Stratton Island

The center piece of the Phineas W. Sprague Memorial Sanctuary. 

Location and Description: This 24-acre island is located in Saco Bay, 3 miles east of Old Orchard Beach, York County. It is the centerpiece of the Phineas W. Sprague Memorial Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is comprised of three distinct islands and several prominent rocky outcrops. A pygmy maritime deciduous forest dominates the interior of Stratton Island and provides vital nesting habitat for wading birds, while the islands southern beaches provide ideal habitat for nesting terns. The island has a rich human history dating to the 17th century and remnants of an island farm remain visible today. The Sanctuary is owned by the National Audubon Society. Prout's Neck Audubon Society, Prout's Neck Women's Auxiliary and York Audubon Society provide financial and logistic support.

Seabird and Restoration History: Terns have nested on Stratton Island since at least 1900 and in the early 1930's supported the largest Roseate Tern colony in Maine with about 200 pair. Tern numbers fluctuated dramatically between the late 1950's and early 1980's and by 1984 the island was abandoned, due primarily to competition for nesting habitat by Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls. Tern restoration began on Stratton Island in 1986 using decoys and sound recordings combined with resident island stewards that worked to displace gulls from tern nesting habitat. Tern numbers peaked in 2001 with over 2,000 total nesting pairs. Predation has had a significant impact on both numbers and success since the inception of restoration work.

Access: Stratton Island is open to public visitation; however access is restricted during the nesting season (April 1 to August 31) to the designated landing area (Little Stratton and Bluff Islands are closed throughout the nesting season). Individuals visiting the island must secure their own transportation or join organized tours. In most summers, Maine Audubon Society offers three tours. Maine Audubon also offers volunteer work day experiences to assist with vegetation management. Staff provide travel to the island from the Prout's Neck Yacht Club aboard the project's 19' General Marine boat (Ardea). The 1 ½ mile trip from Prout's Neck to the island is an open crossing that takes about 15 minutes. Stratton Island has the most protected and generally easiest landing of any SRP island. However, like all Audubon-managed islands, access is dependent on marine conditions. Personal gear, food, water and supplies are rowed ashore in a small inflatable rowboat (stored on the island). Staff are responsible for securing their own supplies and groceries as needed when no one is scheduled to arrive from the Audubon base camp in Bremen. Use of personal vehicles is necessary.

Island Living and Accommodations: During the field season, 4-5 people live and work on the island. The camp is located in a mature apple orchard on the southern shore of the island in close proximity to the tern nesting beaches and one of the largest seal haul-out areas in Maine. The base camp is a 10'x12' expedition tent on a raised wooden platform and a wooden kitchen shelter. The kitchen has a small propane refrigerator and stove. There are five tent platforms for personal use and a solar shower. A photovoltaic solar electrical system powers research equipment which includes a laptop computer and cell phone.

Nesting and Migratory Birds: Stratton Island is notable for having the highest diversity of nesting waterbirds of any Maine island. The island provides nesting habitat for several species that are at the northern limit of their range (e.g. Glossy Ibis, Little Blue Heron, Great Egret, Tri-colored Heron, American Oystercatcher and Least Tern). Likewise, several northern species reach the southern limit of their ranges (e.g. Arctic Tern, Black Guillemot and Common Eider). The interior pond and wetland provide breeding habitat for several waterfowl species (e.g. Northern Shoveler, Blue-winged Teal and Gadwall) and Sora and Common Moorhen. The island's beaches provide nesting habitat for Common, Roseate, Arctic and Least Terns.

Migrant songbirds abound in May and a number of Maine rarities have been seen on the island in recent years including Yellow-nosed Albatross, Fork-tailed Flycatcher and White-winged Tern. Two hundred and forty species have been seen on and around the island. In late July and August large numbers of migrating shorebirds and staging terns roost on Little Stratton. Several hundred harbor seals also haul out in large numbers on Little Stratton.

Island Monitoring, Research and Management Projects: The Stratton Island field season begins in early May and continues through mid-late August. The Island Supervisor is responsible for coordinating the timing of specific projects throughout the field season. Work includes, but is not limited to, the following projects: annual tern, eider, cormorant and wading bird census; tern resighting, productivity and chick growth; tern provisioning studies; invasive vegetation management; orienting and educating visitors to the island and wildlife; daily weather and bird lists; migratory shorebird counts; and predator management.

How you can help, right now