I arrived back on the island late Thursday morning and there was the expected buzz of activity.
The Terns are settled in and seem to be doing quite well. There is a good number of active nests and some have their 2nd egg. New nests are appearing daily.
There will be a proper nest census around mid-month. That will give a more accurate picture of the nesting population.
Of course the bigger tests are hatch and survival. Mama Nature will dictate those with food supply and weather events. Fingers crossed for warm, benign, dry weather during the time window that the chicks will need to reach sufficient age & size to survive poor weather.
The only slightly worrying note is a significant number of seemingly unattached Terns and the apparent weak bond between many pairs.
I noticed this apparent phenomenon last year as some nests would suddenly be attended by only one Tern, one of the original pair would be replaced and/or a 3rd Tern would repeatedly insinuate itself into a nest site.
The "single parent" nest is especially bad because it's virtually impossible for one adult to fledge an offspring.
Recent raptor activity has been very light, which is always good news for the Tern colony.
The Alcids are well into their nesting cycle after a slightly stuttering start. There are likely outliers that have already hatched but the Puffins should start popping out in earnest in about a week, peaking towards month-end.
The local seabird colonies, and the island as a whole, seem normal, except that one small area up-island appears to have an increase in PUFFINS and the COMMON MURRES appear to be continuing their population growth.
Both RAZORBILLS & Murres continue to expand their nesting areas.
It's a bit of a domino game: Murres displace Razorbills and Razorbills displace Puffins.
Song birds are notably fewer than when I left at the first of May but there are still occasional migrants popping in for a visit.
Friday brought a BROWN THRESHER. Saturday, I spotted a couple of WHITE THROATED SPARROWS sulking among the boulders.
Saturday's top bird was a nice, bright EASTERN BLUEBIRD chasing bugs around the houses. It's still here and stopped by the patio moments ago. With this morning's winds at 20 knots and better, just holding a perch is difficult. Finding aerial insects must be impossible. It has been observed eating large beetles, although their heavy carapace must be a challenge to crack.
There have been several warblers around, including at least 3 female REDSTARTS.
Resident SAVANNAH SPARROWS are well into their first nesting cycle and I expect to see newly minted specimens most any time.
Of note this year is the probable breeding of SONG SPARROWS. Savannahs have had an absolute monopoly as the only breeding songbird on MSI for many years. However, I suspected a couple of breeding Song Sparrows last year and this year, at this late date, the sheer number of Song Sparrows which are still present on the island bespeaks a strong likelihood of multiple nests. If I'm correct, the larger size and aggressive nature of the Song Sparrows could seriously affect the highly productive Savannah Sparrow population.
Also vying for a spot this year in the exclusive island breeding club is the CATBIRD. It's uncertain how many are on the island but it appears that there are 2 or more. It's equally uncertain whether they are just individual hold-overs from the unusually high number of migrants this spring or whether some of them have paired-up.
It's not too unusual to have an individual of some species hang out all summer and, very rarely, a pair might attempt nesting. For example: a couple of TOWHEES got well into nesting one summer but were ultimately driven off by their belligerent neighbours, the Terns.
Our sole resident shorebird, the SPOTTED SANDPIPER, seems about normal with potentially around a dozen nests. Their breeding practices are too odd to get a decently confident estimate yet. I have watched several squabbles involving 2, 3 and 4 individuals; more than usual. It suggests that the gender ratio might be tilted more than usual this year.
There are still a few migrant shorebirds passing through: 2 RUDDY TURNSTONES on Friday and a single larger bird (suspected GREATER YELLOWLEGS) on Saturday. Both days I saw a single PURPLE SANDPIPER.
BONAPART'S GULLS are a common bird in the region, particularly in winter, but they are quite rare around here. KITTIWAKES are our winter "little gulls". So it's notable that Bonnies have been seen several times recently, including two sub-adults loafing with the Terns in the inter-tidal zone and near-shore fishing, also on Friday, June 1st.
Our regular summer "little gull", the LAUGHING GULL, has been a daily presence: frequently in 1s or 2s but I've seen up to 6 together. They have nested here but (fortunately) not for a few years. They can be very invasive and detrimental to other species, as witnessed by the on-going battle to control them on other islands in the Gulf Of Maine.
DOUBLE CHRESTED CORMORANTS, likely area residents, pass daily in every direction, with an occasional singleton loafing with Alcids in the intertidal zone.
Ducks are at summer normal, meaning that there's little other than COMMON EIDERS.
As with every year, nearly all of them nest about a month later than most other locations. I'd expect to see ducklings on the water now at places like Pocologan and Partridge Island. Out here it's more likely to be July 1st rather than June 1st.
I've noted Eider pairs flying low over the island each morning. That means to me that at least some are just now scouting nest sites.
The core group of three NORTHERN GANNETS continues to go through the motions of nesting. Again this year they arrived a bit late and had no success attracting early season recruits. There were some "lookers" so the core birds do attract attention. Nest building has been lackadaisical so I don't imagine that any chance exists for a successful nesting.
Maybe we'll see an egg but with inconsistent attendance and the lateness into the season, any hatching or rearing would be virtually impossible.
Nonetheless, the continued fidelity of these few Gannets could eventually lead to a real colony.
I'd like to see decoys used to: (A) encourage the core birds to relocate their nest building slightly to a better location: (B) encourage recruitment of new Gannets; and (C) encourage earlier attendance on the island and earlier nest building.
I don't know if such efforts would be successful and I don't discount any of the efforts to support other species. It just seems a shame that we may be missing an inexpensive opportunity to help re-establish a species that we extirpated from the Gulf Of Maine over 150 years ago completely through our human activity. I think that we owe them.
The number of seals hanging around appears normal. There were several hundred GREY SEALS on North Rock (2 miles from MSI) when we flew past on Thursday and perhaps 150 on Gull Rock (1/4 mile from MSI). There would be a few HARBOUR SEALS at both locations but we weren't near enough to distinguish them.
There were several Harbours on MSI. Although my first encounter was with a young Grey Seal, I quickly noted several Harbour Seals near the northern end of the island. It proved to be a small group of mothers with very young, even newborn pups. This timing is more in character than the newborn that I found dead back in April.
One seal was birthing at that moment I found them so I slipped away. The adults can get very violent with each other and the pups if they become stressed or threatened. I have seen groups where every adult was bleeding from bite wounds.