Where in the park is Neil? The week 3 answer is Gull Island

As part of the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, we’re going on a virtual tour with Neil Howk, a man who has spent decades exploring the islands and teaching people about what makes them special. He knows the islands like the back of his hand.

At the third stop on our digital tour, Neil is enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of Gull Island, the smallest island in the National Lakeshore. It’s located to the north of Michigan Island, on the eastern side of the archipelago at 46.9067° N, 90.4433° W.

Observing Gull Island is best done from a distance. In fact, to help protect the large numbers of colonial nesting birds that use Gull and Eagle islands, those islands are closed to the public during nesting season (May 15 – September 1). Gull island offers the birds a flat, stone-filled shoreline. A navigation light on a steel tower helps boats avoid it at night.

Scientists have been inventorying the populations of birds nesting on Gull Island for more than 45 years. Results of the surveys show that the number of birds nesting on the island stayed relatively stable until 2014, but declined significantly since then. Scientists do not know the reason(s) for the drop, but recent high lake levels that reduced the size of Gull Island may be partly to blame. 

If you live in the Midwest, some of the birds that pass through your neighborhood may have spent time nesting or resting in the Apostles. The Wisconsin Bird Conservation Partnership recognized the significance of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore to the protection of bird populations in Wisconsin by naming it one of the state’s 93 Important Bird Areas. Happy birding!

Gull Island is just three acres in size. It does not offer campsites. Click here to plan your trip to the islands.

Gull Island is a wonderful place and there’s lots more to explore! Look for another digital adventure next week. To play along, simply like the Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Facebook page and check back next Wednesday for the clue to next week’s location. Make a guess in the comments and we’ll post the answer on Thursday. Click here to learn about Neil.

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