Puffins on the Maine coast continue to thrive, but this is not the case
everywhere. The current issue of National Geographic (December 2007)
has an article about warming waters and the problems faced in Scotland
by puffins and contrasts this to the success we are having in Maine.
Project Puffin was also featured this month in Birding, the magazine
of the American Birding Association who ran an article titled ‘Dancing
Puffineers’ by one of our volunteers. The article captures
the enthusiasm of our summer interns relates the remarkable dedication
of our young biologists who are making a difference for Maine seabirds-
and enjoying themselves. Links to this article and others about Project
Puffin are on our website at:
Your newsletter will also be accompanied by an envelope and my letter
welcoming your help funding next summerÕs internships. Providing
summer internships for the next generation of conservation biologists
not only ensures the future for more than 42,000 puffins and other seabirds
that nest on our Maine sanctuaries, but it offers a key summer experience
for future conservation leaders.
As the holiday season approaches, please consider making a gift to Project
Puffin. This is an ideal time to renew Puffin Adoptions so that you can
receive the latest report on your puffin- or give a puffin adoption as
a special holiday gift.
With my best wishes for happy holidays.
News From the Seabird Islands - August 24, 2007
The sixteen Audubon interns who spent their summer protecting Maine
seabirds closed seven field stations for the 2007 field season on August
9 and summarized their summer to a gathering of 72 seabird biologists
from throughout the Gulf of Maine on August 11th at the annual meeting
of the Gulf of Maine Seabird Working Group. At Maine Audubon Society’s
Hog Island Audubon Center, the interns reported on the exceptionally
good year that was enjoyed by Maine puffins and terns. Here are a few
of their highlights:
Puffins: The team on Eastern Egg Rock reported that
the number of nesting pairs of puffins increased from 82 pairs in 2006
to a new record high count of at least 90 pairs in 2007. This included
nine new pairs. This 10% increase continues the trend of increasing
numbers. The original population disappeared from the island in 1887
and was restored by hand-rearing and releasing puffin chicks between
1973-1986. Four pairs from the translocation program first nested in
The interns at Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge reported more
than 300 nesting puffin pairs. They also noted that the puffin colony
has spread to even the most remote regions of this 65 acre island.
The 2007 high count was an astonishing 701 puffins within view at one
time, contrasting to the 2006 high count of 450 puffins. The Seal Island
interns are the only members of the 2007 team to return to their island
following the Hog Island meeting. Their tasks are to continue the search
for puffin nests, study the nesting success of the small colony of
Great Cormorants, and document use of the island by migrating land
birds through October.
Terns: Maine’s Least Terns enjoyed an exceptionally
good year by nesting at Stratton Island in Saco Bay. These tiny, state-endangered
terns have previously suffered by nesting on the state’s mainland
beaches where their eggs and young were usually eaten by fox and other
predators. In 2006 they began nesting at Stratton Island where they
found safer nesting habitat. This year nearly all of Maine’s
Least Terns moved to Stratton Island, where113 pairs took up residence
in one tiny patch of sandy beach. Here, Audubon wardens watched over
them to help deter disturbance from humans and gulls. This situation
helped the terns produce more than 100 fledglings- the best production
in many years.
Even though there were several notable storms during the tern chick-rearing
season, ample supplies of hake, herring, and sand launce provided largesse
of high quality food at just the right time for tern chicks at most
islands. This summer, terns also benefited by few encounters with Great
Horned Owls, Black-crowned Night-herons, and mink.
Interns measured the success of the tern nesting season by determining
the number of chicks that reached at least 15 days old per nesting
pair. This method showed that Common Terns produced respectively 1.1,
2.0, 1.7, 1.7, and 1.8 chicks per pair at Eastern Egg Rock, Pond Island,
Jenny Island, Outer Green Island, and Stratton Island. Most of the
federally endangered Roseate Terns were also successful. This year,
117 pairs nested at Eastern Egg Rock, 17 pairs at Jenny Island, and
80 pairs at Stratton Island.
The tern colonies on Matinicus Rock and Seal Island National Wildlife
Refuge were not nearly as successful this year as the more inshore
sites in mid-coast and southern Maine. The destruction of more than
2,000 tern nests by gulls at Seal Island in early June caused about
900 pairs to relocate at Matinicus Rock and elsewhere. At Matinicus
Rock, the 663 nesting pairs of Common Terns produced just .5 chicks/pair,
while the 1,790 pairs of Arctic Terns produced only.37 fledglings per
pair. Here, a marginal food supply made the chicks vulnerable to weather.
The terns that stayed and renested at Seal Island fared somewhat better.
