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SAVING TERNS By Sue Erickson Staff Writer Two for the terns Two floating nesting platforms readied for spring MilleLacsReservationMinn.TheMilleLacsBandispreparingtolaunch literally speaking a new effort to assist the struggling common tern population that inhabits Hennepin Island in Mille Lacs Lake. Next spring two new breeding platforms built on pontoons will be ready to host the nesting terns in an environ- ment that hopefully will lead to more nest and chick survival. Listed as a threatened species in Minnesota common terns have been strug- gling with successful reproduction on the island for a number of years according to Kelly Applegate Mille Lacs Band biologist. Hennepin Island which is co-managed by the Mille Lacs Band and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service USFWS hosts one of five breeding colonies of com- mon terns in Minnesota. Hennepin Island along with Spirit Island is part of the Mille Lacs National Wildlife Refuge. Although the island hosts the largest com- mon tern colony in the state it has a poor track record with reproductive success. Its probably more of a sink than a source for the terns Applegate comments. Biologists believe 1.2 surviving chicks per nest are needed as a threshold figure to sustain the population. In the past twenty years Mille Lacsterns have met that threshold once. SowhatstheproblemApplegateexplainsthattheislandislow-lyingsubject to erosion from waves and ice shear. The rocky surface is so low that waves from one storm can wash the nests and chicks off the island. To help with this situation Applegate and Walt Ford USFWS have been adding 30 yards of pea gravel to the islands surface every five years. Another problem is competition for the nesting grounds. Gulls invade the ternsnesting area. To address this problem the co-managers have erected a string grid over the terns nesting area with openings that allow the terns to enter but prevent the larger gulls from getting through. If we hadnt acted to stop the gulls there would be no terns left now Applegate states. The pontoon nesting sites are modeled after those successfully operated by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources ODNR. Dave Sherman biologist with the ODNR says they have been operating two pontoon platforms on the south coast of Lake Erie since the late 1990s and have seen successful reproduc- tion. One platform is plagued with great horned owls preying on chicks so that has created other challenges there. But the second platform is very successful he says. With a grant from the Circle of Flight program Mille Lacs will be purchas- ing two large pontoons which will be stripped to the frame. Aluminum decking will be installed along with a mesh grate. Four inches of pea gravel will provide the rocky habitat preferred by the terns. Finally the string grid will be installed above the nesting platform to ward off invading gulls. The grid will be fastened to poles welded in place so will be much easier to maintain than on the island. Another plus for the managers the floating platforms will be easier to observe from the waters edge in order to record data. The platforms will be placed in protected areas of the lake and safety issues will be considered according to Applegate. We will need reflectors possibly buoys anything that will address boating safety concerns. And how do you get the terns to moveApplegate plans on using decoys and playing tern calls to lure nesting birds to the floating sites. He also plans on getting community youth in on the action. Decoys can be carved by local college students and painted by students at the Nay Ah Shing School using a paint-by-number scheme making the project into an opportunity for community service and a place-based learning activity. Tern chicks hatched successfully on a nesting pontoon operated by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources ODNR. photos submitted by the ODNR The Ohio Department of Natural Resources positioned two nesting pontoons for common terns on the south shore of Lake Erie in the late 1990s and have experienced successful reproduction. The Mille Lacs Band is using these pontoons as models for its common tern project. A string grid cover discourages other birds such as gulls from taking over the nesting ground or disturbing the tern nests. Susan Hedman Region 5 administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency EPA spends the morning paddling Lake Pacwawong with former Bad River Chairman Mike Wiggins. Chairman Wiggins and Administrator Hedman scope out the condition of manoomin and take in the sights. Wiggins explains the significance of manoomin to Anishinaabe as it pertains to the creation story and a traditional diet. photo by Dylan Jennings EPA Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman paddles Lake Pacwawong PAGE 11 MAZINAIGANWINTER 2015-16