News From the Seabird Islands - August 7, 2004
Seal Island: Puffin Colony Grows to 302
Pairs! After many hundreds of hours sitting in tiny observation blinds,
Audubon researchers discovered 69 more active puffin burrows than last
years end of season count of 231 pairs. With only a few days
remaining for the 2004 field season, supervisor Carlos Zavalaga reports
that the count is nearly complete for the year. This rapid growth confirms
Carlos predication that the colony is experiencing exponential
growth. This remarkable tally is a wonderful way to celebrate the 20th
anniversary of puffin restoration at Seal Island National Wildlife
Refuge. The team also banded 19 healthy puffin chicks by grubbing under
the rocks- a tortuous process of stretching and twisting into deep
rock crevices to extract the chicks.
Eastern Egg Rock: Puffin Colony Expands to 63
pairs, two more than last year. With just a few days remaining, this
is likely the final count. Additionally, 43 puffins were trapped this
summer and now have leg bands, which allows our staff to track individual
birds. The trapped birds include BI76, a 27 year old bird and native
puffin K. Both birds are in the Adopt-A-Puffin program. All of the Adopt-a-Puffin
birds have returned except Y75, a 27-year-old puffin. Puffin traps
are simply wooden box with a trap door on the top. The boxes are set
at locations where puffins are likely to land. When a puffin flies up
to the box to investigate and lands on the trap door, a staff member
hiding in a nearby observation blind pulls a string which opens the box
and deposits the surprised puffin atop a soft pillow inside. Staff members
then gently remove the puffin for banding.
Matinicus Rock: 72 Puffin Chicks were grubbed
so far this summer. Grubbing at Matinicus Rock is especially challenging
as the crevices are large enough for staff to completely emerge themselves
by shimmying under boulders in attempts to find and pull out young
puffin chicks for observation, analysis, and banding. Sometimes researchers
find amazing surprises. Maryka Lier, intern, was shocked to discover
a fledgling puffin entangled with a two-foot long balloon string that
had trapped it inside the burrow. She untangled the bird so that it
could fledge. Perhaps the string was brought in as nesting material.
Most of the terns on our seven islands are leaving in
family groups, for various staging
areas along the northeast coast as they commence their epic migrations
to the southern hemisphere. Overall, the season rebounded after late
spring predation by peregrine falcons and gulls, but a nutritious supply
of fish was often lacking and many parents brought in euphasid shrimp,
which are a poor substitute for herring and hake. Island biologists reported
that a substantial number of tern chicks starved because of this food
stress. A mink and Great Blue Heron were observed at Pond Island at
the close of the season preying on tern fledglings.
BOSTON GLOBE FEATURES OUTER GREEN ISLAND ON FRONT PAGE, AND PUFFIN-WATCHING
IN THEIR TRAVEL SECTION!
The tern restoration project on Outer Green Island made
it to the front page of the Friday, August 6th Boston Globe. Supervisor
Julie Hart was described as one of a few hundred ecologists around
the world who dedicate months of their lives to lonely campaigns to build
new colonies of threatened or displaced migratory birds. There
are three photographs accompanying this well-written and descriptive
article. Find at:
turn Maine island into tern haven | PDF
Reporter Jane Roy Brown wrote about her puffin-watching
adventure aboard the Hardy Boat for the Sunday, August 1st Boston Globe
Travel Section. Find it at:
to the puffin place | PDF
Seabird Cam The Seabird Cam has focused on puffins nesting
near the Egg Rock Tower blind for the past month. Viewers have benefited
this year by Audubon staff and volunteers that are driving the camera
most of the day. Over the past week, viewers may have noticed researchers
trapping puffins within the view of the camera (see above). Only one
week remains for the camera, as the puffins will soon leave for their
winter home on the North Atlantic. To see puffins and other Maine seabirds
in real time, click on www.projectpuffin.org and click live
News From the Seabird Islands - July 14, 2004
Green Island: The nesting season at Outer Green Island was
already extraordinary, but a mid-season tern survey yesterday discovered
an even greater number of terns than previously observed. One hundred
and eighty-five late-nesting pairs of Common Terns. I thought there
might be fifty to a hundred, said supervisor Julie Hart, but this
was really beyond my expectations. The first census, conducted during
the official tern census dates in mid-June, turned up 510 Common
Tern nests and seven of the endangered Roseate Tern. Currently there
are 695 Common tern nests and eleven Roseate Tern nests.
