Technology and Vigilance Help Protect Wildlife on Metinic
Sometimes it’s a hard life being a tern: there’s bad weather, trying to find food, and trying to avoid becoming food. Our research is not always done when the sun sets. Some predators will use the cover of night to their advantage. Because of this we use night vision binoculars to document what we would not usually be able to see.
Our first predator stint shed light on the dangers that lurk in the tern colony with the coming of dark. At 10:30 p.m., a gull was seen walking around the edge of the colony which disturbed only a few Arctic Tern pairs. The next morning check led us to discover five empty Arctic Tern nests with evidence of a half-eaten egg in one nest cup.
The tern colony on Metinic has a few unique predators. Besides the usual wandering gull, the tern colony also must avoid egg- and chick-eating garter snakes (invasive to Metinic Island), local sheep that escape past the fence and don’t watch what they step on, and a resident Merlin pair that will not only eat chicks but the adult terns themselves! Documenting all predation seen is an important part of understanding what the terns face when nesting on Metinic Island. This information is part of the big picture and helps us better manage the tern colony.
Another type of danger that poses a threat to all wildlife is human debris. Offshore Islands are not protected from litter that is washed ashore from the sea — even a refuge. This debris can be found on Metinic from the center of the forest to the edge of its shores. Common items are: plastic bottles, plastic containers, fishing gear, buoys, balloons, gasoline cans, rubber gloves, and even parts of ships.
Human debris threatens life on land and in the sea. Many release toxic chemicals into the environment, some can easily be mistaken by animals as a food source, while others can potentially entangle animals that come in contact with them. While living on the island, we have and will continue to collect and properly dispose of the human debris that washes ashore but we know that once we are gone the debris will continue to accumulate on the island.
This is where you, the reader, comes in. Even if you are far away from Metinic Island you can still help the terns and other wildlife by disposing of your trash properly and picking up litter while out enjoying the environment. Remember first reduce, then reuse, and finally recycle. Together we can make our world a safer place for wildlife.