News From the Seabird Islands - August, 2003 (end of
THIRTY YEARS OF PUFFIN RESTORATION YIELDS RECORD
NUMBERS FOR MAINE SEABIRD COLONIES
SEAL ISLAND NWR: 28% INCREASE IN NESTING PAIRS!
The Seal Island NWR puffin restoration project began in 1984 when the
first of 950 puffin chicks were translocated there from Great Island,
Newfoundland. In 1992, seven pairs nested - the first puffins to breed
on the island since 1887 when the original colony was lost due to excessive
hunting for food and feathers. Although the restored colony was slow
to start, it's subsequent annual growth has been remarkable. The first
seven pairs were mostly Newfoundland transplants, but the colony now
consists mostly of immigrants from other islands and native chicks
hatched on Seal Island. In 2003, only 14 transplants and 155 birds
banded in other Gulf of Maine puffin colonies were confirmed on the
island. This year the colony increased by 28% to 231 breeding pairs--an
addition of 52 pairs over the 2002 total of 179. The number of breeding
pairs is only one measure of success. Supervisor Carlos Zavalaga, and
his research team documented a record high count of 395 individuals
on July 18th and found that most pairs succeeded in rearing a chick
(puffins lay just one egg per year). The breeding success for a sample
of 124 pairs was 0.73 chicks/nest.
EGG ROCK: 13% INCREASE SINCE LAST YEAR
In our 30th year of working to restore the Egg Rock puffin colony, we
tallied a total of 59 breeding pairs - a 13% increase since 2002. Egg
Rock researchers, led by supervisor Ellen Peterson tallied a record
high count of 101 individuals and an impressive fledging success of
0.86chicks per pair. All of the puffins in the Adopt-a-Puffin program
returned this year. Since most of the Egg Rock puffins wear numbered
leg bands, observers discover detailed histories about puffin mating
habits. For example, puffins are typically very faithful to their burrow
and usually to their mate from one year to the next. Puffin Y54 (a
26-year-old male transplanted from Newfoundland in 1977) holds the
record for retaining the same burrow:22 years!
The record for mate fidelity is held by EN 53 (a 24-year-old
female transplanted from Newfoundland in 1979) and U02 (a male of unknown
origin). They have nested in the same burrow for 17 years! This summer,
researchers were elated when they discovered that Bi 76, a 23-year-old
male translocated to Egg Rock from Newfoundland in 1978 was nesting.
Even though he had been present at his burrow for the past six years,
he could not attract a mate. However, this summer, researchers found
him with an unbanded female and together they successfully reared a chick-his
first in six years. While long-term faithfulness to mate and burrow are
the rule for puffins, researchers are also finding some examples where
pairs break up and re-form with neighbors.
MATINICUS ROCK: ISLAND-WIDE CENSUS CONFIRMS
This summer the Matinicus Rock field crew, led by island supervisor Paula
Shannon, banded 105 puffin chicks - shattering the record for the number
of chicks banded in one season by 23 birds! While persistence and luck
certainly contributed to the increase in banded chicks, more puffins
are also breeding on the island. From a low of just two puffin pairs
in 1900, the Matinicus puffin colony has steadily recovered to 256 pairs
this summer. This increase was due in part to birds translocated to Maine
from Newfoundland. A few of these birds continue to nest at the island
(fivewere sighted there this summer). Among this group is White 52, the
oldest translocated puffin (and oldest known Maine puffin) who was 28
years old this summer. Studies of the puffins on Matinicus Rock, Seal
Island NWR, Eastern Egg Rock, Petit Manan NWR and Machias Seal Island
are showing that there is much interchange of birds between the islands.
This summer, for example, 84 puffins banded as chicks at Matinicus Rock
were resighted at Seal Island NWR, and 31 were seen at Eastern Egg Rock.
Similarly, 31, 23 and 6 puffins banded as chicks at Machias Seal Island
were sighted at Seal Island NWR, Matinicus Rock and Eastern Egg Rock,
Gulf of Maine tern numbers increase; Maine numbers decline
The Gulf of Maine (which includes two Canadian provinces
and three New England states) tern population (28,291 pairs of Arctic,
Common, Least and Roseate terns) increased 11% from 2002 and is up 15%
since 1999. Most of this growth is attributed to a regional increase
in the number of nesting Common Terns. Despite these increases, the number
of terns nesting in Maine declined for the second year. Consecutive years
of predation on Stratton Island have reduced this colony from a high
of 2,018 pairs of terns in 2001 to 349 terns in 2003. However, despite
the recent decline, Maine terns have shown strong recovery over the longer
term--a direct benefit of ongoing restoration and management. From 1984
to 2003 Arctic Terns have increased 88%, Common Terns 121% and Roseate
Terns 215%. In 2003, 66% of Maine's nesting terns were recorded at Audubon-managed
For the second consecutive year the Stratton Island tern colony declined.
