On the night of June 8th, we completed our Ancient Murrelet monitoring with a total of 42 chicks. This was a disappointingly low number of chicks as the last few years there have been over 100 chicks (112 in 2014, 136 in 2013, 110 in 2012). We are not sure why the numbers are so much lower this season, but monitoring next season will hopefully give us an indication as to whether it is just a one-year anomaly (possibly due to warm ocean temperatures) or if the habitat around the cabins on ELI is no longer suitable for breeding Ancient Murrelets. Our evening gathering ground counts and nightly point counts indicate that there were still many adult Ancient Murrelets coming to the island at night. Maybe they have not be able to breed this year, but it is good to see that they are still in the colony, socializing and making plans for next year! At Funnel 4 in North Cove, our infrared cameras captured 11 chicks, a similar number to last year (10 chicks), but much lower than 2013 (41 chicks). It will be interesting to explore why these low numbers have occurred and to see if the chick numbers will recover next year.
On June 7th, we found a beheaded Ancient Murrelet in Crow Valley, on the south shoreline of ELI. This could indicate predation from a raccoon, as raccoons will often only eat the head of their bird prey. Since then, we have searched Crow Valley for other evidence of raccoon predation and have found a few other Ancient Murrelets that we suspect were eaten by a raccoon. We have also completed a night-time low tide spotlight survey and have set up a second baited raccoon camera in Crow valley, but have not located a raccoon on East Limestone Island thus far.