So as you may have noticed, this about page needs some updates. So here I am to do just that. Below you can read my first “about me” post for this page, explaining who I was and what I was up to at the time, which happened to be the start of my 3rds stint with Project Puffin, which why I started this blog, to share what I was seeing and learning through writing and photography. Well, now that that’s been a little under two years ago and, as you can see throughout my posts here on feathersawry, that yes, a lot has happened and I’m really excited to share it with everyone. I love taking what I’m learning and putting it on the table, what do we think about what we’re seeing and what is it telling us? By combining my writings (aka ponderings) with photography, I’m able to better illustrate what I’m talking about and what it means. Like this check this facey (upper left) I took of myself up in Maine when I worked a short stint on Seal Island this fall (2017). Just about the entire island can be seen stretching and squiggling northeast-ish behind me. It’s about an hour’s slow walk to the cabin and I’m on the southwest-ish tip. The very far tip (seen basically next to my ear in the photo) is near the puffins and terns nests, which you see on the explore.org puffin cameras (we call ’em the cams). I’m sitting on the bottom tip of the island where the Double-crested and Great Cormorants have a big ol’ nesting colony. I couldn’t be there on that part of the island earlier in the season while the young cormorants were still growing and dependent on their parents because those parents would abandon their young if their colony was invaded by someone like me. At this point, all the young had fledged and groups were leaving the island to find prey in other areas. Anyways. My point is that my pictures can tell stories and so can my words but together they can not just tell you the story but give it to you, let you gain from it whatever you gain.
So anyways, I’m a nature-watcher. It all started with birds when I was nearly too young to remember. I was always taken by them, They’re beautiful, make any spot you’re in more interesting, and can tell you a lot about the environment you’re living in. So after an undergraduate degree in Biology from Warren Wilson College, I put boots to the dirt and went full into field jobs, working with wild birds, monitoring, measuring, banding them, learning about the resources they rely on, the habitats they utilize, their interactions with other creatures as both predator and prey, how their young are born first naked, then fluffy and expected to completely rely on their parents and the awful luck of getting snapped up in the beak of a gull or the paw of a raccoon or the maw of a snake, jaws of a raccoon or the pincers of a hoard of ants. So my interest expanded outward to encompass more than just the birds, they’re always my first and foremost, but you can’t watch just a bird without being influenced by how it’s spending its life and how it’s being impacted by what’s happening to this planet just as much as you are, they’re just less resistant to it and the first to succumb. Think canary in the coal mine.
Well, birds are telling us things, as we spend decades studying them, they’re telling us through trends: through population changes, range changes, reaction to changes in environmental cycles, drought, sea-level rise, and of course the ability to rebound (or rather, decline) in the face of the never-ending onslaught of human impact and development.
Anyways, so all that made me want to share what I’m seeing out in the field with the wider world, especially because I think people don’t have a clue what I mean when I tell them I work with birds and I want them to. And so it took coming out of the field to share what I’ve seen living within it. Pulling a Jane Goodall, is what I like to call it. Except I keep going back. But what makes it possible for me to keep returning to the field is the advance of technology, plain and simple. I can now write to the masses from a computer on Seal Island, whereas when I worked there in 2003 and 2005, I’m not sure we even knew what WiFi was.
So after about 5 years of hopping around from one field job to another, I shifted gears and headed to University of Oregon for a grad degree in Journalism. There I learned a lot of what I’m applying on my website, this blog and my youtube channel. So I took that experience, combined with some awesome opportunities writing for Eugene Weekly, Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and Wild Lens Inc and was able to somewhat keep up with my own blog.
But the field is always calling. So that’s where this blog started out (once again, see below, if you’re actually still reading this at all).
And I found myself in Florida, which has been great as I’ve gotten to spend so much time with my grandmother, a spectacular, sweet, awe-inspiring woman whom I adore. I’ve come and gone a few times, even just having gotten another moment on the island this fall. But now a new leaf turns and I’m headed to Costa Rica in a few weeks where I’ll be started on a whole different experience. I’m going to be able to incorporate learning, teaching, writing, photography and conservation all into one adventure. So stay tuned!
(Old) About Me:
It only just occurred to me, eleven years later, that all this time the island was calling me back.
Seal Island, located 23 miles off the coast of Maine is where I am spending another summer, in the company of four other seabird researchers. We’re here to study the fascinating lives of puffins, terns, razorbills and black guillemots, while living among
I’m returning after an 11-year hiatus, having the ultimate pleasure of first visiting the islands managed by Audubon’s Project Puffin in 2003 and again in 2005. The project was started in the early 70’s by an enterprising young ornithologist named Steve Kress. The near extirpation (local extinction) of puffins from coastal Maine islands due to the hunting and the feather trade led him to devise a way to harbor their return. By transplanting puffin chicks from an abundant colony in Newfoundland to Maine’s Eastern Egg Rock and raising them with vitamin fortified fish in artificial sod burrows, he watched them fly out to sea where they spent the next handful of years before some precious individuals, miraculously, returned to their “natal” island to breed.
Project Puffin now manages seven Maine islands to preserve and protect these ideal breeding habitats for puffins and, consequentially, terns and various other alcids as well as seaducks, known as common eiders, which also nest on the islands. In order to protect these seabird colonies it is, unfortunately, important for our human presence to remain throughout the breeding season to deter gulls and other predators that feed on chicks and ducklings. Without us, the more prolific gull species (Black-backed, Herring and Laughing gull) would take over these islands. These species are generalists and their populations have skyrocket thanks to human-provided food sources like landfills, lobster bait and french fries. Terns and puffins suffer since they’re very specific as to where they will nest and generally don’t exist near human populations. Therefore, protected islands like these provide these sensitive, less abundant birds a chance to persist.
Fast forward several decades and here we are! Puffineers or “island stewards” like me have been managing and monitoring the birds on these islands ever since.
So follow my adventures as we follow the birds for yet another glorious season!