A damp and misty morning greets ten intrepid bird enthusiasts for Peaks Fest Bird and Beaver Walk. Aided by her two assistants – Butch Sullins and Sam Wainright - our island Wildlife Biologist, Michelle Brown, meets this group at the path connecting the Backshore and Battery Steele. Fog prevents sightings of our female Common Eiders with their brown and round young in tow.
Female Common Eiders and young
However, the Tree and Barn Swallows greet the birders as they traverse the boardwalk along Battery Steele marshes. As they weave their way along paths near Battery Steele warblers, a vireo, waxwings, sparrows and more are seen and heard. Butch discovers a hole in a tree with a pair of nesting Yellow-shafted Flickers – a highlight of the walk. The crowd delights in watching the gulls enthusiastically bathe in Trout Pond. In a nearby pond, either a female or male Black-crowned Night Heron and a youngster, crouch in a tree, trying not to be seen. A single Glossy Ibis flies overhead. In all they identify 25 species in an hour and a half of observations.
Mallard/American Black Duck hybrid 1
Glossy Ibis 1
Black-crowned Night Heron 2
Herring Gull 20
Great Black-backed Gull 3
Double-crested Cormorants 3
Yellow-shafted (Northern) Flicker 2
Barn Swallow 2
Tree Swallow 8
Blue Jay 2
Black-capped Chickadee 5
Gray Catbird 5
Cedar Waxwing 4
European Starling 8
Red-eyed Vireo 1
Yellow Warbler 6
Common Yellowthroat 8
American Redstart 3
Northern Cardinal 4
Rufous-sided Towhee 5
Song Sparrow 8
Red-winged Blackbird 18
House Finch 2
American Goldfinch 3
Although, the local Pileated Woodpeckers were not seen on this Bird Walk, three are sighted on Saturday – one of which appeared to be a male fledgling:
Young Pileated Woodpecker
The crest is less pointed, than the adult male; the crest has a hint of orange (male is a vibrant red); and its feet loosely grip the branch – young awkwardness.
On June 14th, Michael LaCombe is taken aback as he views the Northern Shoveler pair, as still on the island. No shoveler youngsters, but he sees a female Wood Duck with her ten ducklings.
On June 16th a female Wild Turkey and 14 ping-pong size hatchlings scurry across a dirt road between two ponds, not once but twice. Clutch size varies from 4-17 eggs in a nest made of dead leaves or plant materials found on site, usually on the ground at the base of trees or under brush piles. The female raises the chicks forming a family group. This group may combine with other such family groups. Turkeys usually walk, but when threatened the female will fly while the male runs. If necessary, turkeys will swim. Wings are tucked in close to their bodies, tails are spread, and they kick. (1) A Kodak moment.
"The tour also included a stroll through our beaver colony to the south of Battery Steele. For centuries across the United States and Canada, beavers have dammed streams creating ponds and wetlands which increase plant, bird, and wildlife variety, improve water quality, and raise fish populations in the areas where they are created. And in times of drought, beaver-made ponds have historically been the only places where both humans and wildlife could locate the precious resource of water. Tour participants were able to observe how our beaver colony have also created several ponds that our duck, turtle, and frog populations on the Island are now calling home. For more information on these industrious animals, check out the Nature special called "Leave it to Beavers"
The Marine Invader Monitoring and Information Collaborative (MIMIC)
Jeanne, Jeremy, and Sam
On the first day of Peaks Fest, MIMIC volunteers hit the shore and ferry-landing public dock to kick off another summer of monitoring for marine invasive species, with their leader, Jeremy Miller from Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve. This year, temperature probes are installed in the Backshore tide pool and the public dock. These probes will continually monitor summer water temperatures.
Invasive species in the tide pool include the ever-present Green Crabs and a small patch of the lacy crust bryozoa (Membranipora sp.) on a kelp blade. We find no evidence of other invasive species we found last year. But the summer is young. To our delight a beautiful salmon-gilled nudibranch (a naked snail - mollusk) climbs out of the algal strands to show itself as one of our native tide pool species.
Salmon-gilled nudibranch 2017
Salmon-gilled nudibranch 2016
Jeanne hopes it is the same individual we observed last year. What is their longevity? Compare the 2017 and the 2016 nudibranch - same fellow?
The colonial lacy-crust bryozoa appears to be establishing tiny colonies on several kelp blades at the dock site. At the end of last season these crusty creatures covered most kelp blades. It formed large sheets, making the kelp brittle and vulnerable (For more information please see October 2016 Blog).
Membranipora sp. medium-size colony on kelp - 2016
Membranipora sp. complete coverage of kelp - 2016
Numerous ‘skeleton shrimp’ that were abundant two years ago and lacking in numbers last year are already clearly making home on any algae attached to the dock. The ‘skeleton shrimp’ (it is not a shrimp, it is an amphipod within the Subphylum Crustacea: Caprella mutica). We ponder why this creature is already abundant, but rare last year. This amphipod will out compete our native species.
Caprella mutica - 'Skeleton Shrimp'
We invite everyone who is interested in marine life around Peaks Island to please join us in our search for invasive and native critters. We monitor once a month. Our next field trip is mid-July. Please contact Jeanne: firstname.lastname@example.org
1. All About Birds. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Wild Turkey.
Reviewers, Contributors and Participants:
Jeanne Gulnick, Jeremy Miller, Michael LaCombe, Butch Sullins, Marty, and ten Peaks Fest Bird Watchers.
Patty Wainright, Michelle Brown, and Sam Wainright