Pond Island NWR

Tern restoration on Pond Island began in 1996, with a gull management and social attraction program

Location and Description: Pond Island National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is a 10-acre island located in the mouth of the Kennebec River in Georgetown, Sagadahoc County. The island includes a variety of habitats including sandy beach, beach grass meadow, poison ivy/raspberry shrubland, fescue meadows and steep rocky sea cliffs. Pond Island NWR is owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Maine Coastal Islands NWR (MCINWR) and is cooperatively managed with the National Audubon Society. The island has an automated light and foghorn maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Seabird and Restoration History: The mouth of the Kennebec River has traditionally been an important tern nesting area in Maine; however, by 1987 no terns were nesting in this region of the coast. Tern restoration on Pond Island NWR began in 1996, with a gull management and social attraction program, and terns nested that year for the first time since 1937. Tern numbers continue to increase, with over 600 pairs now. Significant annual predation by Great Horned Owls has hampered recovery efforts as the owls cause the terns to abandon their chicks at night, increasing mortality. The annual success of the colony is directly related to success in managing owls. In most years, there is abundant forage fish.

Access: The island is closed to public visitation during the seabird breeding season (April 1 to August 31). Staff provide travel to the island by a motorized inflatable boat from Kennebec point. The 1 ½ mile trip takes 15 to 20 minutes. The Pond Island NWR landing is on a beautiful sand beach; however, swirling currents in the Kennebec River can create choppy conditions and unpredictable waves. All personal gear, water, food and supplies are moved ashore on the landing beach. Island staff are also 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 2 people live and work on the island. A 10' x12' canvas expedition tent and covered wooden kitchen shelter serve as the base camp and accommodate food storage and research equipment. The "kitchen" is equipped with a propane stove. There are two tent platforms for personal tents and a composting toilet. A solar electrical system powers research needs.

Nesting and Migratory Birds: Common Terns are the principal breeding species, but occasionally Roseate and Arctic Terns also breed here. Common Eiders also nest here. Despite the island's proximity to the mainland, 119 bird species have been recorded here, including Maine notable records for Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and Black Skimmer.

Island Monitoring, Research and Management Projects: The Pond Island NWR field season usually begins in late May and continues through late July. 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 and eider census; tern productivity, chick growth, and provisioning studies; daily weather and bird lists; and predator management. Public interaction may include restricting visitor access to nesting areas.

Click here to see old photos of the Pond Island Light Station

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