Today I made it back to the Project Puffin base in Maine. I leave for home tomorrow. Many, many thanks to Steve, Debbie, Rose and “Puffin” Pete in the main office and to Caroline and Nathan for being such great hosts out on “The Rock.”  Many thanks to Anne, Genevieve and Talia for being such great company on the island. What a wonderful experience this has been. Here are two videos for you. The first is when Nathan caught a laughing gull. We weighed and measured it and then let it go. Click here to take a look. The second video is our visit to our razorbill chick Coco. Thanks Cottage Lane for naming him. His name was officially recorded on the paperwork for that burrow. Take a look at how is is doing. He is growing! Can you tell how much?

As far as power, the solar system that runs our computers and lights went out.  We had no trouble living on the island, We really did not need electri

city to live.   Portable flashlights worked just fine.  I had three batteries for my computer and was able to use it up until the very last day, however I could not connect to the internet for longer than a few minutes, so my last blog post did not include video.  The system that powers the lighthouse belongs to the Coast Guard and we are not able to use it.  The lighthouse and horn worked just fine.  We could not get network and I lost power on my computer on my last day.  I brought three charged batteries for my computer, and did not run out.

Mrs. CB, puffins are very social birds.  They stay together in colonies and frequently interact They shake their bills at one another and bang each other.   It is hard to know exactly what they are feeling when they do that, but what ever it is, they communicate it to one another very well.  They interact with people a little less than terns do (terns will let you know exactly how they feel when you get near their nests), but they interact a lot with each other.

The last few days were an amazing mix of Arctic Terns, Common Terns, Seals, Puffins and much more.  Here are some of the better pictures.  Can you find our stuffed puffin in the pictures on this page?  Enjoy!


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Last Post From the Island

Today will be a shorter post. We are out of power on the island. Our solar panel failed earlier in the week. We had hoped to have it fixed by now. In fact, we spent much of yesterday trying to fix it. I brought three batteries to for my computer to the island and I’m down to my last one. No video today. This is life on the island, as they say here.


Let me introduce you to a new friend of mine. This little arctic tern goes by the name BQ86 on his band. I re sighted him yesterday. When I went to enter his data into the computer, I found that he has an interesting history. He was banded on an island near here in 2001 when he (or she) was just a chick. That means this little bird is 10 years old. Just like many of you in Cottage Lane. This little arctic tern left our area and was sighed here in 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010. I sighted the bird yesterday as well. It seems to prefer the top of the island here when it goes to breed. Here is the interesting part. This little guy, like all artic terns, migrates to Antarctica each year in our fall. Each year in our spring, the little bird comes back. Go to Google Earth and find the shortest route to Antarctica. Measure it with the measuring tool on the toolbar. How far is it? How far is it to get there and back? Impressive, right? This little guy has done this 10 times.


Yesterday I asked you why you think we might need to monitor all the birds on the island, not just the puffins. Did you figure it out? Ecosystems are all about balance. Each species here on the island has a food supply, a nesting area and behavior pattern. Some nest on the top of the island, some nest near the shore. Some nest in the rocks, some nest on the ground, some nest underground in holes. Some birds eat fish they find in the deep sea. Some birds eat shrimp and smaller creatures from nearer to shore and some will scavenge whatever they can find, including the eggs of other birds. Some eat smaller birds. We found a tern that had been killed by a kind of falcon called a merlin that we have seen flying around here. Human beings interrupt that balance in so many different ways. We have settled along the shore of the mainland, leaving less habitat there for many sea-birds. So more need to nest out here. We have caused changes in the fish population through climate change and through a large fishing industry up and down the coast here. We hunted some species, like puffins, until there were few left here in Maine. Those things cause populations of some species to fall. We also help some species. Gulls are scavengers. They have thrived in our landfills and by eating our table scraps and garbage. There are now far more gulls here than there should be. They are clever scavengers and they will eat the eggs of other birds. If left alone, they would take over the island from the other birds here. The only way the diversity of this island could continue in its natural state is for people to monitor it and help it along. The balance of life on the island must be maintained if it is to continue in its natural state. That’s why we are here.

