The first egg of the 2018 breeding season was laid today (June 24th) by White-Black-Gray (for more on bird banding, see link below). She fledged from Cooper Island in 1995 and has lived through a period of major climate change in the Arctic.
For the last decade, she has always been one of the first females to lay. Hoping she, and the other 150 guillemots in the colony, have a successful breeding season.
The somewhat bad news is that the Audubon cover girl is not back. While I have not been able to ascertain survival for all nests, it appears that the percentage of birds returning will be similar to last year: 20 to 25 percent. The high mortality again has surviving birds pairing with neighbors since there are almost no nonbreeding birds to recruit. Colony size will likely drop but, again, the amount is unknown now.
I’m still working out camp logistics and hoping the rest of the snow is gone soon so I can finish setting up camp.
This field report is part of an ongoing series titled Arctic Change centered around George Divoky’s 44th field season studying Black Guillemots, sea ice, and climate change on a remote Arctic island off the coast of Alaska. To donate and support Divoky’s work on Cooper Island, visit the Friends of Cooper Island.
Bird Banding by Alexandra Cleminson and Silke Nebel
Special delivery for the birds by George Divoky