. We have had everything from warblers to short-billed dowitchers to even a least bittern, a small bird that you typically find in marshlands on the mainland. And as well, we have had a lot of birds with interesting plumage show up to the island — like this Common Murre.


Leucistic Common Murre next to Razorbill and Atlantic Puffin

Common Murres are usually a dark chocolate brown, which is produced by melanin. This bird,  however, is silvery-grey — a result of a genetic mutation that inhibits melanin production. This result is called leucism, which is similar, yet very different to albinism. Regardless, it makes up for a stunning result — this bird very well may be one of the more beautiful I have ever seen. Whether or not male or female common murres also think so is up for debate — hopefully this bird’s unique plumage will not inhibit it from procreating in the future.

Melanin is one of many ways birds color themselves. The laughing gulls here use melanin to create that dark mask during the breeding season, which they use to deter other laughing gulls from their nests. You also often see birds with darkened wing-tips, like the terns, in which the melanin is used to strengthen the feathers and make them more durable.


Adult Atlantic Puffin showing the orange-red carotenoid coloration in the bill and eye

But what other colors do we see here on PMI that have significance in birds?  Since we have been catching puffins this last week, I have been captivated by the bright orange feet and bills that the puffins display during the breeding season.  Puffins, and many other birds, get this rich orange-red color from carotenoids — a color they metabolize directly from their food. Puffins use the intensity of this color to show potential mates and rivals how fit they may be. The brighter their bills and feet, the better at fishing and raising a chick they may be! You can also see melanin in the feet and the mouths of black guillemots!

Next time you see a color in a bird, its worth asking exactly why it is that way. Often even the most subtle of colors on a bird have such an immense meaning. I will be doing the same — sitting here wondering why we get tern chicks in two different colors. Any ideas?


Common Tern chicks from the same nest showing the two different plumage colorations

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Come meet the 2019 Petit Manan Crew!

Hello all! My name is Hallie Daly, and I am one of the lucky bird-nerds that gets to call PMI their home for the summer. I have been working with wildlife for about 9 years now, having started my obsession when I was just 13 years old. I graduated from the University of California, Davis in 2017 with my degree in wildlife, fish, and conservation biology. I have been lucky enough to have worked internationally on a variety of conservation projects in Romania, the United Kingdom, Guyana, the United States, and most recently American Samoa, with everything from plants, large carnivores, squirrels, bats, and birds. Coming to work with the USFWS at PMI is such an exciting opportunity for me, as I have never worked with a breeding colony of seabirds before! Aside from enjoying wildlife, you can often find me backpacking the John Muir Trail in California, reading books about paleontology, painting, and making horrible puns! I have so much to learn and am so excited to apply my knowledge and skills from my past experiences towards the conservation of these beautiful birds.

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Hallie with a Eurasian Skylark in Aberdeen, Scotland

Hi everyone! My name is Jimmy Welch and I am the supervisor here on PMI for the summer. I am a returning intern and was first a research technician in the summer of 2016 here on PMI. I have since worked with prairie dogs in New Mexico, sea turtles in North Carolina and researched scavengers and small mammals in Maine. I’ve also recently graduated from the University of New England in May 2019 with a degree in Animal Behavior and Environmental Science. I decided I wanted to come back to work for MCINWR and I was lucky enough to be able to return to my favorite island, PMI! I am really excited for the field season and the opportunity to work with such amazing seabird species again. I hope to utilize my previous experience on the island and my diverse field work background to make it a great summer for the PMI crew and all of the wonderful birds here on PMI.


Jimmy with two black guillemot chicks on PMI 2016

Hey everyone, my name is Devon Jobe and I’m one of the newest researchers working with the USFWS here on Petit Manan Island! I am a rising second-year student at the University of Maine, and am majoring in both Wildlife Ecology as well as Forestry. That being said, this is only my first real position in my field of study and is a totally new and awesome experience for me! I feel so lucky to have been given the opportunity to be part of  such an exciting project working with breeding seabirds, and I can say with confidence that it is shaping up to be the most interesting introduction into the field of Wildlife Ecology I could have hoped for! I still have a lot to learn but I’m looking forward to doing it here on PMI.


Devon at Wildland Firefighter Training.










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Hi everyone!

This is Mary reporting from Metinic Island. I am happy to announce that we had our first eggs on Sunday! We have been monitoring closely to see whether it is Common or Arctic terns sitting on each of the eggs. It is nearly impossible to tell the different eggs apart by appearance alone, so we have to watch closely to see who sits on the scrape. It is very exciting to think that soon there will be little chicks replacing the eggs!

