TERN REPORT - 1996 Ted C. D'Eon

  • 1995 Tern Report
  • 1997 Tern Report

    April 1, 1996 - I went to the Northern Brother to check out the condition of the island, and of my Roseate Tern nesting boxes and other shelters. We had had an extreme high tide, not accompanied by any storm, in late 1995. There had been heavy erosion along the coast of the mainland and I expected some structures would be washed out.

    It was very bad. Most of the larger shelters (like the dory bottom) were almost totally burried in beach rock and gravel. One of my 10 nest boxed was also partially burried. Eight more were washed out from where they had been placed, but were still on the island (mostly in the central depression). There was one I could not find.

    April 5, 1996 - Returned to N. Brother with my son, Nigel. We used a shovel to dig out some of the shelters. Most of the Roseate Tern nesting area has been raised by about 15cm (6 inches) by the high tides washing in beach rocks and gravel. The last time this area of beach had such a change was on Feb. 2, 1976, "The Ground-Hog Day Storm". This storm created much havoc all along the Bay of Fundy.

    Nigel found my missing nesting box. Some gravel which washed up onto the grass to the south of the present Roseate Tern nesting area may provide additional space for placement of new nesting structures.

    Nigel collected almost three garbage bags full of glass soft drink bottles redeemable at the recycling depot for 5 cents each. The island is littered with washed up flotsam and jetsam.

    Most of the Bank Swallow nesting burrows were also washed out by the high tides. I used a battery powered drill with a spade drill bit to make some starting holes in the turf layer. This may/may not help the swallows. Time will tell.

    April 27, 1996 - Nigel and I returned to N. Brother with 6 old tires. We had drilled some drainage holes on the sidewalls and we wedged open the tires with available rocks and placed them adjacent to the old Roseate tern colony. There were a few other tires on the island and we did the same with them.

    The idea for using tires as Roseate Tern nesting structures came from THE FALKNER ISLAND TERN PROJECT, by Jeffrey A. Spendelow - U.S. National Biological Service, March 1995 ("http://www.mbr.nbs.gov/mbr/tern1.htm"), and a photo labelled "Artificial tern nesting sites on Falkner Island" ("http://www.mbr.nbs.gov/mbr/tires.htm").

    Most of the old nesting structures were placed in position for the Roseate Terns' arrival. No terns have been reported yet.

    May 2, 1996 - I have had several reports of the terns' arrival to N. Brother. 100 to 200 in number from lobster fishermen, Robert Nickerson, Edouard D'Eon, and Douglas Surette.

    May 3, 1996 - The terns seemed to have moved on.

    May 11, 1996 - Nigel and I returned to N. Brother in VERY thick fog. Great to have a "Loran" aboard the boat! We brought 4 more 16"x16" Roseate Tern shelters and 2 more tires. There were approximately 150 terns. The fog was so thick I could only identify the species by sound. ALL 3 SPECIES WERE THERE! There was at least 1 Roseate there, probably more. We also placed a N.S. Dept. of Natural Resources "Tern Colony" sign on the north-eastern corner of the island.

    There was no evidence of gull nests and no signs of bank swallows yet.

    May 14, 1996 - Brought 7 tires and 4 16" x 16" Roseate Tern nesting shelters to île Ferrée in Pubnico Harbour. No terns near the tiny island yet. There was, however, 1 nest of Common Eider with 4 eggs.

    May 19, 1996 - Calm morning. Removed 3 Herring Gull nests from S. Brother (2 with 3 eggs, 1 with 2 eggs). Eggs appeared unincubated upon destruction. No tern nests; however some tern presence in the area.

    Upon my arrival to N. Brother, a crow was chased away by a mob of terns. No gull nests here. Some scrapings in the grassy area may be beginnings of tern nests. Terns not settled yet. Only about 200 terns total. The Arctic Terns may all be here, but there are many more Commons and Roseates yet to come. No Bank Swallows yet. On S. Brother there was a Common Eider nest with 5 eggs; on N. Brother, one with 3 cool eggs and very little down. Also on N. brother, 2 Spotted Sandpipers, probably nesting.

    I returned to N. Brother in the afternoon to try to get a better idea of the number of Roseate Terns since I was not sure I heard any that morning. I observed the terns for about 1 hour from my boat and could not confirm more than one Roseate Tern.

    There was one pair of Commons mating, and at least 1 Arctic was carrying a courtship fish.

    May 21, 1996 - The Bank Swallows are back to N. Brother. I could see them with the spotting scope, from the mainland, about 1 km away. Also, more terns have arrived. Probably about 350 in total now on the island. I could not identify any more Roseate Terns from the mainland; the distance to the terns is just too great.

    May 23, 1996 - Lobster fisherman, Réal d'Entremont, reported the most terns he has seen on N. Brother. He said there must be a good thousand there.

