Puffin & Puffin

Tres Puffins

A close friend of mine (who we shall code name Round Eye) fell into some good fortune last April when he was able to purchase two tickets with the Bold Coast Charter Company to take us to Seal Island to view Atlantic Puffins.  These tickets, for those who are interested, sell out very quickly. If I remember correctly, they were sold out in January. Through my friend’s flock of fellow birders, he managed to sink his talons into a pair of tickets from an acquaintance who would not be able to go.

Machias Seal Island

“Don’t do what you can do right now when you can do it later.” Yup, not sure if there is a text out there on the pros of procrastination, but I am sure if there was, that would be the first sentence of chapter one. Well, if you are looking for that nice cozy Bed & Breakfast overlooking the majestic cliffs of Downeast Maine to the crystal clear blue waters of the Bay of Fundy (and believe me, they are) then don’t wait until the month before your trip to look for a place to stay. Well that is exactly what Round Eye and H Dawg did (yup, that would be my code name and more about that eventually). The irony, I guess, is that where we ended up staying, would have been our choice anyway, Cobscook Bay State Park  which will have a blog of its own at some point.

Sunrise at Cobscook

Barbara Frost
The Barbara Frost

The morning of June 24th was cold. It was raining. It was crappy out, but the two of us and twelve other passengers set sail to Machias Seal Island aboard the forty foot Barbara Frost into the dark cold waters of the Atlantic. The weather was to be cold and rainy throughout the day, and we were prepared for a choppy ride. Boy were those meteorologists wrong! As soon we passed the Little River Lighthouse, at the mouth of the Little River, the sun came out and we had calm seas.

As we make our approach to Machias Seal Island, the first view we see is the lighthouse seated on the crest of this 19.8 acre island bird sanctuary.

Lighthouse of Seal Island

Now once the boat arrives, there isn’t a nice dock where someone with a big smile is handing you a leis, but a concrete ramp whose visibility is at the mercy of the tide. As you can imagine, when that ramp isn’t buried beneath the water, the exposed surface has a nice coating of green slime,making one’s footing a challenge. There is an old rusted railing you can grab onto but be warned, it is very likely to crumble under your grasp! Just kidding, the railing is fine. Upon completing the first challenge, the next one awaits near the top of the ramp.  

Hitting the Head while being Hit in the Head

 Machias Seal Island is a maternity ward for our seafaring friends; Atlantic Puffins, Razorbills, and… the Arctic Tern. Most people think that the terns are protecting their chicks, but I don’t think so. I believe they are sadistic cynical creatures whose only pleasure is to bombard our exposed pates as we head to the lighthouse where we will be instructed on the island etiquette before being assigned (and brought out to) our birding blinds. Yes, you must run the gauntlet of terns again!

Our Blind

So we were led out to our blind and for next hour or so we had just an unbelievable experience. I can’t even imagine how many puffins, terns, and razor bills we were able to see. We even had a Northern Gannet building a nest right out side our bird blind. 

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As we boarded the Barbara Frost and prepared for our journey back to the mainland, I couldn’t help but wonder why it was called Seal Island? There was not one seal to be seen. As we circled the little island for one last look, an even smaller island appeared, and there they were. A whole mess of Grey Seals . I guess that little rock covered with seals must have been Puffin Island.

Grey Seals on Bird Island!

This trip to Machias Seal Island took place in June of 2018. Thanks for reading!

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