Hog Island Audubon Camp Maine Adventure

Hog Island 2017: Jason Cowen

Click here for Jason's Maine Adventure

Hog Island 2016 : Andrea Leavitt-Andersen

Story & Photos - Andrea Leavitt Andersen

Each year Dr. Harold Albers and St. Petersburg Audubon sponsor an educator to go to Hog Island Audubon Camp in Maine. This year I was fortunate to be the recipient of the award and traveled to the camp in July. Hog Island is well-known for its educators and over the years has welcomed respected conservation figures, scientists, and environmentalists such as Roger Tory Peterson, Rachel Carson, and Dr. Stephen Kress (Project Puffin.)

There are several themed camps offered at Hog Island such as “Raptor Rapture”, “Arts and Birding” and camps for teens and families. I attended the week entitled “Sharing Nature: An Educator’s Week.” I work as a Nature Preserve Ranger at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve so the program was perfect for learning new techniques for engaging students and the public.

2016 marked the 80th Anniversary of Hog Island Audubon Camp and there was a lot of discussion on the camp’s history and its future during group meetings. This year, the focus was on promoting ethnic diversity within the camp and we were able to listen to many stories from participants about their experiences with nature and how those experiences were shaped by their ethnic background.

Over the week, we went hiking, explored the seaweed covered coastline, took a boat out to see beautiful Puffin birds, attended educational sessions, and had a traditional Maine lobster dinner. My favorite part was hiking around the island. The landscape was incredible with rocky beaches and narrow, intimate trails winding around areas full of pine trees and forest floors covered in sphagnum moss. In one activity, we were asked to pick a spot and be silent for 15-20 minutes. I was struck by the quietude. Living in Pinellas County, we are constantly surrounded by sound but in that moment, I felt completely enveloped in silence with the lone call of a wood thrush piercing through the space. I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude not only for the opportunity to attend the camp but also for the chance I have to teach about the environment. It led me to reflect on my own teaching and whether I provided my students with moments like the one I was experiencing. I left feeling calm and thankful.

In the upcoming season (Fall 2016- Spring 2017), I will be working with Dr. Harold Albers to raise funds to send another educator to Hog Island next summer. It is an important tradition because it not only helps the educator to learn about new educational resources and develop new skills, it also rejuvenates and inspires the educator. Please keep an eye out for upcoming fundraisers! I am so grateful for this experience and thank Dr. Albers and St. Petersburg Audubon for providing me this opportunity.

To learn more about the programs, news, facility rentals etc. that Hog Island Audubon Camp offers, visit their website.

Hog Island 2015: Laura Witt-Packard

Story & Photos - Laura Witt-Packard

Thank you St. Petersburg Audubon for sending me to Audubon Camp at Hog Island this past June for a week of Field Ornithology. This experience was life changing, having the opportunity to work and learn from experts in the field of ornithology.

Stephen Kress spoke to us about the Puffin Project. His quest is to bring Atlantic Puffins back to Eastern Egg Rock to nest. After eight years of work, there were finally nesting Puffins on Eastern Egg Rock. During my visit we did not land on the island as it was nesting season. We did make several trips around the island by boat experiencing many Puffin flybys and closer views of the Puffins sitting in the water. Just let me say, it is very hard to get a decent picture of a Puffin on a moving boat, I was lucky to get one good photo.

Myself and the other campers experienced bird banding with camp director, author, and ornithologist Scott Weidensaul. After using mist nets to capture birds, Scott Weidensaul showed us how to carefully take measurements of the birds, apply the bands and then successfully release the birds unharmed.

Biologist Sara Morris led us on a trip to Ross Island to view a nesting colony of Herring Gulls and Greater Black-Backed Gulls. She taught us how to interpret the birds’ posture, calls and displays. It was exciting to get such a close view of nesting Gulls.

With Angelika Nelson, a bird song expert and recordist, we arose before dawn to hear and record the morning chorus of birds. We were out and about by 5:00 am!

Attending Audubon Camp at Hog Island was a wonderful experience. Not only was I staying at a camp that was established in the 1930’s with most of the original buildings and dorms, I met birders from all over the country. Having the opportunity to learn and work alongside experts in the field of ornithology such as Frank Gill, Peter Vickery, as well as those mentioned above, left me wanting to learn and experience more in the world of birds. Lastly, a special thank you to Dr. Harold Albers for insisting that we send a board member to Audubon camp this year.

Header photo: Terrence Malick