SeaWatch at Schoodic Point

Single day count for Northern Gannet on Sept. 10, 2015 totaled 81 birds. Photo (of Sub-adult) by Kyle Lima.

Single day count for Northern Gannet on Sept. 10, 2015 totaled 81 birds.
Photo (of Sub-adult) by Kyle Lima.

2016 SeaWatch Schedule

2016 marks the 6th year for Schoodic Institute’s SeaWatch  migration monitoring effort. If this year is like previous years, we can expect thousands of birds to pass by Schoodic Point between September and Thanksgiving. The expected variety of species includes: loons, cormorants, Northern Gannet, scoters and other seaducks, gulls, falcons, and songbirds.

SeaWatch at Schoodic Point is a citizen science program conducted by staff and volunteers of the Schoodic Institute’s Bird Ecology Program.  From mid-August through November the Atlantic Flyway of North America comes alive with the passage of a variety of migratory birds, including gulls, sea ducks, gannets, cormorants, loons, mergansers, shorebirds, raptors, and occasional songbirds.

Morning: SeaWatch at Schoodic Point is conducted Monday and Tuesday mornings following sunrise; 7:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. September through November.  

Afternoon: SeaWatch at Schoodic Point is conducted Monday and Tuesday afternoons; 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. September through November.

Please contact Seth Benz at sbenz@schoodicinstitute.org if interested in helping with this monitoring effort or to learn more about citizen science opportunities.

Gulf of Maine Coastal Migration

Millions of birds migrate along the Atlantic coast and its near shore waters. Song birds, water birds, hawks – all fly over a broad front consisting of a variety of habitats. Topography provides certain advantages: mountain ridges offer updrafts, shorelines serve as leading lines, islands, headlands, and peninsulas become respite areas. And, some birds prefer to fly directly over the ocean. For birdwatchers, biologists and researchers, vantage points that provide opportunities to witness the phenomenon of seasonal migrations is becoming more popular and important.

Schoodic Point Sea Watch

Since 2011, Schoodic Institute’s SeaWatch has monitored the coastal migration of autumn’s southbound birds counting thousands of birds between September and Thanksgiving. Even more surprising is the variety or species passing within eyeshot of Schoodic Point: loons, cormorants, gannets, seaducks, gulls, falcons, and songbirds. Double-crested cormorants, Common Eiders, Common Loons, and Northern Gannet are the most numerous and consistent species. Less numerous birds such as Red-throated Loons, Red-necked Grebes, and Harlequin Ducks keep anticipation fever-pitch on watch days.

Contributory Research

Since 1978 when seabird migrations became more widely publicized by a pioneering effort at Avalon, New Jersey a network of sites is now active along the length of the east coast of the United States. Count data at Schoodic Point is submitted to eBird, an open access meta data repository, available to researchers and the general public alike. SeaWatch count data is important to monitor distribution and abundance of migratory birds along the Atlantic Flyway, and to understand how weather conditions and ocean temperatures may impact bird migration.

Results from 2014:

Monitoring birds as they migrate past Schoodic Point and through Acadia National Park is one of the most exciting aspects of the Institute’s Bird Ecology Program. We count seabirds, hawks, and songbirds seasonally to contribute to baseline information on these avian populations, an activity which is ultimately crucial for bird conservation and management. Since the 1960’s nearly 220 species of birds have been found on the Schoodic Peninsula and over 300 have been recorded within the entirety of Acadia National Park. We rely heavily on the participation of skilled volunteers and welcome the contributions of novice and serious bird watchers alike. The following summary depicts some vital statistics from our autumn SeaWatch effort.

Observation start date: August 14.

End date: November 13

25 observation days produced 44 total hours of observation

Daily observation timeframe generally 6:30 to 8:30 AM

Principle Observers: Keith Ohmart, Seth Benz

Total number of birds tallied = 8,760

Total species identified = 45

 

Select Species Findings

Double-crested Cormorant = 3,354 counted

Seen on 23 of 25 observation days

Earliest date: Aug. 14

Peak Count date: Oct. 21 (1,668)

 

Common Loon = 434 counted

Seen on 20 of 25 observation days

Earliest date: Aug. 21

Peak Count date: Oct. 30 (69)

 

Northern Gannet = 168 counted

Seen on 17 of 25 observation days

Earliest date: Aug. 25

Peak Count date: Oct. 30 (50)

 

Common Eider = 2,279 counted

Seen on 12 of 25 observation days

Earliest date: Oct. 2

Peak Count date: Oct. 14 (766)

 

Surf Scoter = 893 counted

Seen on 8 of 25 observation days

Earliest date: Oct. 2

Peak Count date: Nov. 5 (542)