TERN REPORT - 2018 - Ted C. D'Eon
LOBSTER BAY - SOUTHWEST NOVA SCOTIA


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  • Marine Chart of Lobster Bay
  • The Brothers are two tiny islands about 1 km west of Lower West Pubnico, Nova Scotia, Canada.
    They are owned by the province and were designated a wildlife management area in April 2007.
    Access to them during nesting season (April 1 to Aug. 31) is by permit only.

    My work on these islands is done in cooperation with Canadian Wildlife Service and the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources.

    Last summer, the tern colony on The Brothers (actually only on North Brother) was abandoned partway through the nesting season. Strong winds and high tides washed out some of the tern nests early during the incubation phase. The number of nests was low to start with, and with the nest wash out, some of the terns left.

    After this, and with fewer terns to defend the colony, gulls and crows moved in and systematically cleaned out every tern and Common Eider egg. Roseate Tern (ROST) eggs were among the last to go; I assume because because they were in nesting shelters.

    By early July, some of our missing birds were found nesting on Gull Island, 8 km to the northwest of North Brothers. Some of the ROST whose nests had been depredated by the crows and gulls on North Brother actually renested on Gull Island.

    This report will cover work being done on both North Brother and Gull Island mostly from my perspective.

    THE BROTHERS, Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia
    THE BROTHERS, Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia

    North BROTHERS and GULL ISLAND,<Br>Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia
    North BROTHERS and GULL ISLAND,
    Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia



    OBSERVATIONS:

    The following is a chronological listing of our 2018 work with terns of the Lobster Bay area in general, but in particular, with the Roseate Terns (ROST) of The Brothers and Gull Island. The report also includes tern observations from other professionals and university students working on these islands, as well as observations from local residents.
    North Brother - 2005
    North Brother  (2005 photo)

    The Brothers as seen from Lower West Pubnico. (2005 photo)
    The Brothers as seen from Lower West Pubnico. (2005 photo)

    For a bird's eye view of The Brothers, see the YouTube aerial drone video of The Brothers taken by Riel D'Eon on October 8, 2016

    Winter Storms and High Tides - I seemed like there was a winter storm every week, but the following three were the worse ones.

    Storm #1) Christmas Day 2017 - Hurricane winds - wind damage on the mainland; many trees down; storm surge.

    Below my house in Middle West Pubnico, December 25, 2017 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Below my house in Middle West Pubnico, December 25, 2017 - Ted D'Eon photo

    Storm damage at Abbott's Harbour, Middle West Pubnico, December 26, 2017 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Storm damage at Abbott's Harbour, Middle West Pubnico, December 26, 2017 - Ted D'Eon photo

    Storm #2) January 4, 2018 - Very high winds again with high tides and storm surge. This was 2 days after the full moon so the tides were high anyway. More damage along the shore. Almost all of our ROST nesting shelters were washed off of North Brother. I collected 85 of them along the shore of the mainland - most of them around Ledge Harbour (a.k.a. Le Rocher).

    I had a stone staircase to the shore below my house (near Abbott's Harbour, Middle West Pubnico). It had been there for many years. It survived the Christmas Day hurricane, but not this storm.

    Storm damage at Abbott's Harbour, Middle West Pubnico, January 5, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Storm damage at Abbott's Harbour, Middle West Pubnico, January 5, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    ROST shelters at Ledge Harbour, Middle West Pubnico, January 6, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    ROST shelters at Ledge Harbour, Middle West Pubnico, January 6, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    Some of the collected ROST nesting shelters, January, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Some of the collected ROST nesting shelters, January, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    Storm #3) March 3, 2018 - Another wind storm with high tides and storm surge near the full moon. The photo below was taken from Pond Road, Lower West Pubnico. Waves crashing right over the island!

    North Brother, March 3, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    North Brother, March 3, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    April 8, 2018 - Our first visit to North Brother since the winter storms. I was there with Shawn Craik and Nick Knutson. Dr. Shawn Crail is a professor of biology at Université Sainte-Anne, and Nick is a student from Acadia University working on his Master's degree.

    The storms have widened and flattened the tern nesting areas on both sides (east and west) of the tidal pond (this depression is noticeably much smaller than last year). There is now some great looking nesting substrate there; the problem being that now it appears it may be at a lower elevation than previously, and likely more prone to flooding during storm and spring tides during the nesting season.

