Copious thanks to thank after May banding

The bramble scratches are healing, and the bruises from gull bites are faded to yellow, so it’s high time to offer you all a wrap up of our May banding week this year.


An all NECC Team: (L-R) William Thu, Molly Cronin, Sharon McDermot, Mary Everett, Sarah Courchesne, Jessie Taveras, Kiara Sanchez

The overall numbers may not look impressive versus previous years (25 new bands placed, 29 birds sampled for testosterone and cortisol, and 5 GPS loggers deployed), but given the range of the projects, and their newness to us, we are very pleased with the outcome.

More than anything else, I want to offer my thanks to everyone who makes this work possible. It has occurred to me that no one currently working on the Gulls of Appledore project draws any salary. This is entirely a volunteer based endeavor, and we could not do this work without the donations, in both time and money, of many generous individuals. For this week in May alone, we have to thank:

The Northern Essex Community College student team (Molly, Jessie, William, and Kiara), who have jobs, and needed to take time off work to come do a week’s unpaid labor on the island with us.


Jessie learns to band while William expertly restrains.


Fortunately for us, Molly discovered a love of careful data recording.

Sharon McDermot (NECC), Brad Natti (lobsterman and frequent offshore gull sighter) and Megan Natti (NOAA), who not only came out to assist us in our work, but paid their own way to do so. This frees up our funds to allow more students to join us in the field, so it’s a double benefit. Sharon even donated extra funds to help with the expenses of the students’ stays on island.

Kate Shlepr, who gave her own time to fly up from Florida and spend two days with us teaching me to place GPS loggers on the birds.

Dr. Kristen Covino, who donated her research days to us to partially offset our costs to stay on the island.

Tracy Holmes and Bill Clark, whose incredible generosity has made this work financially possible, and have made it an opportunity for students who could never travel to the island on their own dime. Their funds have also enabled us to offer a paid internship to one or two students each summer for the past three years. This year’s beneficiary, Brett Davekos, has fully immersed himself in the Shoals Marine Lab life, in ways both literal and figurative. Thanks go to him too, for spending 10 weeks away from family, friends, and real life to work on our project.

Bill Clark also gives enormous amounts of time to the project, responding to each and every member of the public who writes in with a report of a banded gull. Bill sends back a full life history on each bird. It’s only because of this kind of public engagement and education that we sustain this army of larophiles on the lookout for our birds.

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Mary Everett (L), Sarah Courchesne, and Julie Ellis all in one place at one time.

Mary Everett co-leads this project with me for no pay, and spends more time in the field mentoring our interns than I am able to. She brings a suite of skills to the project that I can’t match, and without her, none of this would run.

Finally, thanks to Dr. Julie Ellis, who started the project almost 15 years ago, and who entrusted it to us. The honor is all mine.


Commencing testosterone and behavior project

Last week we headed out into the field for an unusual and eclectic mix of projects involving the gulls of Appledore. Normally, our goal is to focus solely on resighting any and all banded birds nesting (or just hanging around) on the island, and on banding any unbanded mates of our birds. We did try to get that done, especially the resighting, but this year, we are working on two new projects that took up a good deal of time. Here’s the scoop on the first one.


Brett Davekos has jumped right into the work and to life on the island. The gulls may be less enthused.

Our summer intern, Brett Davekos, recent graduate with an Associate’s degree in Biology from Northern Essex Community College, is looking into whether or not variability in nest defense behavior is correlated with plasma testosterone in Great Black-Backed Gulls. This work is a collaboration between us and Dr. Kristen Covino, gullumnus, postdoc at Canisius College, and soon to be Assistant Professor at Loyola Marymount University.

The first phase of this work involved collecting blood for baseline testosterone. This meant sampling the birds before they got too amped up by our presence. From the first sign of alarm in the bird, we had ten minutes to trap, capture, and bleed. Fortunately, we discovered that we work a lot faster than I had thought, and we managed to collect 27 useable samples within the time constraint.

The second phase of the project will be Brett’s. He will be testing the behavioral responses to human approach in the sampled birds. It may be some months before Kristen’s lab is up and running to process the plasma samples, but keep an eye on this space for more on Brett’s work.

Gull spotters, you’re invited!



