Fundy Bird Observatory. Winter/spring 1999. Vol. 6 No. 1
Birth of the Fundy Bird Observatory
For those of you who have been “along for the ride” since 1992, when THE RAZORBILL first saw the light of day, I thank you for your continued support and patience. Back then I formed a group known as the Grand Manan Nature Society, ostensibly to encourage a wider appreciation of nature amongst island residents so inclined. After four years it became obvious that most of the members were primarily interested in birds, so the name of our group was changed to the Grand Manan Bird Observatory.
In the spring of 1995 I traveled to Ontario with the aid of a $3500 grant from the Baillie Memorial Fund, in order to undertake training that would enable me to obtain a master banding permit. With this in hand, I banded about 2000 landbirds that fall at Kent Island. In the fall of 1996 I moved the operation to Southwest Head and banded some 2500 birds. Still looking for the “best” spot to band migrants, I moved again in the fall of 1997 to Anchorage Provincial Park. With the aid of a generous $20,000 grant from the N.B. Environmental Trust Fund, the GMBO had its best season ever, banding around 3500 songbirds. In order to oversee development of the GMBO, I had appointed a Board of Directors back in 1995.
To make a long story short, the many rigors imposed by a board structure proved much too cumbersome for the nascent GMBO, and the entire organization was disbanded late in 1998. Also, no banding was undertaken that year due to lack of funding. As many of you now know, with the assistance of the Grand Manan Whale & Seabird Research Station, the observatory concept was re-floated this spring as the FUNDY BIRD OBSERVATORY. As well, I made an appeal for support from those of you I thought might be interested in joining such a venture. As of early fall, I can now report that of some 400 appeals mailed out, more than 100 responded positively, with a total of $9500 having so far been realized!
A good deal of the impetus behind keeping the bird observatory concept alive came from the realization late last year that a prime piece of real estate on Grand Manan was soon to be disposed of. I refer of course to the former lightkeepers residence at Long Eddy Point, without a doubt one of the top five best spots to view birdlife on the island. Having been declared “surplus” to their needs, the Canadian Coast Guard has now initiated a process that could see the property in new hands as early as this time next year. It is a complicated process, whereby Federal, Provincial and Municipal governments are in turn offered right of first refusal. If all three levels decline, the final step is to put the property up for public auction. With an assessment value of more than $100,000 someone could walk away with a “priceless” chunk of Grand Manan sometime in the year 2000.
With the blessing of the Canadian Coast Guard, a pilot migration monitoring project was carried out at the Long Eddy property this spring, from mid-March through late April. I can now report that the results were most disappointing, with less than 100 landbirds banded in more than 30 days of effort. On the upside, the almost constant migration of tens of thousands of seaducks up the Grand Manan Channel was a spectacle to behold. I suspect many more songbirds would have been captured during the month of May, but I decided to conserve our limited resources in order to concentrate on the fall migration. To that end, I plan to have someone on site from late August through at least mid November this fall. I will then make the final decision as to whether or not to pursue the matter further. Hopefully, by the time THE RAZORBILL reaches you again in the spring of 2000, the picture will be a lot clearer.
Last but not least, I am pleased to announce an exciting partnership with the Roger Williams Park Zoo of Providence, Rhode Island. A team of three from the zoo was here July 25th to August 7th to assist with banding and begin developing a school outreach program (“Banding Together”) for us to take into the Grand Manan Consolidated School from Oct. 4-8th. At least 230 students from Kindergarten to Grade Six will be bussed to the banding site at Long Eddy Point for a 30-minute face-to-face encounter with wild birds, followed by a 45-minute follow-up classroom session. If successful (no reason to think it won’t), it will be expanded and taken into the public schools in the Providence area! My thanks to Bruce Clark, Director of the Zoo for his support of the project, and to zoo employees Shareen Zaki, Geraldine Di Chiara and teacher Barbara O’Connell. Stay tuned... Back to top
The Grand Manan Whale & Seabird Research Station is a non-profit research facility located on the east coast of Canada, on Grand Manan Island in the Bay of Fundy. Well known for its high tides, the Bay has abundant marine life relatively easy to access for study. Our researchers conduct field studies from June through November, when most of the whales, porpoises and seabirds are present. The remainder of the year is used to process samples, analyze data, write reports and prepare for the next field season. When not at the Research Station, some of our researchers also conduct field studies elsewhere, or are enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs.
The GMWSRS was founded in 1981 by the late Dr. David Gaskin, a professor from the University of Guelph in Ontario. He and his graduate students had been studying marine mammals and seabirds in the Bay of Fundy since the late 1960s, when the decision to found the Research Station was made -- in part to help fund research projects. While we have studied feeding ecology and toxicological issues of many species of seabirds and whales, our main focus is harbour porpoise research.
