Thursday, June 28, 2018

Review of article on Murre egg at Matinicus Rock from National Audubon Puffin Project website.

This article is from the National Audubon Society Puffin project website.
(My comments are inserted in the body of the article)
Common Murres Nest at Matinicus Rock!

Discovery Result of  (really?) Audubon’s 17-year Effort to Restore the Penguin-like Seabird to Maine Coastal Islands
For the first time in more than a century, a Common Murre (Uria aalge) egg has been discovered south of the Canadian border, boosting hope for the success of valiant (?) efforts to restore the species. The rare egg was discovered by an intern working for Audubon’s Seabird Restoration program on Matinicus Rock, one of 50 islands in Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge.
"We are absolutely elated. This is a small egg, but with a big promise," said Dr. Stephen Kress, director of the Seabird Restoration Program."We have high hopes for the successful hatching and fledging of this egg, and for greater numbers of murres in years to come."

The egg marks the first time since 1883 that the species, which spends most of its life at sea, has nested south of the Canadian border on the U.S. east coast.
(This would have been a good time to describe the regional murre population and its recent history you could say something like  “the first 20th century record of this species breeding in the Gulf of Maine was in 1973, the population has been growing from about 50 pairs in 1981 to in the order of 1500 individuals by 2012, who breed on crowded ledges about 100 miles east of Matinicus Rock at Machias Seal and Yellow Murre ledge”.
The rhetoric used appears to be deliberately misleading apparently chosen to maximize the appearance of accomplishment rather than to educate.)
It was discovered on a rocky cliff by intern Maria Cunha, after she noticed a pair of murres in typical incubating posture. The nest was surrounded by about 50 murre decoys, and artificial eggs, and close to a sound system that emits murre calls to encourage the long-absent birds to establish new nests.  (As if the urge to breed was somehow latent in this population, also Murre don’t have nests)

While widespread on the Pacific coast from Alaska to California, and breeders in Canada’s Maritime Provinces,
Common Murres were eliminated from their Maine breeding sites in the 1800s by people hunting the birds for food. Collecting of eggs—a popular pursuit at the time—may also have contributed to the disappearance.
(another good chance to mention the swelling murre population in the Gulf of Maine)
Common Murres are especially vulnerable to oil spills and predation, so new colonies within their historic range offer the best assurance for their survival.  (Is there any threat to the survival of this species? you could just say something like.. Its nice to have them in the region again) Audubon and partners from the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge have spent 17 years trying to bring the Common Murres back to the islands.  (after a decade of which murre chose to established breeding on Machias Seal island instead (100 miles East of Matinicus Rock 2.5 hours by Murre), where there was no “murre attraction effort”.  What was that the result of? Discussion on the subject absent this reality is not a serious evaluation of the use of social attraction in this case.
 Skeptics might be inclined to see the murres choice of Machias Seal as pretty good evidence that the social attraction effort was irrelevant. There is also a growing population of well over a thousand Razorbills, a very similar species, who attend Matinicus rock, ~400 breeding pairs.
 Which has been more important for attracting murre to this site, hundreds of very similar birds commuting many miles between feeding grounds and the Island or a bunch of plastic decoys that you have to be within 100m of to see?)
Regardless of the fate of this specific egg, its presence signals a success story in the making.  (clearly the author ? knew the egg was consumed by a predator.  The murre distraction equipment was set up on a site chosen by people, it was out in the open, the successful murres on Machias Seal have laid their eggs under boulders where they have shelter from gulls. By distracting the murre to this human chosen open vulnerable place, away from where their instincts, geography and their little feet would have taken them, it seems as likely that the “murre attraction effort” delayed the successful re-colonization of this site as it is that it accelerated the process.)
"Each new colony offers another margin of safety for Common Murres and other seabirds," said Kress. "The return of the Common Murre to its long-lost nesting grounds shows that conservation works – even against great odds."
(Against great odds? The continued expansion of this species was predictable considering the swelling population at crowded colonies on small islands not far to the east. In this sense conservation means only not rowing out to yellow murre ledge and collecting all the murre eggs every year)
Common Murres are not the first seabird species that Kress and his team (this article is on the puffin project website, written by Kress or “his team”) have helped restore to Maine.   (never miss a chance to reinforce the myth that there were no Puffin in the Gulf of Maine in 1975,  (there were  1,000 pairs, capable of producing in the order of 10,000 new Puffins during the 15 years during which the NAS valiantly added about 70, At the cost of over 1,600 others.)

 Pioneering the use of decoys (this is an appropriate time to acknowledge that Richard Pough and colleagues used decoys when trying to re-establish terns to Great Gull Island in Long Island Sound during the late 1940s)
and sounds now employed to attract the Murres, 
The team began working to attract Atlantic Puffins to the Maine coastal islands in 1973; four breeding pairs nested at Eastern Egg Rock in 1981, after an absence of nearly a century. Today, Project Puffin protects more than 42,000 of Maine’s rarest  seabirds on thirteen islands. (“rarest” implies some scale of rareness to help establish conservation priorities, the track record indicates otherwise, and if there are 42,000 of them what is so rare about that)
 Their techniques (Eliminating predatory gulls from nesting sites) have also helped establish 12 new tern colonies in Maine and are proving useful for helping endangered seabirds in California, the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador, and Japan. At least 40 seabird species in 12 countries have benefited from seabird restoration techniques developed by Audubon.

