I’ve decided to do a little write up about what a puffin trip consists of. Also, I’ve included more behavioral shots. The first time I made it onto the island was back in the late 80’s. This past trip makes a total of six landings on Machias Seal Island for me. The last few times I’ve booked two days because the downeast weather can be unpredictable and I want to have a back up day in case the landing cannot be made on the island. One of the first years only one day was booked and a landing couldn’t be made because of rough seas so the only thing I got was seasick.
The last time I went on this trip was back in 1997, I made it out to the island on both days and I was lucky enough on this past trip to make a landing on both days also. The trip departs from Cutler, ME aboard the Barbara Frost. I’ve included a link to the charter company in my list of favorite sites. Machias Seal Island is fifteen acres in size and ten nautical miles from the mainland and on a clear day you can actually see it from shore. The first day the trip departed at 7 AM and the sky was overcast but the seas were relatively flat. When you get about a mile from the island puffins start to appear, either floating in the waves or making a quick fly by heading to the island. By the time you get to the island they are everywhere; hundreds are floating in the water and sitting on the rocks along with razorbills and common murres. Arctic terns nest on the island too.
The boat is anchored a couple of hundred feet away from a concrete ramp and you’re brought to the ramp in a small skiff. There is a lighthouse on the island that is maintained by the Canadian government. The lighthouse keeper greets you on the ramp and you’re given a talk on island and bird etiquette then you’re lead up to a patio area near the lighthouse. The group of 15 is broken into smaller groups and you’re taken to one of four permanent, wooden blinds with plenty of openings for viewing and photographing the puffins. In the early days, the walk to the blinds could be challenging because you were constantly dive bombed by terns. That wasn’t a problem this time and speaking with one of the researchers which spend the summer on the island, was told that the tern population has greatly reduced in the last few years and they don’t know why.
Of course the photos I’ve been posting were taken from the blinds. It’s amazing how close the puffins will get when you’re in the blind. At some points they’re so close you could reach out and grab them and way closer then the minimum focusing distance on my lens. The birds constantly land on the roof and it’s kind of comical hearing their webbed feet pitter-pattering above you. On the second day, the process was repeated however the start time was 1 PM and the day was clear and sunny. The weather was clearer but the ocean was a lot rougher with 6-foot swells. Inland temperatures were in the mid 90’s but out on the island it was barely in the upper 60’s thanks to the natural air conditioner called the Atlantic Ocean. The lighting was a lot more challenging on the second day because the sun was in front of the blinds so it made for backlit contrasty conditions. Despite the lighting I still got plenty of good photographs.
All in all it was a very enjoyable trip and I would recommend it to any photographers or birders out there.
I’m taking a break from puffin photos for a day. If you checked out the link I posted yesterday you’ll also see razorbills on the rock in front of the webcam along with puffins. There are plenty of razorbills on Machias Seal Island so today’s post features a photo of one. Tomorrow my post will be a write up of the trip itself and of course more puffins.
I just learned about this on the local news. A webcam went active today showing live puffins. Click here “Live Puffin Cam” to go to the streaming cam. If you see some black headed birds with a white stripe going from the bill to below the eye, those are razorbills. Once you’re on the site there is also a link for a cam in a nest burrow. Check it out.
There are so many puffins to photograph, after a while head shots and body portrait photos get blase’. After today I’ll be posting more behavioral type shots to keep it interesting. If you’ve wondered what a puffin sounds like, imagine a chainsaw running in the distance and you’ll know exactly what kind of noise they make.
I just got back from a trip Downeast. Of course the highlight of the trip was sailing out to Machias Seal Island to photograph puffins. I booked two days to go out to the island and this photo was taken on the first day. I’ll be posting more in the future. The Downeast area of Maine is a very beautiful section of the state and well worth the trip. Puffins were the main attraction but I took a few side trips to look for other subjects to photograph. One of the best photos I took during the three days I was there was not a puffin so stay tuned for that.
Here is another prairie ringlet photo from last Sunday morning. I’m on vacation this coming week so hopefully I’ll get a whole bunch of new pictures I can feature in future posts.
I took this photo last Sunday morning. I used to do this type of photography a lot in my film shooting days. I still do a lot of close ups but not so much the early morning dew variety. Mainly because my favorite areas are no longer accessible. Houses have gone up blocking my favorite place in Sabattus. Across the street from my home was a big meadow but the property changed hands and now the new owner keeps it mowed. Not much wildlife is attracted to a huge lawn.
Saturday afternoon I took a walk through the woods in the back of my house to a small meadow. I found a fox den there last year so I wanted to check it out. About a month and a half ago I was looking it over when two baby foxes came bounding out about six feet away from me. We just stood there looking at each other for about five seconds then they dashed back into the hole. On Saturday I wanted to check if they were still around but the den was deserted so the mother and young have moved on.
One thing I did notice, there were a lot of butterflies flitting around the field. Butterflies don’t fly at night, they land on blades of grass, flowers or leaves to wait out the cool of the evening. I knew if I came back in the morning I’d have some dew cover subjects to photograph. Rather than wait till morning, to search for my subjects to photograph, I went back to the field around 8 PM Saturday. The sun had settled behind the trees and it was starting to cool off, that’s when butterflies settle for the night. I found a bunch of prairie ringlets, that’s the butterfly in the photo above. I grabbed some fallen branches from the woods and I stuck them in the ground near each butterfly I found. The branch marked where each one was so the next morning I could walk up to the branch and there was the butterfly in all its dew covered glory waiting to be photographed. I’ve been using this technique since 1985 and when I go back in the morning the butterfly is always in the same spot as the night before. Instead of using the first part of the morning searching I can start taking pictures right away. I took other photos on this morning which I’ll be posting in the future. I’ll also be going back to the same place throughout the summer and hopefully will be getting more interesting pictures.
The crab spider from Friday’s post has been hanging around on the lupine all weekend. I’ve been checking everyday and this morning I saw it got what it was waiting for.
I took this photo about half an hour ago in my yard. I went out to get some close up photos of the lupines growing there. Sometimes I get lucky when I take pictures and find something that adds a little more interest to a flower photo. Like this crab spider waiting for a fly.
I have a nest box with chickadees nesting inside. The young have hatched so the male and female are constantly going in and out feeding the nestlings. I have an apple tree just below the nest box and I noticed whenever I’m outside working in the garden, which is nearby, the adults land in the apple tree before going into the box. I took this photograph Friday evening. I just waited by the apple tree for the adults to come back from their search in finding food for the youngsters. While I was out there a high, thin bank of clouds moved over the sun softening the light. I don’t know if this is the male or the female but it landed on the angled branch which made for an interesting composition. Shooting wide open also softened the background leaves.