June 7, 2012 – Kris Vagos, F&WL
Hello Faulkner Island Light Brigade and Friends –
The annual tern season is afoot!
This past Sunday, the research crew began their work on the island. We arrived early in the morning, pulled into our beautiful new dock (thank you very much for your contribution and hard work on that one), and were greeted by thousands of common terns. They have a very interesting way of saying hello – they all join together, dive at your head, and defecate on you. This is actually their way of defending their nests and the colony from predators. After all to them we are just big predators – it doesn’t matter how much I assure them that we will not hurt their babies. They remain…very good parents.
This season we will study both species of tern on the island, the very “common” common tern (Sterna hirundo) and the federally endangered roseate tern (Sterna dougallii dougallii). Both species coexist on the island, yet there are only around a hundred roseate tern compared to thousands of common tern. A typical field season consists of searching for nests, counting all of the nests on the island, following the eggs until they hatch, banding the chicks, and then following the chicks until they can fly – called “fledging”. We will survey all of the roseate nests and a small sample of the common tern nests in this manner.
Some interesting things that we saw on the island over the last few days:
- a nest of 3 common tern eggs and one American Oystercatcher egg – we think the tern is incubating all 4 eggs – we do not know how this happened but suspect that it was an American Oystercatcher nest and the tern took over (they are very aggressive birds) – needless to say we are watching this nest carefully
- An eastern willet, bird typically found in marshes or on barrier beaches, has taken a liking to the island and is comfortably living among the tern colony – he/she was calling from the top of the outhouse this morning while 2 common tern stood there looking on
- Other birds that we saw – red-winged blackbird, song sparrow, black-crowned night heron, great egret, dunlin, ruddy turnstone, spotted sandpiper, gulls (herring and great black-backed), double crested cormorant, mallard, and black duck
If you have any questions about what we are doing at Falkner, please email me at Kristina_Vagos@fws.gov, and I will get back to you as soon as I can.
Stay tuned for the next entry where I will introduce this year’s field staff…