Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Do you know the puffin, man?

I just got home from a 'bucket list' experience! A few summers ago a friend and I did a puffin watch out of Boothbay Harbor, ME. It was pretty fun, but we didn't see a lot of puffins, and what we did see were from pretty far away.

I knew there was a better way to see puffins. I had picked up a brochure somewhere that talked about up-close puffin watching here in Maine. Machias Seal Island in the Gulf of Maine is the largest puffin colony on the coast of Maine. You have to have a permit to land there, and there are two tour companies that have those permits.

After trying and failing for a couple of years (there's a pretty limited season in the summer when the birds are nesting on the island; they spend the rest of the year out at sea) my friend and I finally booked our trip with http://www.boldcoast.com/

It was a 5-hour drive for us to get to Cutler, where Bold Coast tours depart, and of course everything depends on weather conditions. And, even if the weather permits you to leave the harbor, the conditions have to be safe for getting on and off the island. We could not have been any luckier! At 7 a.m. on Monday we headed out to Machias Seal Island, 10 miles due south from Cutler harbor.

The island is disputed, with both the Unites States and Canada claiming ownership. The Canadian Coast Guard staffs a lighthouse on the island. It's pretty rare to find a manned lighthouse now, and we were met on the island by the lighthouse keeper, who made sure we disturbed the birds as little as possible.

You're not allowed to wander around the island (15 acres) on your own. You are led on wooden walkways in small groups to a bird blind, where they deposit you and tell you to stay put until someone comes to get you. And then you watch and photograph the birds to your heart's content. Thousands of puffins, within a few feet of you. Also razorbills and murres. It was amazing! It was a beautiful day. If you're familiar with the Maine Coast, you know that a day without fog is rare, so we were hoping for good visibility, and we got it. Two hours and several hundred photos later, the captain retrieved us and we were back on our way to the mainland.

So here are just a couple of pictures from Becky and Julie's excellent adventure:


Karen said...

This is stunning!! Love it!

pat said...

Drooling, just drooling! What awesome shots, and what a totally excellent adventure, indeed! You lucky lucky photog, you!