Here, 1,800 pairs of Common and Arctic Terns succeeded in fledging
an average of .7 young/nest. The nesting season for Arctic Terns at
Seal Island NWR and Matinicus Rock are especially important because
they likely support many of the pairs that formerly nested at Machias
Seal Island, formerly the largest tern colony in the Gulf of Maine.
For the second consecutive year, Arctic Terns abandoned this historic
nesting island on the U.S./Canadian border because of gull predation
and poor food supplies.
Project Puffin Visitor Center: Located at 311 Main
Street in downtown Rockland, Project Puffin Visitor Center opened daily
on June 1. In its first two months, nearly 6,000 people have visited,
representing about 700 more than this time last summer. Now in its
2nd year, the Center continues to wow its visitors with live streaming
views of puffins and terns using remotely controlled cameras at Seal
Island National Wildlife Refuge, 18 miles south of Rockland.
The burrow cam is certainly one of this year’s highlights. This
solar-powered camera illuminates an underground burrow with infra red
light, permitting visitors to share in the wonder of the puffin’s
mysterious underground life. Scientists are also watching the camera
with great interest as it is revealing new behaviors. The most remarkable
observation is the amount of parental interaction with the chick. Throughout
the summer, one or both parents were frequently in the burrow with
their chick, preening its feathers and brooding. This behavior continued,
even as the chick approached fledging age. Sometimes the parents were
seen maintaining the interior by turning over the soil. Most surprising
was that when the chick fledged on August 7th, the apparent puffin
parents continued to occupy the burrow (these puffins were not banded).
More than two weeks after fledging, at least one of the adults continued
to frequent the burrow. The purpose of this post fledging residency
is not known for sure, but it may be that the adults stay in the burrow
to keep it from being taken by other puffins.
News From the Seabird Islands - August 4, 2007
Thanks to everyone who tuned into http://www.projectpuffin.org to
watch the live Internet banding of a puffin chick yesterday afternoon.
Unfortunately, an afternoon electrical storm passed along the shores
of Seal Island just at the time we were attempting to broadcast and
this has since caused further technical problems. We will attempt
to find a time for the banding next week and will reschedule if possible.
Until the puffin cam is working properly, we are broadcasting ‘Best
of the Puffin Cam’- our edited highlights from 2006.
News From the Seabird Islands - August 1, 2007
To share the experience of puffin banding with visitors - a real
time banding is planned for our website viewers. This first ever live
puffin banding over the Internet will occur in front of the Seal
Island puffin cam on Friday, August 3rd at 4PM. To see the banding,
click on Live Puffin Cam on our website http://www.projectpuffin.org
Matt Klosterman, Supervisor of Seal Island, and his staff will band
two puffin chicks and explain the value of banding. Matt has been
living on Seal Island since mid May and has developed a keen knowledge
of the seabirds on this remote nesting island.
Seal Island is part of the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife
Refuge. The island supported a large population of Atlantic Puffins
until 1887 when the last of the original population was extirpated
due to excessive hunting. Puffins were absent from the island until
1992 when several pairs nested following an eight year long program
to bring them back. In 2006, 336 pairs nested at the island- ranking
Seal Island as the largest Maine coast colony. The banding that Matt
is doing will help to determine the number of nesting pairs in 2007
and permit an assessment of the health of puffin chicks.
News From the Seabird Islands - July 14, 2007
Puffin Chicks Hatching: Puffin chicks began hatching
on Eastern Egg Rock on June 14 and already 46 nests have been confirmed.
It’s too early to know the size of the puffin colonies so far,
but initial indications suggest they are thriving. On July 4, there
were at least 409 puffins sitting about the rocks and on nearby water
at Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge.
The 4th of July is a special day for Project Puffin, as it was the
first day that a puffin fed a chick on Eastern Egg Rock- 26 years
ago. That puffin (Y54) is now 30 years old and was back at Egg Rock
again this year- still nesting in the same burrow and feeding his
27th chick (puffins rear just one chick each year). One of his chicks-
named ‘Q’was back this summer feeding its own chick in
a nearby burrow. The 4th of July was also notable this year because
on this day the Seal Island team successfully placed a burrow cam
in a burrow that is now sending real time video to the Internet!
Click on http://www.projectpuffin.org and
select the puffin cam. The burrow cam will appear in rotation with
the puffin cam. Initial observations of the chick in this burrow
are showing the parents present much of the time.
