In a breeding season and field season that has been a tough one for both the Black Guillemots on Cooper Island and the investigators studying them, today was a day of celebration as morning nest checks revealed that the oldest nestling on the island had departed for the sea during the night.
The first fledge of the year is always exciting since it is an important benchmark in our field season, which begins with recording the owners of nest sites and continues with observing the dates of egg laying and monitoring the hatching and subsequent growth of nestlings. While it is the parent birds who get all of the credit for a successful nesting season, we cannot help but feel some satisfaction having monitored daily the details of their three-month reproductive cycle. Additionally, and certainly now with the recent decline in the size of the colony, a fledged chick provides hope for the future. With sufficient luck, in three years the chick that fledged last night will return to Cooper to join the breeding population.
So we congratulate the proud parents White-Black-Gray, a bird fledged from Cooper Island in 1995 who has bred here since 2000, and Blue-Blue-Yellow, an immigrant (likely from one of the large Russian colonies) who had been breeding on the island for the past twelve years.
We are hoping that in the next few days their now independent fledgling will be joined by its sibling and a good number of the 50 birds that remain in nest sites.
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 website.
Climate Change in the Arctic by National Snow and Ice Data Center
Some Of The Oldest Ice In The Arctic Is Now Breaking Apart by Christopher Joyce