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Recap of Seabirds & Puffin Conservation Field Trip

July 19-20, 2023

Peter Alden and our group look for puffins off of Eastern Egg Rock Island, the location of Project Puffin.

Our group gathered at the Project Puffin Center in Rockland, Maine. After introductions, we were treated to an inspirational lecture by Project Puffin founder, Dr. Steve Kress. Steve recounted the early challenges of getting puffins to return to Egg Rock Island and the techniques they used. The remarkable story and success has since inspired numerous other efforts around the world.

Dr. Steve Kress (left) and Derrick Jackson indulge us with stories on the occasion of Project Puffin's 50th Anniversary

We had the good fortune of also hearing a talk from Derrick Jackson, an award-winning journalist and author. Derrick recounted how difficult it is to spend a summer on tiny Egg Rock Island to support the project. We then enjoyed a tasty dinner at the adjacent Park Street grill.

After breakfast, we left for our walk and noted many gulls, House Finches and small nasal-sounding crows called Fish Crow. This corvid is spreading northwards and likes towns and shopping plazas.

On our excursion at the nearby Weskeag Marsh, we saw a Red-bellied Woodpecker (formerly a southern bird), an Eastern Wood Pewee (one of many small brown flycatchers that fortunately belted out a "pee-ah-wee"), Gray Catbirds (a mockingbird relative), Song Sparrows and a brilliant male American Goldfinch. The salt marsh featured single Great and Snowy Egrets plus a Great Blue Heron.

Excursion to Weskeag Marsh before arriving at Port Clyde

Leaving Port Clyde with guest lecturer "Puffin Pete" Salmansohn, we soon noticed little puffin-relatives: Black Guillemots on the water. All black with a large white patch on each wing, they showed us their bright red feet as they flew off. A family of Common Eiders, a young Common Loon (a penguin relative), lots of Double-crested Cormorants, several Bald Eagles and an Osprey were noted enroute to/from Eastern Egg Rock. A nearby island hosted several dozen Harbor Seals.

Our special guest "Puffin Pete" on the mic during our cruise

Circling the island where Steve Kress began his 50-year effort to bring Atlantic Puffins to Maine we did indeed see a few dozen puffin fly by our boat. They were heading out to sea or coming back to feed fish to their only child deep in a dark burrow. For Lang Stevenson (one of our group) the puffin was number 725 on his US/Canada bird life list! Graceful "sea-swallows" called terns have also come back to breed on this island.

Search for the speedy puffins off of Easter Egg Rock Island

Amongst the Common Terns were many pairs of Arctic Terns that fly all the way to Antarctica every year and see more daylight than any other bird. The island was also home to clouds of gulls including the smaller black-headed Laughing Gull. It has invaded northwards and is a new threat to seabird eggs and young. A few high Arctic-breeding shorebirds were already heading south and flew by: Ruddy Turnstones and Least Sandpipers.

After the cruise, a final farewell from Port Clyde

It was a fun group, calm seas, sunny skies. See you on another Spark Birding trip!



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