A Wilderness Science and Art Collaboration

Aldo & Leonardo, a partnership between Colorado Art Ranch and the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute, is a project to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The project is inspired by the scientific wisdom of Aldo Leopold and the artistic genius of Leonardo da Vinci. Our endeavor is an interdisciplinary collaboration of artists and scientists designed to celebrate the lands, resources and opportunities protected by the Wilderness Act. In 2013, we are hosting one-month residencies in six diverse wilderness areas. Artists will work alongside wildland research scientists and gain firsthand knowledge of the wonders, complexities and challenges of our nation's wildest places. The result will be a body of work that creatively illustrates the value of wild areas and honors the scientific efforts to preserve wilderness for the next fifty years.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Fragile Lives and Fierce Protectors

The Tern Colony

by Elisabeth Nickles

This video shows a Common Tern, male or female, protecting and hovering over the nest where it has its eggs and chicks. The Common Terns are prolific and even have their nests throughout the camp where the fish and wildlife employees and interns live during their time monitoring the nests and their productivity. The work the staff does is intense, impressive and tedious. The successful population of the colony on Monomoy attests to its ideal habitat and is also a confirmation of the hard work of the refuge manager, David Brownlie; the biologist, Kate Iaquinto and staff.

The colony is a place where you must be aware of every 
step you take or shift in your body when you are crouching or sitting. 
There are chicks and nests everywhere!

Many of the people working on the census are interns working on degrees
in wildlife management, ecology or avian biology

Kate landed upon. The flags on the helmets are to distract the birds from
pecking their beaks on the helmet 
The nests are checked daily in several enclosed areas throughout the tern colony.  The areas are used to create averages as an indicator for the entire population of common terns on the island.  The areas are checked for the number of nests and the nests are checked for the number of eggs, if the eggs are starred (cracking), pinging (a chick beginning to break through) or hatched.  If there are chicks hatched, the chicks are banded. If the chicks are already banded, they are checked on daily for their condition. The information is logged daily for each nest within each sample area within certain timeframes of the spring and summer.

Kate checking the number on the band, each day every chick is accounted for
and their number checked with the data already entered
Kate holding a chick that is starting to form its true feathers,
making it possible to more correctly judge its age at about seven days old

 A Common Tern parent feeding the chick. Both mother and
father share in the roosting and raising of the chicks.
Some of the areas have fabricated wooden nesting areas to help the chicks
find shelter once they are hatched. The downy chicks fledge in 22-28 days

The chicks are completely vulnerable once hatched. The tern evolved
in areas where land predators were uncommon. Today they must be protected from
species that have migrated successfully to the area because of the
absence of larger predators. For instance,  coyotes have adapted well
in the presence of human development, they are not habitat specific as are the terns.
Before human encroachment, wolves were the largest land predator in the area.

Within the Tern Colony are nesting Roseate Terns. The Roseate Tern is an endangered species and it benefits from building its nests and breeding near the more aggressive and protective Common Tern.

Roseate Tern Chick, a few days old

Kate holding a roseate tern chick. The beak still has the eye-tooth that the chick uses to break the shell when it is hatching

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