Getting Outside Saturday: Puffins.

categories: Cocktail Hour / Getting Outside

Comments Off on Getting Outside Saturday: Puffins.

Puffin, looking worried as usual, Machias Seal Island.

Last weekend we attended the Down East Birding Festival, which took place down in Lubec, Cutler, Baring, Eastport and many others spots at the farthest east point of the good ole’  USA.  Highlights were a boat ride ten miles straight south to Machias Seal Island, which both Canada and the U.S. claim.  There’s a light out there and a very serious birding fellow, a pirate of a man, a Canadian who watches the rookery and the amazing migratory fall outs of warblers and just about any other kind of bird you can think of.  They put you into a bird blind, just a plywood booth full of little hatch-door windows, and you get an hour within a few feet of the birds.  Razorbills, Arctic Terns, Common Murres, and Atlantic Puffins, also various seagulls.  The puffins are comical, busy

Light at Machias Seal Island, and Birds

fliers.  They put their orange feet forward to land, and stumble when they hit the rocks.  They look worried, something about the markings around their eyes.  And they make a sound like distant chainsaws.  There were thousands of them on the fog-bound day, thousands.  Also other alcids–the Razorbills primarily, very handsome birds in black suits with white piping.  The alcids reminded me of penguins, and they fill a similar ecological slot, ranging the polar seas and diving deep for fish.  But unlike penguins, they can fly in the air, and not only the water.

We enjoyed walks and talks at the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, a much better use of


federal funds than black sites and waterboarding, cheaper, too.  The highlight there was a walk along abandoned railroad tracks on a dike through a bog looking for Rails at sunset, warm evening, Rails the birds, I mean, with a large group of scientists.  Heard some Rails, saw an Orchard Oriole, saw otters playing, the biggest beaver lodge I’ve ever seen, numerous warblers, warbling vireos, and a painted turtle.  Also railroad junk, which I love.  Elysia found a muskrat skull on the old tracks where an Eagle had left it.

Next morning there was a walk in the coastal spruce-fir forest at Boot Cove Preserve, Lubec, where the harsh seaside conditions mimic those of Maine mountaintops.  There we saw spruce grouse, and my first Nashville Warbler and

Sunset over Lubec

my second Palm Warbler, among many other species, guided by the brilliant Herb Wilson of Colby College.  I used to eschew these

group activities and festivals of all kinds, but with the inquisitive kid in tow, it makes a huge difference to draw on the expertise of a leader and a group, also their social skills.  Oh, and Northern Gannets out at sea for Dave.  And Eagles.  And Ospreys.  And warblers galore.  And a live owl talk from the Chewonki Foundation.

Oh, and seals–harbor and gray, on a rock near Machias Seal Island, dozens.


Elysia in the Blind







Boot Cove







Pitcher Plant in the bog at Boot Cove Preserve. Meat eater!

Comments are closed.