It's been said that all birders must make a pilgrimage to the Hog Island Audubon Camp in Bremen, Maine, and earlier this month I made mine to be one of the instructors in the camp's "Joy of Birding" session.
From the moment you land on Hog Island, you can feel the place exuding history: the history of birding, environmental education, and conservation; the lore of past great naturalists; and the feel of a simpler time when "campers" (we're speaking of adults here) slept in unheated wooden cabins and are called to dinner with the ringing of a giant bell.
I was lucky enough to be teaching with a remarkable team, including Dr. Charles Duncan, Former Director, Manomet Shorebird Recovery Project; Pete Dunne, author and birding ambassador; Laura Erickson, author, conservationist and educator; Wayne Peterson, Mass Audubon’s Director of the Massachusetts Important Bird Areas (IBA) program; and John Pumilio, Director of Sustainability at Colgate University, who directed our session. The 40 campers in our program raved about these folks, and also about the camp staff, which includes Cleo Bell, Head Chef (and we ate well and healthy!); Stephen Kress, Director of Seabird Biology and Conservation; Eva Matthews, Program Manager; Eli Redfern, Hog Island Kitchen Assistant; Juanita Roushdy, Friends of Hog Island Volunteer Coordinator; Pete Salmansohn, Director of Sharing Nature: An Educator's Week; and Eric Snyder, Facilities Manager and Instructor.
What goes into the joy of birding? Everything: identification by sight and sound, feathers and bird topography, optics, checklists, natural history, eBird, conservation, habitats, and best of all, plenty of birding. This camp offered a superb introduction to New England birds.