Posts Tagged ‘wing chord’

The beginning of the week started out slow and rough as the weather was not cooperative.  High winds made it so we could not go out to the tern colony as we wanted the adults to stay on their eggs and keep them warm from the howling winds.  Finally the weather broke Tuesday afternoon and we were able to do some trapping and banding of adult terns.  We do this by selecting a couple of nests, replacing the eggs with wooden ones so they do not get damaged, and placing a chicken wire trap over the nest with the door open.  When the adult walks into the trap, they step on a trigger platform that closes the door.  As the adult sits in the trap incubating the wooden eggs, we walk up and take it out of the trap through a hole in the top.  The adult is then placed in a bag where it is weighed using a spring scale.  We then band the bird and measure its wing chord and head-bill length before it is released to return to incubate its eggs which we have switched back to the real ones.


A common tern checking out the trap


Measuring wing chord length


Measuring head-bill length

Wednesday we headed over to Matinicus Rock to help them with their tern census.  It was nice to get out to another island to see what was going on there; plus we got to see Atlantic puffins, razorbills, and common murres, three species that do not nest on Metinic.


Atlantic puffins on Matinicus Rock

The next day it was our turn to census!  With the help of a few guests, we were able to count 608 nests in our colony of arctic and common terns!  We did this just in the nick of time as we came across multiple hatched chicks with more popping up every day!  The rest of the week was spent securing our productivity plots which are circles of fencing surrounding a number of nests.  When the chicks within the plots hatch, we record the hatch date and band them.  Every time we visit the plots, we weigh the chicks and keep track of how they are doing until they fledge.


Pipping arctic tern egg


A hungry chick waits to be fed

Throughout the week we have also come across savannah sparrow chicks and fledglings, and spotted sandpiper chicks running around on the rocks.  An identifying characteristic of spotted sandpipers is they bob their rump up and down as they walk; it is funny to watch the tiny fuzzy chicks do this as well!  We are looking forward to more chicks showing up in the upcoming weeks!


A tiny spotted sandpiper chick

Until next week,


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Our first reachable chicks, Ally and Barnabas, are really growing! When they first hatched 2 weeks ago they weighed 40g and have now reached 230g! Their diet is mostly rock gunnel along with herring that is delivered by both parents to them in the burrow. Along with their weight gain they are gaining pinfeathers on their wings which is the beginning of their juvenile molt.


20 cm wing chord at 2 days old


60 cm wing chord with pin feathers at 2 weeks old


We are finding new chicks that have hatched almost every other day! We now have 11 chicks that we are collecting data from and we’ve noticed adults delivering food to several other unreachable burrows.

In our free time we have been identifying plants around the islands and have tasted several of the edible plants. There is a variety of berries on the island including raspberries, cranberries, blueberries, bearberry, and crowberry. Mary made a tart jam by combining the cranberries from last year, which are still on the plant, with honey and lemon.  We have tried the leaves of rose root and seaside plantain and the inner stalk of bull thistle. There are also some beach pea pods, raspberries, and bearberries that will soon be ripe!


Rose root


Beach pea

We have decided that since we are essentially living in our own society, that we can create and celebrate our own holidays.  Yesterday was our 14th of July celebration (combining National Guillemot Day and the Fourth of July), where we grilled and set off sparklers!

14th of July

Enjoying the sunset in front of our freshly painted cabin on the 14th of July!



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