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“Benefit Cruise is for the Birds”

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The Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Downeast Audubon and the Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company, are hosting an evening seabird cruise to see and learn all about the nesting puffins and terns at Petit Manan Island. The event will take place on Sunday, August 3, 2014, from 5:00pm to 7:30pm, and will benefit the Friends of Maine Seabird Islands.

The mission of Friends of Maine Seabird Islands is to encourage conservation and appreciation of seabirds, their islands, and their coastal habitats, and to support the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge complex has grown to include 55 islands, four coastal parcels, and over 8,000 acres of critically important wildlife habitat.

“Our staff approach each day with enthusiasm and energy for managing these diverse islands and coastal lands in the very best way”, said Beth Goettel, Maine Coastal Islands wildlife refuge manager. “We are excited to share with the public our mission and efforts that we make to maintain many of the islands as a bed and breakfast for the seabirds and as habitat for all life”.

“This is an excellent opportunity for those of us who love nature to learn all about the beautiful birds that nest on Maine’s islands and their natural history stories which are breathtaking and have much to teach us about persistence, stamina and how life on earth works”. stated Zack Klyver, lead guide for Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co.

“Our company is pleased to give back to refuge for all they do for us, as we bring 20,000 people a year here on our puffin and whale watching cruises”, declared Klyver. “This will be a chance for people and to hear and ask questions directly of the experts about the positive restoration efforts and research being conducted on Maine’s islands.”

Petit Manan Island is a nesting island for puffins, guillemots, razorbills, and three species of terns and eleven nesting seabird species in total. It is also home to the second tallest lighthouse on the coast of Maine at 119 feet in height. Refuge staff live on the island during the summer months, surveying and studying the seabirds and actively managing the island.

Each clear morning the refuge staff conduct a tower count for alcids; birds in the puffin family. They walk the entire island and count all nesting seabirds each summer and watch from raised bird blinds or boxes stationed over the island, to determine what types of prey the terns are bringing back to their young.

Over the last two decades seabird scientists have documented, the increasing warming waters in the Gulf of Maine have brought butterfish, a fish that have a normal range in the mid-Atlantic, into Maine’s coastal waters. These fish are sometimes brought back by adult seabirds to feed their chicks, but are to round for the chicks to swallow, resulting in decreased reproductive success.
“In recent years, we have set out to understand more about how the puffins and terns are using the offshore habitat, where the go to feed and how deep in the water by using radio telemetry and small time depth recorders” claimed Linda Welch, chief USFWS biologist for Petit Manan Island. “Since 2010 we have maintained a blog called Summer with the Seabirds, in an effort to make our work and this information more visible and timely to the public and aspiring wildlife biologists”.

The benefit trip will take place aboard the M/V Friendship V and leave from harbor Place next to the down town pier in Bar Habor. The tour will include an evening of presentations; wine provided by Janice and Marc Mondavi, delicious appetizers and a new short film about the refuge produced by local film makers Jeff Dobbs and Bing Miller. Speakers will include Linda Welch, lead wildlife biologist at Petit Manan, Beth Goettel, wildlife refuge manager, and Sandy Hobbs, the president of Friends of Maine Seabird Islands.

Tickets cost $50 per person and all proceeds go to support the important work by Friends of Maine Seabird Islands. To reserve tickets, please call the Friends of Maine Seabirds Islands at 207-594-0600, Extension 5. It is recommended very strongly that you dress warmly, especially if you intend to spend any time on one of the three viewing decks, as it is much cooler on the ocean. Binoculars are also wonderful for seeing the seabirds up close.