The weather here on Metinic can get a little nasty sometimes. We got rain all afternoon and through the evening yesterday. The wind can really pick up here too, one day last week the average wind speed was 31 mph! Due to the sensitivity of the terns, it is important that we pay close attention to the weather. Disturbing the colony when the weather is bad, especially when there are chicks, can cause the terns to waste unnecessary energy. On days like this, we limit the number of times we enter the colony and in severe cases we do not enter at all.

Check back in with us soon! Hopefully there will be more eggs and some nice weather here on Metinic!


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A new breeding season has begun here on Petit Manan Island. You take a step out the front door on a chilly morning, and the sky and ocean are filled to the brim with life. Little yellow songbirds- like Magnolia Warbler (Setophaga magnolia) and American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)- are darting around the grasses. You hear a familiar song from a Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) broadcasting his availability to the available females. A white bird swoops towards your head with a sharp call – it’s a Common Tern (Sterna hirundo), establishing its territory and assuring a predator free environment for its young.  And you look out at the sea – it is covered with little charismatic birds: Atlantic Puffins (Fratercula artctica), Razorbills (Alca torda), and Black Guillemots (Cepphus grylle) – the poster children for the island breeding colonies across the Atlantic.

My name is Hallie, and I have lived far from any form of civilization for quite a long time. I have been working with birds for a little over 5 years now, often in locations so remote that your best company often becomes the wildlife around you. Petit Manan, in a way, is my first time living in a metropolitan area in years – but instead of humans, its birds. There is the main crazy downtown here – Puffin Point, as we call it, which would be the avian equivalent to Manhattan. And then there is the lawn – Puffin Point’s suburbia – where you will find all of the terns scattered about fiercely guarding their nests. And out in the more rural suburban zones, you get the Laughing Gulls (Leucophaeus atricilla) and various songbirds. There is even a community underground: Leach’s Storm Petrels (Oceanodroma leucorhoa) which burrow deep down underneath the soil, right next to the roly-polies and the salamanders. The island is hustling and bustling with life, even at the dead of night, just like Times Square.

Puffin Point 

Here in bird city, love is in the air. I have quite enjoyed watching all of the different species of bird court one another. The terns are very playful – one will come back with a fish and flash it off to all of the birds around it, enticing them to chase it during a magnificent display of airborne agility. Sometimes the bird will give it to a potential mate, or sometimes it will devour the fish for itself.  The puffins are gentler – you will often see two mates nuzzling their bills against one another’s, or a male trying to catch the attention of a female by nodding his bill within her sight. And then there’s the guillemots, which will race around the female, dive head first into the water, and make high-pitched, almost song-bird like calls.

Every species of bird here establishes themselves differently: but they all have the same goal in mind. Right now on Petit Manan Island, its finding a mate, finding a place to nest, and getting started securing the future generations of their species. It is quite a magical time, and as chaotic as a metropolitan area can be, the island with its seabirds has its charm.

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Hi all!  Helen here!  My first week with the seabirds on Metinic Island has been full of exploring, birding, and learning new things!  We started out the week by rounding up all of the resident sheep and driving them to the southern end of the island where we put up an electric fence to keep them out of the tern colony for the season.  We did this just in time as both the arctic and common terns have returned and are actively seeking out mates and nesting sites.  We have begun observing the terns from the blinds and have watched them settling in throughout the week.  We have seen the terns landing on the ground, evaluating various potential nesting sites, and showing courtship behaviors such as the males presenting the fish they caught to females.


Common terns checking out the area! 

The terns aren’t the only ones settling in for the season, the black guillemots are courting and seeking out burrows in the rocks as well.  We have also observed a number of common eider nests with eggs!  We even saw one hen with three ducklings today, which is early for them.  We are expecting to find many more eider nests in the coming weeks as they are still displaying courtship behaviors.  To prepare for the arrival of the chicks, we have begun setting up snake plastic as a means of predator control.  Metinic has a population of garter snakes who enjoy feeding on the seabird eggs and hatchlings, so we set out black plastic that the snakes will be attracted to because they create a warm place for them to hide.  We will periodically check the plastic and gather any snakes into a bucket to release them on the mainland.


A hen common eider on her nest, they have excellent camouflage!


Freshly laid eider eggs

Along with setting up and preparing for the upcoming season of seabird chick monitoring, we have been keeping track of our other feathered friends on the island.  Every day we start out with our morning point counts then spend the day exploring around and recording any additional bird species seen/heard, and we end the day with shorebird counts right before sunset.  So far, Mark and I have recorded 71 different species!  Metinic is a great location to support a variety of birds as the island includes rocky coast, open field, forest, wetland, shrub, and pond habitats.  We are looking forward to adding to our list as the season progresses!


Black-throated green warblers are very common in the island forest!


