16 December 2015

Ukulele Plucking

After a few short weeks of being in Maine I bought a ukulele.  A month later, I was performing in my first concert with the Puffin Pluckers. This ragtag group of volunteers and staff that all share two things in common - a love for Hog Island and a good time. We strummed, we sang, we had performances on a boat, in a dining hall, and in the Fish House.  The set list was upbeat and the audience was forgiving.

Hog Island isn't my first time living on a remote island a stone's throw off the coast.  Jekyll Island in Georgia will always be my first island living but Hog Island has wiggled its way into my heart and I must admit, I'm looking forward to more ukulele, more singing, and more fun times to be had on the Maine Coast. 

If you're interested in learning more about our education programs or want to sign up for camp, check out our website: hogisland.audubon.org.  

15 December 2015

EARLYBIRD gets the worm!

The earlybird does get the worm or at least in this case you save $50 off of Hog Island Audubon Camp registration if you sign up by the end of the day - December 15th. The camp is a life-altering experience that I really do not think you can get anywhere else.  Where else can you see puffins with Dr. Steve Kress, walk the trails that Roger Tory Peterson and Alan Cruickshank gave bird walks, have a chance to spend dinner with the likes of Pete Dunne and Scott Weidensaul?  Also you get to wake up to the sound of loons calling or lobster boats driving by.  The stars are amazing and the darkness is real and engulfing as you walk the silent trails.  The rugged beauty of the Maine coast is something everyone should experience so what are you waiting for?  There are scholarships if you really need some extra help, otherwise sign up today and save a few dollars! The earlybird will get more than a worm while at camp, I can promise you that!

14 December 2015

South Carolina Flood

Our farm is one of those special places where I always feel at home and I can't wait to visit every year.  For the past decade on MLK Day weekend, my friends and I have been spending our time at our river house which sits on the normally quiet Black River in South Carolina.  This past year something drastic happened when a rain system dumped a wall of water over the Lowcountry of South Carolina.  

Black River flooded higher than it's 500 year mark and our house, that sits a good 12 feet off the ground, was found with 2 feet of water in it pretty quickly. Luckily, my dad was home and managed to get all the cars, the boats, the electronics, and some other items out of the house before they were destryoed.  The bad news is that the home is now gutted and empty.  A shell of our former fun memories linger.

It's hard to say when we'll have enough money to fix the house but it will happen eventually.  At least I hope that it happens before it becomes run down.  For now we just have to wait, let it dry, and try to plan for the future. The old farm house didn't even come close to flooding and for now, it's the new place to stay when visiting.  Even though I know we were lucky, I'm still sad to know that the water took something away from us that we may not get back.

03 November 2015

Book Review: Birds of South America: Passerines

Princeton University Press has put out another great bird guide!  Birds of South America: Passerines, written and illustrated by Ber van Perlo, is a quality guide to a large region.  It focuses on the passerines south of Panama and even includes islands of South America.  It tops out at 464 pages and is pretty heavy. I would say that the small size however does allow the option of carrying it in the field and certainly, it's good reference guide when learning South American bird families. This book is a companion guide to Birds of South America: Non-Passerines: Rheas to Woodpeckers by Jorge R. Rodriguez Mata, Francisco Erize and Maurice Rumboll.

Synallaxis & Ovenbirds

First, let me say how glad I was to see a new book out covering South America. Second, I LOVE that they included range maps beside each bird species description. I also love that the plates are beside the descriptions and everything is so concise and easy to read.  Some of the older guides I have of South America tend to keep the plates separate from the descriptions or the range maps are not easily found or non-existant.  I just like it all together and this book hits that square on the head.

The range maps are small and the fact that everything is so tightly packed into the pages may make it hard to read for those with eyesight issues but for me it's perfect. My only criticism with the book is the illustrations. I find them a little pale, a little wispy but they are detailed and I believe it's more of a style preference than a problem. Other than that small fact, I think this is a handy guide but you don't have to take my word for it, give it a gander yourself on this sample page.

This review copy was provided by Princeton University Press.

30 October 2015

Migration and Monhegan

One of my fondest memories of this past summer was the night we spent with campers on Monhegan Island.  Monhegan sits far our in the Gulf of Maine and it a perfect land beacon for migranting birds as they travel south. We hiked up to a open hillside for sunrise and watched the migrant show at it's best. Flyover warblers, shorebirds, and raptors graced the skies above and a few even landed for closer inspection.

We watched raptors diving over the Monhegan forests and heard Bobolinks calling high in the sky.  We were even given great views of a couple of Whimbrels that made repeated flyovers that morning.

Whimbrel over Monhegan taken by Tom Johnson
Of course the main attraction was after sunrise when we hiked the Monhegan trails in search of migrants busily feeding on trees and bush.  We were able to identify 19 species of wood-warblers that day in addition to seeing three species of vireos in one binocular field of view!  In addition, we had a rare Black-crowned Night Heron at the Ice Pond and so many Merlins you couldn't count them all.  

