Refuge Updates

From the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge Manager’s Desk, we bring you the latest news from the refuge via:

Refuge Updates







First tern egg on Ship Island

It’s June already!  First tern eggs were observed last week, with most of the colonies doing well but not yet at full strength. Petit Manan Island’s colony seems very unsettled still.

In the vicinity of Ship Island, on another island we own portions of, preemptive predator control has prevented raccoons from becoming established and eating eggs.

Our staff at the refuge and from our Regional Office’s Migratory Bird Program, along with staff from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife captured 38 eider hens on Metinic Island and took blood samples from them.  This is part of a larger study to try to understand how genetic diversity is distributed within the eider population from Nova Scotia to Massachusetts.

Today, Refuge and National Audubon personnel are visiting Matinicus Rock to test methods of censusing alcids.  These birds are very difficult to count accurately due to their habit of nesting in tunnels and under huge rocks.

Later this week we hope to count gulls nesting on several of our small islands.  We try to get to some of these islands each year on a rotating basis to keep tabs on gull numbers using them.


  • The season is underway! This week we are training and deploying the last of our island researchers. Birds have been arriving, courting and copulating, but in smaller numbers than usual and they’re not settled in yet. Usually we would be getting our first eggs right about now.
  • An ancient murrelet was spotted by those on Petit Manan Island and Seal Island. Wrong ocean for this northern Pacific bird!
  • There are already reports from three islands on the blog, A Summer with SeabirdsTake some time to see what our island interns are seeing and doing.
  • A new camera has been installed on Seal Island, directed at the cormorant colony.We hope it will help us better protect those birds from eagles, as we will be able to see what is happening without constantly disturbing the colony by walking there to look.  Check out the other webcams on Seal Island to see nesting puffins, arctic terns and guillemots throughout the nesting season.
  • The upper door at the Matinicus Rock lighthouse was almost ripped off during the winter, but we were able to repair the hinges last week.
  • A successful sheep round-up was held on Metinic last week, but a few have sneaked back to our side of the island.

April 21, 2016

Partners help Maine Coastal Islands Create Nesting Habitat for Common Terns

On April 13th and 14th , staff from Maine Coastal Islands NWR and volunteers from Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Acadia National Park, and a local wildlife sanctuary worked to create safe nesting habitat for common terns on Ship Island.

Deputy Refuge Manager Brian Benedict transporting gravel to the restoration area.

In 2015, Ship Island supported 680 pairs of common terns. However, due to the rank vegetation on the island and the profile of the beach, the terns are forced to nest in a narrow 4-6’ strip of beach that is below the vegetation line and above the normal high tide line.  In recent years, up to 95% of the tern nests have been lost during a single storm event.   In 2014, the Refuge used sand and gravel from the intertidal area to create about 3,000 ft2 of suitable nesting habitat for the terns in an area not subject to flooding.  Terns have been nesting in that “restored” area for the past two summers but we wanted to expand the area so it could support additional pairs of terns. Refuge staff and volunteers shoveled 80 yds3 of sand and gravel for this project.  We placed the gravel in

We added logs and rocks to the newly created nesting area to give the terns a place to perch and to provide some places for the chicks to hide.

mechanized wheelbarrows, borrowed from Acadia National Park, to transport the sand to the upland section of the island.  We created 4,500 ft2   of additional nesting habitat for common terns during the two day effort.  We anticipate the terns will return to Ship Island in early May and are anxious to see how many pairs establish nests in the restoration area.  Refuge staff worked with the Army Corps of Engineers, USFWS Ecological Services Maine Field Office, and Maine Department of Environmental Protection to obtain the necessary permits for both projects.


Click here to find out more about Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge.

Refuge Updates are written by Refuge Manager, Beth Goettel