Girl’s Weekend (With Puffins, et als)

The Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica).  It's hard not to anthropomorphize this bird.  Flying football or Clown of the Sea; they are endearing.

The Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica). It’s hard not to anthropomorphize this bird. Flying Football or Clown of the Sea; they are endearing.

I got together with three bird banding friends for a girl’s weekend, leaving husbands, children and pets to fend for themselves while we birded north coastal Maine.  Our ringleader had arranged for us to visit Machias Seal Island, a sanctuary for nesting Atlantic Puffins, Razorbills, Common Murres, Arctic Terns, Common Eiders and Savannah Sparrows.  This proved to be the very most fun of our very fun weekend.

I loved the Puffins but the Common Murres really fascinated me.  I've  not had many opportunities to see them and they've only been breeding here for a few years.  About 10% of the birds we saw were

I loved the Puffins but the Common Murres really fascinated me. I’ve not had many opportunities to see them and they’ve only been breeding here for a few years. About 10% of the birds we saw were “Bridled” having the white eye ring and streak. The non-bridled birds had a crease there, but no white feathering.

Due to the restrictions on visitors (only 15 people at a time) and the popularity of the trip, she had made our reservations several months earlier.  A little risky, but the day was as calm as our Captain Andy had seen all year and the sky was clear.  We set out from Cutler, Maine for the 10 mile trip to the island.  Its ownership is in dispute between the US and Canada but no one asked for our passports, so not a problem for us.  We had a brief orientation next to nesting Arctic Terns and then were taken to blinds in the midst of all the thousands of birds.  The next hour was heaven.  The birds were so close we could almost touch them.  What a thrill to see them going about their daily interactions, oblivious of us, lurking in the blind.  We saw birds enter burrows from time to time but they spent most of the time just loafing on the rocks, seeming to chat with their neighbors.

Razorbills:  I had a chance to see the lovely white markings at close hand.  What a delight!

Razorbills: I had a chance to see the lovely white markings at close hand. What a delight!

This is a trip every birder should consider.  The birds seemed undisturbed by our presence and it was a rare opportunity for a glimpse into their lives without disrupting them.

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3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    denhug said,

    What a fantastic trip! A visit to the island is going on my to do list.

    Like

  2. 2

    You would love it, Denise. It’s a very special place. During migration the lighthouse keeper (Ralph Eldridge) posts on Maine Birds that warblers are all over the island. He even has pictures of them all over him!

    Like

  3. 3

    Marjorie said,

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience; I loved reading it. A birder’s dream.

    Like


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