    A metre or more of soil and glacial till has been lost at the south end of the island. Usually, we see more erosion on the south and southwest end of this point. This year, a lot of erosion on the southeast bank also, and I think we may have lost more than a metre to the west bank at the "management zone".

    The "management zone" is covered with gravel and rocks, and the landscape fabric is all messed up in it. We should remove it from there before too long.

    Only one reusable ROST nesting structure was left on the island. It was either lucky 13 or maybe unlucky 13! Only one more ROST structure on the island and it was too old and damaged to be reused.

    We also visited South Brother; it is till getting smaller all the time!

    Thank you Shawn an Nick for your assistance. Sorry to have gotten you a little wet. (splashing at South Brother from the swell; no one fell overboard). Ted

    North Brother, April 8, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    North Brother, April 8, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    North Brother, April 8, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    North Brother, April 8, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    North Brother, April 8, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    North Brother, April 8, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    The only reusable ROST shelter left on North Brother, April 8, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    The only reusable ROST shelter left on North Brother, April 8, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    All that's left of South Brother, April 8, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    All that's left of South Brother, April 8, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    April 27, 2018 - North Brother. This morning. Nick Knutson and Aldric d'Entremont came with me to see if we could make a landing on North Brother to install 3 trail cameras and do a little bit of cleanup.

    I knew that the wind had been blowing yesterday and partly through the night but the outlook was for light wind this morning.

    Well, the wind was light this morning, but there was an awful swell. We decided to motor to the island just the same in case we would be able to land.

    When we got there, we all agreed a landing would be too risky, so we stayed aboard the boat and observed the near high tide. This was around 9:30 and high tide was at 8:31 this morning at Abbott's Harbour. Today's high tide was a 3.3 metre tide. Sunday's high tide (with the full moon) will be 3.5m.

    For your information, the high tides on the 17, 18, and 19 of May will get to 3.8m; and on June 15, 16, and 17 it is predicted to get to 3.9m; and 4.0m on July 14 !

    There is bound to be a storm during one of those high tides which could be catastrophic for a tern colony if they form one this year on N. Brother. "Just sayin'"!

    Nick checked the cellular camera for cell service, while on the boat at N Brother and the signal was good. (of the three cameras we will be using on N. Brother, this season, one will transmit photos through the cellular telephone service)

    We saw no signs of terns on out trip to the island.

    April 27, 2018 - At least one tern in the area! Lobster fishermen, Edouard D'Eon and Graham D'Eon each reported seeing one "tern" sitting on a buoy a few kilometres from Pubnico Point, They were fishing on separate boats but both in the same general area. Pubnico Point is just a few km to the south of The Brothers.

    April 29, 2018 - North Brother. Nick Knutson and I left Abbott's Harbour at 9:30am for North Brother. The overnight rain had stopped and the sun had been shining (somewhat), but our 3km trip to N Brother was showded in fog. Today, would be the full moon high tide and we would be on the island at high tide (10:20am).

    Even though there was still a swell, we had no problem with our landing nor our exit to and from the island.

    The warm sun came out shortly after our landing.

    We first cut out the landscape fabric which had been exposed over the winter. It was taken to the mainland for disposal.

    We cleaned up some of the manmade debris which had washed up on the island over the years; there wasn't much there as the winter storms had already taken care of most of it away.

    North Brother, April 29, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    North Brother, April 29, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    North Brother, April 29, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    North Brother, April 29, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    North Brother, April 29, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    North Brother, April 29, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    North Brother, April 29, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    North Brother, April 29, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    North Brother, April 29, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    North Brother, April 29, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    We also watched the tidal pond filling up as seawater was percolating through the beach rocks at its north end. Water was still coming in even an hour after high tide.

    The tidal pond filling up, North Brother, April 29, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    The tidal pond filling up, North Brother, April 29, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    We then set up three trail cameras. One at the south end of the island pointing north; one above the south end of the tidal pond, pointing north to the "ridge" and the tidal pond; and a third one at the north end of the "ridge" pointing south.

    Nick Knutson setting up a trail camera, North Brother, April 29, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Nick Knutson setting up a trail camera, North Brother, April 29, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    One of the trail cameras, North Brother, April 29, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    One of the trail cameras, North Brother, April 29, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    Looking south, North Brother, April 29, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Looking south, North Brother, April 29, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    Landscape fabric all packaged up for removal, North Brother, April 29, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Landscape fabric all packaged up for removal, North Brother, April 29, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    After we left N Brother, we motored 8km northwest to Gull Island. There was a very heavy swell there, so we observed the southeast corner of the island from the boat. There were no terns there and we didn't see any at N Brother either.

    Nick counted 25 gulls there (I think that's what he counted); most of the, were Herring (I think, 16 Herring and 9 Great Black-backed).

    Nick Knutson checking out Gull Island, April 29, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Nick Knutson checking out Gull Island, April 29, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    The Gull Island beacon, April 29, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    The Gull Island beacon, April 29, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    May 1, 2018 - Cape Sable Island, Shelburne County, NS. Mark Dennis photographed a Roseate Tern at Drinking Brook Park on CSI.

    Mark writes, "I didn't expect the first tern of the year to be a Roseate! This was way off Drinking Brook Park this afternoon, 01-May, 2018. I did a composite as the images are so small but you can see the tail in a couple and a slightly rosy hue to the breast."

    I saw the images and there is no doubt that it is a Roseate Tern! Ted

    I think this may be the earliest ever for a ROST sighting in Nova Scotia!

    May 2, 2018 - Gull Island. Lobster fisherman, Aubrey Spinney reported 4 terns near Gull Island.

    May 4, 2018 - From Pond Road, I saw 3 terns flying by North Brother! My first for the season.

    May 4, 2018 - North Brother. The first bird photo from the Reconyx trail camera was of a crow on May 4.

    Common Crow, North Brother, May 4, 2018 - Trail camera photo

    May 5, 2018 - North Brother. The first terns captured on North Brother by the trail cameras.

    May 8, 2018 - North Brother and Gull Island. Shawn Craik, Manon Holmes, Nick Knutson, and I visited North Brother today to check out the island for terns as well as service the trail cameras and retrieve the memory chips.

    110 terns were estimated - almost all Common Terns (COTE), but included at least 3 Roseate Terns (ROST} and 2 Arctic Terns (ARTE).

    Courtship behaviour was observed with the COTE and ARTE. No evidence of nest scrapes were seen.

    Still only bare mud (except for one small patch of wild raddish) at the south end of the island. Did the winter storms wash out the other weed seeds?

    The south end of North Brother, May 8, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    We then motored out to Gull Island.

    At Gull Island, we dropped our small boat mooring just to the east of our landing area at the northeast end of the island.

    The concrete mooring block on the boat - May 8, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    The concrete mooring block on the boat - May 8, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    Shawn estimated about 50 terns counted along the southern stretch of the island (i.e. near the southern nesting region used in 2017). Most of these were COTE, but this number included 6 ROST and 6 ARTE.

    Great tern nesting substrate at the south end of Gull Island - May 8, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Great? tern nesting substrate at the south end of Gull Island - May 8, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    The beach rock barrier at the northwestern of the pond has been partially breached by the winter storms. The panoramic photo below doesn't give it justice. The high tides at the full moon may actually flow through the breach and into the pond.

    Partially breached barrier on Gull Island - May 8, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Partially breached barrier on Gull Island - May 8, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    About 75% of the island's gull nesting habitat was searched: Shawn, Manon, and Nick marked 23 gull nests with coloured stakes; the eggs were measured (majority of nests at 3-egg stage). Most, if not all of the gull nests appeared to be Great Blacked Gull (GBBG).

    Manon, Shawn, and Nick, Gull Island - May 8, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Manon, Shawn, and Nick, Gull Island - May 8, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    43 GBBG counted on island; there were no Herring Gulls (HERG) on the island.

    Two corvids (possibly Common Ravens (CORA)) were spotted loafing on the island light while we approached from a distance; the two birds flushed from the island as we approached and unfortunately we could not determine their path.

    Also nesting on the island were, at least 10 Common Eider (COEI) pairs, and two pairs of Canada Geese. Each Canada Goose nest contained 6 eggs.

    Canada Goose nest, Gull Island, May 8, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Canada Goose nest, Gull Island, May 8, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    Also of note were the 17 Brant which took off from the island upon our arrival.