Only 305 pairs of Common Terns, 40 pairs of Roseate Terns and 4 pairs
of Arctic Terns nested, a 75 % decline from the 2002 total. Few tern
chicks hatched and the majority of nests were abandoned due to the
presence of a mink. Co-supervisors Hilary Walter and Shawn Devlin discovered
the mink on May 20th. Although this individual was trapped and removed
from the island on July 6th, many of the terns had abandoned the island
by this date, likely joining the Jenny Island colony (up 18%), and
the Seavey Island, NH colony (up 90%). Mink were also observed in two
other Gulf of Maine colonies in 2003:Ship Island (Blue Hill Bay) and
the Brothers Islands (Lobster Bay, Nova Scotia). Since 2000, mink or
evidence of mink has been documented in at least six Maine coast tern
colonies; in the previous 16 years mink had only been documented in
one tern colony.
Outer Green Island**
In 2002, 11 pairs of Common Terns nested on Outer Green Island for the
first time in 88 years. Decoys and recorded tern calls were once again
placed on the island in early May, inhopes of attracting more terns
to the island this season. On June 17th Island Supervisor, Joe Kocsis
and his field team counted 94 Common Terns nests; two late census counts
in July revealed an additional 66 nests for a season total of 160 Common
Tern nests. Not only did terns nest on the island in 2003, but each
pair raised an average of 2.1 chicks, making this the most productive
tern colony in the entire Gulf of Maine! It is likely that many of
these terns were displaced from Stratton Island.
A total of 467 pairs of Common Terns and 2 pairs of late-nesting Roseate
Terns nested on Jenny Island this summer and no nocturnal predators
were documented on the island for the first time since 1991 (the first
year of restoration efforts on the island). Consequently, productivity
was high, with a minimum of 1.5 tern chicks fledged by each nesting
pair. Great-horned Owls, Black-crowned Night-Herons and mink have plagued
this inshore colony since 1992. In 2000, all three of these predators
were documented on the island, and by 2001 only 59 pairs attempted
to nest, down from a high of 1,167 pairs in 1998.
Pond Island NWR***
Two pairs of Roseate Terns nested on Pond Island NWR for the first time.
Roseates last nested at the mouth of the Kennebec River in 1984 on
North Sugarloaf Island. A record high count of 310 Common Tern pairs
also nested. These nests produced 1.1 chicks per pair, despite nocturnal
visits to the island by four Great-horned Owls. The number of fledglings
would have been higher, but 20% of the chicks died of an unknown disease
or contaminant similar to that which plagued the island in 2002. The
source of this problem has not yet been identified.
Eastern Egg Rock**
In 2003, 164 pairs of Roseate Terns (0.92 chicks/pair), 77 pairs of Arctic
Terns (0.64 chicks/pair) and 992 pairs of Common Terns (0.97 chicks/pair)
nested. Eastern Egg Rock continues to host the largest Roseate Tern
colony in the Gulf of Maine, as well as the largest Laughing Gull colony
On June 16th and 17th 1,022 pairs of Arctic and 188 pairs of Common Tern
nests were counted - for the fourth consecutive year there was little
change in the number of breeding terns on the island. Productivity
dipped back to a normal 0.9 chicks per pair for each species from last
year's record high productivity (1.3 chicks per pair).
Seal Island NWR***
From late May through late June a single sub-adult Peregrine Falcon was
observed almost daily in the tern colony. We suspect that the slight
decline in the tern colony was due to the falcon's presence during
egg-laying. Overall, 1,066 pairs of Arctic Terns and 1,283 Common Terns
nested,making this the largest Maine coast tern colony for the seventh
consecutive year. Approximately 1,295 Common Tern and 1,066 Arctic
Tern chicks fledged from the island this summer.
*Stratton Island is an Audubon-owned island supported
by the Prout's Neck Audubon Society.
** Eastern Egg Rock and Jenny Island are owned by the Maine Department
of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
*** Pond Island NWR, Matinicus Rock and Seal Island NWR are part of the
Petit Manan NWR.
News From the Seabird Islands - July 21, 2003
Stratton Island - The mink that caused
so much havoc here was finally captured and removed from the island but
most of the terns had already abandoned in search of safer nesting places.
But the island is now more secure for late-nesting terns and for next
years nesting cycle. A fledgling oystercatcher was sighted--good news
because oystercatcher nests are typically flooded by high tides and eggs
and chicks are often eaten by predatory gulls. Stratton Island is the
only regular breeding site in Maine for this unusual shorebird, and two
pairs nested here for the first time this summer.
Outer Green - Last years 10 tern nests
represented an historic occasion, as terns had not nested here since
1914. Supervisor Joe Kocsis now proudly reports 129 active common tern
nests; these are fledging an average of over two chicks per nest. Earlier
this week Joe was shocked to see a river otter loping along the shore.
The otter swam at least two miles from the nearest island, and stayed
only a few hours, which was good news for the terns as otters sometimes
Pond Island - A third great horned
owl was captured this week, after killing some tern chicks. In spite
of this predation, the colony is doing well, and both roseate tern chicks
(an endangered species) from our first two pairs are thriving.