    May 27, 1996 - Made a quick visit to N. Brother with Avelin Amirault. A quick nest count revealed 60 Common or Arctic Tern nests, and 1 Roseate Tern nest with 1 egg, under a 16" x 16" shelter which had been provided by the N.S Department of Natural Resources. The egg felt cold to the touch.

    The number of Roseates still appears lower than it should. The most I counted at any one time was 5 or 6, though I know the actual number is higher. I did not see the Common Eider nest.

    We then continued to The Thrum where there is a small colony of Common and Arctic terns. We did not go ashore.

    June 2, 1996 - A short excursion into Pubnico Harbour, with Andrew D'Eon as crew. We first went to île Ferrée to check out any tern activity since I place the shelters there. There was none. The Eider nest had been looted, most probably by gulls. Andrew found some eider egg shell pieces a few metres from the nest.

    On île Chespêque (still in Pubnico Harbour), we found 10 Comon or Arctic Tern nests and 3 or 4 Great Black-backed Gull nests. There were two piles of tern feathers from what appeared to be owl predation. One pile of feathers was about 20cm from a tern nest. One of the 3 eggs in this nest was cracked and spoiled. The other 2 felt too hot to the touch to be viable. Nearby, Andrew found a breast feather of a Great Horned Owl, more than likely the calling card of the perpetrator.

    On a tiny (unnamed?) island farther up the Pubnico Harbour, we found 2 more tern nests, making our count a total of 12. Last year, the count was 4 (3 on île Chespêque and 1 on the tiny island).

    June 15, 1996 - Lester D'Eon and Kendrick d'Entremont went to île Chespêque. They reported 12 tern nests including what appeared to be 2 Roseate Tern nests and Roseate Tern presence over the island. Some tern nests have been built below the high water mark and have been destroyed by the tide. There are also 5 gull nests now on the island.

    Lance D'Eon reported 35 tern nests on the northeast section of The Thrum.

    June 16, 1996 - Census Day on N. Brother (*S. Brother was checked June 18/96)

    554 tern nests on N. Brother, including 35 Roseate tern nests. 12 tern nests on S. Brother (June 18/96).


           Jun 7/90 Jun 11/91 Jun 11/92 Jun 9/93 Jun 8/94 Jun 14/95 Jun 16/96*
    N. Brother  302       441       413      367      380       457       554
    S. Brother   28        13         0        0        0         0        12
         TOTAL  330       454       413      367      380       457       566
               - Out of those 566 nests, 36 are of Roseate Terns.
                 9 Roseate Tern nest boxes are being used.
                   (6 with 1 egg, 3 with 2 eggs)
                13  Roseate nests are under other shelters.
                   (all single eggs)
                 9 Roseate nests are under vegetation.
                   (2 with 1 egg, 7 with 2 eggs)
                 5 Roseate nests are in the open.
                   (3 with 1 egg, 2 with 2 eggs)

    Two gentlemen from Oregon, Paul Sherrell and Don S???, helped Nigel and me with the census. The reason for this delayed count was due to a week of rain, fog, and general weather too cold and wet to risk disturbing the nesting terns. One Herring Gull nest with 1 egg was destroyed.

    June 18, 1996 - Darlene Friedman, a veterinarian from Michigan, and I went to S. Brother to check on tern activity. We found 12 tern nests, 5 Common Eider nests, and 4 Herring Gull nests. No hatchlings of any kind. The gull nests and eggs are destroyed. Many active Bank Swallow burrows. There was some Roseate Tern presence over the island, but all the tern nests appear either Common or Arctic Tern.

    June 22, 1996 - Gannet Rock with Lester and Lance D'Eon. We found 7 Arctic Tern nests with eggs. There were no tern chicks. We also found 6 Black Guillemot nests and lots of Harbour Seals.

    June 24, 1996 - On our way to Pinch Gut Island (a.k.a. "île-aux-maringoins"), Andrew D'Eon and I stopped on Inner Fish Island, to the east of Wedgeport, to check out a Double-crested Cormorant colony. We found 78 nests; from eggs and newly hatched to birds almost the side of the parents. There were signs of gull predation on the eggs and more than likely, on the chicks also, on the group of nests located above the northeastern beach. The second group of nests was about 25 metres farther inland and in a much better condition. All the cormorant nests were built on the ground, as the island is treeless.

    On Pinch Gut I. we counted 125 tern nests; very few hatchlings yet. The colony was made up of mostly Common Terns. There were very few Arctic and no Roseate Terns. Had we counted the nests 2 weeks earlier, it is quite probable there would have been as many as in 1995 (165 nests).

