Monday, July 2, 2007

Hog Island: Part 1

Monday, July 2, 2007
Scott Weidensaul leading a group of bird watchers at the Hog Island Audubon Camp in Maine.

Scott Weidensaul, the bard of contemporary nature writing, is the one to blame. Now we HAVE to visit Maine every year.

He's the one, after all, who recommended us to be a part of the teaching staff for the "Joy of Birding" course at the Hog Island Audubon Camp. Seth Benz, director of the Hog Island camp, must be under Scott's spell because, sho'nuff, he invited us.

"A week of bird watching on an island off the coast of Maine?
Hmmm... let us think

Scott W. and Jen Sauter tide-pooling with Liam. They were gathering creatures for the salt-water touch tank in the classroom.

And we had such a wonderful time that I'm sure we'll want to go back in years to come. If they'll have us, that is.
Seth Benz briefs the staff just prior to the campers' arrival.

Flattered, we were, to be walking in the footsteps of great naturalists of yesterday and today: Allan and Helen Cruickshank, Roger Tory Peterson, and Rachel Carson taught, studied, or spent time on Hog Island. Stephen Kress launched Project Puffin from Hog Island. Today you might take the Ornithology course from Scott Weidensaul and Kenn Kaufman, or one of the dozens of other Hog Island instructors.

Scott conducted a bird-banding demonstration for the campers. They banded a pine siskin, a purple finch and a goldfinch.

I'd heard about Hog Island for years. Roger Peterson wrote and spoke about the place as having been one of his early formative career experiences. And the folks who go there, whether as youngsters or as adults, seem to be captivated by the place. This brings them back, often year after year. A few of our fellow staffers had come to Hog Island as youth campers decades before!
We passed this inlet on our way to and from our cabin. It was different every time.

The setting is right out of a Wyeth painting. Or maybe Winslow Homer. The ragged rocky coast of Maine, spruce clad with surging tides offers a stop-and-sigh vista no matter where your eyes fall. Islands dot the horizon and harbor seals, common eiders, and black guillemots swim amidst the bright buoys marking the lobster pots.

A male common eider. Most eiders were heading into eclipse plumage.

Harbor seals doing the "banana" posture on a rocky shoal, trying to keep their tails out of the cold water.

Cabins on Hog Island are much as they were back in the good old days--rustic and funky. But after a day of sea air, hiking the island's meandering trails, and birding, plus heaps of good food, few campers have trouble sleeping. I know I didn't.

Hog Island Director Seth Benz gives camper Susan the low-down on the camp.

I'll share a few images from our first two days at Hog Island. In my next post, I'll tell you about our boat trip to see the Atlantic puffin colony on Eastern Egg Rock.

Male northern parula waiting for me to go away so he could resume bathing in the camp's awesome water feature.


On July 3, 2007 at 11:32 AM Julie Zickefoose said...

Well, sweetie, that may be the perfect common eider picture. Where were you hiding that one? I'm still floundering around in North Dakota, but I'm gearing up for Maine. Lovely pictures.

On July 3, 2007 at 11:56 AM Bill of the Birds said...

Yeah Zick, but YOU got the puffins....

On July 3, 2007 at 1:22 PM possumlady said...

Wow, I actually thought the common eider photo was a painting! Just gorgeous.

On July 3, 2007 at 4:15 PM Rondeau Ric said...

Welll I guess it's North Dakota and Maine next year and maybe West Virginia.

I may have to retire so I have enough time to go to all the festivals you two recommend.


On July 3, 2007 at 5:04 PM Trixie said...

Count me in!

On July 3, 2007 at 8:23 PM John Briggs said...

Great picture of the Eider!

The little ones are with the females now and it is hard to photograph them except at a distance.

There is a spot near Biddeford Pool, Maine called the "Gut" that is awesome for Eider flight shots.

Glad to hear you had a great time up here!

On July 3, 2007 at 9:53 PM karen said...

My 12-year old son is attending the Youth Camp at Hog Island later this month....he is very excited! He's turning into quite a good birder. Hopefully there will still be a few puffins around for him to see then(we're in GA and he's never seen one). Looking forward to your Part 2 and also Julie's post on Hog Island.

On July 5, 2007 at 7:02 AM KatDoc said...

Well, great - another place I have to put on the "must-see" list. I really want to go to West Virginia again next year, but then there is the "Potholes and Prairies" trip and now Maine ... Where can I get a job with 18 weeks of vacation per year, so I can follow you guys from one bird festival to another?

I'm with RR - let's all retire and bird.


On July 5, 2007 at 8:12 AM Mary said...

I'm with RR, too. I need to retire. This is a lovely post but I'm partial to the Harbor seals.