Birder's Eye View

Monday, June 2, 2008

CMBS | Part 1

"In June as many as a dozen species may burst their buds on a single day. No man can heed all of these anniversaries; no man can ignore all of them." - Aldo Leopold

I mentioned back in the beginning of May that this month, June, would mark my one-year "anniversary" of "officially" becoming a birder. Now, I use all these words very loosely, mainly because I feel I have been a birder all my life and just didn't know it.

But last year, all of that changed. I owe everything to the Clearwater Audubon Society for awarding me a scholarship to the Coastal Maine Bird Studies (CMBS) camp on Maine Audubon's Hog Island.

And so, with great appreciation for all the people who made this adventure possible for me, I will be posting pictures and reflections from the camp throughout this month. I will start today by looking back on my first impressions of Hog Island.

Day 1: June 24th, 2007

I hear the waves hitting the shore, out in the blackness through my open window, I wrote in my diary the first night on Hog Island.

I was sitting in the Crow's Nest with 12 other high school students from around the country. There were 10 boys and only 3 girls, counting myself. The boys got the main room of the cabin, and the rest of us got a little room in the back looking east out over the water.

Night time on an island in Maine is no quieter than it is in Florida. But it is far more peaceful. The windows of the Crow's Nest were open 24/7, and at night when the temperature dropped, the chilly wind brought with it the mournful cry of the loons.

On my first full day on Hog Island, the sun rose at 4:30am. I might have slept through the glaring light coming in my bedside window, but I was awaken by something slightly more... surprising.

Amidst groan of motorboats and the splashing ashore of their waves, the lobstermen who harvested their catch each morning (I would soon learn) shouted to each other a flurry of colorful curse words.

Knowing I would never get back to sleep hearing what I had just heard through my open window, I got dressed and made my way out for the early morning bird walk in the common area of camp.

I was delegated to Scott Weidensaul's group with the other "beginners." After teaching us proper binocular use and whatnot, he proceeded to point out three different species of Terns (which I admit, at the time all looked identical to me) and multiple species of Gulls.

I was able to see the difference in the Gulls, but I had really yet to grasp this whole "birding" thing. Fake it 'til you make it, I kept thinking to myself. I knew enough about ecology and the environment so as not to look like a total naif, but it would still take another couple days of birding before it finally clicked.


Check back in a day or so to read what happened next! (Hint: it involves hiking with a well-known birder...)

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