The Matinicus Rock puffin colony continued to expand, reaching a record
high count of 171 active burrows-an increase of 21 percent over the 1997
total of 141 burrows. The number of chicks banded also reached a new record
high of 77-up from 54 in 1997. Chicks are banded to determine the percent
of each age group that returns to Matinicus Rock. This is accomplished
by reading the individual leg bands on puffins visiting the island "loafing
ledges." Recent return rates have been exceptionally high. For example,
return rates for the period 1993-1995 were 95, 64 and 64 percent respectively.
This appeared to be an exceptional year for Matinicus Rock puffins, but
it will take several years to know for sure as puffins don't usually return
to their nesting islands until they are two to three-years-old.
The Razorbill colony on Matinicus Rock was discovered in 1965 and has
expanded for at least the past 18 years, reaching a record high of 80 pairs
in 1997. The growth of this colony has likely contributed to the increasing
numbers of Razorbills prospecting on nearby Seal Island NWR and the first
nesting this summer.
A Manx Shearwater was present throughout the 1998 field season, being
observed on 16 days from May 24 to July 29. The bird usually arrived just
at dusk, circled the shore a few times and then settled onto the ground
where it excavated a burrow that eventually reached 19-inches deep by the
end of August. It was often heard giving its distinctive, raspy call late
into the night. It's likely that the same bird was present on seven days
in 1997, as it frequented the same part of the island in a similar pattern,
but did not dig a burrow. This nesting behavior is extraordinary, as Manx
Shearwaters have nested only once in the United States (Massachusetts)
and are known to nest in just a few locations in Newfoundland. Most Manx
Shearwaters nest in the United Kingdom.
The project to restore a colony of Common and Roseate Terns to Pond Island
National Wildlife Refuge in the mouth of the Kennebec River moved into
its third season this year (see Egg Rock Update 1996 and 1997). Terns had
not nested at Pond Island since 1937, but one pair nested in the first
year of the Project (1996) and five pairs nested in 1997. The 1998 season
was off to a promising start with many terns prospecting among decoys and
the play-back speakers which broadcast the sounds of a thriving Common
Tern colony. However, mechanical problems with the sound system appeared
to cause most of the prospecting terns to lose interest by late June when
they should have been nesting. The project suffered further when Great
Horned Owls visited at night, spooking birds from their nests. These setbacks
resulted in just one nesting pair of terns at Pond Island this summer.
Two owls were live-trapped and released far from the island to reduce
the threat of predation and disturbance by Great Horned Owls. However,
as a result of the owl's presence, the adult terns abandoned their eggs
at night which prevented them from hatching. To encourage the terns to
stay at the island (and hopefully return next year), two Common Tern chicks
(both one-day-old) were moved from the thriving Jenny Island colony on
July 7 and placed under their new foster parents. The chicks were immediately
accepted by the Pond Island adults and were fed for the first time by their
foster parents just eight minutes after arrival. The chicks were protected
and tended carefully, and soon fattened on a diet of small herring and
ake. They fledged on July 27th.
Perroquets Island-Gannet update
In response to restoration techniques, a single adult Northern Gannet spent
most of this past summer among decoys on Perroquets Island, site of a once-thriving
gannetry on the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The project to
restore Northern Gannets to Perroquets Island, Quebec continued into its
second year, directed by Audubon's Seabird Restoration Program and its
two Canadian partners: Quebec-Labrador Foundation and Mingan Islands Cetacean
Study (see Egg Rock Update 1996).
Perroquets Island lost its "immense" gannet colony about 1859, due
to hunting for cod-fishing bait followed by the construction of a lighthouse.
Although gannet populations are expanding in the western North Atlantic,
all North American gannets nest at just six colonies which makes them vulnerable
to disasters such as oil and chemical pollution, over-fishing, and natural
disasters such as storms and erosion.
At Perroquets Island, daily counts of up to 4,800 gannets were seen
in mid July during the peak of the season. Most of these birds were likely
associated with other Gulf of St. Lawrence colonies such as Bonaventure
Island. Our single gannet spent most of the day and night among the decoys,
leaving for several hours around mid-day, presumably to fish. On a number
of occasions, it was seen picking up nesting material. The gannet was present
when the season started in mid June and was present almost daily until
late August. The presence of this bird is encouraging as it will help to
attract others to the colony. The gannet project was supported by grants
from The Baird Foundation and the Baillie Fund of Long Point Bird Observatory.
We Gratefully Acknowledge the 1998
Gannet Watch Team
Laura Del Giudice and Christophe Buidin
Tiny, three-acre Jenny Island continued to be the only nesting place for
terns in Casco Bay. 1998 was the eighth consecutive year the Common Tern
colony increased; this year growing to 1,167 nesting pairs. In addition,
eight pairs of endangered Roseate Terns nested. Jenny Island was the most
productive (1.54 chicks per pair) Common Tern colony on the Maine Coast
this summer, producing a total of 1,797 chicks.