Dear Volunteer,

“There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.” – Ursula K. Le Guin

We all have a story to tell. Join us for a captivating evening of stories from volunteers who like to get up close to nature. A first of its kind event at 3S Artspace in Portsmouth will feature the faces, places, and stories of citizen science in New Hampshire.

*FREE event, cash bar and light refreshments will be served. Registration is required (space is limited).


Click here for additional details and to register

We hope to see you there!



The Stories from the Field Planning Team:

Haley Andreozzi, UNH Cooperative Extension

Gretchen Carlson, Gundalow Company

Malin Clyde, UNH Cooperative Extension

Alyson Eberhardt, NH Sea Grant & UNH Cooperative Extension

Emily Lord, UNH Cooperative Extension

Abigail Lyon, Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership (PREP)

Caitlin Peterson, NH Sea Grant & UNH Cooperative Extension

2017 field season wrap up

Chris Martin (in hardhat) and David Mesta work on banding a gull. Amisha Malhotra (in hat) and Danielle Robidoux in background.

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.


Franciel Moreno and Mary Everett head into the poison ivy fields to map nests.

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.


Volunteer Jane Wing (left), Lawrence High School student Franciel Moreno, and Jinette Galarza (Northern Essex Comm. College student) enjoy a bit of downtime.

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.


Close to the whole team in one place. Front row, left to right: Jinette Galarza, Malcolm, Alex, Rene Borrero, Sarah Courchesne, Simon. Back row, left to right: David Mesta, Mary Everett, Becky Suomala, Chris Martin, Danielle Robidoux, Eve Hallock, Franciel Moreno

Seabird interns hard at work

This summer, we have two outstanding interns monitoring the gulls of Appledore, recording data, assisting with banding and blood draws, collecting prey remains, and, on top of it all, conducting their own independent projects. It’s time you met them.

FB_IMG_1498587477709Amisha Malhotra graduated this May with her Bachelor’s degree in Animal Behavior from the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine. She came to us with stellar recommendations from her UNE professors, and she has lived up to the praise. Amisha is hardworking, detail oriented, and a self-starter not intimidated by learning new skills. Within days of arriving on the island, she had decided to do her independent project on mate fidelity and divorce in Great Black-backed Gulls. She dove into the database, and has been teaching herself R, a data analysis program used commonly by biologists and other scientists. Amisha plans on going on to grad school of some stripe, and we have every confidence that she will be immensely successful.





20170619_142218David Mesta finished up his Associate’s degree in Laboratory Science at Northern Essex Community College this May. He joined us for a week of gull banding last year, and after that introduction, it was abundantly clear to me that David had what it took to spend a summer on the island doing field research. David is a keen observer, quietly taking everything in. Countless times, I would realize I needed a particular tool and look up to find David silently handing it to me, like a practiced surgeon’s assistant. David wants to continue his education by transferring to a 4 year institution to work on his Bachelor’s degree. His interests lie in the microbiology field, and his summer project on Appledore is focused on blood parasitism in Great Black-backed Gull chicks. We will be making blood smears on hundreds of fledglings during chick banding week this month, and spending our evenings hunched over microscopes scanning for the telltale signs of invaders infecting the gulls’ red blood cells. We can’t wait to see where David goes from here.

The Famous 2E2 Continues Commute from Appledore to Sandy Point

Many individuals have seen 2E2 at the Sandy Point area of Plum Island.  Dave Adrien has reported 2E2 present there and verified that 2E2 was also seen at the nest on Appledore the same day.  Dave has also provided many pictures of many Appledore Gulls.  Now Charlee Breen has provided a picture from June 30, 2017 of 2E2.

2E2 JUL 30 2017 Charlee Breen

Since we have more than 160 reports on 2E2 we are most anxious for every other report that can be obtained since this provides the best detail on the travels and behavior of any of the banded gulls from Appledore. Your reports are most welcome on 2E2 or any banded gull.

M36 Enjoys French Fries at Water Country Park Near Portsmouth

M36 was banded as an adult at a nest on Appledore Island in May 2012 and has probably nested on Appledore every year since then, but apparently commutes the Water County to enjoy the french fries.

Charlee Breen provides a picture on June 26 2017 of M36 along with this comment: “Was very healthy and appeared to be the Alpha gull if there is such thing…lol. He/she was certainly in charge of french fries kids tossed…not allowing the other gulls in there.”

If you see M36, be sure to send the time, date, and place to us. Photos are very much encouraged!