While the gulls are still tending the remaining fledglings (and there were some very late nest attempts this year), the humans involved in the Gulls of Appledore project are all off island now. After ten weeks in the field, our interns, David and Amisha have returned home. We banded around 200 chicks this July, which, given the marked decline in numbers of nests this year, is fairly respectable.
Next week, the summer interns on Appledore will present their research and projects at the first annual SML research symposium and we’re looking forward to this all day science extravaganza.
We managed to GPS every nest on almost the entire island, having to leave only the southeastern-most swath undone–a torment to us as we raced to finish the work on our last day, but still a solid job nearly completed. It’s that mapping effort that allowed us to backup with data what we had sensed already: that the numbers of gull pairs on island took a substantial dive this year. In light of overall, multi-year declines, we are growing increasingly alarmed by this trend. Colleagues on other colonies throughout the Gulf of Maine are seeing similar drops. Why this is occurring is not known as of yet. We are hopeful that the numbers rebound next summer and this is not the start of a truly precipitous population crash in the birds.
One thing we know for certain though, we are well into the dozens of students and other volunteers who have gotten a chance to come out and assist with banding and other activities. We have private donors, foundations, and grant agencies to thank for making that possible. For most of those who join us, time on Appledore among the gulls profoundly changes their outlook on the natural world, and on these oft-maligned, mostly overlooked birds. We are grateful to those generous funders, and look forward to bringing students and volunteers out for many years to come.