We operate the Weir Release Program — a cooperative program between herring weir fishermen and ourselves to safely release whales and porpoises that find their way into these fish traps. We also welcome visiting scientists to participate in our programs or conduct their own research from our facility. We also cooperate with researchers who are unable to come here, by collecting samples for them. Volunteers are also an integral part of our daily operations.
Our small marine natural history museum is a very popular spot for visitors to the island, with over 9800 visiting in 1998. Its main gallery includes marine mammal (seal, whale, porpoise and dolphin) behaviour, physiology and anatomy, and a display of other marine flora and fauna found in the Bay of Fundy. Our Whales ‘n Such gift shop helps offset research costs, house maintenance and salaries. Part of our funding each year also comes from donations from interested and concerned “Friends of the GMWSRS”. We are grateful for all contributions and hope we can continue to reciprocate the friendship. We also have several different research grants for specific projects.
Dr. Gaskin continued to broaden the base of the Research Station with the recent inclusion of land creatures in our mandate, including moths, which were a lifelong passion for him. The Research Station has supported the efforts of Brian Dalzell and his colleagues for several years, and it made logical sense to take the Fundy Bird Observatory on as a project of our Research Station. The benefits for the Observatory include charitable status, without the lengthy legal work, and the reputation of a long-established research facility. We are indeed pleased to be involved in the worthy project of monitoring landbird migration -- and other aspects of the Grand Manan Archipelago’s bird life.
-- Laurie Murison, Manager. firstname.lastname@example.orgBack to top
The hundreds of pairs of Tree Swallows that used to nest on Grand Manan have also been greatly reduced. There appear to be several reasons for this, such as changes in climate and habitat, as well as the return of an awesome swallow predator absent for many decades. Concerning habitat, the island is rapidly reverting to forest, with the extensive pastures and agricultural fields common in the first half of this century now little more than memories on old postcards. Tree Swallows prefer open country for nesting and foraging, seldom using nest boxes closer than 100 meters to the nearest forest.
And herein lies another “problem” -- the recovery of Merlin populations over the past 20 years. Like the Peregrine Falcon, the Merlin (or “Pigeon Hawk”) suffered greatly from DDT contamination, and was absent from Grand Manan and much of the east between about 1945 and 1985. With at some 15-20 pairs now nesting in the Archipelago, and with swallows being their favorite prey, the Tree Swallows have retreated to the last large open areas on the island. Nesting in loose colonies, and in close association with other swallows provides the only protection against the marauding Merlins. At Bancroft Point, where there were about 50 pairs of nesting swallows in 1999, it was rare indeed a warning cry was not raised at the sight of a hunting Merlin. Still, mortality is high, especially when young Tree Swallows have just fledged, and are easy targets for a pair of Merlins intent on feeding a nest full of their own hungry and growing young.
By my best estimate, there are now likely no more than 100 nesting pairs of Tree Swallows remaining on Grand Manan, a far cry indeed from even 25 years ago, when there were at least three times that many. Also, several cold wet springs during the 1990s have caused great mortality among baby Tree Swallows still in their boxes, as high as 90% some years. During such times of stress, the adults abandon the young, barely able to feed themselves.
So, what to do? Well, it seems unlikely the Merlins will go away anytime soon, or that large tracts of forest will again be cleared for agriculture. And climate change is here to stay. Given these facts, the best approach seems to be to try and establish several “core” colonies of Tree Swallows by putting up groups of nest boxes in the last remaining open areas in the Grand Manan Archipelago. To that end, the Fundy Bird Observatory hopes to put up at least 250 boxes over the next 10 years. The ten most suitable areas appear to be the following: Wood Island, Long Pond/Great Pond, White Head Island, Cheney Island, Ingalls Head, Grand Harbour, Woodwards Cove, High Duck Island, Long Island and Castalia Marsh. With landowner permission, a best case scenario would see 20-25 boxes erected close to each other in each of these areas. While a return to the huge numbers of nesting swallows found here over the past century is unlikely, it is hoped a project of this nature will help maintain a small, but stable population of these trusting swallows.
— Brian DalzellBack to top
The first Christmas Bird Count (or CBC) at Grand Manan was conducted on Dec. 20, 1963 by Peter Pearce of Fredericton. Birding alone, Peter found a total of 31 species of birds, the most common being the Herring Gull, with 1900 individuals. He again carried out counts in 1965, 1968-70, 1973 and 1975. Beginning in 1978 I took over the counts from Peter, which I have continued more-or-less uninterrupted for the past 20 years. I also began submitting the results to the National Audubon Society for inclusion in their annual CBC compendium.