Prairie Warbler on Monhegan taken by Tom Johnson
If you're thinking about joining the Hog Island Audubon Camp on Monhegan next year, you're in luck!  We have two weeks of migration camp with two different sets of prices.  The first session will be a lower price as we will just do a day trip to Monhegan.  The second session of Living on the Wind: Migration and Monhegan will be higher in price but will include an overnight on the island and a chance to see this sunrise birding firsthand!  Of course spaces are limited and we are selling out fast.  I hope you'll consider joining us next summer. 

13 October 2015

Road Scholar Sessions

Removing lobster industry debris from Eastern Egg Rock
This September I had the pleasure to work with a great group of Road Scholar students at Hog Island Audubon Camp.  During the week-long camp they removed exotic vegetation, picked up miles of shoreline trash, and improved seabird habitat.

Mary removing debris on Eastern Egg Rock
If you're looking for a fun week of service and you should consider signing up for the Hog Island Audubon Camp's Road Scholar sessions - there are two, one in the spring and one in the fall.  If you come to camp I can guarantee that you'll make a difference for nesting seabirds and you'll meet some new friends along the way.

28 August 2015

Hog Island Family Camp

Hog Island Audubon Camp host a lovely week for families each August.  Next summer there will be two sessions!  The week is filled with outside activities to keep the kids engaged and the parents excited as well.  Between boat trips and craft projects, the camp strives to have something for everyone. On many days there are optionals where the campers can select which activity appeals to them most.  These range from Pond Study to Squid Dissection.

Spotting an Osprey on the Shakedown Cruise

There are a couple of boat trips sprinkled in the week and this year all the campers had the chance to see Puffins!  This is late in the season for puffins but enough were still around to delight all the attendees.

One of the best activities and involves the whole camp is the Inter-tidal Exploration.  This involves everything from seining to rock scrambling. The evening is capped with a delectable exotic periwinkle snack cooked over an open fire on the beach.

On depature the campers are surprised by our "puffins" that sing and dance on the dock as the Snow Goose takes them back to shore.  The mix of grandparents, parents, kids, instructors, and volunteers make this a special week not to be forgotten. Next year the camp is expanding to include 13 year-old campers.  One session will be 8-12 year-olds and the second will be 8-13 year-olds. If you have kids, this should be on your bucket list.  It will be a week to never forget!

18 August 2015

Puffins with Steve Kress

Eastern Egg Rock, ME

When Steve Kress, founder of Project Puffin, calls you up and asks if you want to join him for a boat ride to Eastern Egg Rock the answer is always yes.  The opportunity to see puffins with Steve seemed a little surreal.  Recently arrived to Hog Island, I was happy to find my Friday afternoon in company of a great ornithologist on a trip to see the species he brought back to the Maine coast.
Rose and Steve share a laugh.

We headed out to Eastern Egg Rock with great weather, calm seas, and a high tide.  We were going to pick up Rose Borzik, who has been working with Project Puffin for over 20 years.  We scooped her up from the dingy and circled the island in such of the sea parrot. 

Atlantic Puffin, Fratercula arctica

Puffins can be a little hard to see in August but we were in luck as one flew right at the boat and landed a mere 30 feet away.  The Atlantic Puffin is a silly looking football-shaped bird with a colorful beak and a tuxedo suit.  Our puffin had a mouth full of fish and seaweed and casually watched us, diving sporadically until it decided it had its full investigation satisfied.

It was the only puffin of the trip but it was a perfect specimen that gave us wonderful looks as we idled in the boat.  Our trip was smooth on the return and the sun gave a hint of setting as it brightly lit up the Queen Mary on Hog Island.  A great welcome to Maine and my life on Hog Island!

Hog Island Audubon Camp, Maine

22 April 2015

Hands-on Bird Science

Hands-on Bird Science is probably the most exciting session of Hog Island Audubon Camp, in my personal opinion.  You take Scott Weidensaul and a stellar team of ornithologists with backgrounds in bird-song recording, bird-banding, and museum specimen preparation and you not just watch but learn how to get "hands-on" with birds.  This is a great session for naturalists of all levels, educators, volunteer bird-banders, and just anyone that wants to learn about birds in a "hands-on" fashion.

Also, in case you didn't know, Hog Island is all across the social media platforms.  Find the camp on Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube!

17 April 2015

Breaking Into Birding

Do you remember the spark bird that turned you from casual observer to birdwatcher?  Mine was a group of birds - warblers.  It occurred in the spring of 2007 at Green Cay Nature Center & Wetlands.  Something about identifying the birds felt so perfect.

If you know someone that has an interest in birds but isn't a full-fledged birder yet then I have a place that is sure to spark their love of birding. Breaking Into Birding is a new session at Hog Island Audubon Camp that is purposely geared towards beginners.  We promise to delight the senses, show people beautiful birds, and hopefully find them that spark bird that changes their life.

No experience is necessary and we have world-class instructors there to guide you every inch of the way.  You will see Atlantic Puffins on Egg Rock and nesting Ospreys on Hog Island.  The food is fresh and local, while the accommodations are rustic Maine cabins.  Be a part of Hog Island history and let us row you ashore.  There's only 8 spots left, so register today!