Jenny Island - We continue to watch
for predators, but so far the island has remained free of owls and mink
and most pairs are very productive.
Eastern Egg Rock - There are now 52
active puffin burrows and the island team is working hard to identify
more. This number equals the total burrow count for 2002; any additional
burrows discovered mark an increase for the colony. All of our adopted
puffins have returned. These are mostly transplants from Newfoundland,
and some are 26 years old this summer! Tern chicks are growing fast and
welilt soon see the older ones trying out their wings and taking their
Matinicus Rock - We are busy grubbing
puffins, a gymnastic experience that involves shimmying under large boulders
in an attempt to find and band puffin chicks. Yesterday, Mary Gunther
was surprised when she pulled a manx shearwater out from a burrow rather
than a puffin! Now the team is watching this burrow carefully to see
if there is a shearwater chick inside. This would represent the first
nesting of this mostly European species in Maine.
Seal Island Island - Supervisor Carlos
Zavalaga and his team have identified 177 active puffin burrows so far,
a marked increase over the 131 pairs identified by this date last year.
Last summers final count was 179 pairs. Carlos and his team also helped
to free a baby minke whale entangled in lobster fishing gear. The Seal
Island team rowed out to inspect the whale and quickly realized they
needed help. They enlisted a lobster fishing boat to approach the entangled
whale and pull in the line with its power winch before cutting the whale
News From the Seabird Islands - July 3, 2003
Endangered Terns Return to Pond Island
For the first time since 1985, federally-endangered
roseate terns are nesting in the mouth of the Kennebec River, on Pond
Island National Wildlife Refuge. Audubon Society biologists working on
the fifteen-acre island report that several of the rare terns appeared
on June 12th. They then discovered two nests on June 21st. Audubon and
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been working to restore terns
to Pond Island since 1996, and have successfully attracted state-threatened
Common Terns to the island, with a record 310 pairs this summer. Prior
to this nesting, Roseate Terns nested on just four Maine islands. Establishment
of additional nesting colonies is necessary to establish a viable population.
Audubon biologists discovered the Roseate Terns at Pond
Island as they completed their annual tern census of seven Maine islands
managed by Audubon. They counted a total of 5,781 nests, a number that
is 1,190 less than last year. Many of the terns that colonized Pond Island
this year likely came from Stratton Island off Prout’s Neck. This
colony decreased from 1,279 pairs of Common Terns to just 308 pairs this
summer due to the appearance of a mink at the island. Likewise, Roseate
Terns declined from 98 pairs to 41 and most of these abandoned. The dispersal
of the Stratton island colony this year proved a boost to other restoration
projects. Notable increases occurred at Outer Green Island (94 pairs);
Jenny Island (467 pairs) and Seavy Island, New Hampshire (Isles of Shoals)
which increased by about 1,200 pairs.
The regional approach to tern restoration and management
continues to prove itself for these rare terns. Terns displaced by predators
or other disruptions, can move to other sites for a second nesting attempt.
This week on the Seabird
The terns are hatching at Egg Rock-watch terns and their chicks by clicking
on our website. Between 9-11AM EST daily, our education intern will control
the camera by moving it from nest to nest,
attempting to feature the newly hatched tern chicks. During these hours,
they will also look for puffins. At all other hours the camera is
set to move automatically between tern nests.
News From the Seabird Islands - June 9, 2003
Seabird Camera Focuses on Egg Rock Terns
The seabird camera has returned to Eastern Egg Rock
and it is presently beaming live-streaming video of nesting Common and
Roseate Terns. The robotic camera is the invention of Daniel Zatz of
SeeMore Wildlife systems, the Homer, Alaska company. This is the fourth
year that Audubon has arranged with SeeMore Wildlife to install the camera.
The camera sends its signal by microwave signal from a transmitter that
sits on the south end of Eastern Egg Rock. The tiny island is home to
the world's first restored puffin and tern colony and it is the largest
colony of endangered Roseate Terns in Maine.
The microwave signal beams eight miles across Muscongus
Bay to the Audubon Visitor Center in Bremen. A unique feature of the
camera permits an operator in the visitor center to pan the camera in
all directions and to zoom in and out for closer views. The resolution
of the camera is so sharp that biologists operating the camera can read
the numbers on tiny bands attached to the terns and measure the length
of the terns beak- a technique for determining the sex of the bird. Mainland
operators can also wash the camera lens and wipe it dry using remote
operated windshield wipers.
The terns are incubating eggs now and these should begin
to hatch during the third week of June. About July 15th, the camera location
will shift for better puffin watching. Audubon interns will operate the
camera each morning from 9-11AM from the mainland visitor center to ensure
a variety of views of all species within reach of the powerful lens.
Later in the summer, interns on the island will occasionally provide
on-line, narrated talks directly from Egg Rock bird blinds. A grant from
The Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund pays for the camera.
Seabird Camera is on the Internet. Focused on
incubating terns. Tern eggs are hatching this week. Watch for the first
chicks to make their appearance on our real time, streaming video. See
the Island Live by clicking below...
Research Updates from