The water and its edges are good places to see birds;  that’s the origin of this series.

The next six photos were taken in August 1997, almost 25 years ago.  I post them now because I recently learned some new info, which pertains to the gentleman in brown (driving the boat and bearded and sunglasses) and his father, carrying the umbrella and US flag in the next photo, who claimed to own the island where we landed.  Look at the photo and get a sense of where I might have been that day back in August 1997.

The building to the left is a lighthouse. The anchored boat above and the flag are clues.  Where is this?

Yup, that’s me in a dark blind peering through an opening at . . .

puffins,

 

literally thousands of puffins.  In those days I had a film camera, as did everyone, with very little if any zoom.   I say that to underscore the fact that the puffins were on the rocks just beyond the blind.  More on this place and my guides at the end of this post. 

If you do FB, you may have seen this photo before, a young Cooper’s hawk.  I took the photo on Long Island.    Yes, it was tormenting a backyard bird feeder, which is how I saw it after it buzzed the feeder at speeds I’d seen no other bird flying.

Recently along the KVK, this heron landed quite close to me.  It may have confused my cold, motionless form for driftwood along the shore there. Note the black crown and head plumes.

The specialized chest feathers seem almost like a cape here.

After several minutes of sitting near me, it raised its wings

and flew over to the Bayonne side…  for better prey on the other side of the river, I suppose.

So here’s the puffin story.  The boat was then called Chief.  The owners stressed that it’d never been fished, and it was the conveyance by a puffin tour operated out of Jonesport ME by the Norton family–Barna with the beflagged umbrella and his son John driving the tender.   The island is Machias Seal Island, a disputed “grey zone” US or Canadian territory.  When I took the trip, Barna Norton, then 82 years old, said with utmost confidence that he owned the island, having inherited it by virtue of having been the first descendant of lobsterman “big” Barney Beal to bear his name.  John, Barna’s son, was mostly quiet on the trip, leaving his long-winded but fascinating father to tell all the tales . .  the helicopter incident, the dead terns, his 6’7″ namesake, and more.  If you never read links on this blog, you must read this one . . . with the title of “The Man who went to war with Canada,” that man being Barna Norton.

A story not in the linked article that I remember relates to Barna’s son, John, again told by Barna.  A border enforcer against all comers, John was noted in the USCG days in Alaska as having boarded a Russian fishing trawler at gunpoint to inform the captain of that vessel that they had been fishing in undisputed US waters. 

All photos, WVD, who can’t vouch that tours on the island now via Barbara Frost, which might be Chief under new ownership, would be a Barna value-added added puffin tour, but the puffins (and their chainsaw-like sounds in a rookery) are a real treat.  That link has a recording of one;  imagine about 3000 puffins making that sound simultaneously.