Human, Seabird, and Restoration History: The Island is home to a restored seabird colony of puffins, razorbills and terns. Restoration began in 1984 with gull management, the translocation of nearly 1,000 young puffins from Newfoundland and social attraction for puffins and terns (using decoys and mirror boxes). Like many Maine coast seabird colonies, Seal Island NWR's seabird populations were diminished and eventually extirpated by a combination of egging, hunting for meat and feathers and displacement by expanding Herring and Great Black-backed Gull populations. Prior to the initiation of restoration activities, puffins last nested in ~1887 and terns last nested in 1936. After restoration, puffins began nesting in 1992 and by 2012 more than 500 pairs were nesting. The first terns nested in 1989 and today the colony supports more than 2,500 pairs of Arctic and Common Terns - one of Maine's largest tern colonies. The island also has a long human history; it has been used as a fishing camp/outpost, and from the early 1940's until 1966, the U.S. Navy used the island as a bombing range. The island was transferred to the Department of the Interior in 1972 and it later became part of the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge.
Island Living and Accommodations: During the field season, 5-7 people live and work on the island and, with the exception of the Island Supervisor and resident Research Assistant, staff and volunteers remain on the island for an average of 2-3 weeks. The Seal Island 12'x12 ft cabin serves as the kitchen, "dining room" and office. Tent platforms are provided for personal tents. The kitchen has a propane stove and small refrigerator. There is an outdoor shower and a composting toilet. A solar electrical system powers research needs such as a laptop computer and communication systems.
Island Monitoring, Research and Management Projects: The Seal Island NWR field season begins in mid May and continues through mid 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, and gull census; tern band resighting, chick provisioning, productivity and chick growth studies; razorbill and puffin census, productivity, banding, band resighting and provisioning studies; black guillemot productivity and chick growth; daily weather and bird lists; and gull management. Public interaction may include restricting visitor access to the seabird colony.
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