|Message from RALPH ELDRIDGE
MACHIAS-SEAL ISLAND is A unique place. Seabird colonies are beyond the experience of most people. Even those who visit the island or work here don't have the opportunity to see some of the events. This is an attempt to share some of that experience.
In spite of its name, the island isn't noted for seals. Although a few haul out here, most local Gray & Harbour Seals use a couple nearby islets.
This island does host the largest southern colony of ATLANTIC PUFFINS in the WEST ATLANTIC. It also has the major regional colony of RAZORBILLS and a growing colony of COMMON MURRES.
In 2016 Puffins experienced virtually 100% mortality of chicks due to very poor food but in 2017 there appeared to be near normal chick survival.
In 2018 the Puffling numbers seemed okay although their development was quite retarded and that could affect their post-fledging survival.
In addition to the ALCID SPECIES, the island is the breeding home for some 200+ COMMON EIDERS, several hundred LEACHES STORM PETRELS, a few dozen SPOTTED SANDPIPERS and a few hundred SAVANNAH SPARROWS.
Until recently, the largest regional colony of ARCTIC TERNS (5500) & COMMON TERNS (2500) was here. However, the Terns began to suffer breeding failure in 2004. Full colony recovery is still an open question, but helped by some human intervention, the colony has started to rebuild after nearly a decade of total breeding failure.
A handful of Arctic Terns fledged in 2014 (perhaps only about 15).
In 2015 there was a good season: not stellar but much better than expected with a ten fold increase in successsful fledging.
In 2016 fledging numbers were good although continuing poor food availability caused many chicks to struggle. A lot didn't make it.
Terns were back in 2017 and immediately set about nest site selection. They again had a successful season. 2018 proved to be the best season so far, with upwards of 400 nests and good reproductive success.
The colony is still a long way from being fully rebuilt but these 1st years offer hope that they have reversed their fortune.
The island is on the route of many migrating species; far enough from the mainland to minimize human disturbance; untreed, which facilitates observation; an area of just under 15 acres, which concentrates the birds.
It is also far enough from the mainland that pelagic birds, marine mammals, large sharks, bluefin tuna, and other species not usually seen from land, may be observed.
Other galleries depict my home region, the southwestern corner of New Brunswick, Canada.