"It's not unusual to find more nests after the
census period," said project director Steve Kress, and we think
many of these are likely to be those of adults who may have been spooked
or scared off other islands by predators. The colonization of Outer Green
Island by Roseate Terns made the headlines in the July 12th edition of
the Portland Press Herald.
Egg Rock: - Supervisor Ellen Peterson reports that she and
her team of interns have identified 54 active Puffin burrows so far,
a promising sign that we may very well break last years end-of-the-season
total of 59 nests. Ellen and her team constructed a new wooden observation
blind on the East side of the island and set it just above the intertidal
zone, looking back at the rim of giant boulders that fringe the island.
Its amazing how this different view helps us better understand the
colony says Ellen. Already, we are finding new areas used by puffins.
Rock: Supervisor Paula Shannon reports that most of the Razorbills
have already fledged their chicks and they are starting to raft together
before leaving the island. It is an impressive sight to see more than
200 Razorbills on the water at once around this small colony. Razorbill
numbers reached an all time high this year with 231 active nests. Arctic
Terns finally hatched their chicks at the island, after a much-delayed
start to the nesting season caused by disturbance from Peregrine Falcons
and Ravens. Now the big question is: Will the terns delay their migration
to Africa and Antarctica by at least two weeks to finish rearing this
Pond Island NWR and Jenny Island: The
mysterious chick-ailment known as funk has returned to Pond Island. The
ailment has become increasing problematic this past week and is now affecting
about 20% of the chicks. A new three year study funded by the USFWS will
attempt to determine the cause of the problem. Crows and Great Horned
Owls have also plagued the island again this summer. Despite these challenges,
supervisor Matt Martinkovic reports that there are more terns nesting
here than any previous year and that 438 pairs of Common Terns and 9
pairs of Roseate Terns are nesting, many of which are already fledging
young. Matt also reports that the colony on Jenny Island is doing well
this summer. One attack by owls has not greatly affected the colony and
many new nests are still being laid.
Seal Island NWR: A second Razorbill
nest was discovered this week at Seal Island. A solitary pair has nested
in the same crevice for the past several years, but now it has a neighbor.
Carlos Zavalaga, Island Supervisor, spotted the new nest when he discovered
a Razorbill returning with a beak load of herring and hake. The Seal
Island team has documented 115 active puffin burrows to date and more
are being confirmed each day.
Stratton Island: Four Black-crowned
Night-Herons have been seen in the middle of the tern colony on several
nights recently. These highly-skilled predators will eat tern chicks
and eggs and cause parent birds to abandon their nests during the evenings.
Supervisor Suzanne Sanborn and resident intern Robbie Lambert have taking
turns staying up most of the night to learn more about the interaction.
Using night vision binoculars, they have seen the herons prowl the beach
and eat tern chicks. Terns respond to this behavior by abandoning the
chicks at night, exposing chicks to chilling temperatures. Nocturnal
abandonment induced by night-herons may occur because herons use the
white plumage of brooding adults to locate chicks. Observers in previous
years have observed night-herons nudging brooding terns from their nests
and then eating chicks.
SEABIRD CAM: The real time seabird
cam has set new records for popularity, with more than 1000 visits/day.
We have recently increased our bandwidth to accommodate the enthusiastic
response. The best hours for watching are 9-11 AM when staff control
the camera for close views. At other times, the camera is set for an
auto-tour of commonly used locations such as loafing ledges and burrows.
At this season, many puffins are feeding young, bringing herring and
hake to their chicks. To see the Egg Rock puffins, guillemots and other
seabirds, visit our website: http://www.projectpuffin.org
News From the Seabird Islands - July 7, 2004
Tern Census Completed!
After a wet and chilly few weeks, and after the disruption
of tern colony activity on several islands by Peregrine Falcons and Great
Horned Owls, the annual tern census was completed recently on our seven
islands, and here are the results:
We have a total of 5,946 terns nesting on seven managed
islands. This is a very slight decrease from 2003, when 6,014 pairs nested,
but below our record number in 2000 when 7,182 pairs nested. Weather,
predation, food availability, and wintering ground conditions all play
into this number, and it is well known that tern numbers fluctuate from
year to year.
Outer Green Island: The most dramatic
finding reported by our island teams is the huge jump in numbers on Outer
Green Island, in Casco Bay. Last year they had 94 Common Tern Nests during
our annual early summer census, and this June they counted 510!! Seven
nests of the endangered Roseate Tern were also discovered during the
census week and three additional pairs were found after the census. The
growth of the colony has elated island supervisor Julie Hart. Roseate
Terns have not nested on Outer Green Island for at least 90 years. Colonization
by Roseate Terns is likely due to several factors: the existence of a
Common Tern colony, the management of the island against predators, and
the new CD which for the first time played Roseate Tern vocalizations
in addition to Common Tern voices.