    One puzzling thing, though. There was a duck's nest with 7 eggs, the size and colour of chicken eggs, with some down and vegetable matter. The incubating duck made its way under the vegetation to the edge of the turf and then flew off at my approach. On landing in the water, it dove right in and emerged 50 meters away. It had a fair amount of white on the wing as it flew away and on emerging from the water appeared to have the thin bill of a merganser. Pinch Gut is at the mouth of the Tusket River, and there are Common Mergansers regularly seen higher up the river in the spring. I wonder if this could be a nest of a Common Merganser. Last year there was a similar nest in close proximity to this one; I had perhaps misidentified it as a Black Duck's.

    Then to Holmes Island where the tern situation was disappointing. There were perhaps 20 Arctic Terns; no Common, and no Roseate Terns. We found only 4 nests on the beach at the eastern edge of the island. We moved 12 Roseate Tern nest boxes from the higher ground to the eastern beach.

    June 28, 1996 - Roseate Tern nest count - Northern Brother's I. Accompanied by Jean Bernard d'Entremont.

    ROSEATE TERN STATISTICS as of June 28, 1996:

    June 16/96 June 28/96 ---------------------- ---------------------------------- No. ID Nest Location Eggs Nest Status NORTHERN BROTHER 1 1 nest box 1 1 bad egg 2 2 vegetation 2 not recorded 3 3 vegetation 2 2 eggs 4 4 nest box 1 1 chick 5 5 vegetation 2 egg(s) hatched, no chick found 6 6 vegetation 2 2 eggs 7 7 nest box 1 1 chick 8 8 nest box 1 1 egg 9 9 under crate top 1 1 egg 10 10 under shelter 1 1 egg 11 11 under shelter 1 1 egg 12 12 nest box 2 1 egg & 1 chick 13 13 nest box 2 not recorded 14 14 nest box 2 not recorded 15 15 dory bottom 1 1 egg 16 16 dory bottom 1 1 egg 17 17 dory bottom 1 1 chick 18 18 dory bottom 1 1 chick 19 19 vegetation 1 not recorded 20 20 vegetation 1 1 chick 21 21 natural shelter 1 1 chick 22 22 under a crate 1 1 chick 23 23 nest box 1 1 egg 24 23*under a crate 1 1 egg (*the number "23" was used twice) 25 24 nest box 1 1 egg 26 25 vegetation 1 2 eggs 27 26 vegetation 2 not recorded 28 27 open 1 1 egg 29 28 open 1 nest empty, 1 Common Tern chick nearby 30 29 vegetation 2 not recorded 31 30 open 2 not recorded 32 31 vegetation 2 not recorded 33 32 under a crate 1 1 chick 34 33 open 2 not recorded 35 34 under plywood 1 1 egg 36 35 under plywood 1 empty eggshell 37 vegetation n/a 1 egg 38 next to veg. n/a 1 egg 39 adj.to nst.box n/a 1 egg (no nest made) 40 under plywood n/a 1 egg 41 next to veg. n/a 1 egg 42 next to veg. n/a 1 egg 43 nest box n/a 1 egg 44 open n/a 2 eggs 45 open n/a 2 eggs 46 open n/a 1 chick 47 open n/a 1 egg SOUTHERN BROTHER 48 open n/a 1 chick

    Total 48 Roseate Tern nests - 11 chicks - A NEW RECORD

               - Breakdown - 10 in nest boxes
                              4 under dory bottom.
                             10 under other cover
                             11 under vegetation
                             13 in the open
    One of the Roseate chicks was perhaps 10 days old; the other 10 were a few days old, maximum.


    Jun/90 Jun 23/91 Jun 18/92 Jun 20/93 Jul 12/94 Jun 22/95 Jun 28/96 ?? 20 23 30 34 33 48
    Note: For the first time in my life I have been physically attacked by the terns. With my unprotected balding head looking down finding and recording Roseate Tern nests, a Common Tern attacked the top of my head 7 or 8 times with its bill. Some blood was drawn and the bruises are clearly visible.

    On S. Brother there was a total of 15 tern nests, including the Roseate nest. There were also 2 gull nests with chicks which had been missed on June 18. My gull nest-control permit from Canadian Wildlife Service does not allow me to do anything with gull chicks and they were not disturbed. Eventhough there was one Roseate Tern nest with chick, on the island, we did not see nor hear any adult Roseate Terns above us on this visit.

    June 30, 1996 - Nigel and I found no tern activity nor presence on île Ferrée. We found 5 tern nests on île Chespêque. Only one of the nests contains eggs which appeared to be viable. There were only Common Terns, about 15, high above us, over the island.

    July 8, 1996 - Andrew D'Eon and I went to N. Brother for a quick check. We found the vegetation very thick and tall and we only checked out the more accessible Roseate Tern nesting structures. We found several dead, young Roseates. Under the dory bottom, there was 1 dead Roseate which appeared only a few days old when it died. There was also a 2 week old Roseate which scurried away under the vegetation. We found another 2 week old chick and one almost ready to fly.