The 1998 Grand
Manan CBC took place on Dec. 28, 1998, with the result that some 25,952
individual birds of 55 species were seen and identified. This is
about the average for the variety of species found on the CBC, which peaked
in the early 1980s in the mid 60s. The high point was reached in
1983 when 71 species were identified. Following are the results of the
1998 effort, with bold-faced underlining of species totals indicating a
record high number.
My sincere thanks to the eight observers who joined me in the field: Carmen & Peter Roberts, Elaine & Rodger Maker, Jim Leslie, Kenneth MacIntosh, Peter Pearce, Jim Brown.
In order to ensure the widest
possible distribution of the count results, participant fees ($5 US per
observer) are forwarded to the National Audubon Society to help defray
the cost of its yearly CBC issue. The Fundy Bird Observatory was
pleased to cover the fees, thus sponsoring the 1998/99 Grand Manan CBC.
Falk Huttemann, Brian Dalzell,
Tracey Dean, Anthony Diamond, Dorothy McFarlane,
Atlantic Cooperative Wildlife
Ecology Research Network (ACWERN)
On February 7, 1997 Brian Dalzell noted a large passage of Razorbill (Alca torda) off the eastern shore of White Head Island, estimated to contain some 25,000 birds. This observation set in motion a chain of events that culminated later that year in a major scientific effort to try and determine the true extent of this phenomenon. With the financial help of ACWERN and the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS), we were able to initiate and carry out a two-year project on this exciting find off Grand Manan Island.
Wintering areas of Razorbills in the western North Atlantic Ocean are poorly known, with relatively small numbers breeding at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy (< 1000 pairs). Our two years of winter survey work showed that many Razorbills began to appear off Grand Manan in late November — certainly many more than could be accounted for by locally-breeding birds. During the winter of 1997/98 we conducted standardized surveys for seabirds on 26 days between November and March, with upwards of 53,000 large (unidentified) auks found on a census taken on 23 January, 1998.
Extrapolation from the numbers of large auks identified to species suggests that 52,000 Razorbills may have been encountered during that census. With an estimated population of about 140,000 birds, this represented perhaps 40 per cent of the entire North American population. This number dropped eight days later to 64 identified Razorbills, suggesting strong movement patterns of wintering auks in the Gulf of Maine. Two main feeding areas were identified; the Old Proprietor Shoal, approximately five kilometers southeast of White Head Island, and the waters of Long Eddy, just off the northeast tip of Grand Manan Island.
During the winter of 1998/99 we conducted GPS-referenced surveys across the Old Proprietor Shoal to investigate the extent of their distribution patterns in nearshore waters. Simultaneous land-based counts lasting half a day were also carried out from four locations to analyze movement patterns between the main feeding areas. The boat survey data were added to the PIROP Database (Programme Intégré pour le Recherche des Oiseaux Pélagiques) owned by CWS, for future multivariate GIS analysis, such as the influence of tide, moon stages and other factors on Razorbill distribution.
A method was also devised to correct boat survey results from Old Proprietor Shoal to account for the entire wintering population within 17km of Grand Manan. This method suggests the number of wintering auks encountered during the 1997/98 surveys represented only 65-82 per cent of the Razorbills present. The surveys also indicated previously unknown travel corridors and concentration zones existed close to Grand Manan, such as the west coast of the island, and the waters of Long Eddy, respectively. With no other significant concentrations in the coastal Gulf of Maine (we checked The Wolves and Head Harbour Passage), we therefore concluded the Grand Manan Archipelago to be the core wintering zone for Razorbills in the western North Atlantic.
Almost all large auks encountered during the 1998/99 winter surveys were Razorbills. These birds were moving during the morning and sitting on the water from about noon onward, with smaller peaks of movement in early afternoon. In December and January, opportunistic feeding associations of Razorbills with feeding sea mammals (such as Finback Whale, Minke Whale and Harbour Porpoise) were observed. During the course of the surveys, 21 Razorbills were collected. The main purpose was to determine what exactly they were eating.
Investigation of stomach contents of these birds is ongoing, but preliminary results suggest the food chain at this time of year is not complex. Crustacea (“krill”), rather than fish, constitute the main component of their food. But a significant proportion of the diet is also composed of small (<5cm) herring. Early summer data from breeding Razorbills on Machias Seal Island show herring to be the main food item. DNA and toxicology work is also being done on the specimens.
Of course, during any such study, more questions often arise than can be immediately addressed. For example, where do the Razorbills go at night? Do they congregate offshore and sit on the water until dawn, or do they feed all night? Also, it has become apparent that the protocols for taking both internal and external measurements of auks need to be standardized, in order to help in detecting the presence of different populations.
