Hog Island Happenings - Vol. 03 - October 13, 2023

Save the Date: Camp Registration opens November 7th at 1PM EST. Check out the schedule and start planning your next trip to the island!

Cream Puffins to end camp season
Cream Puffins at the end of each camp session are always a fan favorite! Photo: Amanda Leemann
Campers doing service work
Campers come prepared to work hard during our Birds of Maine Islands Service Learning Week. Photo: Amanda Leemann

With the puffins departing and the migrants on the wing, our last three sessions of camp feel a bit different. Birds of Maine Islands: A Service Week is a truly mission specific program that brings campers together with our seabird researchers to make a positive impact on nesting habitat and bird conservation. Campers have a combination of service projects like painting decoys and building bird blinds that are paired with some truly amazing birding experiences. We had amazing looks at shorebirds on Stratton Island and warblers on Hog Island.

Monhegan Island, it's a migration hotspot!
Monhegan Island, one of Maine's most idyllic communities is a migratory birding hot spot! Photo: Amanda Leemann

For our next two sessions, Fall Migration & Monhegan Island and Raptor Migration & Monhegan Island, our campers journeyed out to the fabled migrant hotspot in the Gulf of Maine. Monhegan Island delights campers with its stunning views of rocky cliffs, a shipwreck, lighthouse, and even the storybook village has its charms that show the juxtaposition of lobstering and art. We found birds galore from vireos to warblers to flycatchers and even Great Cormorants, which was a life bird for many of our participants. This season we witnessed the largest concentration of Ring-necked Pheasants we have ever seen on the island. There were so many pheasants in all ages and plumages and it was a fun bird to see with close views. Both camp sessions included a mix of birding on Monhegan, birding Hog Island, and traveling to a few local migrant spots on the mainland.

One of the highlights of both migration camps was our stop at Clarry Hill Highlands. This blueberry barren has stunning views and is a well-known hawk watch. Currently our partners at the Midcoast Conservancy are working to conserve the property from development, learn more at From the summit of Clarry Hill, we witnessed thousands of Broad-winged Hawks kettle overhead and fly south on their journey to Central and South America. Other highlights of the trip included Vesper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow and a multitude of raptors: Red-tailed Hawks, Red-shoulder Hawk, Northern Harrier, Bald Eagle, Osprey, and Sharp-shinned Hawk.

On the very last night of camp in 2023, Scott Weidensaul set up his Northern Saw-whet banding gear and we were rewarded with not one but four Northern Saw-whet Owls! Each owl was weighed, measured, and banded in the Fish House and then quietly returned to the forest. All birds were banded with appropriate federal and state permits.  Our campers were delighted to see each owl, with their age and sex differences made apparent by Scott’s banding demo. It truly was a magical way to end the season!

Black Guillemot
Black Guillemot. Photo: Patrick Maurice

The sure sign that the Hog Island camp season is ending is witnessed in the Black Guillemots, changing from their jet-black plumage to their salt and pepper look. From the Wild Turkeys become emboldened to eat at our bird feeders to the Mink that hunt regularly around camp, we can tell that the summer is over and Hog Island is transitioning to its sleepy wintertime. Our last lobster dinners and cream puffins consumed will make way for Red Squirrels caching their food in every crevice they can find and the wintering ducks returning to swim about the island. By the time registration opens in November for next season, our camp will be silent except for the sounds of the forest and sea.

Friends of Hog Island

The 2023 season has just finished with 24 volunteers from all over the country coming to participate in our closing work week. Painting, roofing, cleaning and garden work are just some of the projects that were done. Our volunteers provided over 700 hours during the week. Closing the island for the season is a huge task and we could not do it without our amazing volunteers. Thank you!!!

Staff Highlight

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens Staff
The Hog Island staff sought out the “Guardians of the Seeds” by Danish artist Thomas Dambo while exploring nearby Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. Photo: Eva Lark

In mid-August, the Hog Island team took a staff trip to Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens to see their famous trolls and to enjoy a beautiful Maine summer day. They traipsed about the park admiring both the botanical offerings and all of the myriad mushroom blooms. A special stop in the children’s garden and caterpillar jubilee in the butterfly house were some of the highlights. It was a great outing for our staff to enjoy each other off island and connect to the natural world.

Summer 2023 brought two new additions to the Hog Island family. Eva Lark and Eric Snyder’s families welcomed new life into the world. By the final camp sessions, both babies (and respective spouses) were joining for evening meals on Hog Island. Staff raising children on the island has been a tradition going back to the 1940s and continuing on today. The future is bright with these two new additions joining the world and learning to love nature.

For the month of September, we added a new team member, Julia Gartrell. With Carter, our Sous Chef, off to college at the end of August we were relieved to have Julia join Head Chef Alice in the Kitchen to kick off the last four weeks of camp. Julia, a professional artist by trade, made herself quite at home at camp and brought us new delightful desserts. Her curiosity for the natural world, her vivacious spirt, and her hard work helped us finish on a high note.

From the Kitchen

Yummy Chai-spiced Cupcakes
Julia’s Chai-spiced Cupcakes adorned with pepita seeds and edible flowers. Photo: Eva Lark

This season, the Hog Island kitchen has enjoyed featuring new dishes as part of our appetizer hour. Appetizers are a great way to try new things and share local ingredients that may not work well for a main course meal. We can often get a bit of very fresh, local fish which is fantastic for ceviche. Ceviche is a Latin American dish of fish that’s lightly cured in citrus juices. This preparation highlights the tenderness and flavors of the fish.


  • 1 pound scallops
  • 1 pound hake (NOTE: The freshest whitefish available is best for this! We’ve also used bluefish, monkfish and sea bass.)
  • 1 grapefruit, juiced
  • 3 limes, juiced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 red peppers, diced
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 3 scallions, fine chopped
  • 1/2 bunch parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Optional: dash of hot sauce


  • Dice the scallops and fish into ¼ inch pieces. Toss these with the diced onion, peppers, cucumber, herbs, salt and honey. 
  • Allow the dish to marinate for at least a half hour, and up to two hours.
  • Before serving, adjust the salt and heat to your liking. 
  • Serve with tortilla chips or crackers
Hog Island kitchen staff with "Cream Puff-kins"
Hog Island kitchen staff - Head Chef, Alice James, and Sous Chef, Carter McDermott-Hinmann with "Cream Puff-kins".

Hog Island Kitchen Team Wins Second Place!

Every Indigenous Peoples Day weekend, nearby Damariscotta and Newcastle host the Damariscotta Pumpkinfest. Massive pumpkins are decorated and carved into animals, mythical creatures, hot air balloons, boats, the list goes on. There’s even a regatta for daring paddlers looking for a challenge!

This season’s Hog Island kitchen staff, Head Chef, Alice James, and Sous Chef, Carter McDermott-Hinmann, entered the festival’s baking competition. Putting a pumpkin spin on the infamous cream puffins, the two nabbed second place. Congratulations, Alice and Carter!

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