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 The Audubon Society of Jackson County, Michigan

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Sea Birds on Machias Seal Island, Maine By Doug Leffler

Saturday, July 16, 2016 9:48 AM | Steve Jerant (Administrator)

Sandy and I just returned from a trip to Northern Maine, where we had the opportunity to visit Machias Seal Island, a sanctuary for thousands of sea birds, including the sought-after Atlantic puffin, razorbill, a variety of gulls and Arctic terns. Machias Seal Island is located approximately 10 nautical miles southeast of Cutler, Maine and is currently manned by the Canadian Coast Guard, which maintains a lighthouse for sea-going navigation. However, the island is also claimed by the U.S.A. Only two tour operators are allowed to land on the Island; Bold Coast Tours out of Cutler, Maine and Sea Watch Tours out of New Brunswick, Canada. Back in January, we booked our tour (for two July dates, to improve our chances for good weather) through Bold Coast Tours.

Tours to the island are dependent on favorable sea conditions, which could preclude landing on the island, since tour participants must be tendered in to the sloping, concrete dock by a small skiff which is towed out to the island behind the Bold Coast tour vessel, the Barbara Frost, a former 40-foot fishing boat that is piloted by Captain Andy Patterson, a veteran sea captain of 30 years. The trip from Cutler to the island takes about 45 minutes.

The tour group size is limited to 15 individuals. 

Four observation/photo blinds are located near the lighthouse which will accommodate up to four persons in each blind. 

The photography possibilities are simply amazing; in the south blind (my favorite), a sizable rock is located directly in front of the blind and Atlantic puffins and occasionally razorbills are literally within arms length of the blind!! Long telephoto lenses are not required. Ideally, a zoom lens with a range from a normal focal length to perhaps 200 mm is ideal.

Here are several images from the tour, including some of my favorite photo examples of the puffins. They are a delight to watch and photograph!


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