and Description: Seal Island NWR is a 65 acre offshore island located in outer Penobscot Bay, 22 miles southeast of Rockland, Knox, Co. The island is about one mile long and about 100 to 300 yards wide. Spectacular sea cliffs dominate the southeastern side of the island; while the northwest side slopes from several high points to an inter-tidal zone with two distinct coves (the eastern and western bite) both of which have rock/ pebble beaches. The exposed high terrain is characterized by granite with sparse, low-growing vegetation, while the protected drainages, open meadows, some NW facing slopes and the beach habitat support a rich assemblage of annuals and perennials with few shrubs and no trees. Seal Island NWR is owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Maine Coastal Islands NWR (MCINWR) and is cooperatively managed by the National Audubon Society and MCINWR.
Human, Seabird, and Restoration History: The
Island is home to a restored seabird colony of puffins, razorbill
and terns. Restoration began in 1984, first with a puffin translocation,
followed by a tern social attraction program. Gull management,
the translocation of nearly 1,000 young puffins from Newfoundland
and social attraction (using decoys and mirror boxes) were
the primary tools for restoring puffins. Like many Maine coast
seabird colonies, migratory seabird populations were diminished
and eventually extirpated by a combination of egging, hunting
for meat and feathers and displacement by expanding Herring
and Great Black-backed Gull populations. Prior to the initiation
of restoration activities, puffins last nested in ~1887 and
terns last nested in 1936; after restoration, puffins began
nesting in 1992 and in 2008 more than 375 pairs nested. Tern
restoration relied on social attraction (using decoys and sound)
and gull management, the first terns nested in 1989 and today
the colony supports more than 2,350 pairs of Arctic and Common
Terns- one of Maine’s largest tern colonies. The island also has a long human history and has been used as a fishing camp/outpost. From the early 1940’s
until 1966, the U.S. Navy used the island as a bombing range.
The island was transferred to the Department of the Interior
in 1972 and it later became part of the Maine Coastal Islands
National Wildlife Refuge.
Access: The Island is closed to public visitation. Staff transportation to the island is typically provided by charter or by MCINWR staff; MCINWR staff depart from Rockland, while the charter departs from Vinalhaven (a 1hr 15 minute ferry ride from Rockland). The trip to Seal Island takes approximately 45 min -1 ½ hours depending on departure point, weather and sea conditions. All food, gear and personal equipment are rowed ashore in a dory or small inflatable rowboat (stored on the island); the landing is generally straightforward, but can be very slippery at low tide with numerous bowling ball sized (and larger) cobbles covered with slippery algae. High tide is generally the preferred time to land. Island staff and volunteers are responsible for securing supplies and groceries before heading to the island.
Living and Accommodations: During the field season, 5-7 people live and work on the island and with the exception of the supervisor and resident intern, staff and volunteers remain on the island for an average of 2-3 weeks per stint. The Seal Island 12’x12 ft cabin serves as the kitchen, “dining room” and
office. Tent platforms are provided for personal tents. The kitchen
has a propane stove, and refrigerator. There is an outdoor shower
and a composting toilet. A solar system powers research needs such
as laptop and communication systems.
Nesting and Migratory
Birds: Seal Island NWR supports a diverse seabird colony with
nesting Atlantic Puffins, Razorbills, Black Guillemots, Leach’s Storm-petrels,
Arctic, Common and occasionally Roseate Terns, Common Eiders Herring
and Great Black-backed Gulls and Double crested and Great Cormorants.
Common Murres are also present, though not breeding on the island.
Spring and fall migration can be outstanding; 224 species (including
breeding birds) have been recorded on the island since 2000, including
several Maine rarities such as Yellow-nosed Albatross, Red-billed
Tropicbird, Ash-throated Flycatcher and Prothonotary Warbler.
Island Monitoring, Research and Management Projects: Atlantic
The Seal Island NWR field season begins in mid May and continues through
mid August. A post-season monitoring program for nestinggreat cormorants,
passerine migration banding, and shorebird inventories begins in late
August and continues through mid-October. The island supervisor is
responsible for coordinating the timing of specific projects and participation
by staff and volunteers throughout the field season. Work includes,
but is not limited to the following projects; annual tern, eider, and
gull census; tern band resighting, chick provisioning, productivity
and chick growth studies; razorbill and puffin census, productivity,
banding, band resighting and provisioning studies, black guillemot
productivity and chick growth, daily weather, water temperature, bird
lists and gull management. Public interaction may include restricting
here for a PDF map of Seal Island
here for a PDF map of Seal Island
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