Annual Tern Census: Between June 12-23, terns were
censused at all nesting colonies in the Gulf of Maine to arrive at
total populations for Common, Arctic, Roseate and Least Terns. The
count is a collaboration between Audubon, Maine Coastal Islands NWR,
Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Canadian partners and
others to arrive at total counts for the terns. The annual count
is the best measure of the success achieved so far to restore these
rare and endangered birds. Although the final numbers for the entire
Gulf of Maine are not yet in, the total for all tern species on Audubon
managed islands shows an 11% increase (813 pairs) more than were
tallied in 2006 . In total, 8,517 pairs of terns were nesting on
the seven colonies protected by Audubon staff. The census also highlights
some of the challenges and the need for ongoing restoration.
Seal Island NWR: Recent events at Seal Island demonstrate
the value of having multiple tern colonies and resident staff. In
2006, Seal Island ranked as the largest Maine Tern colony with more
than 2,700 nesting pairs of Common and Arctic Terns. The colony was
off to a good start in 2007 with most pairs laying eggs during the
third week of May. However, events did not proceed well during the
first week of June. Inclement weather restricted the movements of
the solitary ‘island sitter’ that was left to protect
the colony while the supervisor and interns attended staff training.
Then tropical storm Barry raced up the coast June 4-5, with winds
topping 35mph and driving rain. This further delayed the return of
the Seal Island team. On their return June 6th, they discovered that
most of the tern eggs were cracked open. At first a mystery, they
soon discovered up to 30 Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls raiding
the colony- eventually eating all of the nests- likely more than
In response, the five Audubon interns began 4 AM hikes and a dusk
hike around the edge of the tern colony to chase off the gulls. They
also occasionally shot a rifle to disperse the gulls away from the
tern habitat. Their continued presence has caused the gulls to leave
the terns alone and about 1,800 pairs renested- the first of which
hatched on July 3- about two weeks later than usual. It remains to
be seen how well these chicks will do as the timing of he hatch is
tied to the availability of small hake and herring just the right
size for the chicks. Fortunately, most of the missing 900 pairs of
terns at Seal Island were found nesting at Matinicus Rock, another
Audubon-managed tern colony- located just 7.5 miles west of Seal
Island. Seal Island and Matinicus Rock are managed in partnership
with the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge.
Patriot’s Day Storm Improves Tern Habitat: The
2007 tern census found notable increases in terns at several of the
Audubon protected islands that were due in large part to the fierce
Patriot’s Day storm of April 15-16. The storm, notable for
winds of 70 mph brought crashing waves that topped most of our seabird
islands. Apparently, the storm came within feet of sweeping into
our cabins on Seal Island and Eastern Egg Rock. The force of the
water rearranged huge granite boulders at puffin nesting islands
and scoured beach and low-lying areas of accumulated sod and dead
plant stems. This action greatly improved nesting habitat for terns
at most islands- especially Stratton, Pond and Eastern Egg Rock where
vegetation was becoming increasingly dense in part due to the increased
fertilization by terns and other seabirds.
At Stratton Island, state endangered Least Terns have benefited from
the effects of the storm which removed vegetation from the island’s
beach and dune nesting habitat. In 2007, at least 113 pairs of the
tiny terns were nesting on Stratton Island- this represents most
of the Maine population. Likewise, Common Tern populations increased
on Eastern Egg Rock in habitat improved by the Patriot’s Day
The huge effects of such isolated events illustrate the importance
of long-term studies such as those conducted by the Seabird Restoration
Program. These not only detect small changes from one year to the
next, but they are in place to witness rare events such as exceptional
storms. Maine terns have probably long benefited by such storms,
but the beneficial effects of a well-timed storm are more important
today than in the past as most Gulf of Maine terns are crowed onto
just 12 islands because Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls (whose
populations have grown in response to abundant garbage and fishing
waste) exclude them from most places- except where summer island
stewards are present to displace gulls. The ability of terns to readily
move between islands gives them the ability to discover new habitat
created by storms and improve their chances for nesting success.
Razorbill Count Finds Record High Numbers: On June
30, the Matinicus Rock team searched the island’s huge boulders
in search of razorbill nests. The island supports Maine’s largest
population of this state listed species of Threatened concern. The
colony has been undergoing a steady increase in recent years and
that trend continued this summer with the confirmation of 314 nests
with either an egg or a chick. This is an increase from 291 pairs
in 2006 and 212 pairs in 2005. Late nesting pairs may boost the 2007
total even higher. Some of the Razorbill young are already fledging-
one example of this was recently observed when a father razorbill
escorted his chick through the colony and to the edge of the sea
in the late morning- right past several snoozing Great Black-backed
Gulls! This was unusual as they typically leave at dusk- timing that
helps them avoid gull predation.
