Seabird Island News - Vol. 5 - 29 May 2024

Seabird Island News Banner - Volume 05

Keeping Tabs on Terns

Jenny Island Common Tern - May 2024
This week Jenny Island terns were too skittish to be observed from a portable blind. Island Supervisor, Curtis, decided to make like a boulder, lying under a large towel on the bare granite. This Common Tern was none the wiser, incubating its eggs about one foot away. Photo: Curtis Mahon

Tern nests and eggs continue to be discovered across our managed islands. Resighting stints, where researchers identify birds by their leg bands, are underway. A notable sighting on Jenny Island was a tern with a Brazilian leg band. A black tern was seen wandering by both Jenny and Pond Islands. Perhaps, because the islands are so close to each other, it was the same one? The Seal Island team received a data download showing the migration of one of the island’s GPS-tagged Common Terns. The bird traveled down the east coast before flying over Cuba to the top of South America. Fingers, or feathers, crossed the backpack keeps uploading data to the island’s base station!

Tufted Puffin Returns to Matinicus Rock for Third Season
The Tufted Puffin is back for its third season! This wanderer from the Pacific Ocean is most likely the same individual seen the past two summers at nearly all the puffin colonies in the Gulf of Maine. The Matinicus Rock team first saw the bird on May 23, during the morning bird count. Photo: Juliana Ramirez


There may finally be calm days ahead for our puffin pair. Willie and Millie got their first full day of peace from an intruding fellow Atlantic Puffin on Friday, May 24 and could get back to incubating their egg in relative quiet. Perhaps in celebration of their successful burrow defense, they had some enthusiastic billing sessions on the rocks - sometimes getting too enthusiastic!

Puffin Tumble
Willie and Millie take a tumble down the rocks after billing. GIF created by cam viewer spamela5510. Photo:

On the last day of intruder attacks, Willie diligently defended the burrow by sitting in the entrance while Millie incubated the egg. But watchful puffins mean tired and hungry puffins–Willie and Millie were constantly snoozing and going on extended fishing trips. On Sunday, they were both gone from the burrow for more than 6 hours. It has been a rough start to the season for this pair.

Puffin Willie snoozes with a mouthful of straw
In the middle of redecorating the burrow, Willie falls asleep with straw in his mouth. Photo:

As more and more Black Guillemot eggs start popping up on Seal Island, the on-cam guillemot pair has been preparing their rock crevice for eggs too. Viewers have spotted them in the nest later and later into the day, a promising sign suggesting an egg may soon appear!

Black-crowned Night Heron chick in nest
On Bluff Island, located a brief row boat ride from Stratton Island, seven Black-crowned Night Heron nests were found. One was filled with velociraptor-meets-muppet looking chicks. Photo: Stratton Island

And the Survey Says...

It was a survey filled week on Stratton Island. The team conducted the island’s annual Wading Bird Census. The survey, which focuses on Black-crowned Night Herons, Glossy Ibis, Great Egrets, and Snowy Egrets, counts the number of nests, eggs, and chicks found on the island. There is a significant increase in the number of chicks seen this year compared to last, which aligns with the early nesting and laying habits of other nesting birds in the Gulf of Maine. Two Little Blue Herons and a Yellow-crowned Night Heron were also seen during the census.

Glossy Ibis chick in nest with soon-to-be siblings in eggs
Based on the starry pipping pattern on the lower side of the egg at left, it looks like this Glossy Ibis chick may soon have to share its nest with a little sibling. Photo: Stratton Island

Razorbill Censusing began on Seal Island, a bit earlier than usual. The team squirmed over and under the granite boulders to check 129 burrows all over the island. Eggs were found in 82 burrows, which is on par with recent years. Some late-layers and more new burrows are anticipated. It was discovered during the census that some historic Razorbill burrows were destroyed when a refrigerator sized boulder was flipped and dragged by the powerful waves that hit this past winter.

Check back next week to get an update about our Tufted Puffin work on the West Coast.

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