Last December I signed up to become a volunteer on Great Gull Island and between work and personal interest I got to go for a week! So, needless to say, I have so much to share and I am going to do it in a few parts to avoid one giant post:
Here we will begin with what Great Gull Island is, a little bit of its history and what it is currently like there these days. In another post I'd like to share the stars of the island, the terns! Later I will share a bit about the research, what our role was in volunteering there and how we contributed to this on-going monitoring of the colony. And last, a little bit about who else we found there-- because it's not just terns! So strap yourself in for a few posts and please, enjoy!!
Historically the island was always a place for seabirds, but in the late 1800's their populations decreased as a fort was built on the island, remaining active from the Spanish-American War through World War II. Evidence of the military is all over the island, ruins of bunkers and other structures are throughout the tiny island, which is only about 17 acres.
The island was purchased by the Museum of Natural History in 1949 and so began the Great Gull Island project, working to restore the historic colonies of terns that were nearly decimated by the island's period of time spent as a fort.
The two species of interest are the Common and Roseate Tern. In restoring habitat and maintaining that habitat, the terns have returned and the pairs on the island have grown over time.
|Incoming to GGI with the provisions that included fresh veggies, fruits, eggs, proteins, and most importantly, ice cream!|
|It may look peaceful, but your first steps onto the island are chaotic, everyone tries to move fast but carefully. Birds swoop at your head and delicate nests lie at your feet, every step needs to be made with delicate care and precision.|
|Protecting our heads as we take our first steps onto GGI.|
|Without electricity, late dinners were eaten by candlelight, family style. It's the rare type of dinner one can have, where there is no TV playing, just others around you to engage in conversation with.|
|Gasoline? No, but this is what our freshwater was brought to us in and what we happily drank from.|
|Our kitchen inside headquarters... looking little, it produced! Zucchini, corn bread, and cobblers whipped up with delicious dinners that involved many fresh ingredients.|
|The work space within headquarters, where were kept our records straight, extra strings of bands could be found, and where you could find Helen or Joe at their desks,|
|Next to GGI is Little Gull Island-- which is where the big, bad gulls live. The island also houses a light house that has a fog horn that seems to be used at all hours of the day, except when it is truly foggy.|
|A true treasure of GGI is Helen Hays. She came to GGI in the 1960's to assess the tern populations and then returned each year since, to monitor the birds and live on the island among them.|
She is such a beautiful human being, good-natured, and doing what she loves-- but sharing it with others. She loves these birds and it was an absolute pleasure to be taken under her wing, so to speak, for a week and learn from her about what they do on the island.
Helen is awesome-- so much so that even the Times wrote a piece about her in 2012.
|A bunch of us volunteers from the Common Tern project, one volunteer from the Roseate tern project, and the amazing Helen! Credit to Loy who shared this photo with us all!|
|One thing is for sure, surrounded by birds on this otherwise un-human-inhabited island, a week went by where I forgot I was in New York but felt more like a remote location on the ocean. Birds worked through the night, calling to their mates, their chicks, and warning the others when danger was present. It was amazing to forget where I was and be immersed in this historic field work that is the Great Gull Island Project.|