Can you think of other ecosystems that might need help from people in order to continue in the natural state? Write your answers here.

Some of you are asking about the lighthouse. Here is a photo of it at night. The horn is loud, but it does not bother me any more.

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Baby Chicks Arrive!

Before we start, let me answer a few questions that you have posted to the blog:

Where do Puffins sleep when they are at sea? The sleep while bobbing around on the surface. They don’t sleep for long periods. They take small naps and sleep in spurts.

Puffins come back to the same place because it is built into them to do so. Just like you can find your way around your awn neighborhood. Many creatures do this besides puffins. Falcons and Salmon both find their way back. So do some kinds of pigeons.

Puffins can hold a lot of fish in their bills. We have seen up to 14 here, but it is possible that they can hold more. They are amazing swimmers and can dive 120 to 180 feet. Amazing!

Puffins would probably not make great pets. They would want to be either deep in a burrow our out at sea, so they would not be very happy on land or in a cage. Best we come visit them where they are.

Does the horn bother me? Not really. I’m used to it now, just as many of you are used to the train passing by.  It is fun to sleep in a lighthouse!


Today we spent the day visiting a razorbill colony on the north side of the island, and I got to hold a chick while we weighed and measured it. Want to see?  Click here for a video. Next, I went to a Puffin Burrow.  Here is a video. What a surprise!  Here is Anne Rohn holding a razorbill.


The rest of the day was spent re-sighting banded birds. Today I tried Common Terns. They are much more active than puffins. They move a lot, squawk a lot and were constantly moving around with fish in their beaks. Click the photos today to see!

As you can see we work with many species of birds besides puffins. Why do you think we need to work with so many different kinds of birds?


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Who is Who on Matinicus Rock

Matinicus Rock is a sea-bird colony. This means that lots of sea-birds, including Puffins use this area to nest at this time of year. The land is near their food supply and is free from many land-based predators. There is little else living on the island besides the birds and grasses that you find here. That does NOT mean the island is free from predators all together. There are many birds who will eat either other species of birds or their eggs. Still it is safer here than it is closer to shore. The island has neighborhoods, just like New York City does. Certain birds live in a neiborhood. Arctic Terns nest in one area, common terns nest in another. Terns lay their eggs on rocks and grass towards the top of the island. Puffins and Guillemots live down in rocky borrows closer to the shore. In fact, sometimes Puffins and Razorbills can share the same hole!! Besides Puffins, who you know, let’s get to know some of the other residents here.

Arctic Terns are a small bird with a pointy red bill. You would never know that this little bird migrates all the way Antarctica and back each year! They migrate further than any other bird in the world. They do this by making several very long fights. Then they stop to feed on their way, feed very little as they travel. Would you like to see how they defend their nests when I walk nearby? Click here for a video.

Common Terns are very aggressive terns that were long-hunted for their feathers, which were used in hats. Common terns were one of the first success stories of the conservation movement, which helped to bring them back.

Eiders are a species of bird that looks very much like a duck. Here is what their nest look like. As soon as these birds are born, the chicks run right to the sea. All the babies will gather together and all the mothers will stay with all the babies until they are old enough to fend for themselves.

Yesterday a Grey Seal came by to rest and sun himself on the rocks near shore. This one “hauled out” for a few hours and seemed to enjoy himself (or herself) very much.

When Razorbill babies hatch, they only stay in the nest for 18 days or so. Then the males call them out of the nest to go to sea. The father cares for them in the water until they are old enough to take care of themselves.

Unlike most birds in their family, Guillemots do not go far out to sea. They stay around the island and pick their food out from the rocks under the water near shore. They nest in shallow rock crevices near the shore.

Here is one of the Gulls on the island. By the way, scientists do not say seagull, they just say gull. Many Gulls live in lakes or rivers, not the ocean. Does this gull look like the ones that live near us? Probably not. There are many different species of gull. This one is called a laughing gull because of the cackling sound that it makes. The other species of gull that are found here commonly are Great Black-Backed Gull and Herring Gull. The gulls are clever scavengers and they tend to eat the eggs of the terns and the puffins. The scientists here need to keep the gulls away from some of the species we are trying to protect.

