This seagull was banded by COA students on Maine's Great Duck Island during the summer of 2015 and showed up six months later in Mississippi. This seagull was banded by COA students on Maine's Great Duck Island during the summer of 2015 and showed up six months later in Mississippi. Credit: Brian Johnston

I would like to introduce you to two Mainers. K2A is a herring gull. She hatched from a nest at the south end of Great Duck Island in June of 2015. Great Duck Island is a line of light on the southern horizon for most tourists looking out from the summit of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National park. It is also one of the oldest gull colonies in Maine, with records going back to the nineteenth century. In a time when gull populations around the western North Atlantic are plunging, Great Duck’s importance as a robust colony can only increase.

K2A’s nest was one of over six hundred in the shadow of the lighthouse tower, watched over by students from College of the Atlantic, and protected in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy and the State of Maine. Hers was one of three eggs, but one of her siblings died in the first week after hatching. She was the smaller of the two surviving chicks, growing slowly on whatever her parents could bring to feed her.

Audra McTague '19 banding birds on Great Duck Island. Audra McTague ’19 banding birds on Great Duck Island.

Audra McTague is a student of gulls. She was born in Newport, Maine, which to most tourists hurrying to the wonders of the coast is just a truckstop on Interstate 95. It is also the gateway to the great wild lands that stretch north to the Canadian border.

Life isn’t always easy. Audra’s Dad was involved in a horrifying automobile accident which left him permanently disabled. Audra worked hard at school. She was selected to Upward Bound, a program that works with high school students to help them enter careers in math and science. She went on expeditions in the wild lands and along the coast. She applied to the College of the Atlantic, and was accepted Early Decision. Before she even started at College of the Atlantic, she joined a team of students studying gulls on Great Duck Island.

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*Tune in to Maine Sea Grant’s Coastal Conversations radio program on WERU 89.9 to hear more from John, Audra, Meaghan Lyon and alumna Kate Shlepr on April 8, 2016 from 10 to 11 a.m.