Seabird Island News - Vol. 6 - 30 June 2023

Matinicus Rock Light
Neither rain nor fog nor gloom of night stays the light of Matinicus Rock. Photo: Matinicus Rock

It’s been a “pea soup” week along Maine’s coast. Following a day of warm temperatures and sunshine on Sunday, dense fog and rain showers have blanketed the Gulf of Maine. The team on Jenny even remarked “we think someone deleted the rest of the world!” Islanders and mainland staff alike are anxious for a long stretch of sunny days. Will the sun shine once more? Here’s hoping!

Least Tern feeding chick a meal
This Least Tern parent found a teensy meal for this tiny chick. Photo: Alfonso Rodriguez

Tern Update

The Pond Island team made the most of these grey days by taking care of overgrown vegetation. Widening island trails and trimming plants that could cover hard-to-see chicks is especially important as chicks are growing stronger, more mobile, and become harder to find. Jenny Island reported some of their fluffy chicks are reaching the 100 gram milestone, welcome news amongst reports that some have succumbed to the wet weather or, you guessed it, a night heron.

A few words about Night Herons and a bonus bird word this week. There are two ways that Night Herons predate colonies. These predators like their prey dry, fluffy, and “fully cooked.” To ensure they receive their meal to their liking, these birds will predate eggs by slicing them, investigating how soon nearby eggs are expected to hatch. This behavior is known as “scissoring.” They return for their meal after the chicks hatch. Last year, Stratton Island hosted the largest Least Tern colony in Maine. Only two chicks remain after a major predation and the team is on high alert.

Matinicus Rock Common Murre
This Matinicus Rock Common Murre was ready for its close-up. Photo: Maceo

Alcid Update

It wasn’t all doom and gloom this week, however. Seal Island researchers report puffin feedings have been good, with an overwhelming amount of Sand Lance. Fingers crossed this trend continues. Out on Matinicus Rock, the team was excited to find a puffling in Burrow 450, previously home to a 35-year-old puffin translocated from Newfoundland and raised on Seal Island. Has this old-timer returned? Confirmation coming soon.

Bird Word of the Week - Mouth Lining
Tufted Puffin spotted on Eastern Egg Rock
The Tufted Puffin is still hanging around! This week, it visited Eastern Egg Rock and the whole team got a glimpse. Photo: Jacob Ligorria

This year, there are an unprecedented three guillemot eggs in the guillemot burrow. Seeing as guillemots typically lay one to two eggs, this is a pretty unusual sight, to say the least! We’ve seen the guillemot parents valiantly attempt to incubate all three eggs in shifts, but the timing is proving to be a problem, leading to some concern about the viability of the eggs. 

There’s been interesting debate on the chatboard about where that extra egg may have come from. One hypothesis is that the guillemot pair who have inhabited this burrow in past years laid an egg and promptly abandoned the burrow, allowing a new guillemot pair to take over. And indeed, it seems to be a new pair in the burrow—one of the birds we’ve been seeing on camera is banded, and the pair who had inhabited the burrow in previous years were both un-banded.

There’s also an ongoing home invasion in this burrow that’s affecting the eggs. A pair of puffins found the burrow two weeks ago and did some exploring while the guillemot parents were away. The puffins apparently took a liking to the burrow-- they’ve returned several times, chasing the guillemots out of their burrow and away from their eggs. This past week, the puffin pairs’ intrusive poking and prodding displaced the eggs and scattered them all around the burrow.

We’ll be watching to see whether or not any of the three eggs hatch, whether or not the puffins win the burrow turf war, and whether or not the guillemots stay put. All in all, it’s been a fraught season on the guillemot burrow cam—but if you love a good mystery, it’s definitely worth checking in on this feed! 

Island Highlights

It was a holiday-filled week! June 25th was “Island Christmas,” a time for teams to make and exchange gifts. Seal Island was extra festive, setting up a lobster buoy tree to celebrate the season. Tuesday was International Guillemot Appreciation Day. This year’s challenge was to create a poem, song, or dance to celebrate the beloved and sometimes overshadowed guillies. In the evening, almost everyone huddled around their computers to share their creativity over zoom. The winners of this year’s challenge will be announced in August at the Gulf of Maine Seabirds Working Group meeting.

Crew filming for International Guillemot Appreciation Day
Filming for an IGAD entry is serious business! Lights! Camera! ACTION! Photo: Outer Green Island

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

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