Date: 7/16/17 6:36 pm
From: Karen Burke <karendowneast...>
Subject: [Maine-birds] Re: MACHIAS SEAL ISLAND REPORT
Another enjoyable post - thank you Ralph.

On Sunday, July 16, 2017 at 10:54:51 AM UTC-4, RALPH ELDRIDGE wrote:
> 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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