Sunday, July 1, 2012

Trip to Maine

For the last week, I have been exploring the coastal regions along the coast of Maine. My dad, brother, and I traveled to this part of the country about a week ago. I was attending the Hog Island Audubon Camp in Maine for the Coastal Maine Bird Studies program while my dad and brother camped in various parks around the state. Before I headed to the island for the five-day program, we checked out a local nature trail that was not far from Hog Island. This little trail ended up in a beautiful bog. This landscape of sphagnum moss and black spruce was gorgeous and held a variety of unique species. The birdlife was very different from that I am used at home in the summer. White-throated Sparrows and Canada Warblers sang from the spruces while a Broad-winged Hawk circled overhead. The ground was covered with the sparkling reds and greens of sphagnum moss, sundew, and pitcher plants.

pitcher plant

Scattered in with the other plants were these grass-pinks, a beautiful bog orchid species.


Once the sun poked out from behind the clouds, the insect life around the bog came alive. Several darner and whiteface dragonfly species began flying up and down the damp habitat. In the middle of the bog, I noticed several small butterflies fluttering around the ground barely lifting themselves a few inches above the soggy vegetated mat. These tiny gray and yellowish insects were Bog Coppers, a new species for me! This tiny butterfly species is restricted to bogs where the larval hostplant, cranberry, grows.

Bog Copper

From this nature preserve, we headed to the headquarters for Todd Wildlife Sanctuary, which is situated on the mainland very close to Hog Island (the sanctuary actually includes the island). We took a little walk with through the wildflower meadow situated on the hill just above the shore. The meadow was filled with the blues and pinks of the blooming lupine and milkweed, which attracted a bunch of awesome butterflies, many of which I rarely see in Pennsylvania. The most common species flying around seemed to replace the ones I see most often in Pennsylvania. Northern Crescents replaced Pearl Crescents, Canadian Tiger Swallowtails replaced Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, and Long Dashes replaced Peck's Skippers. I also found a few individuals of a new species for me, the Harris' Checkerspot. This orange and black butterfly is a stunning species that only inhabits wet meadows of northeastern United States. 

Around 2pm, Hog Island's boat the "Snow Goose III" pulled up at the dock. From the dock, I had a great view of the island, which is just off the shore. With the luggage on board, we motored over to the dock on the spruce-covered island.

When the group of campers reached the island, we were greeted by many of the instructors including Scott Weidensaul, Bill Thompson, and Julie Zickefoose. Scott gave an introduction about the island and the week before we headed off to the cabins. I also met the two instructors for the teen group, Heather Richard and Josh Potter.

During the week at Hog Island, there were to be two programs occurring at the same time. The first was the Coastal Maine Bird Studies, which is for teenagers interested in nature, and the other is the Joy of Birding, which is intended for adults who want to learn more about birds and birding. Although we were officially part of different programs, the two groups spent a lot of time together, whether it was in the dining hall or out birding.

For the rest of the afternoon, I explored the portion of the island near the cabins and buildings until some of the other teens arrived. During this time, I spotted a female Northern Parula carrying food, a sign that she had a nest nearby. With the help of some others, I spotted the nest, which looked like nothing more than a clump of lichen in a lichen-filled tree! This little nest and the chirping babies inside would prove to be one of the most exciting aspects of the week... more on that later!

The Northern Parula nest

By around 5pm, everyone had arrived, and the teens began introductions. There were 16 of us in total, including three from Pennsylvania. Before this afternoon, I had not met any of the other young birders in the group, so the camp became an excellent opportunity to meet other teenagers who are interested in birding! It is so hard to find other teenagers with similar interests, so a congregation like the one at Hog Island was something I do not get to experience very often.

The sounding of the bell at 7pm marked the start of dinner. We all rushed to the dining hall where were were treated to the first of many incredible meals on the island. The cook, Janii, treated us with a variety of food options, all of which tasted wonderful. His unique cooking style, sometimes with unexpected ingredients, made meals almost as desirable as the birding trips! The dining style at Hog Island is also unique. The dining hall holds around ten tables, all of which seat eight people. For every meal, an instructor sits at the end facing the kitchen. Throughout the week, the instructor stays at this seat so the campers can move around and meet different instructors at each meal. The person on the other end of the table is the "hopper," who collects everyone's dishes and cleans the table after every meal. The hoppers were all vying for the position of "Hopper of the Week" that would be announced on the last day of camp. Several of the camp participants made the "hopping" into a competition by going above and beyond their expected duties!

Not long after the delicious meal, we moved to the Fish House for the evening program. The evening's program on Sunday was given by Dr. Steve Kress, who is the director of Project Puffin, the organization that helps to run Hog Island and that has developed methods to restore seabird populations around the world. Steve talked about the incredible history of Hog Island as well as the history of the seabird restoration program.

After little meeting after the presentation, the teens all headed back to our cabin, "The Crow's Nest," were we got some sleep before a long day of birding ahead.

1 comment:

Julie Zickefoose said...

Glad to know that my independent ID of Long Dash was correct. Underwing looked like Peck's w/o the outpoky yellow square, and it kept its wings spread so much I knew it was something different. I was so excited about northern crescent and Harris' checkerspot! And I knew a little bog in Haddam CT where I could find bog copper. Sure was fun butterflying with you. I'll look forward to more posts about Hog!