Yesterday my husband and I were fortunate enough to be able to go along on an outing to Eastern Egg Rock in Muscongus Bay. Normally the island is off-limits to visitors, as it's a protected seabird nesting site--most noted for being the island where Project Puffin, a National Audubon program that has restored Atlantic Puffins to Maine waters, originated. But we (and several others) were accompanying Project Puffin founder Steve Kress for this special trip, and thus got to spend almost two hours on the island observing the birds and learning from the five summer interns about their work and lives there.
Being in the blinds so we could watch the birds was a thrilling experience, but even more moving was witnessing the hopeful signs of new young life on the island: nests with eggs and fuzzy chicks of several species, including Laughing Gull, Common Tern, Black Guillemot. (Puffins nest in not-very-accessible burrows underground, so we couldn't see those.) While the interns report good nest success so far, the real challenge for the parent birds is getting enough food into their chicks for them to fledge and reach adulthood. Climate change has affected offshore patterns of the fish that terns and puffins feed their chicks, so food availability is the critical issue for these birds right now. Only time will tell how many survive this summer. But when you touch a fat, wriggling fuzzy butterball of a chick, hope is tangible thing.
Eastern Egg Rock--
seabirds swirl and clamor,
my heart a fixed point of joy.
|Gulls and terns overhead. The buildings are the interns' community space and their outhouse.|
|Atlantic Puffins, as observed from a study blind|
|Laughing Gull nest with eggs and chick|
|Black Guillemot chick held by island intern|
|Atlantic Puffin, adult|
|Black Guillemots, puffin and Laughing Gull. The red numbers mark puffin burrows.|
|Common Tern and its whining chick|
|Project Puffin founder Steve Kress shows us a Laughing Gull egg|