Our findings to date have significantly advanced the knowledge of the winter ecology of Razorbills, and put conservation issues for this species into a new perspective. Previously, it was believed that deep, offshore areas formed the main wintering grounds for this species, and that the coastal murre (Uria sp.) hunt off Newfoundland presented a major threat to wintering Razorbills. Instead, we suggest more emphasis should now be placed on the threats to the wintering population around Grand Manan, especially that posed by a large oil spill or an intensive winter krill fishery.
WEATHER: the winter of 1998/99 was rather blustery, but mild, with wintery conditions only taking hold late in February and early March. The first significant snowfall of the season took place on February 26th, when 20cm was recorded at Bancroft Point. As an idea of how unusually mild it really was, consider the following precipitation facts. The first significant snowfall was 5cm on Dec. 18, quickly followed by 30mm of rain. January had 125mm of rain, but only 21cm of snow, with an average temperature of -5.2C (22.7F). February was even warmer, with an average temperature of -2.2C (28F). It was a dry month, with only three days of precipitation, totaling 64mm of rain and 20 cm of snow. The coldest night of the winter was Jan. 1-2 at -22.9C (-9.2F), the warmest day, Jan. 24 at 10.4C (50.7F).
BIRDS: numbers of Red-necked Grebe began to build up after mid-December, with 50 in Long Pond Bay on December 17 (BED), 25 at Harrington Cove on December 27 (PAP), 65 at Red Point on December 27 (BED), and 42 at Whale Cove on December 29 (BED). In an average winter, I would estimate ca. 250 Red-necked Grebes winter in the islands. Horned Grebe is much less common, preferring more shallow water than it’s larger cousin, with peaks of only 10 off Bancroft Point on December 16, 25 in Grand Harbour on December 28, and 20 in Long Pond Bay off Ox Head on January 3 (BED).
Northern Fulmar stays well offshore in winter, and even when they are blown close to Grand Manan by southwest winds, there is usually no one out there to see them. The only sightings were of one near the Bulkheads on December 2 and two over the Grand Manan Basin on December 3 (BED). Northern Gannet usually lingers in small numbers into early January, with eight adults off Long Eddy on December 2 (FH), one still there on December 26 (PAP), an immature off Ashburton Head on December 27 (KM) and the final bird of the season, a juvenile off Long Eddy on January 9 (BED). At least 300 Great Cormorant winter in the islands. Notable concentrations included 20 on Black Rocks and 30 on Gull Rock off WHI on December 3 (BED), 30 on Sand Bar Ledge on December 28 (BED), 100 at The Wolves on December 30 (FH), 40 on High Duck Island on January 26, 35 in Dark Harbour Pond on February 7, and 50 on Gull Rocks on February 20 (all BED). An adult at Harrington Cove barely swallowed a large orange sculpin on December 27 (BED).
The last southbound flock of Canada Goose noted was 60 over Grand Harbour on December 26 (PAP). Only three birds at the mouth of Grand Brook on December 29 appeared to be wintering (PAP). At Castalia Marsh, 17 birds appeared out of the blue on January 16 and remained until February 13, when they just as suddenly departed (BED). Numbers of Brant only began to build in earnest in early February, with 250 on February 1 at Cow Passage. Previously, there had only been about 23 birds present there since late December (both BR). The first spring arrivals at Bancroft Point were eight on February 10, with the most before the end of the month being 750 there on February 20 (both BED).
A rare early winter record of Wood Duck was a drake at the mouth of Stanley Brook in North Head on December 3 (BED). The only Green-winged Teal noted during the period were a female at Great Pond Marsh on December 24 (PAP) and a male at the mouth of Grand (Harbour) Brook on December 29 (BED). The largest count of wintering wild Mallard was made in Grand Harbour on December 29, when there were 42 present (BED). A similar number winters inside the breakwaters at Seal Cove Creek, where they are fed on handouts, but most are year-round residents. An estimated 1500 American Black Duck winter in the islands. The five main concentration areas are off Bancroft Point, with a peak of 250 on January 26; in Grand Harbour where there were 250 on December 29; 150 at Cow Passage on December 28; and 130 at Long Pond Beach on December 27 (all BED). The other major wintering area is at Three Islands Harbour, where an average of 250-300 usually winter. An interesting observation of seven birds in flight low over the ocean about three kilometers southeast of White Head was made on December 2 (BED). It appeared they were headed for Kent Island, probably arriving from Nova Scotia. Banding returns indicate a fair number of our wintering Black Ducks originate in that province.
Northern Pintail appear to be increasing ever so slightly in winter. A hen was shot at Castalia Marsh on December 22 (fide PAP), another was at Grand Harbour December 28-29 with Black Ducks, and a drake was at Castalia Marsh from February 10-13 (both BED). A hen Northern Shoveler at Bancroft Point from January 4-16 was only the second winter record for the islands (BED). The first was a male shot at Nantucket Island on January 5, 1935 (Allan Moses). The regular flock of wintering Greater Scaup in Grand Harbour continues to shrink every year, with a peak of only 40 in Grand Harbour on December 28 (BED). This is less than half the number that could be found there 10 years ago. Perhaps 1000 Common Eider can be found at Grand Manan in winter, mostly over the shoals southeast of White Head Island. There were 500 off Long Point, WHI on February 20, 50 over the Old Proprietor Shoal (eight kilometers offshore) on February 9, and 14 at Gannet Rock the same day (BED). The hunting ban placed on Harlequin Duck appears to be working, with more seen every winter around the islands. A flock of 25 at Langmaid Cove, WHI on December 28 (BED) was unprecedented. They apparently spent most of the winter in the area, flying back and forth between Gull Rock and Black Rocks, but numbers were down to 12 individuals at the former locale on February 7. All were immatures, with only one male present.
The most Black Scoter noted was 40 off Long Pond Beach on December 27 (BED). This appears to be their only wintering area in the islands. Surf Scoter, on the other hand, are scattered throughout in small numbers (2-20), with likely less than 100 all-told. White-winged Scoter is found mostly in Long Pond Bay, about halfway between Ox Head and North Green Island, where 25 were counted on January 3 (BED). Maximum count of Common Goldeneye was 260 in Grand Harbour on December 24 (PAP). Bufflehead winter almost exclusively off Long Pond Beach, within 100m of shore between Ox Head and Red Point. Maximum counts were 40 there on December 27, 25 in Grand Harbour off the mouth of Bonney Brook on December 28 (BED), and 20 at Battle Beach, WHI from February 6-20 (BR). No more than 100 birds are thought to winter in the islands. The latest Hooded Merganser was a female in still ice-free Great Pond on December 17 (BED). Common Merganser winters only at Castalia Marsh, with a maximum of six there on January 5, five females and one male (BED). Two females remained through February 28.
The last Great Blue Heron of the winter was one in a weakened state standing on a lawn at Whale Cove Pond on January 12 (PC). Wintering Northern Harrier were in short supply, with an immature at White Head on December 28 and an adult female at Bancroft Point on January 7 & 28 (BED). The only report of Merlin was one at North Head on December 25 (JL). The latest Peregrine Falcon sighting was of one on the guy wires at the microwave tower in Woodwards Cove on December 24 (LM), although the pair nesting at Seven Days Work usually winters around the island. A concerted effort to find wintering Common Snipe at North Head would likely turn up a few more than the two this winter; one at Smiths Lane and the other along Whale Cove Road, both December 29 (BED). The only Sanderling noted were at Long Pond Beach, where there were four on December 23 (PAP). A rare early winter record of Red Phalarope was of two birds off the southern end of Long Island on December 2 (BED). A Killdeer on a frozen lawn at Long Eddy Point on February 15 (KI) was likely a very early spring migrant rather than a wintering bird.
Ring-billed Gull is uncommon at any season on Grand Manan, so four at Red Point on January 12 (FH) and five at Castalia Marsh on January 17 (BED) were of note. The only reports of Glaucous Gull were one at Long Eddy on January 9 (BED), one off Southwest Head on January 18 (LM) and one at Dark Harbour on February 7 (FH). A few more Iceland Gull than normal were found this winter, with peak counts of 10 at Long Eddy on December 26 (PAP), 10 in Long Island Bay on December 29 (BED), 15 at Long Eddy on January 9, and five at Long Point, WHI on February 20 (BED). The first winter record of a Lesser Black-backed Gull for Grand Manan was an adult on the sand beach at Deep Cove on December 27 (BED). A second-winter Black-headed Gull at Long Eddy on January 9, Castalia Marsh on January 17 and most of February at Ox Head Beach (BED), was likely the same individual. Good numbers of Bonaparte Gull lingered into early winter, with 1500 still to be found between Long Eddy and Ashburton Head on December 14 (FH). The latest sighting was one at Long Eddy on January 9 (BED). Two Little Gull off Long Eddy on December 3 (FH) was a good find. Black-legged Kittiwake numbers peaked at 2500 birds off the northern end of Grand Manan in early January (V.O.), after which they mostly abandoned the area. The most seen after this was only 267 at Swallowtail Light on February 7 (KM). The only winter sighting of Pomarine Jaeger was an adult near Bulkhead Rip south of WHI on December 2 (BED).
It was a real good winter for Dovekie, the best since the winter of 1967/68 (Barry Russell). Following a period of prolonged southerly gales in early January, an estimated 4000 were present in the vicinity of the Old Proprietor Shoals on January 21 (BED). By early February most had made their way back out to sea again, with “only” 400 remaining there on February 9 (BED). Relatively few were found off the northern end of the island, with a peak of 12 off Swallowtail Light on February 7 (KM). Common Murre numbers were much reduced from the winter of 1997-98, with a peak of 2250 birds estimated east of White Head with Razorbills on December 28 (BED). Off Long Eddy, 250 were mixed in with Razorbills on January 9 (BED). Thick-billed Murre is not a normal winter visitor to the Bay of Fundy, and only arrives reluctantly after onshore gales. The first was noted at Bancroft Point on January 31 (BED), then 10 in the Grand Manan Channel on February 4 (SIT), two inside Ingalls Head breakwater on February 20, and two just off Southern Head Beach the same day (BED). As related elsewhere in this issue, a major effort was mounted to census wintering Razorbill around the island. Peak estimates were 15,000 birds on December 3 (FH) and 25,000 on January 5 (BED, et. al.). Two weeks later, almost all had vanished! Black Guillemot is common along the 20-fathom contour east of Grand Manan during winter, with 125 counted between Black Rocks and North Head on December 3 (BED). The only Atlantic Puffin noted were two over the Grand Manan Basin on December 2 (BED) and one seen from the Grand Manan ferry on December 21 (PAP).
A Northern Saw-whet Owl calling at Bancroft Point on February 24 was a good indication of when resident birds begin to get territorial. It appears that at least two Short-eared Owl wintered on the island. The first was noted at Castalia Marsh on December 24 (PAP), then two there on December 26 (GG). Two at Cheney Island on February 2 (BR) were likely the same birds. A male Northern Flicker that wintered at Bancroft Point was a first for Grand Manan. At night, it roosted inside an old barn, and during the day it fed along the shore on tiny sand flies. The only report of Cedar Waxwing during the period was a flock of 15 at Dark Harbour on February 7 (FH). During February it was not uncommon to find flocks of 10-30 American Robin feeding in the company of Starlings on bare lawns. On February 28, a flock of 20 was seen from the Grand Manan ferry, heading for the island from the mainland (SIT); the likely source of these late winter birds. It was a good winter for Golden-crowned Kinglet, with many more birds present than could be accounted for by the local population. For example, at least 100 were estimated during a hike from Southern Head to Dark Harbour on December 31 (JB).
The island’s only House Sparrow continued to be a male in Seal Cove, alone now for the past two years (CR). It was not an American Goldfinch winter, with the most noted being 30 on Anchorage Road on January 10 and 13 at Northern Pond, WHI on February 7 (BED). White-winged Crossbill was in good supply, thanks to the bumper spruce cone crop, and nest-building was noted at Bancroft Point on January 31. A bright male Pine Warbler appeared at Martha Ballantyne’s feeder at Stanley Beach in mid-December and continued throughout the winter, last being seen in late March. A wintering flock of about 20 Snow Bunting at Castalia Marsh was augmented by new arrivals on January 14, when 68 were present (BED). That number dropped back to to 20 again on February 6 (PAP), and 30 on February 28 (BED).
It was very hard to find a Song Sparrow during the winter of 1998/99. On the other hand, there were a fair number of White-throated Sparrow, surviving away from feeders, most likely on spruce cone seeds gleaned from the bare forest floor. After the 20cm snowfall on February 26th they became much more obvious around houses and feeders, with flocks of 3-5 birds in many areas. Dark-eyed Junco also benefitted from the spruce cone bonanza, being found in good-sized flocks (10-30) throughout the island, especially in the interior, with record numbers found on the Christmas Bird Count. A Savannah Sparrow at Castalia Marsh throughout the period was the first successful winter record for Grand Manan (V.O.). American Tree Sparrow had a good winter as well, actually outnumbering Dark-eyed Juncos in forest-edge and brushy field habitats. Flocks of up to 25 were encountered, such as along the Ox Head Road on January 3, although flocks appeared to break up late in the period. A very pale Eastern Meadowlark, identified by its song in late February, was first noted at Castalia Marsh on December 16 (BED). It was last seen March 14, and thus represents the first successful-overwintering for the island. No doubt the almost total lack of snow cover throughout had something to do with it. A female Eastern “Rufous-sided” Towhee spent the winter at several feeders along King Street in Seal Cove, making it only about the third known individual to have survived a Grand Manan winter.