Murres nest on tall rocky cliffs. When their chicks are old enough to leave the nest and go to sea, the males will help them to the water. But since they next along cliffs, it often means the little ones have to jump off the cliffs to get to the water. Sometimes it is a very long way down. The father helps them in the water while the mother guards the nest so it can be used again in future years.


Did you find out the answers to yesterday’s questions? If not, find them today. You can also post questions for the scientists here. What would you like to know about this bird colony?


Question of the day: Why do you think birds live together on this island?

Here are the photos from today:


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Burrows and Banding Birds

Today started at six o’clock in the morning with a quick weather check and then a few hours sitting at the top of a lighthouse counting birds. What a view. Want to see it? Click on the picture below to open a virtual reality view to take a look.

I spent the remainder of the morning trying to read the numbers on small tags mounted on the leg of moving puffins. Does that sound difficult? Well it IS difficult. But it is also important. What do we use tags? One reason is to answer a question that many of you put on the the blog. How long do puffins live. We can’t very well walk up and ask them how old they are, so we use bands to keep track of individuals. The oldest puffin on record is 34 years old! Would you like to find out more? Click here for a video.  And look at this animation.  Sometimes they do the strangest things…


We also spent some time taking a look at some of the nests on the island. We need to keeptrack of how many active burrows there are so we know how they are doing this year. How do you find the nests? Matinicus Rock is a bird colony without any trees, so birds nest here on the ground. Some birds, like arctic terns, nest on the rocks or in the grass near the rocks. Here is a view of a tern sitting on her nest. The photos below are the eggs themselves.

Puffins and Storm-Petrels burrow into the ground. Puffins use crevices in the rocks

to make their nests. In order to check on the puffins and their eggs, sometimes you have to crawl a little. Here I am trying to see what is in a burrow. And here is what I saw

inside. Can you see the puffin sitting on her eggs?

Thanks for your answers to yesterday’s question. “The Rock” is .49 miles long and .2 miles wide. The closest mainland is about 17 miles away. Puffins and other sea-birds nest this far out for a few reasons. One is to avoid some land predictors, such as foxes, owl and mink, which are not out here this far. In additon, people now live along the coast, so the amount of area that the Puffins can occupy on the mainland is much smaller. Finally, they are much closer to the deep-water fish that they prefer to eat.

For the blog today, use the internet to find out how the following questions:

  1. How deep can puffins swim?
  2. How many fish can they hold in their beak?
  3. How long can they hold their breath?
  4. What do they eat?

Here are today’s Photos:

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Hello From Matinicus Rock

Hello from Mantinicus Rock. Our day started at 5:00 in the morning. We packed groceries and gear into project vehicles and headed to the 7:00 ferry from Rockland, Maine to Vinalhaven, Maine. From there we boarded a small lobster boat for the hour and a half ride out to “The Rock.” All told, the trip took about three hours. So here is your first question: Why do you think it might sea-bird colonies might be located so far away from the Mainland?

Lets look around the island: Mantinicus Rock. The island is not very big. The lighthouse from the story Abbie Against the Storm is still here. That is

where I am staying! Have you ever stayed in a lightouse? It is very old and lots of fun, but the fog horn blows all the time. Even here is your second assignment: find Matinicus Rock on Google Earth. Use the measuring tool to (it looks like a ruler on the Google Earth Toolbar) and find out how big the island is. Then find out how wide the island is. How far away from the Mainland is the island? Post your answers on the blog.

The scientific work started right away as soon as we got settled in our rooms. We first went out to an area of the island where terns nest. We looked for nests and eggs that had not been seen before. Each time we found a new nest, we marked it on a list that we are keeping. Later in the day we went checking puffin borrows to see which ones had birds and had eggs inside. Why do you think it is important to keep track of eggs?

