Another Appledore gull was found nesting on Smuttynose! Shailee Shah, a Cornell undergraduate, discovered the gull while collecting data for her summer project at the Shoals Lab. Shailee is an “Ornithology Intern” at the lab and, as such, is conducting an independent research project while also monitoring Herring Gull nests as part of our long-term studies of Appledore gulls. For her independent project, Shailee is working with Dr. David Bonter (of Project FeederWatch fame), to study the “Yeow” call of Herring Gulls. Shailee explains her project and how she stumbled upon (not literally, thankfully) the banded Herring Gull on Smuttynose:
I’m conducting playback experiments involving Herring Gull “yeow” calls where I’m trying to see if they respond differently to what I think are two different kinds of yeow calls — high urgency and low urgency. Hence I was stalking Herring Gull nests on Smuttynose to see if I could find some that hadn’t hatched yet in order to conduct playbacks on the incubating parents. The project is really interesting because we’re only just beginning to realize that birds can encode much more information in their songs calls than just a simple “look out!” or “I am sexy;” for example, information about the kind of predator or the level of threat posed by a predator. Gulls, being colony nesters, pay close attention and respond to the calls of their neighbors, so it is interesting to try and look at whether their alarm calls, i.e. yeow calls, are more refined in terms of information content than we realize.
Shailee describes her encounter with the banded Herring Gull on June 15:
Thankfully today was, is, bright and sunny and I was able to take a zodiac out here to Smuttynose island and find some more Herring Gulls to conduct playbacks on. I scoured the trail leading to the east end of the island but the area was covered with Great Black-backed Gulls, and after two hours of searching, I had only found two Herring nests. It was hot and my backpack was heavy so I headed back to the “center”, dropped off everything but my speakers, notebook and binoculars near where Island Archaeology students were digging for artifacts and bones, and decided to stroll out towards the west of the island which I had never seen before. There were more Black-backed Gulls, yeowing their low, almost cow-like yeows and diving low over me. A few rock hops into walking along the coast, however, the monotony of Black-backed yeows was broken by a sharper, shriller yeow that made me reach into my backpack to check if I’d left my iPod on. Nope, I hadn’t, it was a live Herring Gull and, what’s more, I realized as it flew out of the bushes lining the coast, it had a bright green field-readable band on its leg! E87.
Huzzah for the second banded gull I’ve spotted on Smuttynose this summer! I looked up its history in the Gull Database when I got back to Appledore and apparently it was banded on Sandpiper Beach as a chick in 2006 and had only ever been re-sighted once, off the Isles of Shoals. So it’s exciting to know that it has returned to the isles and is nesting on Smuttynose!
Thanks to Shailee for contributing this new datapoint to the Appledore gulls study! You can read more about Shailee’s adventures on Appledore (and Smuttynose) by reading her blog. I’ll also post an update on her independent project here later this summer.