Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘USFWS’

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.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

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.

20160520_094432

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.

DSC01124

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

DSC01088

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!

DSC01132

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

102_3153

Ruddy turnstones on the shore

 

 

Until next week,

Helen

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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.

BOBL Sing

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,

Julia

Image

Image_JMG7456 (2) (1024x679)

Read Full Post »

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!

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »