Monday, June 30, 2014

An Early Summer Update

By Beth Sullivan
Everywhere you turn at this time of year, wildlife species are busy. They're building nests and rearing young and we in turn are checking on all of them! As a steward for Avalonia, it is my ( happy) job to keep track of such progress.

Sandy Point

The Horseshoe Crabs have been busy on Sandy Point. An early May trip out with a group of Pine Point School students revealed a number of nests, and we were able to dig into one to show what the eggs look like. Due to uncooperative weather during the full moon cycle in June, we did not get out to the island, so the lucky crabs got to mate and lay eggs in peace. I will update more after our New Moon trip out for tagging and recording.

Horseshoe crab eggs look like miniature grey pearls

Scooping into sand searching for horseshoe crab eggs

The birds out on Sandy Point have been observed more closely. With a renewed and increased partnership with the US Fish and Wildlife Service out of Rhode Island, we have had a greater scientific presence on the island. American Oystercatchers and Piping Plovers are both rearing young there. They are in greatest danger at this point, as their nesting and fledging coincides with the most active season for human usage. Their nesting areas are roped off to protect them while still in the nest, but once those little ones get on their feet, they MOVE! They do not pay attention to roping, so it is our job to try to remind visitors to keep an eye out for them and let them have a wide berth. Fireworks, Kite Flying, any dogs, and general loud partying activities are seen as frightening and predatory for the birds, which may abandon their nesting areas. Avalonia volunteers, the stewards from the Stonington COMO, and the biologists from USFWS are all working together to protect the already threatened species.
Oystercatchers and their young are very vulnerable at this time of year

Knox Preserve

At the Knox Preserve, the Martins have been busy and successful! We have been monitoring 24 gourds this year. It always amazes me how tolerant the adult Purple Martins are. We have lowered and investigated the nests 3 times already. We monitored early nest construction, first egg laying ( 5/31), and first hatching (6/19). As of June 22, we had 18 babies! We are hoping for possibly another 15-18! DEEP biologists will return in a few weeks to band them as they did last year. Earlier, in May, I spotted three sub-adults with the orange/green band combination identifying them as “ours” from last year; That was thrilling! A full update will follow in a week or two.
A perfect Purple Martin nest

Tolerant adults return to the  as soon as they are raised

Vernal pools are drying slowly, so tadpoles will be making their transition to small frogs very soon. Wood Frogs and Peepers may have already done so. Keep an eye out for them leaping through the woods, as these two frog species don’t necessarily hang out by the ponds! The big bull frogs can be quite vocal now, declaring their territory. They are the last to lay eggs, but last year’s tadpoles overwintered in the ponds and will be developing legs soon.
A Bullfrog guarding its territory, they are the last to lay eggs.

Now the Spring Peepers move off into wet woodlands

Henne Preserve 

The Great Blue Herons out on the Henne Preserve have gotten quite big and look pretty silly standing up high in their nests. They will fledge soon.
Great Blue Heron triplets have gotten big since Mother's Day

Yes, it is a busy time, but it's ever so much fun to keep watch on all the developments!

Photographs by Beth Sullivan.

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