Birder's Eye View

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

CMBS | Part 5

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” - Charles Darwin

Day 4: June 27, 2007

When the sun rose in the early hours of my fourth morning on Hog Island, it didn't last for long. As we set out on the Puffin V, the fair skies were obscured by a thick blanket of storm clouds. Nonetheless, like good, hardcore birders, we set out to sea, destined for Eastern Egg Rock Island.

The boat ride was fun at first. It was kind of like a roller coaster. Only wetter. And cold. The boat would pitch up into the air, and then slide down again on the waves, tickling the pit of your stomach.

Near the islands, we could see Harbor Seals and porpoises, and but further out, we saw little more than huge, rolling waves.

When we arrived at Eastern Egg Rock we were greeted by a pair of Razorbills, flying past the boat. There seemed to be hundreds of terns, as well, flocking the island. I would have given anything to go ashore, but unfortunately, we weren't aloud.

Eastern Egg Rock is the southern-most breeding ground for Atlantic Puffins in the US. A Puffin colony was established there in the 1970s, thanks to Project Puffin, an effort to restore the bird's population in Maine.

In the 1981, there were only 4 breeding pairs on the island, but when I was there in 2007, the population had increased to 90 pairs. Talk about a success!

The Atlantic Puffins were not as easy to spot as the other birds. They're much smaller than you'd expect, if you've never seen one before, and rather difficult to photograph without a good camera.

After circling the island a couple times, we proceeded to a nearby gull breeding ground, known as Ross Island. This little piece of land was covered -- and I mean covered -- in gulls. Hundreds of them.
As I hiked up the rocky shore with the other campers and ornithologists, I realized that gulls nests were built in every nook an cranny on the ground.

We got to hold a few chicks, some of which were only days old. The experience was mindboggling; gulls flocked to the skies and chicks peered out from beneath the rocks around which we were standing.

Later on that day, we took a fieldtrip to the mainland to visit the Clarry Hill Blueberry barrens. Here, we hoped to see Upland Sandpipers, which were apparently often sighted on the rock walls that separated the blueberry fields.

We hiked up a gently slanted hill, but soon after our arrival, a thunderstorm struck with full force. We hightailed it back to the van and waited it out. Lightning struck so close by at one point, that it crackled deafeningly almost before we saw it strike.

And then just like that, the skies cleared to a pristine, periwinkle blue. We piled out of the van again, binoculars and spotting scopes in tow.

While we never saw the Upland Sandpiper, we were serenaded by a few nearby Savannah Sparrows perching on the rock walls.

What a day to remember! Through seasickness and storms, we managed to see some great birds and have some once-in-a-lifetime experiences.


Check back in a couple days for Part 6: The Last Day

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