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Hog Island: Parulas and Chickarees

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Hog Island: It’s really just a hop from the shore of Bremen, Maine, which isn’t far from Damariscotta. You can row it if you know what you’re doing, which my friend Jamie, Registrar of Hog Island Audubon Camp, confesses she doesn’t yet. Still, she got there, in a zigzaggy way.


Jamie's headed to the mainland from Hog Island to do something or other.
I'm standing on the shore laughing and photographing her against her will.
Glad nobody's photographing me trying to row a boat!

People come here to hang out together, to watch birds together, to learn about ornithology, to look at cool boreal forest plants like these northern pitcher plants, holding their oxblood blooms high above fat pots.

 They come here to get away, to be surrounded by water. There is something peaceful about being surrounded by water. Like nobody’s going to bother you here, because nobody can get to you. At least that’s my theory of why people love islands so much. Castle with a moat. We’re safe there.


So we were asked to come and lead field trips and give talks and play a little music, just do our Bill and Julie thing. 

Asked by our dear friend Scott Weidensaul who knows not just a little but a lot about everything.  His latest book is The First Frontier and it's ridiculously good. Scott was running this field camp, and he figured that the title of the course, “Joy of Birding,” seemed a pretty good fit for what Bill and I do.


The place is infested with chickarees or red squirrels and oh how I wished Chet Baker could be there with me to chase them all. I don’t know how many songbirds manage to nest successfully there, for chickarees are bloodthirsty little beasts and there’s nothing they can’t climb to or sniff out. The island hikes are punctuated with their clock-winding chattery scolds.

Cute is as cute does, Mr. Egg Pirate.

Right off the bat there was a pair of northern parulas that made it their business to make about 90 people very, very happy. They built a nest and managed to hatch four eggs in this chickaree-infested camp and they foraged right over our heads completely ignoring us. They had babes to feed. The old apple trees were loaded with little caterpillars. You can see one hiding under webbing right in front of this female bird, and she nabbed it right after I got the photo.

Oh, I had me some fun with my new Canon EOS 7D with its EF 70-300 IS telephoto lens, and I was more convinced than ever that this is exactly the lens for me, who loves to dawdle near small birds and watch them do their birdy things.


What a gift these birds were, what a gift was their little nest. More anon.

I'm writing this Saturday, July 7, 3 pm. Our power just came back on, having been off for eight days. Today it's 100 degrees in the shade and we have had all manner of associated minor catastrophes going along with having no electricity. First there was the destruction of the Garden Pod, then there was a chest freezer leaking into and ruining our music room carpet, and this morning we discovered that the water heater had been in cahoots with the chest freezer because there's a small lake beneath it (and throughout the rest of the basement as well). We've done nothing since we got home but deal with one nasty stinky festering expensive problem after another, then sprawl exhausted but sleepless on piping-hot sheets until it's time to get up and start back to work.

This morning we took another count and we've lost probably a dozen large trees, some of which we'll have to deal with, some of which will rot where they lie. Seems like the wind picked off all the nice ones: a huge oak, our silver maple, our fruiting mulberry, our best wild cherry (haven for waxwings), a big black walnut, some great big Virginia pines.

June was pretty cool but I haven't much liked July so far. Still there are people much worse off than we thanks to this huge and horrible storm, and what we've lost are things and trees and appliances and about 8.2 gallons of sweat and money, not lives. Here's to the Washington Electric Coop crews who slaved around the clock in brutal heat to restore power; here's to our friends Dave and Marcy and Steve and Carol and Caroline and Keith who brought us a generator and a million extension cords and the last two of whom are even now replacing our water heater. My brains are like hot cornmeal mush now so I'll sign off with grateful thanks to good friends.

And thanks to you, dear readers, for your support in dark times. I'll keep the natural history stuff coming.


Must get there some day. Sounds Loverly...
I feel for you all in the midwest..You sure have had a bad go of it these last couple of weeks.
Cant every replace those precious trees..real sorry you all lost those, but as you say things could be worse.
Still sad...and must have been a bit shocking and difficult thing to come home to.

Heres to repairs and fresh sprouts.

Used to live on Peaks Island, now a hotbed of civilization. Hog Island sounds great. We have a Hog Island down here, too, but it is mostly under the Atlantic now. sigh. I had forgotten all about red squirrels. Haven't seen one in probably 50 years.
Sorry about your losses in the storm. I only lost the top of one tall tree and some blinky power stuff. Your greenhouse pictures have inspired me to build a bigger one. Mine is tiny, can't stand up in it, but it keeps the geraniums and cuttings over the winter.

We're former Athens, Oh residents... but have been on the road over 11 years now. Found your blog recently... love it. BUT... really sorry to hear that the storms hit you so hard. We're up near Caribou, ME... so don't see any of the birds etc. that you are seeing.

Heat, humidity and electrical catastrophes can knock the stuffings right out of you. Hope things are looking up and cooling off.

Looking forward to being on Hog Island in August but meanwhile watching the puffins and osprey on HD Cam at

Came across your blog this morning and the mention of Hog Island and Damarascotta... Spent the most wonderful week there in 2000! Won the trip through our Audubon Society and loved Hog Island! Actually fell in love with Maine that summer...

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