Three weeks ago I was in Maine as an instructor to Hog Island Audubon Camp’s Seabird Biology and Conservation program. I attended the camp last year as a camper, and was lucky to leave a positive enough impression that I was invited back this year as a guest instructor.
Hog Island offers many different camps throughout the summer, from field ornithology, to family camp, to educators week, to arts and birding. In the past when Hog Island was under the management of Maine Audubon, I attended three other camps that are no longer running: youth ecology camp, kayak camp, and yoga camp.
Seabird Biology and Conservation camp, while hosted and organized by the Hog Island Audubon Camp, operates under Road Scholar, an adult travel learning and service nonprofit. This week is different from the other camps at Hog Island in that it enables participants to play a part in seabird restoration efforts, both in Maine and beyond. Campers help to build bird blinds used by researchers in summer months who spend their time on island colonies collecting data on the nesting seabirds. The campers also paint bird decoys, collect and remove marine debris, remove invasive plant species, and attend workshops and lectures that teach them best practices to protect birds and wildlife when they return home.
In my role as instructor, I would help where and when needed, either facilitating camp activities or providing a lecture. My lecture was a 101 on Antarctica, a brief tutorial on the landscape and wildlife, and how both are being affected by climate change.
After the camp, I stayed behind with the other instructors and permanent staff so that we could “close up” the seabird island colonies for winter. This meant breaking down human shelters, cleaning up marine debris, hauling ~100 lobster traps a quarter mile over rocky terrain (I’m actually really proud that I could take part in this. Coming from a 9-5 behind a computer screen, being active in the field was a treat), and removing invasive plant species.
My time in Maine, similar to each of the previous four summers I’ve visited Hog Island, was some of the happiest I’ve ever been. It’s hard to explain unless you’ve been there yourself. Hog Island is magical and peaceful; it can take hold of you in a way you didn’t know a place could. My visit this year was unique because of my new role with the camp, and I loved every minute of it. Being surrounded by such intelligent, passionate people – people I can now call friends – is reward in and of itself. But to play a role in restoring the natural habitat of this beautiful place and surrounding islands reminds me of how lucky I really am. Next year, I hope you’ll join me and see for yourself.
Registration for next year’s camps opens on October 20, 2017.
To take a peak inside this camp through photos, check out my Facebook photo album here.