June 18, 2018
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Audubon announces updates on Puffin Project

AP File Photo/Robert F. Bukaty | BDN
AP File Photo/Robert F. Bukaty | BDN
An Atlantic puffin flies with a mouthful of hake on its way to feed its chick on Eastern Egg Rock in Muscongus Bay. The leg band helps researchers collect data on specific birds.


The National Audubon Society, in a newsletter, provided this information about its Maine Puffin Project:

Most terns have completed their nesting season on Audubon’s Maine Coastal Islands Seabird Sanctuaries, and puffins soon will complete their nesting cycle. Young terns just learning to fly have departed with their parents to begin their first migration to the Southern Hemisphere.

On Aug. 15 and 16 Audubon seabird interns also fledged after sharing highlights of their summer at the annual meeting of the Gulf of Maine Seabird Working Group on Hog Island.

Two new countries were represented in this year’s interns through the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and the McArthur Foundation. They were Ivan Mota from Dominican Republic and Talía Perez Martínez from Cuba, who received the distinction of being Audubon’s sixth Herz International Seabird Fellowship.

At the Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge, puffin numbers continued to increase with more than 500 nesting pairs. A final estimate will emerge from conducting a sampling method of the colony. The change from a complete count to a sampling method was made because of the increasing numbers of pairs. Tracking devices were placed on six puffins as part of an effort to discover their winter range. The puffin cam at Seal Island was left in place and will continue to operate for several weeks. Most of the puffins are now at sea, but there are still occasional landings. The puffin cam is sponsored by Barbara’s Bakery, maker of puffin cereals.

At Matinicus Rock, interns have been crawling under boulders in search of puffin chicks to band, weigh and measure. They have “grubbed” more than 200 puffin chicks, a new record that is testimony to their ambition and the growth of the colony. Eight of the chicks were fitted with tiny geolocator tracking devices. Some provide information about water temperature and diving depth; all provide data on latitude and longitude. The geolocators also were placed on breeding adults. Since they typically return to the same burrow, researchers hope to recover the devices next year. The crew on Matinicus Rock also documented several species of fish which are new to the diets of seabirds on the island — rough scad, haddock and a mystery fish that has yet to be positively identified.

At Eastern Egg Rock off Pemaquid, figuring out the number of nesting puffins on the 7-acre island is a daunting challenge, and interns spent many hours a day in the observation blinds. Soon after the interns departed, two bald eagles took up residence, feeding on some of the remaining laughing gull nestlings. This annual occurrence shows why it is important to keep seabird interns on the island to protect the nesting terns and puffins.

Pond Island National Wildlife Refuge, off Boothbay: In spite of the frequent nightly presence of a great horned owl, some tern chicks reached fledging age. A recent visit to the island revealed numerous common tern fledglings loafing in the intertidal zone.

Jenny Island supervisor Michelle Fournier and colleagues closed down the 3-acre seabird nesting island off Harpswell on July 23 after documenting a banner year for tern productivity, with common terns fledging an average of 1.9 chicks per pair. A total of 760 pairs of common terns and seven pairs of roseate terns nested. A great horned owl was captured and removed early in the season, which gave the birds a chance to do well.

Hog Island Audubon Camp, off Bremen, celebrated its 75th year recently with festivities organized by Friends of Hog Island. This summer nearly 300 Audubon campers took part in sold-out sessions for birders, educators and Audubon chapter leaders.

The final Hog Island program, Sept. 11-16, is Maine Seabird Biology and Conservation, a service learning program in which participants land on Eastern Egg Rock to conduct habitat and cabin improvement projects, and to learn about seabird and bird migration from Stephen Kress, author Scott Weidensaul and others. The session is offered in collaboration with Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel Inc.). A few places for this program remain. Enrollment for 2012 Hog Island sessions will open Oct. 15.

For more information, visit http://projectpuffin.org or email puffin@audubon.org.

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