Ruddy turnstones on the shore



Until next week,


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While most of the other MCINWR islands are winding down for the season, Petit Manan is still going strong with major alcid trapping, island-wide guillemot and storm petrel checks, Arctic tern re-sighting, and our new-this-year project: Atlantic puffin feeding studies.

Atlantic Puffin with bill load

Atlantic Puffin with bill load through scope.

Puffin flying to burrow with fish that we have to identify as part of our feeding study

Puffin flying to burrow with fish that we have to identify as part of our feeding study

During our alcid checks, we discovered two little surprises in the form of Razorbill chicks! Only five pairs are breeding here on Petit Manan, so each new chick is very special to us. We even managed to capture one of his parents bringing food back to the burrow, an unusual sight here on PMI

Freshly banded Razorbill chick

Freshly banded Razorbill chick

Razorbill flying with food

Razorbill flying with food

Here are a few more snapshots of what else has been going on at PMI.

Black Guillemot chick being weighed during our weekly productivity checks

Black Guillemot chick being weighed every 5 days as part of our productivity checks

Leach's storm-petrel chick

Leach’s storm-petrel chick

PMI crew banding a puffin chick, minus Julia who took the photo

PMI crew banding a puffin chick, minus Julia who took the photo

A puffin undergoing the banding process

A puffin undergoing the banding process

Wayne and Julia with their first captured adult Razorbill!

Wayne and Julia with their first captured adult Razorbill!

Until next time,

Wayne and Julia

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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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View out the window of the puffin blind, with a spotting scope on the right

View out the window of the puffin blind, with a spotting scope on the right


Christa assembling a blind

Christa assembling a blind

On Tuesday we finished setting up the last of our six bird blinds on the island. A blind is a structure that is designed so that you can see birds, but they can’t see you. Our blinds are raised 6-10 feet off the ground so that we have a higher vantage point from which we can observe the seabirds on the island without disturbing them or altering their behaviors. Once inside the box-shaped structures, we can open small windows and peer out. As long as we only have one window open at a time, from the birds’ perspective the inside of the blind is dark and they can’t tell that we’re spying on them!

Jordan assembling a blind

Jordan assembling a blind

Collectively, the PMI crew will spend hundreds of hours in these blinds over the summer, gathering valuable data about the birds on Petit Manan—from predation to productivity and from feeding to fledging. Keep checking back as we share our discoveries throughout the season!

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A young Killdeer chick caught on the cobble

Jennie holding an almost fledged Killdeer chick. This little guy could fly about 5 feet at a time!

We have more chicks on Metinic!  Two Killdeer nests have hatched, and our first Spotted sandpiper chicks were found yesterday!  Our first Killdeer nest hatched almost a month ago and the chicks are just about to fledge (begin to fly).  Charlie was able to catch a Killdeer chick while it was still fluffy, and again, a few days ago, when it could almost fly away from him! We never found either nest, but two new young and fluffy Killdeer chicks have now appeared in the tern colony!  Killdeer are a large plover with two black rings around their neck, but these “shorebirds” are not confined to coastlines.  Their breeding range is the northern United States to central Canada and can be found on the coast, on estuaries, and even in fields.  Breeding adults are well known for feigning injury, displaying a “broken” wing to predators.  This tricks a predator into thinking the adult is an easy meal. The Killdeer will lure the predator away from the nest site, and then suddenly fly away when eggs or chicks are safe.

Spotted Sandpiper chick, notice the huge feet! Most shorebird chicks are precocial, up and running right after hatching.

Our first Spotted Sandpiper chicks hatched from a nest that we had not found (we have three nests flagged), and are, we believe, our cutest chicks yet!  We spotted two chicks but we could have been missing some since they are very small and camouflage with the cobble.

Charlie wanted to keep it, but Jennie was a voice of reason...

Spotted Sandpipers bob their tails up and down when they are standing, and the chicks are no exception!It was adorable to watch clementine sized fluff balls bob up and down. Their breeding range is the northern United States up through Canada. They prefer pebble beaches on lakes, streams and seashores as nesting sites. Jennie caught one that was stumbling away from her, ensuring the photo op! Enjoy the pictures!

And soon to come…. Tern chicks! On Thursday we found three eggs with “pips”! Pips are little spider web like cracks on an egg that are caused by a chick poking at the shell with its bill from inside!

A pip in a Arctic Tern egg. This chick wants out!

The chicks have to “pip” in a circle around the eggshell in order to pop the top of the shell off. A chick will continue in a circle until it can finally poke its bill through the eggshell. This is called a window!  After a chick makes a window, it still continues to break the shell in a circle until finally the top pops off! This whole process can take up to four days! We could find our first chick today! Now if only the rain and fog would go away so we can find it…..

~Waiting in anticipation, the Metinic Crew, Jennie and Charlie

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