OBSERVERS: Jim Brown (JB), Peter Cronk (PC), Brian Dalzell (BED), Jackie Foote (JF), Greg Green (GG), Falk Huttemann (FH), Kenneth Ingersoll (KI), Jim Leslie (JL), Kenneth MacIntosh (KM), Laurie Murison (LM), Various Observers (V.O.), Peter Pearce (PAP), Barry Russell (BR), Carmen Roberts (CR), Stuart Tingley (SIT), WHI: White Head Island.
WEATHER: the largest snowstorm of the “winter” took place on March 7-8, with a total accumulation of about 30cm, some of which was still on the ground a month later. It was a dry spring, with little rain, and by the middle of May, many vernal pools dried up — something that usually does not occur until late June at the earliest. Total rainfall for March was 80mm, for April only 14mm, and 53mm for May. The last snowfall of the spring was 10cm on March 15, for a monthly total of 40cm.
BIRDS: A drake Eurasian Wigeon at Long Pond on April 21 (AC) may have been the same bird seen at Hay Island Pond on May 27 (BED). There are about five previous reports, all males. Interestingly, there is a record for Hay Island Pond on May 14, 1993. Could this be the same individual returning each spring? A pair of Northern Shoveler in Grand Harbour on March 27 (NP) is the earliest spring report by far. In fact, there are only two previous observations of mated pairs; at Bancroft Marsh on May 14, 1991 and May 22, 1985 (BED). CANVASBACK is very rare here, so a female at Great Pond on March 27 was a real good find (NP). The only recent record is two females in Grand Harbour on March 3, 1991 (Jim Wilson). Black Scoter migration up Grand Manan Channel was in full swing after mid-April. For instance, 1000 were counted in just 10 minutes (0750-0800) on April 19 (BED). The last two wintering Common Merganser (females) at Castalia Marsh were noted on March 18 (BED).
The only report of Snowy Egret this spring was a single bird at Marsh Point, WHI on May 25 (AC). Single Green Heron were noted at Fishers Pond on April 29 and Eel Lake on May 25 (both VB). A Glossy Ibis at Northern Pond, WHI on April 28 (AC) had been present at least two days previous (Bill Miller). It represented only the fourth record for Grand Manan! A Black Vulture first discovered at Eel Lake on May 15 (SIT) was no doubt the same bird later seen around (lobster) bait sheds at Ingalls Head May 21 (RLE) and White Head from May 22-25 (V.O.). A dark-morph Gyrfalcon, likely a second-year bird, was seen at Long Eddy Point on April 19 (BED, AC) as it followed the coast southwest toward Indian Beach.
A Lesser Black-backed Gull of the race graelsii, at Long Eddy Point on April 13 was only the second spring record for the islands (BED, AC). The second-year Black-headed Gull (another European immigrant) that wintered around the island was last seen at Ox Head Beach on April 28 (AC). Caspian Tern is rare here at any season, so one at Long Pond Beach on April 29 (AC) and another at Castalia Marsh on May 25 (RLE, AC) were noteworthy. The last sighting of a wintering Short-eared Owl was of one at Castalia Marsh on March 14 (BED). The traditional Barred Owl location at Laborie Hill produced a calling bird on May 19 (BED). At most, there are perhaps half a dozen pairs on the island.
The only report of a Red-headed Woodpecker was an adult at a feeder in Castalia on May 26-27 (Crystal Russell). Philadelphia Vireo is rare in spring, so one at Long Pond on May 17 is of note (BED). A Warbling Vireo at White Head Island on May 23 (AC) falls into the same category. Following a winter with no observations of Northern Shrike, a single spring migrant was present at Bancroft Point on April 22 (BED). Rare in the extreme was a BICKNELL’S THRUSH closely-studied at Eel Lake on May 16 by Stuart Tingley and a group from the Moncton Naturalist’s Club. Although it undoubtedly occurs very rarely as a migrant in spring and fall, this was the first good report in many years. It is believed to be a rare summer resident, with reports of singing males persisting from time to time at Dark Harbour and other ravines along the rugged western coast of the island. The only Blue-gray Gnatcatchers reported were a bird at WHI May 21-24 (V.O.) and one at Swallowtail Light May 23-24 (PAP, SIT). A Northern Rough-winged Swallow at Philips Point, Grand Harbour on May 11 (PAP) was but the fifth spring record for the islands.
A male Yellow-throated Warbler seen briefly at Long Eddy Point on April 26 (AC) was only the second spring record for this southern warbler. The Pine Warbler that wintered at Stanley Beach was last seen about March 24 (Martha Ballantyne). A LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH along Battle Beach Road, WHI on May 15 (SIT, et. al.) was a first record for Grand Manan, and if accepted by the New Brunswick Bird Records Committee, will also be a first provincial record (there is no reason to believe it will not be accepted). Three male Lapland Longspur at Castalia Marsh on April 27 (AC, VB) is the most ever seen here in spring, and only the third spring report for the islands. The only Blue Grosbeak reported was a male eating dandelion seed heads at Pettes Cove on May 19 (Joan Barberis).
