Hog Island Happenings - May 30, 2024

Pre-Season Update

It’s May in coastal Maine and that means the Hog Island Audubon Camp is back open for our summer 2024 season! We began camp this year with a lot of hard work and dedication from our Friends of Hog Island (FOHI) volunteers during FOHI work week May 12-17. Then we kicked off our first week of programing by welcoming Audubon’s Science Team for their annual retreat May 20-24 and hosting a short day trip out around Eastern Egg Rock on May 20th!

Hog Island Boat House Damage Comparisons
(Left) The Hog Island Boat House during the high tide of a strong storm in early April. (Right) The Boat House in late April after being elevated to mitigate future flooding. Photo: Jean Hall

This spring has been a flurry of activity as we prepared for the camp opening. Severe winter storms and record high water battered the facility and left us with much to do to open camp. Early spring was spent lifting and securing the boat house and walkway that were displaced during the storms. Temporary fixes were implemented to damaged septic lines, roofs, the Queen Mary Pier, and eroded shorelines. We also built new floats for the Queen Mary and prepared a new pontoon boat for transport to and from the island. The Friends of Hog Island were critical in supplying necessary volunteers and initial funds for moving these projects forward on an accelerated timescale.

FOHI volunteers move a heat pump water heater to the Crows Nest
FOHI volunteers move a new and energy efficient heat pump water heater to the Crows Nest. This will help minimize our electricity demand while improving hot water supply to that building. Photo: Eric Snyder

Seasonal staff arrived in early May and kickstarted the opening of camp facilities. Then came 24 FOHI helpers during the FOHI opening week to entirely transform the winter worn campus into the beautiful functioning space ready to host this summer’s programs. The sound of lawn mowing, hammering, and hauling wheelbarrows mixed with the smell of fresh paint, sawdust, and savory food marked a wonderful week of preparation for the camp sessions ahead. The mainland pier was rebuilt after considerable storm damage, Hog Island trails were cleared (and in some places, rerouted) from fallen trees and debris, and the gardens around camp were planted with fresh plants to welcome campers to the island. These were just a few of the many, many tasks the FOHIs took on throughout the week. We could not have opened camp successfully without them! 

The mighty FOHI Fleet
The mighty FOHI Fleet. The Friends of Hog Island is an integral force that keeps Hog Island’s camp operations running smoothly. Photo: Jean Hall

After a week of preparation, we excitedly welcomed locals from around the northeast for a day trip out to Eastern Egg Rock, a Hog Island lunch, and a hike around the peninsula trail. We saw our first Atlantic Puffins of the season, along with highlights of a few Roseate Terns, a large flock of Purple Sandpipers, and several close sightings of Harbor Seal mothers with pups. That evening, the Science Team from National Audubon joined us for our first camper dinner of the season. These scientists have thoroughly enjoyed the island, Muscongus Bay birds, and each other’s company throughout the week. They were here for their yearly staff retreat to spend time in person (the team works remotely, dispersed across the country), partake in trainings and workshops, and learn more about Audubon’s important conservation role for birds in Maine. 

EER Trip with Audubon's Science Team
Audubon's Science Team on a field trip to Eastern Egg Rock. Photo: Rosy Tucker

As always, our island wouldn’t be the same without the passionate staff who keep camp flowing smoothly. The Hog Island team has welcomed new permanent and seasonal staff members including Rosy Tucker as Manager of Public Programs, Bec Conrad as Camp Assistant, and Julia Gartrell as Sous Chef 2. We are happy to have a few familiar faces back on staff including Alice James as Head Chef, Carter McDermott-Hinman as Sous Chef 1, and Amanda Leemann as Seasonal Naturalist. And we are always so thankful to have such a hardworking Manager of Facilities and Operations, Eric Synder. 

In her new role, Rosy Tucker is excited to be living in Maine and working on Hog Island the whole summer. Rosy had been a family camp instructor for 9 years prior to accepting the full time position as Manager of Public Programs. She can’t wait to share the magic of Hog Island with campers this summer, and watch how the island changes over the course of the season. 

Moments in Nature

Springtime in coastal Maine means welcoming migrating birds back to the island, watching mother Harbor Seals shepherd their seal pups in the bay, and serving our first alewifes of the season fresh from the alewife run in Damariscotta Mills. Members of Audubon’s Science Team have been excitedly watching Northern Parulas flit about the apple trees at main camp and we’ve heard many Black-throated Green warblers singing from the spruce tree tops on the peninsula. On the Science Team’s trip to Eastern Egg Rock and Harbor Island, we were all excited to see Puffins, Common and Roseate Terns, a large flock of Purple Sandpipers, and a few Black-Bellied Plovers. 

Dory and Skiff with Boat House Nest
Dory and Skiff have returned to the Boat House cam. Follow along! Photo: Jean Hall

On the island, Ruby-throated hummingbirds are returning to drink from our feeders, Rock and Jonah crabs have been collected for the lab’s touch tank, and an excited FOHI volunteer found the first Eastern Red-backed Salamander of the year. Our resident Osprey pair, named Dory and Skiff, have returned to nest above the mainland boathouse. You can watch their progress from a nest webcam on Staff, FOHI’s, and campers alike are all excited to continue observing the natural wonders of Muscongus Bay as the season rolls on.

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