Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tern Island!

On Friday, I was fortunate enough to go to 'Tern Island' (aka New Made Island) in Moriches Bay.  It is an approximately 2 acre dredge spoil island (i.e. man made) just north of Fire Island National Seashore and a few miles West of Moriches Inlet in Moriches Bay.  I first visited the property at the end of March with several co-workers and two employees from the USFW Service.  At the time, we were working on clearing some of the vegetation that has grown on the island in order to create suitable habitat for Common and Roseate Terns (both Federally listed species) as there current nesting location is barely above the water line and has suffered serious flooding in recent years - destroying thousands of eggs and drowning chicks.

With the aid of the USFW Service equipment and money and a permit from the NYS DEC we cleared about an acre of land using a float-able excavator (a really cool looking machine that was towed through the bay from the Carman's River in Shirley - see blow).  In order to reduce the potential threat of raptors (such as Peregrine Falcons) from perching on the island and having a vantage point to glean chicks from, the only two trees (Eastern Red Cedars) were removed as well as a large bayberry bush.  The land was graded and raked in hopes of creating the perfect habitat for the Terns.  Additionally, right when the birds were beginning to show up at the end of their migration, a "caller" was installed, along with wooden decoys.  The caller plays a loop of a Common Tern colony which attracts the birds and is powered by a solar panel - within minutes of the caller being activated, Terns began to show up overhead.  It was still unknown if we would be successful in getting Terns to come to the island and nest but when we arrived on Friday, there was no doubt.  There were at least 200 Common Terns, and at least 1 pair of Roseate Terns on the island with many nests and plenty of courtship behavior.  It is amazing to have such success the first year and more land will likely be cleared next year in order to allow more Terns to colonize the island.  A special thanks to USFW Service for their time and equipment, and Anthony Graves who spearheaded the plan.  (Above: Roseate Tern in flight)

Excavator removing trees:

The Colony on Friday.  Note the solar panel and black box containing the CD player:

Now for the fun part... the birds.  A Common Tern in flight:

Common Terns fighting mid-air:

A Common Tern returning to its mate with a Sand Lance:


A banded Common Tern (likely banded as a chick by USFW Service):

Common Tern Courtship Behavior - notice the "decoy" in the background (the food is a grass shrimp):

A Common Tern Nest with 3 eggs (the usual amount):

A Roseate Tern with its all black bill:

And the most exciting site, a pair of Roseate Terns:


  1. Good stuff, Luke. Congratulations on such a worthwhile project. Now if we could just clone you about 1000 times....

    Take care,
    Charlie V

  2. Charlie,

    Not sure if I'd want a 1000 of me running around... a handful would probably be evil :-D