Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Harbor Island Adventure

I'm coming to you from the Wasatch Mountains in Utah with a mini photo documentary about an afternoon spent last week on a barely inhabited island in the Gulf of Maine on the outer fringe of Muscongus Bay.

We'd been out on a morning boat trip out to Eastern Egg Rock (more about this soon) and were hungry for lunch, so we put ashore on Harbor Island, a privately owned island with just one house on it. The owners were not there but Maine Audubon has permission to land and picnic and hike there. One steadfast rule: no skipping stones from the beach. This seems simple enough to abide by—until you see the stones on the beach. THEY ARE THE WORLD'S MOST PERFECT SKIPPING STONES. And I've got to tell you it was hard to resist. But we did. The owners want the beach to remain pristine.

After devouring our lunches, we enjoyed our choice of activities for the next three hours: overland to a blueberry heath, around the outside of the island, or a hike-free option of sitting on the beach (and not skipping stones). I helped lead a group around the outside of the island.

Here are some images from the afternoon. Sorry no great bird pix to share, but some nice people pix.

The house on Harbor Island near our landing spot.

The trusty Puffin V was our cruise ship.

Eric and Sue rowed us all ashore, 9 at a time, in classic Maine dories.

Three-fourths of my family went on the next to last dory. Phoebe did not like the tippiness factor.

Two dories passing in the bay at Harbor Island.

Once ashore, Sue gave us our afternoon options and paired us up with two buddies each to ensure there would be No Birder Left Behind.

Hiking around the rocky fringe of Harbor Island.

BOTB with lobster buoy sculpture.

We found the nest of a gull: probably a great-black-backed gull.

Phoebe and her dad went wading in the cold water until their feet went numb.

Jared scanning the water for guillemots.

Alan and Carol relaxing together after the hike.

Julie Z. and Liam played in the sand.

Liam performed a comedy routine with seaweed.

Aprés hike nappers on the beach.

Eric rested after the hike, too.

Soon it was time to head back out to the Puffin V.

The Thompson/Zick family was on the last dory off the island. Soon we were headed back to Hog Island.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008


Phoebe looking at a phoebe.

Hey! I was on NPR's All Things Considered today in a story about kids and birds by Melissa Block. I took Melissa and her family birding at Huntley Meadows in northern Virginia on Memorial Day weekend. What fun!

I listened to the piece on the radio with about 25 other people as we sat in the dining room of the Hog Island Audubon Camp in Maine. It was surreal to hear my voice coming out of the radio right next to all of those familiar NPR voices.

After the piece aired, we finished dinner and then we walked over to The Fish House where I gave a talk about The Young Birder's Guide to the folks here at Hog Island.

If you missed the story's airing, you can listen to it here.

What a day....

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Hog Island Butterbutt

Male yellow-rumped warbler.

The sun came out for a few hours this afternoon on Hog Island and the birds went crazy. This male yellow-rumped warbler was particularly cooperative perching in the dawn redwood that was planted in the main camp yard.

He made sure we knew why his nickname is "butterbutt."

Sorry to be so brief, but we're birding from dawn to dark and eating like, well, hogs.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Back to Hog Island

View of Hog Island from the mainland.

We spent most of the past two days making our way to Hog Island Audubon Camp in Maine where Zick and I will be instructors for the next week during the "Joy of Birding" course. Most of this travel time was passed NOT traveling, but sitting in the Jet Blue terminal of JFK airport in New York. But let's not go there. No, really.

Instead of flying to Portland, Maine, we re-directed ourselves to Boston, Massachusetts, and drove north to The Land of the Lobster with some new friends, Eric and Dena. Our luggage magically, was waiting for us at the Portland airport, as was our ride to The Hog, a white van driven by our charming friend Heather (a Hog Island staffer). We got the midnight skiff ride across the harbor from Eric and Seth and crashed out in our cabin at about 1 am.

It was raining last night and still is this morning. And it promises to continue all week, though there is a "possible chance of sun" on Thursday. So, instead, Ill show you some pix from last year.

This is the view you get walking out to our cabin. Nice! I keep expecting to see mermaids and forest sprites out of the corner of my eye.

Common eider.

Common eiders live up to their name here on the coast of Maine. They are big, tanky sea ducks with a long sloping bill. Their colors are much more impressive than I've captured here.

Atlantic puffin.

Hog Island was the original home of Project Puffin, the large and very successful conservation project undertaken to restore the Atlantic puffin as a breeding bird in Maine. We hope to take at least one boat trip out to Eastern Egg Rock to see the "sea toucans."

If you've never been to Hog Island, you should put it on your list—and do it before you're making the Bucket List, dude. This place is magic.

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