A Feast for Voles

Vole FeastHere’s a program from our archives.ambience: Terns On Great Gull Island off the coast of Connecticut, scientists have turned a former military base into a sanctuary for thousands of birds who use the island as a summer nesting ground. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.Years of army occupation had changed the island’s ecosystem, making it difficult for the birds to build their nests here,until scientists found a solution with the help of one of Great Gull Island’s former inhabitants.Hays: Well, our biggest problem is vegetation.Helen Hays is the Director of the Great Gull Island Project. Since 1969, she’s been studying the annual migration of Common and Roseate Terns.Hays: Neither Commons nor Roseates will nest in dense vegetation. So, we tried pulling the vegetation out by hand. We tried burning. We tried shoveling. But then at the end of the season, it was covered again with weeds. So I was talking about this with one of the curators in the museum and he suggested that we reintroduce the Meadow Vole which eats grass and used to be on this island before the army occupied it. So since the the terns were also on the island before the army occupied it, we assumed that the terns and the voles lived together and didn’t harm one another. So I thought that was a wonderful idea and one of the volunteers caught thirty voles in Westchester and we released them in 1981 here. And by the end of the summer, there wasn’t a blade of grass anywhere. It was absolutely bare.And as the meadow voles took care of the weeds, scientists and volunteers at Great Gull island watched the annual migration grow to some twenty thousand birds.Hays: I say it’s been a great success.We’ve been listening to a program from our archives. If you want to hear more, check out our podcast. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

A Feast for Voles

What to do when an island bird refuge gets overgrown with plants?
Air Date:07/18/2021
Scientist:
Transcript:

Vole FeastHere's a program from our archives.ambience: Terns On Great Gull Island off the coast of Connecticut, scientists have turned a former military base into a sanctuary for thousands of birds who use the island as a summer nesting ground. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.Years of army occupation had changed the island's ecosystem, making it difficult for the birds to build their nests here,until scientists found a solution with the help of one of Great Gull Island's former inhabitants.Hays: Well, our biggest problem is vegetation.Helen Hays is the Director of the Great Gull Island Project. Since 1969, she's been studying the annual migration of Common and Roseate Terns.Hays: Neither Commons nor Roseates will nest in dense vegetation. So, we tried pulling the vegetation out by hand. We tried burning. We tried shoveling. But then at the end of the season, it was covered again with weeds. So I was talking about this with one of the curators in the museum and he suggested that we reintroduce the Meadow Vole which eats grass and used to be on this island before the army occupied it. So since the the terns were also on the island before the army occupied it, we assumed that the terns and the voles lived together and didn't harm one another. So I thought that was a wonderful idea and one of the volunteers caught thirty voles in Westchester and we released them in 1981 here. And by the end of the summer, there wasn't a blade of grass anywhere. It was absolutely bare.And as the meadow voles took care of the weeds, scientists and volunteers at Great Gull island watched the annual migration grow to some twenty thousand birds.Hays: I say it's been a great success.We've been listening to a program from our archives. If you want to hear more, check out our podcast. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.