    July 18, 1996 - I returned alone to the Brothers. There were no tern chicks nor tern eggs on S. Brother. There were a few terns in the air above the island when I first landed, but they soon disappeared.

    On N. Brother there were still plenty of terns. Some washed out eggs and dead chicks were also present. The last 3 or 4 weeks with heavy rains and overcast skies have had a definite negative impact on the hatching and fledgeling success. However, there was still tern activity. Adults were bringing food, and I even saw an adult Roseate Tern scurrying under a plywood structure where I had seen an unhatched egg.

    July 25, 1996 - I returned to N. Brother; this time with Peter MacDonald of the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources. There were very few Roseate Terns, and a good number of Common Terns appeared to be gone. The percentage of Arctics on the island could be as high as 50%. We found only a few dead terns, a couple of them appeared fully fledged. We did not see any dead adults.

    OF GREAT NOTE is that when I lifted the plywood cover where I had seen a Roseate Tern going under on July 18 to, assumably, incubate a egg, we found one 2 or 3 day old Roseate Tern chick. It appeared in good condition. Also of note was the number of Butterfish (Peprilus triacanthus), a.k.a. "Dollarfish". In the few places we checked for Roseate tern nests under the vegetation we found some feeding stops with up to a dozen or so uneaten Butterfish. A rough estimate of uneaten Butterfish on the island would certainly run in the hundreds, and possibly over 1000, if the island was properly surveyed for these small fish. In years past, I have seen young tern chicks with an inability to swallow these fish, because of their deep ventral/dorsal aspect; perhaps the reason for so many left uneaten. Many of these fish also appeared relatively fresh.

    August 3, 1996 - Nigel and I returned to N. Brother. We remained in the boat. There were still perhaps 150 Arctic and Common Terns there. Some of this year's successes were flying. We ddid not see nor hear any Roseates.

    August 12, 1996 - N. Brother again, this time with the Gunters of Minto, New Brunswick, and Nigel. Only 2 terns were seen. One Common Tern was flying and calling above the island. Upon checking under the piece of plywood where a 2 or 3 day old Roseate chick was found on July 25, there was a young pre-fledgeling Roseate Tern chick. If this was the same bird it would make it about 20 days old, and still perhaps 4 or 5 days short of fledgeing. This chick was photographed both on July 25 and August 12. Since the only adult tern in the area was a Common, I question if it was feeding the Roseate chick. Upon capture, the chick did spit out partially digested parts of 3 small fish, possibly Herring. The Roseate chick appeared healthy, but not quite ready for flight.

    October 14, 1996 - I have been told the owner of "The Thrum" has been putting up a building in this tiny island.


    1996 had the highest number, 554, of nesting terns on N. Brother since I have been keeping statistics. S. Brother, in 1996, had 12 tern nests, including, for the first time, 1 Roseate Tern nest. The number of Roseate nests, at 48, was the highest ever seen on the Brothers. The number of tern nests in Pubnico Harbour also increased, this year.

    During the first part of the nesting season, herring brit were very plentiful. Towards the end of the season, herring became less abundant and a large number of Butterfish, (Peprilus triacanthus), were being brought to the N. Brother tern colony, where a large number of these remained uneaten due to their wide size. Most probably the Butterfish had a negative impact on the number of fledgelings.

    Several gull nests had to be removed from both of the Brothers in 1996.

    The aquaculture site adjacent to N. Brother had again, this year, no negative impact on the success of the tern colony.

    Several periods of heavy rain and overcast skies from the latter part of June to mid-July have had a definite negative impact on the hatching and fledgeling success. However, to a certain extent, some stormy weather during the nesting season is seen almost every year, and 1996 was no worse than most. Some chicks always fall prey to the weather.

    The Bank Swallows did use some of the nesting burrows I started with my battery powered electric drill on The Brothers in April.

    The use of old car tires as Roseate Tern nest shelters was not successful in 1996. My plan is that in 1997 they will be half burried into the beach gravel at about a 45 degree angle with the part above the gravel propped open with sticks or stones.

    Pinch Gut I. seems eo be holding its own as a tern colony, however, the one on Holmes I. is pretty well abandonned.

    All in all, a pretty decent nesting season.

    For best results, my pages should be viewed with Netscape 2.0 or greater


    Ted C. D'Eon

    P.O. Box 100
    West Pubnico
    Nova Scotia  B0W 3S0
    phone (home)1-902-762-2097
          (FAX) 1-902-762-2885
    Send E-Mail to: deonted@fox.nstn.ca

    Return to Ted's page

    © Ted C. D'Eon, 1996