Archive for August, 2011

Alas, another season is behind us…  We finished up our 2011 efforts with two trips on July 19th and 26th

Boat-based Surveys (CLT, 7/19/2011).


On the 19th, we began our day with a boat-based survey in the Outer Islands.  We counted a total of 519 female Common Eider and 97 ‘distinguishable ducklings’.  (It was recently pointed out to me that ‘ducklings’, as opposed to ‘chicks’, is the preferred nomenclature for referencing juvenile eider.  I have further qualified it with ‘distinguishable’ since, by this point in the season, some ducklings are undoubtedly large enough to escape our notice and get counted as adult females.)  Anyway… in addition to 97 distinguishable ducklings, we also detected 2 adult American Oystercatchers with 1 fledged juvenile on Calf Island and another group of 2 adults and 1 fledged juvenile on Outer Brewster.  Foraging Spotted Sandpipers were noted on Green, Outer Brewster, Shag Rocks, and Little Brewster and 1 harbor seal was spotted on the Graves.   After a season counting eider ducks in Boston Harbor, some of you may be interested to know that this species has a long history of human interaction and sustainable eiderdown harvest still takes place in Canada, Iceland, and other areas of the Artic today.  The Norwegian Island of Vega was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004 and has since been added to my dream travel list (see http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1143).

Fishing the Graves (CLT, 7/19/2011).


The Least Tern colony on Lovells Island has dispersed after what appeared to be a successful season.  The Great Black-backed Gull that nested just outside the colony still lingers in the area with one fat and healthy chick.  A carcass found nearby may have been the second chick, who was not in evidence during our visit.  One Spotted Sandpiper, acting quite territorial, was also noted nearby on Lovells. 

In addition on the 19th, we also observed two adult American Oystercatchers with 1 fledged juvenile on Peggy’s Point on Gallops Island, but did not see any on Rainsford during a boat-based survey.  Eight Wilson’s Storm-petrels were working the water between Lovells and George’s and Spotted Sandpipers were foraging on both Gallops and Rainsford, presumably having completed their nesting efforts for the season.

Snake Island (CLT, 7/26/2011).

On the 26th, we took advantage of the morning high tide and landed on Snake Island where we observed 10 adult American Oystercatchers and 5 fledged juveniles along with 34(!) Willets.  There were 7 adult Common Terns in the area.  We came upon one abandoned tern nest with 2 eggs and then, quite surprisingly, found 2 very young Common Tern chicks on the beach.  Although we saw terns in the area during our initial visit in late May, the end of July is quite late for nesting terns.  Black-crowned Night-herons, a Great Blue Heron, a Great Egret, Least Terns, Short-billed Dowichers, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Plovers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Song Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds, and European Starlings were all foraging on Snake – more evidence that the breeding season is over and fall is shortly upon us.


Boston Skyline form Snake Island (CLT, 7/26/2011).

During a boat-based survey of the Outer Islands on the 26th we counted 426 female Common Eider and just 21 ‘distinguishable ducklings’.  Ducklings born in May or early June should be approaching full size and are quite capable of traveling across open water to feeding sites along the mainland.  It is not at all surprising that so few young ducklings were present and very much appears to have been a successful season for eider overall.  Adult American Oystercatchers were detected on Little Calf, Calf, Green, Outer Brewster, and Shag Rocks (with a fledged juvenile?).  One Great Cormorant and 1 gray seal were observed on the Graves and a single Spotted Sandpiper on Middle Brewster.

We ended our day with a landing on Sheep Island where we spotted 9 American Oystercatchers, at least one of which was a fledged juvenile.  One adult had a yellow leg band, one letter of which was ‘K”.  An adult with code YE(CK) was banded on Sheep in 2009 and re-sighted in 2010, so it may have been the same individual again.  Also on Sheep were nesting Herring and Black-baked Gulls, Double-crested Cormorants, Glossy Ibis, Black-crowned Night Herons, Snowy Egrets, and Great Egrets.  We noted at least 7 Spotted Sandpipers, along with Least Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstones, Semipalmated Sandpipers, and Semipalmated Plovers all foraging in the intertidal.



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