Project Puffin Visitor Center: Now in its 2nd year, Project
Puffin Visitor Center, located at 311 Main Street in Rockland, is open
daily from 10-5 PM. The Center is featuring a new photographic exhibit titled ‘Puffins
and Penguins-converging on Cold Oceans.” The exhibit opened on June
27th, when Steve Kress presented on his recent visit to South Georgia Island
and the Antarctic Peninsula.
Visitors to the center will also find the live-streaming video of
puffins, terns, and the puffin chick in its burrow.
July 7th was the Second Annual Seabird Celebration. The event this
year was highlighted by a reading and book signing by noted children’s
author Gail Gibbons. Author of more than 150 books for children,
Gibbons specializes in writing books in collaboration with scientists.
She read her book about puffins to a packed audience of local families.
Visitors at the Center also viewed presentations by staff of Project
Puffin, Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge and Maine
Audubon Society about the varied projects in place to protect island
and beach nesting seabirds in Maine. About 150 people attended the
event. Children especially enjoyed seabird face painting and seabird
theme games with prizes provided by Barbara’s Bakery and Downeast
Energy. Project Puffin Visitor Center is sponsored in partnership
with the Maine Audubon Society.
News From the Seabird Islands - June 10, 2007
Overview: Thirty-two staff and volunteers met at
Hog Island June 1-3 for summer training. The group included 16 summer
research assistant interns and two education interns from 10 states
and Mexico. The weather was unusually balmy for mid-coast Maine in
June, but this changed quickly as tropical storm Barry raced toward
Maine, arriving the day after training. Thirty mile per hour winds
whipped up 9-12 foot seas that hammered the islands on June 4 and
5, stalling the departure of the interns and marooning the temporary
island caretakers that were protecting the islands during training.
A cold front from the northwest pushed the stormy weather offshore
on June 6th permitting the interns to establish their summer camps
on seven of Maine’s most important seabird nesting islands.
Puffin Cam Goes Live: The robotic puffin and tern
cams on Seal
Island National Wildlife Refuge went live to the Internet on
May 25th. The puffin cam is perched on a rocky outcrop favored by ‘loafing’ puffins.
Viewers will see two decoys on the rock and usually some puffins
nearby. The best hours at this season for puffin watching are the
morning, but puffins, razorbills and black guillemots can be seen
at any time coming and going from their nearby underground burrows.
The tern cam sits nearby in the middle of the Common and Arctic Tern
colony where about 2,000 pairs nested last year. At this date some
are beginning to incubate eggs. The cameras are set to rotate every
few minutes to a new location. We hope you enjoy the virtual puffin
and tern watching and that you will share the site with a friend.
To find the puffin cam, go to the home page of http://www.projectpuffin.org
2007 Birdathon: The 2007 Birdathon team was thrilled
to find the weather switch to a clearing cold front that brought
blue skies and abundant bird song back to the Maine coast. After
two bone-chilling days of fog and rain (due to tropical storm Barry),
we set out at dawn on June 6th to see how many species we could find.
By the end of the day, we tallied a total of 186 species and saw
a grand total of 78 puffins. Many thanks to everyone that contributed
to making this year’s Birdathon a big success.
2007 Josephine Daneman Herz Seabird
Fellowship: Each year the Audubon Seabird Restoration
Program welcomes an international scholar to participate in our
Maine seabird program. This year’s recipient is Maria Félix
Lizarraga with Conservación de Islas (Ensenada, México).
As Project Coordinator, Maria has worked during the last three
years in the Gulf of California islands and the Baja California
Pacific Islands. At Espíritu Santo Island her work is
related to eradication of introduced species as well as vegetation
and wildlife studies. On San Pedro Mártir and Farallón
de San Ignacio Islands, she collaborates with preparations for
black rat eradications to restore important seabird populations,
including boobies and tropic-birds. Maria, a native of Sonora,
Mexico, is a biologist (UABC-Ensenada) with a Masters in Science
in Ecology (CIBNOR-La Paz).
Project Puffin Visitor Center: Located at 311 Main
St. in Rockland, Project Puffin Visitor Center opened this year on
June 1 and will remain open daily through October 31st from 10-5PM.
At the Center, visitors are seeing the steaming video from Seal Island
of puffins and terns. Special events planned include Wednesday evening
lectures by project staff and the opening of a new exhibit comparing
puffins and penguins. “Puffins and Penguins - convergence
in cold seas” will open on June 20th. On July 7th, the Center
will sponsor the ‘2nd Annual Maine Seabird Celebration’ a
day of festivities with seabird games and guest speakers. Noted children’s
book author Gail Gibbons will take part in the festivities, signing
her puffin book and other titles. For more details, call 844-4-PUFFIN.
Updates from Past Seasons: