TERN REPORT - 2019 - Ted C. D'Eon
LOBSTER BAY - SOUTHWEST NOVA SCOTIA


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

    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.

    In 2017, 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, most of the terns left; gulls and crows finished off the colony.

    By early July 2017, 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.

    In 2018, we don't believe The Brothers fledged any chicks. On June 16, 2018, there were 74 tern nests (including 2 ROST nests) on North Brother; later in the season the nests were gone as well as the nesting terns.

    Gull Island did a lot better, even though we had not deployed any ROST nesting shelters, on June 16, 2019, we counted 317 tern nests, including 27 ROST nests. Eventually, we had 35 or 37 ROST nests. The last 2 may have been a second attempt at nesting.

    I don't have a firm number on productivity, but I think it was "half decent"; there was a lot of predation by GBBG when the tern chicks were almost fledged.


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

    My work on these islands is done in cooperation with Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) and the Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forestry (NSDLF).

    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 2019 work with terns of the Lobster Bay area in general, but in particular, with the Roseate Terns (ROST) of Gull Island and The Brothers. The report also includes tern observations from other professionals and university students working on these islands, as well as observations from local residents.

    March 29, 2019 - We had the good fortune of getting the Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forestry (NSDLF) helicopter for most of the day to remove old, washed up lobster traps and other debris/garbage from Gull Island. The helicopter also transported my disassembled plywood blind to the island in one of the transits.

    It removed from the island 53 lobster traps, a few buoys and balloons, rope, plastic bottles, and other general garbage. Some pile of stuff! A great job by the NSDLF crew and their superb pilot!

    My job was to unload the cargo nets and trailer their contents away for later disposal in the municipal dump.

    My assistants (No, we didn't get to go in the helicopter) were Nigel D'Eon, Missie D'Eon, and Alix d'Entremont. Thank you all!

    See photos below:

    NS Dept of Lands and Forestry helicopter - Abbott's Harbour, NS, March 29, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    NS Dept of Lands and Forestry helicopter - Abbott's Harbour, NS, March 29, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    The Gull Island Cleanup - Abbott's Harbour, NS, March 29, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    The Gull Island Cleanup - Abbott's Harbour, NS, March 29, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    The Gull Island Cleanup - Abbott's Harbour, NS, March 29, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    The Gull Island Cleanup - Abbott's Harbour, NS, March 29, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    The Gull Island Cleanup - Abbott's Harbour, NS, March 29, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    The Gull Island Cleanup - Abbott's Harbour, NS, March 29, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    The Gull Island Cleanup - Abbott's Harbour, NS, March 29, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    The Gull Island Cleanup - Abbott's Harbour, NS, March 29, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    The Gull Island Cleanup with Nigel, Missie, and Alix - Abbott's Harbour, NS, March 29, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    The Gull Island Cleanup with Nigel, Missie, and Alix - Abbott's Harbour, NS, March 29, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    The Gull Island Cleanup - Abbott's Harbour, NS, March 29, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    The Gull Island Cleanup - Abbott's Harbour, NS, March 29, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    The Gull Island Cleanup - March 29, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    The Gull Island Cleanup - March 29, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    The Gull Island Cleanup - March 29, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    Bird bones in one of the Gull Island lobster traps - March 29, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Bird bones in one of the Gull Island lobster traps - March 29, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    April 18, 2019 - A very disappointing morning! All my fault!

    With the crew of Andrew D'Eon and Terry Bourque, I planned my first trip to Gull Island to drop off my 500 lb concrete anchor block near the island, and to take 50 Roseate Tern (ROST) shelters ashore, as well as my disassembled platform for the plywood blind which I constructed years ago and never used.

    Anyway, I got the boat in the water but I couldn't get it started! It would turn over but not start. I had had it to the mechanic the day before for an oil change, etc., and the motor was working perfectly.

    I tried 2 more batteries but still no luck with the motor, so I scrapped the day to the island and trailered the boat and motor back to the mechanic's.

    He quickly diagnosed the problem. I have a memory problem (I have had it for years)!

    With the ignition key, there is a plastic clip which is supposed to be attached to the "kill" switch; it wasn't attached thereby preventing the motor from starting!

    I just hadn't clued in.

    Ted

    April 19, 2019 - A single tern was seen at Abbott's Harbour by Daryl Amirault and Herbert Nickerson.

    April 24, 2019 - Aldric D'Eon reported seeing a tern 46 nautical miles west of Pubnico Point.

    April 24, 2019 - We try again. This time with crew, Professor Shawn Craik (Université Sainte Anne), Shawn's student, Kristen Noel, and Missie D'Eon.

    The boat was loaded down.

    Loaded down boat - April 24, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Loaded down boat - April 24, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    Kristen and Shawn dropping anchor - April 24, 2019 - Missie D'Eon photo
    Kristen and Shawn dropping anchor - April 24, 2019 - Missie D'Eon photo

    The stuff we brought ashore on Gull Island - April 24, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    The stuff we brought ashore on Gull Island - April 24, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    Kristen and Shawn setting up Common Eider nesting shelters on Gull Island - April 24, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Kristen and Shawn setting up Common Eider nesting shelters on Gull Island - April 24, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    A Canada Goose nest on Gull Island - April 24, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    A Canada Goose nest on Gull Island - April 24, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    Shawn documenting the Canada Goose nest; Gull Island - April 24, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Shawn documenting the Canada Goose nest; Gull Island - April 24, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    Disassembled blind brought earlier to the island by helicopter; Gull Island - April 24, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Disassembled blind brought earlier to the island by helicopter; Gull Island - April 24, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    A young Grey Seal; Gull Island - April 24, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    A young Grey Seal (I think we caught it sleeping on the beach); Gull Island - April 24, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    April 25, 2019 - Another helicopter day!

    Pam Mills of the NS Dept. of Lands and Forestry (NSDLF) arranged for their helicopter to be used to transport a wide array materials and equipment to Gull Island. This included 2 plywood blinds, including the mounting bases, 2 sound systems run by solar panels and 4 very heavy batteries, and a pretty sophisticated weather station. The helicopter also transported the crew (us) to the island to begin the assembly of everything. We had the use of the helicopter for 5 or 6 hours and we accomplished a lot, Even the pilot was working with us, wherever he could lend a hand.

    Pam's 2 blinds and the platform for my blind were set up and so was the weather station. Our time ran out before the sound systems were operational. The sound systems would be used to squawk out tern colony sounds in order to entice passing terns to settle down and nest.

    The crew consisted of Pam Mills, Julie McKnight, Shawn Craik, Nick Knutson, Kristen Noel, Justin Amero (NSDLF),Jason Airst (NSDLF), Adil Smith (pilot), and me.

    See photos below:

    Some of the crew: Pam, Julie, Justin, Shawn, Nick, and Kristen - Abbott's Harbour - April 25, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Some of the crew: Pam, Julie, Justin, Shawn, Nick, and Kristen - Abbott's Harbour - April 25, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    Adil, Pam, and Jason - Abbott's Harbour - April 25, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Adil, Pam, and Jason - Abbott's Harbour - April 25, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    Justin and Pam - Abbott's Harbour - April 25, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Justin and Pam - Abbott's Harbour - April 25, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    Shawn and Nick heading out to Gull Island - Abbott's Harbour - April 25, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Shawn and Nick heading out to Gull Island - Abbott's Harbour - April 25, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    Julie, working on the sound systems - Gull Island - April 25, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Julie, working on the sound systems - Gull Island - April 25, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    The 2 blinds and the platform - Gull Island - April 25, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    The 2 blinds and the platform - Gull Island - April 25, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    The helicopter - Gull Island - April 25, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    The helicopter - Gull Island - April 25, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    A selfie of me and Pam, on our way back to Abbott's Harbour - April 25, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    A selfie of me and Pam, on our way back to Abbott's Harbour - April 25, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    April 26, 2019 - Lobster fisherman, Edouard D'Eon, reported seeing terns near The Brothers.

    April 30, 2019 - Gull Island

    The crew this time: Julie McKnight, Nick Knutson, Natalie Thimot. and Matthew Deagle.

    We had a long day! We left Abbott's Harbour around 8:45am and got back to the wharf around 5:15pm (with no time for breaks)!

    With all the wind we had had, I was concerned to see if the plywood blinds and platform, and the weather station were still in place; they were all fine; just as we had left them.

    Julie got the sound systems working properly while Matthew and I assembled my plywood blind on the top of the the platform.

    Nick, Natalie, and Matthew worked at setting up the Roseate Tern (ROST) nesting shelters.