Numbers of Snowy Egrets and Glossy Ibis remained constant this summer with
125 and 128 pairs respectively-the largest colonies of these species in
Maine. Terns continued their third year of dramatic increase-Common Terns
were up to 926 pairs and Arctic Terns to 12 pairs. Roseate Terns increased
by 58 percent, from 56 pairs in 1997 to 86 pairs this summer. The recent
increase at Stratton Island is likely due to the removal of a single specialist
night-heron that prevented most terns from successfully breeding between
1991 and 1993. After many years of attempting to live trap and discourage
the night-heron from feasting on newly hatched terns. It was shot in 1994.
The rapid growth of the colony since 1994 demonstrates the response of
the colony to the removal of this specialist predator. Although 29 pairs
of Black-crowned Night-Herons nested on the island in 1998, there was no
evidence of predation within the growing tern colony as evidenced by highly
successful nesting. This summer, Stratton Island Common and Roseate Terns
fledged 1,308 and 96 young respectively.
MORE MURRES- DESPITE EL NINO
The project to restore Common Murres to nesting islands on the Central
California Coast completed its third year with 15 eggs laid atop Devil's
Slide Rock. As recently as 1982, about 2300 Common Murres nested on this
rugged sea stack located 15 miles south of San Francisco (see Egg Rock
Update 1996). The colony disappeared, however, by 1986, following a period
of extensive gill-netting, an oil spill, and effects of the warm El Niño
current. The combined effects of these events killed several thousand murres
on the Central California Coast. The effort to restore murres to Devil's
Slide Rock began in January 1996 when biologists from the USFWS, National
Audubon Society and National Biological Survey positioned 384 life-sized
decoys, two automatic sound systems (broadcasting murre vocalizations)
and 12 mirror boxes on top of the 36' x 78' stack. The project is funded
and administered by the Apex Houston Trustee Council.
The social attraction techniques (use of decoys, mirrors and sound)
employed at Devil's Slide Rock encouraged murres to recolonize this historic
nesting place after a 10-year absence. Six eggs were laid in 1996 of which
three fledged. In 1997, six chicks (from nine eggs) fledged; and this year's
15 eggs resulted in six fledglings. The number of birds visiting the Rock
also promises further growth, as this summer's high count increased by
100 percent (from 39 in 1997 to 80 in 1998). These increases are surprising
since 1998 was a severe "El Niño" year in which coastal waters were
warmer than usual. This effect greatly depressed breeding at other Central
California murre colonies.
The encouraging results of the Devil's Slide Rock Project prompted
the "Project Murre" team to move forward in 1998 with a new restoration
project on nearby San Pedro Rock. Murres last nested on San Pedro in 1908,
but disappeared following extensive collecting for the San Francisco egg
markets which were legal at that time. Although the habitat remains suitable,
murres have not pioneered a new colony at this site in 90 years. In early
April, project biologists took advantage of a lull in otherwise severe
weather to climb the rock and place 380 murre decoys and two sound systems.
The San Pedro Rock project is off to a promising start as up to 28 murres
have already been observed prospecting among the decoys, exploring the
former nesting ledges. If murres do recolonize San Pedro, the entire central
California murre population will benefit as more colonies spreads the risk
of disaster when catastrophes such as oil spills occur.
We Gratefully Acknowledge the 1998 California
Project Murre team
The program to attract Laysan Albatross to Kaohikaipu
Island off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii completed its fifth season (see Egg
Rock Update 1994). In 1997-98, 28 volunteer observers were coordinated
by Dr. Gail Grabowsky Kaaialii and research assistant Lynnea Overholt.
The intent of the project is to encourage the big birds (with a wingspan
of seven feet) to nest at this state wildlife sanctuary rather than on
airport runways. To help accomplish this goal, observers dedicated 688
hours watching 40 life-size polyethylene models, six decoy chicks and decoy
eggs. These and two CD-sound systems were placed in a cluster at a site
favored by albatross in recent years. Between December and early May, albatross
were seen on and near Kaohikaipu on 25 of 136 observation days, a frequency
similar to previous years. Although the albatross have not yet nested,
continued interest in the island provides encouragement that the big birds
may eventually choose to establish a new nesting place in the safety of
this island sanctuary.
Our Sincerest Appreciation Goes to the
1998 Albatross Watchers & Set-up Crew
Gail Grabowsky Kaaialii
John P. Wendel
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of the National Audubon Society. All rights reserved. More
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