Audubon Camp on Hog Island, Maine
Reported by Pat Press and Carol Franchi
Bird enthusiasts, educators, and nature lovers came together from all over the country this summer at the Hog Island, Maine, National Audubon Camp. AAS Past President Kathleen Carr attended the Field Ornithology Camp in June, and Nick Baldwin, our chapter’s long-time resident photographer, attended the Arts and Birding Camp in July. Last to attend were Pat Press and Carol Franchi, the Apalachee Chapter’s Education Committee leaders. Both retired teachers and sisters attended the week-long Sharing Nature: An Educator’s Camp in late July and came home with plenty of ideas and enthusiasm. They plan to share their ideas with local communities about birding education, conservation, ecology, nature and environmental studies.
One of the most interesting evenings enjoyed by Pat and Carol was the program given by Dr. Steve Kress, celebrated Audubon scientist, author, and Chairman of National Audubon’s Bird Conservation Programs. He presented his work on Project Puffin. A Board Member of Hog Island Camp, Steve Kress has been working on saving puffins for over forty years. Puffins are these unusual and colorful-looking North Atlantic seabirds that had moved north to Nova Scotia due to environmental factors. Dr. Kress designed a seabird nesting restoration project for Eastern Egg Rock, a small rocky island in Muscongus Bay, Maine, where puffins had previously nested.
One of his most successful experiments was using painted wooden puffin decoys to attract nesting pairs to the island. Puffins are naturally curious and socially gregarious, so they stopped over to visit and eventually stayed. There are now many puffins coming to Eastern Egg Rock Island. Dr. Kress also explored using mirror boxes to trick the puffins into having interactions with themselves and thereby gaining social familiarity with their setting. His amazing Project Puffin information is on the internet and we encourage everyone to visit.
One of the most enjoyable field trips the Hog Island Campers experienced was our day-long boat trip out to Eastern Egg Rock Island for photo shooting and bird watching. Among the many birds Pat, Carol, Kathleen, and Nick saw were puffins, guillemots, eider ducks, loons, ospreys, eagles, terns, gulls, and herons. On a nearby island in Muscongus Bay they sighted harbor seals and giant black-backed gulls, as well as playful dolphins.
The bay itself and the many islands along the Maine shore were a perfect environment for these beautiful creatures. Muscongus Bay is a lobsterman’s and fisherman’s paradise. The shining blue waters are covered with fleets of colorful lobster boats, sailboats, and marker floats each identifying individual lobstermen’s lines of traps. As you can imagine, the last night on the island was a magical evening of celebrating nature, camaraderie, sharing ideas and projects, as well as eating a lobster feast fresh from the sea.
Outside the kitchens there was a tall tower which housed a huge osprey nest where the family’s antics were being viewed by a 24/7 camera and broadcasted across the internet. Each time the parents came to feed the two nestlings we were a captive audience for their screeches and delights during feeding times. A path past the osprey nest was a good spot to watch the fledglings preparing to flee their nest, an event that was soon expected by the camp residents.
Pat Press, a Reading and Early Childhood Education Specialist, has prepared a list of suggested books for young readers, as well as a list for teens and adult readers, to become familiar with nature and environmental studies, as well as entertaining reading for pleasure. Picture books for young children should be read aloud and enjoyed together. There are many teacher/parent resources which can be used to enhance the children’s and young adult’s experiences in learning about nature and the creatures with whom we share this beautiful natural environment. You can access these resources at Apalachee Audubon, National Audubon, Hog Island Audubon Camp, and Project Puffin.
Dr. Steve Kress, Project Puffin
North Atlantic Puffin
Hog Island Audubon Camp, Maine
From Hog Island Website 2013