Credibility is perishable and given the degree to which National Audubon has misrepresented the import of their work here in the Gulf of Maine I am inclined to be very skeptical of stories of the alleged success of the use of social attraction at seabird islands elsewhere in the world where I have no idea what’s going on.

An organization that is doing important seabird conservation work is ”Conservacion del las islas”, a Mexican organization with a staff of 50 and seasonally employs twice that.  This group has worked for years to clear seabird islands of destructive vermin primarily rats, cats, goats and pigs. They have done this on very large islands in the Caribbean the Gulf of California and the Pacific.  That is the important hard work needed to enable the reestablishment of seabird colonies. 
Social attraction works when? When that is probably what was going to happen anyway.  When there is a site from which predators/vermin have been eliminated or never existed, where habitat is suitable or has been made so and most importantly there needs to be a population of birds looking for a place to nest.  Which occurs during times of growing population or when a former breeding site has been disturbed.  In the first case managers don't need to do anything and in the second case better the managers priorities be to look into disturbance at the source site.

June 14, and 16, 22 & 23d

June 14, and 16, 22, & 23

 Goslings on a gull Island, thrumcap Frenchman's Bay
Eider hens with Ducklings, watch out for the eagles.
 Minke whale off Matinicus Rock, june 22
 the Tropic bird June 23.

El pajaro Magnifico,   june 23, 2018  

June 7th & 9th trips to Seal Island

June 7th & 9th

 the world famous Red-billed Tropicbird of Seal Island, El Senior Tropical, Que bueno
 it had two tail feathers, when it arrived, now just one and longer than during earlier years?
 Eiders at Brimstone
 Male Harlequin, Brimstone island, june 7
 Murres and Razorbills at Matinicus Rock

 aboard Skua off Matinicus Rock.
Duckings at Seal Island, june 9

May 30 th, Mount Dessert Rock

May 30 th, Mount Dessert Rock.

 Puffin off the South end of Great Duck
 MDI over Great Duck
 Mount Dessert Island over Great Duck Island.
Ducks over great duck under eastern MDI
Mount Dessert Rock
Skua at MDR, this week the Dory was called "Rachel Corrie"

 Minke Whale near MDR off MDI
 MDR and MDI
 Arctic tern
northern phalerope, aka rednecks

rednecks aka northern Phalerope

the track that I took

 3 Great Cormorant nests at Seal Island, SW cove.
 Great Cormorant and Double-crests at Woodenball

inbound Towards Green's Island

birdbath big year update

Birds at the bath from my back door

 male myrtle warbler, coronata

Blue jay having a sip.

 male black-throated green warbler
 robin splashing out all the water
and bullying a white-throated sparrow.

BTG bathing
two doves setting
two doves one launching

purple finch

 second year male redstart

i hear this bird singing, he sings all day.  not surprised him need to wet his whistle.

Spring 2018, to May 29

spring 2018,

 if its hot down in DC its still nice and cool up here in Maine
 just kidding that was a few weeks ago
these islands are green now

 May 12, Adult Peregrine on Gull Rock, Matinicus Rock,
a few Blurry Harlequin surfing on the sea side of Matinicus Rock, May 12

 peregrine, ashore at Seal Island, May 19
 Peregrine over seal Island,
More Puffins than ever at Seal Island, ~500 breeding pair  I have seen them exploring new areas of the island.
The Gulf of Maine population of Puffins has been growing since 1900 when Victoria was Queen of the British empire, and its growing yet,.. the puffin population, not the empire.

 A gang of mostly black scoter passing the camp on Seal Island
 scoter in the landscape
Male Harlequin at Brimstone Island, May 19.
the great blue heron

A 21st century seabird population crisis in Maine

May 26 Little Robert's Island,  the last of the Great Cormorants at Little Roberts, nesting at this site since 1994, attacked by eagles every year, for 10 years at least, abandoned in 2017 before the end of June.
This small band of Cormorant were seen at this site on May 4, there were four birds in the former nest area and two others nearby. There was no nest material nor was there displaying on May the fourth both of which would be at a colony with some commitment to breed there.
by May 28 they had apparently moved more or less together to the last viable nesting site of this species in the Gulf of Maine at Seal island.

 if you come out to Vinalhaven to go for a boatride you get two more aboard the Maine state ferry service from Rockland, $11 round trip,
This is the morning boat from the island heading west through Leadbetter's Narrows.

May 29, trip to count cormorants

 Ivory Black-backed gull on Carvers Island
 Split Second, east of Brimstone.
 Golden plover Little Spoon Island
Golden Plover

Golden plover, little spoon May 29

 Eastern Cow Pen a corona of traps

 What's left of the Cormorants on the eastern side of Southern Mark.  No Great Cormorants they moved back to Brimstone.

Built but empty Great Cormorant nest on Saddle back Jericho Bay.

 Great Cormorants at Brimstone ledge, they had abandoned this site for Southern Mark last year.
 I counted 6 great cormorant nests here, and a few Double-crested nests,  they were probably late in setting up here as they did not nest here last year, so they will be vulnerable for a long time in late summer when the other birds of the year are disbursed, and eagles are still hungry.
 Double-crested Cormorant colony at Western Green Island.
mooring shag

Evening at Gott's island beach