Other Tern News
Pond Island reported a jump from 438 nests from last years total of 313.
Jenny Island declined from 467 to 213 and Eastern Egg Rock also declined
from 1232 to 1075. Seal Island stayed about the same as last year, with
2,339 total tern nests. Matinicus Rock dropped from 1210 to 946, primarily
because of early season predation by a Peregrine Falcon that led to delayed
nesting by a full two weeks. Stratton Islands tern colony grew from last
years total of 349 to 418.
Egg Rock supervisor Ellen Peterson tells us that there are more active
puffin nests this year (45) than there were at the same time in 2003,
(36). This bodes well for the possibility of breaking last years record
of 59 nesting pairs. Matinicus Rock supervisor Paula Shannon excitedly
reported that on July 4th, they grubbed the first puffin chick of the
year from out of a rock burrow, put a band on its leg, and spontaneously
named it fireworks! Seal Island supervisor Carlos Zavalaga tells us
that there is so much activity in the puffin colony that it is frequently
difficult to tell how many nests there are and who is breeding with
whom. So far Carlos and his team have confirmed 74 active puffin burrows
(with eggs or chicks) as compared to 49 at the same date last summer.
They are finding nests in areas where there was little activity before,
further evidence that the colony continues to rapidly grow.
The live-streaming video camera on Eastern Egg Rock was moved
from the tern colony to the puffin colony, and were thrilled at the images
coming back to us. The camera was moved to the new location on July 4th,
in celebration of the 23rd anniversary of puffins nesting at Egg Rock
Visit www.projectpuffin.org on
your computer and tune into the comings and goings of Atlantic Puffins
nesting at Eastern Egg Rock. This time of year, most have young in the
burrows and they are busy delivering small fish. Others (especially nonbreeders)
are spending time socializing at favorite loafing ledges. The best time
to observe is mornings until about 1PM, but they may be present at any
time throughout the day and especially at dusk, just before they retreat
under boulders for the night. Audubon Staff operate the camera from 9-11
AM from the seabird center in Bremen, improving the chances of obtaining
close-up views. At other times the camera is set to rotate on an auto-tour
visiting puffin loafing ledges and burrow entrances.
News From the Seabird Islands - May 11, 2004
CAM LANDS AT EGG ROCK
Reminiscent of the Mars Rover landing craft, SEABIRD
CAM has landed on the south end of Eastern Egg Rock- earlier than
ever before. The camera is presently sitting on the highest spot of
the island, set to move every few minutes between several pre-selected
This is the earliest date that we have placed the camera
on the island and it will give provide insight into activities of the
birds at this early part of the season. Puffins are not likely to be
seen at this date as they are incubating eggs under the boulders. Also,
terns are winging their way back to the island from the southern hemisphere.
However, there is still much to see- especially in the morning when Laughing
Gulls are setting up territories. Any day the Common and Roseate Terns
will settle onto the island by the hundreds and begin staking out territories.
Some nests will be within a few feet of the camera.
To view the camera, it is necessary to have the latest
version of Real Player downloaded into your computer. The clarity of
the image will depend in large part on the bandwidth of your computer.
Soon we will also have live sound from the island. To view SEABIRD CAM,
go to www.projectpuffin.org.
OUTER GREEN ISLAND
Intrepid biologists Mat Martinkovic and Robbie Lambert
set up camp on remote Outer Green Island May 8th after several days of
delay due to strong winds and rough landing conditions. Matt reports
that the day they arrived, four Common Terns landed on the island and
in the next few days the number increased to over 200- all busy with
courting and setting up nesting territories. These numbers are remarkable
considering that only four terns were present at the island on the same
day a year ago. In 2003, Outer Green Island had the highest productivity
of any Common Tern colony in the Gulf of Maine, so the arrival of so
many terns at this early date bodes well for a highly successful summer.
We have just mailed announcements for our 16th annual
Project Puffin birdathon to be held on June 1st. The annual fundraiser
has a goal of $20,000, which is necessary to support our summer field
program. Join in the fun and win prizes by guessing the number of species
and the total number of puffins that we will see on birdathon day. The
grand prize this year is a 34 tall plush puffin donated by Barbaras Bakery-
maker of Puffin Cereals. If you have not received your birdathon announcement,
please e-mail email@example.com to
request a copy.
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...
from Past Seasons: