MA Biologist Honored for Bird Island Restoration

Anyone who fishes or boats in Buzzards Bay is familiar with Bird Island, home to a squat lighthouse and a whole bunch of terns, both common and roseate, the latter an endangered species.

The 1.4-acre island, located off Marion, has long served as a critical nesting site for the terns each spring, but over the years the land had been gradually eaten away by erosion and rising sea level, eventually turning the island’s sandy beaches into salt marsh and salt pannes. These changes caused the common terns, which nest on the island’s beaches, to move inland on the tiny island, displacing the endangered roseate terns.

Something had to be done, and leading the charge was Carolyn Mostello, the Coastal Waterbird Biologist for MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program. Through Carolyn’s dedication—and that of her project partners—the roseate tern population within Buzzards Bay has increased by 37% over the past 8 years.

The Bird Island restoration and revetment project took place over 2015 and 2016, with workers from the Army Corps of Engineers using an excavator to rebuild the seawall around much of the island.

For her efforts, dedication, and hard work over the years, Mostello has been honored with Mass Audubon’s inaugural Hemenway + Hall Wildlife Conservation Award. Harriet Hemenway and Minna Hall founded Mass Audubon in 1896 as part of their campaign to stop the commercial killing of birds for feathers in fashionable hats of the time. This new award bearing their names recognizes an individual for “success in the preservation, enhancement, and restoration of a New England species and/or their habitat, as well as an enthusiasm for sharing information about their efforts and a commitment to inspiring future generations of conservation professionals.”

Watch a video of Carolyn Mostello and her work on Bird Island, filmed in 2014 before the revetment project.