    Once the above had been taken care of, a sweep of the island was undertook to document and destroy Great Black-backed Gull (GBBG) nests. Nests containing 2 or 3 eggs were destroyed (under permit); those containing only one egg were left alone for the moment. 39 GBBG nests were destroyed.

    One (I think just one) Common Eider (COEI) nest containing 3 eggs was found; it was not in any of the man-made shelters.

    The Canada Goose nest had been depredated, presumably by GBBG.

    Some photos below:

    Natalie and Nick setting up ROST nesting shelters on Gull Island - April 30, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Natalie and Nick setting up ROST nesting shelters on Gull Island - April 30, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    Julie working on one of the sound systems - Gull Island - April 30, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Julie working on one of the sound systems - Gull Island - April 30, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    The weather system - Gull Island - April 30, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    The weather system (looking south) - Gull Island - April 30, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    The southwest corner of Gull Island - April 30, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    The southwest corner of Gull Island (looking to the east) - April 30, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    The three plywood observation blinds - Gull Island - April 30, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    The three plywood observation blinds - Gull Island - April 30, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    The crew: Nick, Matthew, Natalie, and Julie - April 30, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    The crew: Nick, Matthew, Natalie, and Julie - April 30, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    May 1, 2019 Ben Morton's cousin, a lobster fisherman, reported seeing a tern near Whitehead (a few km to the east of Gull Island).

    May 6, 2019 - A bummer of a trip to Gull Island.

    We had an easterly wind, but I thought we would be able to land on the island.

    I motored there okay, but with the wind and swell, it would have been dangerous to try a landing on Gull Island.

    We could hear the sound system so we assumed it to be working fine.

    Crew: Julie McKnight. Nick Knutson, Natalie Thimot, and Matthew Deagle.

    May 7, 2019 - Gull Island. A much better day than yesterday.

    9 terns seen but they seemed to be just passing through: 6 of unidentified species, 2 Common Terns (COTE), and 1 Arctic Tern (ARTE).

    Gull Island looking to the south - May 7, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Gull Island (looking to the south) - May 7, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    Early this morning, I was scoping Gull Island from my house (it's 8 km away) and thought I could see terns dive bombing something on there. I said to my wife that the terns looked rather large and looked more like gulls. I figured atmospheric conditions were the cause.

    At the tern nesting area on Gull Island, we found the culprit; a Snowy Owl! It was being dive bombed by Great Black-backed Gulls! That must have been what I was seeing from home.

    The Snowy Owl - Gull Island - May 7, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    The Snowy Owl - Gull Island - May 7, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    Later on that day, the Snowy Owl was chased away from Gull Island towards Wedgeport by a mob of GBBG.

    The crew today: Nick Knutson, Natalie Thimot, and Matthew Deagle.

    Natalie, Matthew, and Nick - Gull Island - May 7, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Natalie, Matthew, and Nick - Gull Island - May 7, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    More was done work the ROST shelters; mainly adding finer gravel inside as a better substrate to nest on.

    Nick and Matthew - Gull Island - May 7, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Nick and Matthew - Gull Island - May 7, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    Matthew, Nick, and Natalie on the south beach - Gull Island - May 7, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Matthew, Nick, and Natalie on the "south" beach - Gull Island - May 7, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    As a deterrent to gulls roosting on the plywood blinds, Nick attached chicken wire to the top of the middle blind. Minutes later, a GBBG was sitting on the chicken wire, as if laughing at us.

    Nick, attaching the chicken wire - Gull Island - May 7, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Nick, attaching the chicken wire - Gull Island - May 7, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    The Gull on the wire - Gull Island - May 7, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    The Gull on the wire - Gull Island - May 7, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    I attached monofilament netting to the top of my blind to see if that would work as a deterrent. While we were on the island, we didn't see ant gulls using it as a perch, but after I got home, I think I saw a gull on there.

    The monofilament netting - Gull Island - May 7, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    The monofilament netting - Gull Island - May 7, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    The monofilament netting on the roof of the blind - Gull Island - May 7, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    The monofilament netting on the roof of the blind - Gull Island - May 7, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    At least 2 COEI nests have been depredated; neither was in a man-made shelter.

    The crew documenting a COEI nest - Gull Island - May 7, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    The crew documenting a COEI nest - Gull Island - May 7, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    A depredated Common Eider nest - Gull Island - May 7, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    A depredated Common Eider nest - Gull Island - May 7, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    Now, a total of 39 GBBG nests have been destroyed under permit (leaving 21 GBBG nests containing 1 or 2 eggs untouched, with still more to come)!

    May 7, 2019 - A local lobster fisherman (Graham D'Eon) reported 30 "terns" above The Brothers this morning.

    May 8, 2019 - I scoped The Brothers (from the end of Pond Rd,) this morning but saw no tern activity there. I did see 3 COTE in Pubnico Harbour, by just driving by.

    May 13, 2019 - Gull Island with Nick Knutson, Natalie Thimot, and Matthew Deagle.

    I "planted" a Seabird Nesting Island sign at the north end of the island (near to where we land), while Nick, Natalie, and Matthew began the GBBG and COEI nest survey.

    A flock of 18 terns flew over but did not stay. After that we saw a few small groups of 2 or 3.

    The Seabird Nesting Island sign - Gull Island - May 13, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    The Seabird Nesting Island sign - Gull Island - May 13, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    Nick measuring GBBG eggs - Gull Island - May 13, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Nick measuring GBBG eggs - Gull Island - May 13, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    Nick and Natalie collecting data - Gull Island - May 13, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Nick and Natalie collecting data - Gull Island - May 13, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    Photo above: The gizmo Nick has on his head is a GPS antenna for an exact location of the nests. These are all charted for later analysis.

    A COEI egg laid in a GBBG nest - Gull Island - May 13, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    A COEI egg laid in a GBBG nest - Gull Island - May 13, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    Photo above: I have seen this before on The Brothers; I have also seen gull eggs laid in COEI nests. Ted

    Two beautiful COEI nests - Gull Island - May 13, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Two beautiful COEI nests - Gull Island - May 13, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    We found almost as many (or more) depredated COEI nests as those which were still intact!

    Depredated COEI nest - Gull Island - May 13, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    Depredated COEI nest - Gull Island - May 13, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    Still no COEI nests in the man-made shelters.

    The netting I placed on the top of my plywood blind as a deterrent to birds roosting there is not working.

    My Plywood blind - Gull Island - May 13, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    My Plywood blind - Gull Island - May 13, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    GBBG - a little too comfortable on the netting - Gull Island - May 13, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    GBBG - a little too comfortable on the netting - Gull Island - May 13, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    The crew - Matthew, Natalie, and Nick - Gull Island - May 13, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo
    The crew - Matthew, Natalie, and Nick - Gull Island - May 13, 2019 - Ted D'Eon photo

    May 15, 2019 - Scoping Gull Island between bouts of rain and fog, I believe the plywood blind farther to the south may be down. Yesterday afternoon, we had a lot of wind from the northeast. It may have done some damage.

    May 16, 2019 - Scoping Gull Island again from my house this morning at 7:00am. Definitely a bunch of terns flying around the tern nesting area! Nice to see!

    May 19, 2019 - From Shawn Craik dated, May 20. 2019:

    Natalie, Matthew, Nick, and I made a trip to Gull Island yesterday (May 19) with the taxi service of Ben Morton. We spent about four hours on the island undertaking observations and infrastructure maintenance. Here is a summary of highlights/observations:

    - on arrival to the island, we counted at least 200 terns flying around the North and South colony sites (including at least 2 ROST)

    - courtship feeding observed for COTE/ARTE

    - a number of what seemed to be tern nest-bowl scrapes were observed in the North colony site

    - about 80 GBBG and 12 HERG adults observed on the island upon our arrival (similar to counts during the last visit)

    - 12 new gull nests found (now up to a total of 100 gull nests for the year), so perhaps we have passed peak first nest initiation for GBBG

    - contents of all gull nests containing 2 or 3 eggs or that were otherwise near the tern colony site were destroyed (under CWS permit)

    - significant gull predation observed at eider nests, some of which is the result of our presence (gulls take eggs after we flush eiders from their nest)

    - the southern blind had fallen over, and likely due to a strong north wind; we repositioned the blind and added guy-wires

    - the two sound systems and weather station were operating

    Thanks Shawn; great work, all of you!

    May 20, 2019 - Alix d'Entremont reported seeing about 130 terns at North Brother this morning.



    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, 2019