Date: 7/16/17 7:54 am
From: RALPH ELDRIDGE <lightrae1...>
Subject: [Maine-birds] MACHIAS SEAL ISLAND REPORT

Well, the summer is chugging along and the breeding species seem to be
doing fairly well. The weather has been pretty good, for the most part, and
food appears to be reasonably plentiful although not always the best
quality.

Some of the Terns have fledged and others should follow every day from now
on.
We do see individuals that exhibit retarded or interrupted development but
those sometimes make surprising comebacks. Some simply disappear, whether
by predation or just perishing in the heavy vegetation, their fate is total
speculation.
There are chicks of every age, eggs beginning incubation and eggs just
hatching.
Overall, it looks as if the Terns will end the season on a high note with a
fairly successful year.
Terns from from 2014, '15 & '16 are showing up. It's encouraging to see
those returning along with older, pre-crash birds.

Clear, dry and moderately warm weather is good for the Tern chicks. It
likely helps the parents in their foraging, too.
The downside, though, is that clear weather frequently brings PEREGRINES
with their attendant colony disruption and potential killing of Tern
parents. A single-parent chick likely won't survive.

The Puffins are also targeted by the falcons. Perhaps unfortunately, a lot
of the birds which are hit actually escape the talons, leaving the falcon
to strike again, prolonging the colony disruption and leaving wounded birds
who's survival may be compromised.
A few days ago I watched an adult, probable female Peregrine hit and knock
down 3 Puffins in less than a minute before it moved out of sight to
another part of the island.
So, while we may rail about fog, it does curtail virtually all raptor
activity over the colony.

RAZORBILLS have been leaving in Papa/Junior pairs for a week or so. They
are seen marching towards the water but they leave the vicinity of the
island. This is the time of year when the pairs are frequently reported at
inshore locations.

COMMON MURRES are also developing nicely, as are the PUFFINS.
The very earliest Pufflings could make their nocturnal trek to the water
within the week but the main body of youngsters will stay at home for maybe
another 3-4 weeks. They seem to be getting sufficient food but the quality
could be better.

BLACK GUILLEMOTS continue to be seen around the boat landing, generally 2
but occasionally 3 or more. There hasn't been any evidence of nesting,
although the apparent regulars seem to be a mated pair in full black &
white dress.
Regardless, they offer good opportunities for close, extended observation. On
Friday the "pair" let me walk to within 30 feet of them as they lounged on
the rocks beside the boat landing. They watched me but only left when they
felt sandwiched between me and an incoming boatload of tourists.

SPOTTED SANDPIPERS are guarding broods all around the island. 3 chicks seem
common this year, although I have seen a couple of families with 4
siblings. Judging from the broods which I've actually observed and the
presence of adults at other locations, I believe there may have been 12-15
nests this year. That's around the high normal count that I'd expect.
Two of the families are on alternate sides of the boat ramp. I see them
every time I go down there.
One brood is likely 4 days older but now all 6 chicks are growing well and
have completely mastered their huge feet.
Interestingly, all of the adult sandpipers this year have exhibited the
normal close attention to their offspring but I have not seen a single
"crippled bird" distraction display this year. In fact, there hasn't been
much distraction activity at all. Adults have shown an unusual willingness
to remain very close to me while allowing their chicks to continue feeding
in the open. On one occasion an adult called all 3 chicks in to be brooded
and warmed less than 20 feet from me. I spent some 10 minutes photographing
the family until the chicks decided to resume their foraging and the adult
mounted its lookout atop a large rock.

SHORTBILLED DOWICHERS continue quite numerous. Perhaps not the highest
count that I've ever seen but respectable. At the moment, from where I'm
sitting, I can see a group of 5 feeding adjacent to the lighthouse. Another
bunch of 17 is bathing in our containment pond, 5 are foraging under our
solar panels and there are 11 feeding on the lawn next door.
50 or 60 isn't an unusual number in early July.
It's impossible to know how many of the birds are staying around or for how
long. I suspect that many of them stay for multiple days because they have
great feeding on the lawns. There is a ridicules amount of earthworms and
enough Wood Lice (Sow Bugs) to carry an elephant or two.

The 2 or 3 CATBIRDS continue to build poor imitations of nests. The best of
them are barely recognizable as nest structures ... more a random jumble of
nest materials, including shredded paper from our compost. So far I've
located 4 of them.
Perhaps they are too occupied scoffing insects and grape jelly.

While some EIDER ducklings are quite well grown now, new broods continue to
appear. I watched 4 newly minted fluff-balls travel to the shore yesterday
and experience their first immersion. Fortunately, sea conditions have been
exceptionally good lately.

HARBOUR SEAL pups are a bit more visible now, often pulling out at random
points around the island.
GRAY SEALS are a lot bigger now and more inclined to haul out on Gull Rock
with the rest of the herd.
That said, there was male Gray pup just north of the boat ramp last evening
and a female Gray pup close to the south this morning.

There have been a smattering of butterflies over the past 2 weeks but there
are virtually no plants flowering at the moment, so no incentive to hang
around.
One MONARCH BUTTERFLY was noted, especially for the early date.
August, into September produces our migrant butterflies and Hummingbirds.
That's when the island is normally wall-to-wall PURPLE ASTER.

So far this summer has been nearly MOSQUITO free; a happy contrast with 3-4
recent years. Nonetheless, I suspect that will change as we get more summer
weather. I hope that I lose that bet.

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