By Marion Sprague
Who doesn’t love puffins? On Saturday, July 13th nine of our young birders and their families embarked on the Maine Audubon Puffin Cruise into Muscongus Bay to Eastern Egg Rock. It was a gorgeous evening to be on the water for this special trip. The Audubon Sunset Puffin Cruise goes out an hour and a half later than the traditional Hardy Boat Cruise, so we get to see the puffins as they are returning to the island for the night. It is rare to see rafts as large as 15 floating so close to the boat. On multiple occasions we had puffins fly directly overhead.
The island is home to the world's first restored seabird colony. The restoration of Eastern Egg Rock has been replicated worldwide to help endangered and threated seabirds. On the ride out to the island, Captain Al gave a brief overview of the history of puffins and what makes this tiny, 7-acre island so important for in their continued breeding success. Last year there were over 175 breeding pairs of Atlantic Puffins on the island. Eastern Egg Rock is known as the most easily-accessible Maine island for observing nesting Atlantic Puffins. From mid-May to mid-August, 4-5 people live on the island to monitor the nesting colonies of the birds.
As we approached the island we were greeted by the powerful laughter of the Laughing Gulls. The group was treated to many spectacular sightings including Black Guillemots (the MYBC mascot!) showing off their red feet and Common Terns carrying small fish back to the island to feed young. We saw a single Roseate Tern sitting on a rock. The most unusual bird was a lone BRANT that has been hanging around the island for a few weeks.
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While birds were our focus, we also took some time to appreciate sightings of Harbor Porpoises and Harbor Seals basking on the rocks! One Harbor Seal delighted us with what appeared to be a wave as we passed. On the return trip Captain Al took the group by Franklin Light to view the 3rd oldest lighthouse in Maine.
MYBC wants to give a huge thank you to Maine Audubon for sponsoring this trip for the young birders and club coordinators. Also thanks to Louis Bevier for sharing his expertise with the young birders and parents! We appreciated his excellent leadership on this trip.