Partnering to Protect Terns in Kalsin Bay

Aleutian Tern 512x219

Partnering to Protect Nesting Terns in Kalsin Bay

Jill Tengeres, Oregon State University and Robin Corcoran, Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge

With some extra help from private land owner, Leisnoi, Inc., Arctic and Aleutian terns nesting along the Kalsin spit became the most successful tern colony documented on the Archipelago in the last six years. This scenic, long stretch of beach at the head of Kalsin Bay blooms with fields of lupine in June and July and attracts many Kodiak recreationists, including campers, all-terrain vehicle users, fishermen, hikers, bird-watchers and photographers. A small area of the spit is also a regular summer home to terns from late May to mid-August as they lay nests and raise their chicks. In past years, the high level of disturbance by visitors has inadvertently contributed to almost complete nest failure for these long-distance travelers.

Kalsin Sign 300x200Throughout coastal Alaska, Arctic and Aleutian tern numbers seem to be in a steep decline. Within the past three decades, surveys at documented colonies have recorded an estimated 80% drop in population for Aleutian terns, and close to 90% drop for Arctic terns in coastal areas of the Gulf of Alaska. While we don’t yet know what is causing the decline, one thing is certain: these birds can use all the help we can give.

In 2018, Leisnoi, Inc. partnered with Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge and Oregon State University to post signs informing visitors about nesting terns along the spit. While the signs helped, people continued to camp and recreate within the colony. This summer, Leisnoi, Inc. granted Kodiak Refuge biologists permission to place a temporary rope fence around the colony in addition to signs. Visitors could still access the end of the spit by driving below the high tide line on the beach or on the main access road along the lagoon. Signs included information about research surveillance cameras, and Leisnoi, Inc. personnel regularly patrolled the area to offer education.

Aleutian tern chick 300x200Kodiak Refuge biologists are excited to report that terns nested in very high numbers at the Kalsin spit this year, with great success. Of the nests monitored, 46 Aleutian terns and 39 Arctic terns made it to fledge, the stage when chicks are capable of flight. We removed the rope fence and signs in late August after the terns had departed the colony to begin migration to their wintering grounds, and hope to continue this partnership next season.