Hog Island Audubon Camp hosts the annual Gulf of Maine Seabirds Working Group (GOMSWG) summer meeting each year in mid-August. On August 11th, scientists working on seabird islands as far south as Cape Cod up through Nova Scotia came together in-person or attended virtually to discuss their 2023 results. Quality over quantity was a recurring theme. Wet weather hampered tern chick survival rates, but those that survived were strong and healthy; a likely indicator of better success during the critical period following fledging. Alcids and tubenoses were less impacted by the torrential rainfall, but preliminary productivity for puffins, razorbills, and storm-petrels also appeared to fall below average levels. There were many well-fed and pudgy pufflings, however, so researchers are hopeful we will see many of these fledgers again in a few years.
The traditional, post-GOMSWG BBQ was held on the mainland on Friday evening. After dinner, this year’s Island Awards ceremony were also held. Eastern Egg Rock took home the top prize for their choreographed music video for International Guillemot Appreciation Day. This year’s “Use It Up Challenge” was to create an edible dish, loosely based on a sandwich using some of the oldest food on the islands. The Pond Island and Outer Green Island teams tied for first place with their culinary creations. The final prize awarded was for the most Smooth and Speedy Island Egress. The advance preparation and organization done by the team on Pond Island allowed the crew to take home this prize. Notably, Matinicus Rock and Seal Island still have teams deployed putting them at a slight disadvantage for the final award of the night.
Saturday August 12th was Project Puffin’s 50th Anniversary Science Symposium. Puffineers past and present, partners, and friends of the program gathered on Hog Island as the program kicked off with a keynote lecture delivered by seabird-superman himself, Dr. Steve Kress. The remainder of the morning and into the afternoon featured speakers who have worked for Project Puffin and gone on to do other exciting work in conservation. Looking back on the achievements made possible by Project Puffin has inspired everyone to consider how they make their mark on the world of conservation.
After a closing toast, this summer’s research staff got busy on the mainland setting up the Puffineer Reunion. Puffineers and former staff spanning the decades came together for a classic “Maine” celebration filled with fun, fellowship, and storytelling. “The emotion had us all on the verge of tears so often and swinging between hilarious laughter and tears just as often!” said Evie Weinstein.
The festivities concluded on Monday when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service installed a plaque at the field research station on Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge, dedicating it as the Stephen W. Kress Seabird Research Station. A small number of puffineers, staff, and volunteers traveled to Seal Island for the installation ceremony. “Steve’s work to restore puffins on Seal Island NWR was the beginning of a 40-year partnership with the refuge and the techniques used have expanded to other islands and species. Maine is a much richer place with the diversity of seabirds restored to their historical nesting islands,” said Brian Benedict, Refuge Manager of Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge.
Because of Steve’s vision, hundreds of dedicated biologists and volunteers, and Don’s passion and commitment in leading the Seabird Institute, we know the future is bright! Thank you for following along this season and “Cheers to the next 50 years!”
For additional news, please visit the Seabird Island News index page.