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Seabird Island News - Vol. 6 - 05 June 2024

Seabird Island News Banner - Volume 06
Bald Eagle flies over Jenny Island, chased by terns
A Bald Eagle attempted a flyover at Jenny Island but was quicky ushered away when around 2,000 terns took to the sky to chase it away. Photo: Jenny Island

Experiencing Fieldwork Firsthand

The 2024 Seabird Institute Communications and Outreach Assistant, Gloria, just completed a week on Seal Island NWR experiencing life on the island and directly observing the seabirds featured on the explore.org cams. She experienced the trials and tribulations of being a seabird island researcher firsthand while also developing her field biology skills, such as assisting the island team to conduct productivity checks and resight banded birds. It was a wonderful week full of peeking at puffins and their pecking, preening, and pooping!

Loafing Puffins
The occasionally blustery May weather means lots of loafing puffins. Photo: Gloria Jin

Seal Island was once again featured on explore.org’s “More to Explore” live show, where host Mike Fitz interviewed Gloria about her time on the island, the work of the Seabird Institute, and more.

Explore.og

It was a quiet week for the seabird cams, aside from the constant cacophony of tern calls. Willie and Millie, the on-cam puffin pair, have spent most of their days alternating snoozing in the burrow nurturing their egg with fishing out at sea. The cam viewers have been speculating when the puffin egg will hatch into a “puffling”, which should occur sometime in the next two weeks. Join in on the fun of the running commentary on the Puffin Burrow Cam on explore.org!

Puffin Millie stretches after a long night incubating the egg
On a quiet Monday morning, Millie takes a stretch after a long night of incubating the egg. Photo: explore.org

Viewers of the Black Guillemot Cam have been treated with early morning appearances by a pair since the season began. But it wasn’t certain if they would stay in the burrow or not. This week, they were seen courting and even copulating on cam – it seems hopeful that the guillemot pair may call it home for the season. The researchers and viewers cannot tell for certain if the banded female and unbanded male are the same birds from last year. Regardless, they are a welcome sight.

Terns

While new Roseate Tern nests were found on Stratton and Pond Islands, peak laying seems to have crested on Seal Island. Because of early laying this year, tern census will be occurring in the next week (weather willing!) This is set to be the earliest census ever conducted! Predators have begun making rounds. A pesky Peregrine Falcon has been tormenting terns on Seal and the gang on Pond have been hazing Great Black Backed Gulls in an effort to dissuade their predation tactics.

Tufted Puffin flying
Tufted Puffin. Photo: Roy Lowe

West Coast

Out west, as Tufted Puffins return for their breeding season, a group of stakeholders – including agencies, academics, and nonprofits – are leveraging their collective knowledge and resources to help protect the species. Over the past decades, Tufted Puffins in the California Current – from northern California up to British Columbia - have experienced a drastic decline. Numbering tens of thousands in the 1990s, a 2019 survey estimated the population to be less than 2,000. The Tufted Puffin is listed as endangered in Washington State, sensitive in Oregon, and a species of special concern in California.

Earlier this year Katherine Luscher, our Tufted Puffin Coordinator based in Oregon, convened representatives from Friends of Haystack Rock, Bird Alliance of Oregon, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, American Bird Conservancy, Oregon State University, Oikonos, and others to discuss priorities for Tufted Puffin conservation. The group identified three interrelated strategies: implementing conservation actions, advocating for stronger policies to better protect the species, and raising the profile of the Tufted Puffin through public outreach and engagement. Though we do not yet fully understand all the reasons the population is decreasing, we do have the benefit of our experience with Atlantic Puffins – as well as the continuing research and newly coordinated effort – to help guide us towards stopping the decline of our iconic Tufted Puffin. Stay tuned for more updates! 

For additional news, please visit the Seabird Island News index page.

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