Some great news from Project Puffin!
We are pleased to share some exciting news from the Maine puffin islands. Following the past two difficult summers, when most puffin pairs were unable to find ample food to raise chicks, the 2014 summer was a much improved season. Traditional puffin foods, white hake, Atlantic herring, and sand lance made up the bulk of the puffin diet this summer. Large butterfish (which are too large for puffin chicks to swallow) were nearly absent in the diet of puffins and terns this summer. Because of the improved food that was available for Maine’s two largest puffin colonies, Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge and Matinicus Rock, 75% and 66% of the pairs respectively fledged well-fed and healthy young. This was a welcome return to normal nesting behavior. The improved food supplies brought many adult puffins back to nest after taking a year or two off from nesting. This pattern led to the very exciting news that the puffin colony at Eastern Egg Rock increased by a third from 111 pairs in 2013 to a record high of 148 nesting pairs in 2014! This excellent year for puffins followed a moderation of the recent warm water trend. Following this past cold winter, the Gulf of Maine was somewhat cooler and this favored the puffin’s favorite forage fish.

Some great news from Project Puffin!

We are pleased to share some exciting news from the Maine puffin islands. Following the past two difficult summers, when most puffin pairs were unable to find ample food to raise chicks, the 2014 summer was a much improved season. Traditional puffin foods, white hake, Atlantic herring, and sand lance made up the bulk of the puffin diet this summer. Large butterfish (which are too large for puffin chicks to swallow) were nearly absent in the diet of puffins and terns this summer. Because of the improved food that was available for Maine’s two largest puffin colonies, Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge and Matinicus Rock, 75% and 66% of the pairs respectively fledged well-fed and healthy young. This was a welcome return to normal nesting behavior. The improved food supplies brought many adult puffins back to nest after taking a year or two off from nesting. This pattern led to the very exciting news that the puffin colony at Eastern Egg Rock increased by a third from 111 pairs in 2013 to a record high of 148 nesting pairs in 2014! This excellent year for puffins followed a moderation of the recent warm water trend. Following this past cold winter, the Gulf of Maine was somewhat cooler and this favored the puffin’s favorite forage fish.

Posted 1 week ago

8 Notes

So the 2014 season on Seal Island has come to an end. Our small team arrived in early May and were picked up on August 9th, back to the mainland. Our time out here has been fantastic, especially so because the seabirds have succeeded in raising many young this year. The terns have already begun to leave the island on their Southward migration. Their chicks are now full size and flying confidently around the island. The puffins too did very well with fat, well-fed chicks in most burrows. Some have already fledged too, their burrows left empty until next April. Although we are saddened to leave our home out in the ocean, it feels like the right time. The birds are leaving so it’s now time for us to leave as well.

-Seal Island Research Team

Posted 2 weeks ago

3 Notes

It’s that bittersweet time of year when all of the adorable little chicks we’ve been watching since they were eggs are all grown up and about to leave us.  We’re thrilled to see so many well fed, happy, fully feathered chicks about to fledge! The little pufflings will soon leave their nests in the middle of the night, hop down the rocks and venture out to sea for the next 2 to 3 years before they hopefully return back to Seal to rear chicks of their own. 

The arctic tern chicks are preparing to follow their parents on a great migration to Antarctica where the next two years will be spent growing up and preparing for the long solo flight back to their birthplace with the goal of beginning a new family.

Once the guillemot chicks fledge they will move out onto the water but do not have to migrate long distances.  This means we can continue to observe some of our fledgers floating around all winter long!

 -Nicole Passeri, Seal Island research assistant

Image 1: Puffin fledger

Image 2: Common tern fledger

Image 3: Black guillemot fledger

Posted 1 month ago

14 Notes

Two days ago, I had the awesome experience of grubbing out my first puffin chick from deep inside a burrow that I had to wiggle half of my body into, and banding him. To see how big these chicks have gotten is astonishing, and watching them grow their first real feathers gives me great hope that they will return to the island as breeding adults for many years to come. We have also grubbed out a few adults, for the purpose of measuring them as well as taking off, or putting on, geolocators (as you can see co-supervisors Ed and Julia doing below). These tiny data-recording devices, once removed from the ankles of the puffins, will hopefully tell us all about where the individuals have traveled throughout the year. It is surely exciting to be at the forefront of such important research, not to mention being able to work with these adorable pelagic birds up close. Meanwhile, we had a friendly visit from two members of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service yesterday, who came to collect data from the tower they had installed to track our Common and Arctic terns. Hopefully, the towers they have been installing on islands all over the Gulf of Maine will receive lots of data transmitted from radio tags we put on our terns several weeks ago, so we can track how far out they have been flying to find fish. As exciting as it is to know how far our puffins and terns have been traveling around the world, it definitely adds a sense of loneliness to our little island, as it certainly feels as though we have been with these birds every step of the way through a very important phase in their life cycle. To the future interns and volunteers of Seal Island, if you come across the birds we have banded this summer while you are here, tell them they will always be in our hearts.
-Max Feldman, Seal Island Research Assistant

Two days ago, I had the awesome experience of grubbing out my first puffin chick from deep inside a burrow that I had to wiggle half of my body into, and banding him. To see how big these chicks have gotten is astonishing, and watching them grow their first real feathers gives me great hope that they will return to the island as breeding adults for many years to come. We have also grubbed out a few adults, for the purpose of measuring them as well as taking off, or putting on, geolocators (as you can see co-supervisors Ed and Julia doing below). These tiny data-recording devices, once removed from the ankles of the puffins, will hopefully tell us all about where the individuals have traveled throughout the year. It is surely exciting to be at the forefront of such important research, not to mention being able to work with these adorable pelagic birds up close. Meanwhile, we had a friendly visit from two members of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service yesterday, who came to collect data from the tower they had installed to track our Common and Arctic terns. Hopefully, the towers they have been installing on islands all over the Gulf of Maine will receive lots of data transmitted from radio tags we put on our terns several weeks ago, so we can track how far out they have been flying to find fish. As exciting as it is to know how far our puffins and terns have been traveling around the world, it definitely adds a sense of loneliness to our little island, as it certainly feels as though we have been with these birds every step of the way through a very important phase in their life cycle. To the future interns and volunteers of Seal Island, if you come across the birds we have banded this summer while you are here, tell them they will always be in our hearts.

-Max Feldman, Seal Island Research Assistant

Posted 1 month ago

13 Notes

Here are some of the birds that visit the open ocean around Seal Island in late summer. All are great travelers and have covered vast distances to feed on the abundance of food in the Gulf of Maine.

Clockwise from top –

Great shearwater a visitor from the South Atlantic.

Cory’s shearwater, a visitor from the Eastern Atlantic.

Red phalarope, a visitor from the Arctic tundra.

Wilson’s storm-petrel, a visitor from the Southern Ocean.

- Ed Jenkins, Seal Island Research Supervisor

Here are some of the birds that visit the open ocean around Seal Island in late summer. All are great travelers and have covered vast distances to feed on the abundance of food in the Gulf of Maine.

Clockwise from top –

Great shearwater a visitor from the South Atlantic.

Cory’s shearwater, a visitor from the Eastern Atlantic.

Red phalarope, a visitor from the Arctic tundra.

Wilson’s storm-petrel, a visitor from the Southern Ocean.

- Ed Jenkins, Seal Island Research Supervisor

Posted 1 month ago

6 Notes