Monday, June 27, 2016

Hog Island Heaven

["Oh yeah, we're in Maine," I said to no one in particular when the first Black Guillemot flew past as we motored out to Hog Island. The first of many, since this bird is common on the rocky coast, those lucky Mainers. . . click to enlarge all photos.]

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.

[zee-zee-zee zoo-zoo zee . . . what a treat to wake each morning to the songs of Black-throated Green Warblers drifting down from the red spruces of Hog Island.]

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.

[We found this Pileated Woodpecker and his mate feeding three young on one of our landward excursions. You can tell this is the male because the jaw stripe contains both black and red, while on the female it is solid black.]

[Obviously, a different habitat. We walked trails through grasslands near the Damariscotta River, finding Bobolinks like this male and other open-country birds.]

[You can't go to the rocky northeastern coast without making the effort to see Atlantic Puffins. This one flew by our boat at arm's length as we cruised along the shore of Egg Rock. Footballs with wings stuck on them . . . but far handsomer. We also saw Common, Roseate and Arctic Terns on this expedition.]

[All is not birds (my friends will be surprised to hear me say this). Pink Lady's-slipper over the white blooms of Canada Mayflower, a classic forest floor scene in June's north woods.]

[Hauled out: Harbor Seals raise pups near Hog Island.]

[Campers arrive at Hog Island through the fog (it is Maine, after all) on the Snow Goose.]

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