Clavette (AC), Valmond Bourque (VB), Brian Dalzell (BED), Roger LeBlanc
(RLE), Peter Pearce (PAP), Nelson Poirier (NP). Stuart Tingley (SIT), Various
Observers (V.O.), WHI - White Head Island.
In late February and early March, almost 400 letters were mailed out to groups and individuals announcing the birth of the Fundy Bird Observatory, and asking for financial support to get us off on the right foot in 1999. It was most gratifying to hear back from more than 125 of you, so I can now announce that more than $9000 in donations was realized! I’m told a 10 per cent positive response rate to any such campaign is considered a success. The response to the FBO campaign was about 35 per cent — an unqualified success any way you slice it!
It was estimated that $7500 would be required for spring migration monitoring at Long Eddy Point, so that project was canceled in late April after only 30 days of operation. The reason being of course, to dedicate all of our limited resources to the fall season. Fall monitoring will run from at least August 20 - November 15. In the meantime, I would personally like to thank all the groups and individuals throughout Canada and the U.S. who generously supported our fledgling Observatory in 1999, and apologize for overlooking anyone:
Thanks are also due to Dutchmen
Construction of Grand Manan, who moved our “banding shack” from Anchorage
Park to Long Eddy Point, a free service valued at $200. Blake Maybank
of Whites Lake, NS donated birding journals and banding equipment (such
as mist nets, banding pliers, bird bags, etc.) valued at $1000.
The first in what will hopefully be a continuing series of publications on the natural history of the Grand Manan Archipelago is nearing completion. The first title in the series will be a checklist of the FAUNA OF THE GRAND MANAN ARCHIPELAGO planned to go to press in the spring of 2000. The second title in the series will be a revision of “GRAND MANAN BIRDS”, the successful pocket guide to local birding that has sold more than 5,000 copies since it was first printed in 1991. It is hoped to have both the revision and the new checklist completed this winter and in print in time for the spring birding season of 2000.
The principal author of the series (Brian Dalzell) will forgo all royalties, with proceeds from sale of titles in the “Natural History Series” going to support the operation of the Fundy Bird Observatory. It is hoped that a title can be produced on the average of once a year over the next decade or so, with some of the larger projects taking a number of years to research and prepare. In roughly chronological order, some of the planned titles and publication dates are:
“Pocket Guide to Grand Manan Birds” (revision - 2000); “The Birds of Machias Seal Island” (monograph - 2002); “The Butterflies of Grand Manan” (color poster - 2003); “An Ornithological History of the Grand Manan Archipelago: 1833-1953" (2003); “101 Common Wildflowers of Grand Manan” (pocket photo guide - 2004); “A Birders Guide to Grand Manan” (2005); “The Birdlife of the Grand Manan Archipelago” (major work - 2006); “A Natural History of the Grand Manan Archipelago” (2007); “A Topographical Map of Grand Manan” (2008). The author reserves the right to change order and titles of publication, and no doubt will.
The series was inspired by a copy of the “Dragonflies and Damselflies of Cape Cod, by Virginia Carpenter” published in 1991 ($9.95) by the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History. Other titles in this series include “The Evergreens of Cape Cod” (1982 - $1.50); “Marine Mollusks of Cape Cod” (1984 - $6.95 ); and “Crabs of Cape Cod” (1986 - $6.95). The CCMNH (POB 1710, Brewser, MA 02631) is a non-profit education, research and education center founded in 1954 and focused on the natural environment of Cape Cod.
first title in the Fundy Bird Observatory’s “Natural History Series” (mock-up
of cover reproduced to left) will contain an up-to-date listing of all
species of birds recorded from the Grand Manan Archipelago, with check-off
columns for a full 10 days of observations. As well, similar listings
will be included for marine mammals, terrestrial mammals, butterflies,
dragonflies and damselflies, amphibians and reptiles. It is hoped
the inclusion of dragonflies and damselflies on the list will encourage
the reporting of new species of “Odes” that may subsequently be observed
on the island. The current list stands at only about 25 species,
with indications it could eventually go as high as 40 to 50 species --
or even higher.
We would like to thank the following for their financial contribution to help make this edition of "The Razorbill" possible:
Page revised October 17th 2006
GMWSRS 24 Route 776, Grand Manan, NB, Canada E5G 1A1 email@example.com
© Grand Manan Whale & Seabird Research Station Inc.