    I did photograph some of the terns, but the ROST were always too distant to get any leg bands.

    Roseate Tern, Gull Island, May 8, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Roseate Tern, Gull Island, May 8, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    COTE courtship feeding was observed; no tern nest scrapes were observed

    Common Tern, Gull Island, May 8, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Common Tern, Gull Island, May 8, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    Arctic Tern, Gull Island, May 8, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Arctic Tern, Gull Island, May 8, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    May 14, 2018 - North Brother and Gull Island.

    This morning, four of us left Abbott's Harbour at 9 am first to go to North Brother to service the trail cameras and then to Gull Island to finish documentation of the gull nests as well as general tern colony observation.

    We were, Manon Holmes. Nick Knutson, Aldric d'Entremont, and me.

    The morning started with a cool overcast but became warmer and sunnier by 11 am.

    Only about 60 terns at N Brother with no presence of Roseates. Nick and Manon counted about 10 nest scrapes in the brown topsoil at the south end of the island. A pair of Common Terns were seen copulating here. There were another 6 or so scrapes along the northwest.

    We then motored to Gull Island. Nick counted four Ravens or Crows there when we arrived.

    Nick an Manon worked on finishing the documentation of the gull nests. They recorded a total of 44 gull nests on the island. All of them are believed to be Great Black-backed Gull (GBBG). One nest contained 4 eggs.

    There were two Canada Goose nests seen on Gull Island last week. Today, when we first saw the first nest, it contained one gosling and 5 eggs in the process of hatching. 90 minutes later, as we were leaving the island, it contained 5 hatchlings plus one egg in the process of hatching; the second nest was empty but no goslings to be seen. I fear with the overwhelming presence of GBBG on the island, the gulls had likely taken the goslings. We also saw a few COEI nests with pieces of egg shell in and near the nests, but no presence of ducklings.

    Canada Goose nest, Gull Island, May 14, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Canada Goose nest, Gull Island, May 14, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    The top of the beacon, Gull Island, May 14, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    The top of the beacon, Gull Island, May 14, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    The terns: I am afraid it looks grim! Only 15 to 20 terns at Gull Island (last week it was 50). The terns which were there remained in the air all the time we were there. I didn't see any on the ground. There were two ROST in the group although they just showed up when we were almost ready to leave.

    I did observe a COTE capture a fish from the pond on two occasions, indicating there were fish in there. Some of the terns seen were carrying fish.

    We found two dead terns; one was decapitated COTE with its severed head, one wing, a bunch of feathers and no body; the other was just a bunch of tern feathers, including wing feathers. It is possible that the "second tern" was actually the missing body and wing of the first tern.

    Depredated COTE, Gull Island, May 14, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Depredated COTE, Gull Island, May 14, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    Manon, Aldric, and Nick, Gull Island, May 14, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Manon, Aldric, and Nick, Gull Island, May 14, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    Nick set up a trail camera looking east, above the southwest corner of the pond and overlooking a Common Eider nest.

    Nick Knutson setting up a trail camera, Gull Island, May 14, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Nick Knutson setting up a trail camera, Gull Island, May 14, 2018 - Ted D'Eon photo

    I checked the trail camera photos from N Brother (the most northerly camera looking south) and was surprised to see more tern activity than I was expecting from our visit there, and there were very few gulls. Perhaps it is not all the doom and gloom I felt when we were there, but I still don't think it looks great for either colony, North Brother or Gull Island. Very disappointing!

    We were back at Abbott's Harbour by 12:15 pm.

    May 16, 2018 Gull Island is 8 km directly west of my house. On a clear morning with good atmospheric conditions and with the aid of a spotting scope, I can see terns when they are flying over the island. This morning, I could see a flock of up to 100 or so, whenever they would take off as a group.

    Perhaps, the colony is in a better condition than seemed to be apparent there on May 14. I certainly hope so!


    Marine Chart of Lobster Bay, Nova Scotia

    Click on the chart to enlarge.

    Ted C. D'Eon

    P.O. Box 14
    Middle West Pubnico
    Nova Scotia B0W 2M0
    Canada
    phone (home)1-902-762-2097
             (cellular)1-902-749-6883

    E-Mail to: ted509@gmail.com © Ted C. D'Eon, 2018