Overall impressions

Posted June 30th, 2011 by kcorliss. Comments (2).

shoreline along Hog Island (K Corliss)

A friend and fellow birder began badgering me early in the year in order to get me to attend a “field ornithology” program run by Audubon on Hog Island, Maine. I resisted as long as I could giving cost, time, etc., as reasons why I couldn’t go. His persistance paid off and I relented. Last week we attended said course.

Regular readers may already know I’m not an Audubon member. I wondered how uncomfortable it would be for me given my right-leaning stances on most issues, including environmental ones. As it turned out, I only squirmed a few times and those were fairly mild.

On the plus side: Who wouldn’t like to go birding with some of the bigger names in the biz, headlined by Kenn Kaufman and his gorgeous wife, Kim? Other celebs included author Scott Weidensaul, sound collector Lang Elliott, and biologist Sara Morris. Moreover, the landscape is so unlike anything we are used to seeing here in the Red River Valley, just immersing oneself in the Maine experience is a worthy pursuit.

The days zipped by under a vigorous schedule of field trips and classroom-type instruction. Idle time was at a premium unless you decided not to attend a particular event. Forty-five adult “campers” were in attendance; most were AARP card-holders I imagine. Still it was instructive, it was fun, and it was breathtakingly beautiful (especially for a mid-continenter like me).

Atlantic puffins (K Corliss)

In addition, the food provided on this camp was amazing. No one went hungry with oodles of freshly cooked meals available three times a day. Biggest treat? Lobster on Thursday evening.

I got to know several attendees quite well–some I will maintain contact with and (hopefully) continue to call a friend.

Downside: I would have preferred more an emphasis on sea birds (hey, this is Maine after all!). The field trips to the mainland, while not necessarily boring, were similar to ones I might make around here in May in that well over 90 percent of the birds were the same ones we get.

I also have a couple small critiques about some of the scientific work being done but they don’t rise to the level of mentioning. Suffice it to say these are hard-core green folk.

Seven species were added to my life list: saltmarsh sparrow, arctic tern, roseate tern, Wilson’s storm petrel, razorbill, Atlantic puffin, and black guillemot. Again, I would have hoped for more pelagic birds but the field trips never really left Muscongus Bay and so we were limited.

I was mildly surprised by the number of folks who had been there in the past. The place certainly has a storied history and a charming allure but I doubt I will ever go back. For me it simply cost too much.

To find out more about the programs on Hog Island, click here.

2 Responses to “Overall impressions”

  1. Andrea

    The bird world is small – Sara Morris is affiliated with the banding lab in NY where I volunteer. If you ever get out to Rochester, make sure to stop by both the passerine banding station and the raptor banding station. I promise it’s free!

  2. kcorliss

    It is indeed small Andrea. It’s pretty amazing stumbling into familiar names and faces at all points around this country.

    Sara was pretty cool–knowledgable, energetic, and a dynamic instructor.