Here are some answers to your questions from earlier. The oldest puffin on record is 34 years old. But we do not have data going back further, so they may live even longer. We really don’t the average life span. We know a few individuals who have been banded (a tag is placed on their foot so we know who they are when they come back), but we do not have data on the entire population.

As far as pictures go, I took so many today, I sat for two hours in a bird blind taking photos.  I thought I would make you a slideshow.  Enjoy:

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Hello From Maine

Today I made it to the Project Puffin base in Bremen, Maine.  I’ll spend the night here and tomorrow I the boat for the island leaves early in the morning.  I had to pass through the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.  After I arrived, we spent part of the afternoon packing food into huge rubber dry-bags.  The staff had just returned from a shopping trip and all the food now must be transported to the islands in

small boats, so the dry-bags are a must.  Tomorrow I go by ferry to and island near Mantinicus.  I meet a smaller private boat there that will take me the rest of the way out to the island.  I had dinner with some of the staff in a bird sanctuary on an island just across the bay from where I am staying.  Here is the view.

I asked the some of the scientists about puffins and climate change.  “Puffin” Pete Salmansohn told me that Puffins tend to nest high above the water, so they are a little more protected from rising seas than birds that nest very the water line, like piping plovers or least terns.  But strong storms together with high tides could effect puffin borrows.   The greatest threat to the puffin is the changing fish population as the water warms.  The habitat they live in remains in the same spot, but their food is moving north.  Atlantic Saury are showing up in greater numbers in the Gulf of Maine, but other fish are moving away.  Now puffins are eating these newly arrived fish.  Will puffins adapt to the other changes in the food supply?  No one knows.  You can find out more about puffins and climate change by clicking here.

Some of you asked how many puffins there are in the world.  Puffin Pete told me that there are twelve to fifteen million puffins in the world today.  They are not endangered at alldisney inflatables wholesale.

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All Set To Go!

Thanks for posting all of your ideas about Climate Change on Mantinicus Rock. I’ll ask the scientists about their opinions when I get to the island. What I know from working with scientists in the past is that Climate Change effects creatures all over the world. It upsets the balance of ecosystems. Some creatures are lucky and have characteristics that make it easy for them to adapt to change. Other species will die out. Some scientists believe the climate change could cause many species all over the world to go extinct.


When I was last in the Gulf of Maine, I was working on a research ship studying the fish in the sea. Those scientists told me that about one third of the fish we study

The View of the Lump

were moving their range north as the sea warms from our changing climate. Some of those fish are part of what puffins eat. Will they be able to move north too?


Next stop, Maine! Keep checking the blog this weekend. I’ll be in Maine on Saturday afternoon. How many states do you think I will have to pass through to get there?  Here is a photo of my bags.  Why do you think I am using a rubber duffle bag?  Here is a hint.  This kind of bag is called a “dry bag.”


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Global Warming and Atlantic Puffins

Human beings pollute the world every day with Carbon Dioxide and other chemicals which Britain cause our world to warm and our climate to change.  Most scientists agree that this will cause severe effects on wildlife everywhere.

Take a few moments to study Global Warming.  Here are some videos to get you started:

Now try to answer these questions:

1.  If the air and water around Mantinicus Rock both get warmer, how might this effect the Puffins?

2.  If ice that is now on land begins to melt, how might this effect the puffins in Mantinicus Rock?

3.  If the oceans become more acidic, how might this effect the puffins in Mantinicus Rock?

4.  If the kinds of fish that live around Matinicus Rock change because the water is warmer, how might this effect the puffins there?

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What Would You Like on the Blog?

Thanks for all of your great packing ideas.  You really helped me.  There were several things that I put on my list because of what you wrote down!  Now let’s plan the blog together.  What are some things you would like to know about the Puffin Colony and the scientists who work there?  What are some questions you think I should ask?  I am looking for ideas for this blog while I am on the island.  What would you like to see?  What would you like to know and learn?  Write your ideas here and I’ll try to get to as many of them as I can while I am on the island.  Thanks for your help.

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