Time to fly..

     

     Royal Terns mature from hatchlings to fledglings, ready to fly in about 30 days. In about 60-90 days they are on their own.  This short span of time seems incredibly fast. They have an incredible designer and maker though.  Imagine human babies doing all this in about six months vice 18-25 years (yet I have seen a lot of 30-40 year olds that have not matured much from childhood) .

     Although I was only gone a week to Maine, I was surprised how many young Royal Terns were flying instead of walking from the dunes to the surf zone each morning. The fledgling Terns still require being fed by the parents. However, it won’t be long before they are fishing and feeding on their own. Another successful breeding season is coming to an end for the Royal Terns. Another successful robbery season is coming to an end for the Laughing Gulls! When the Royals leave they will have to catch their own food instead of stealing it (now I know why so many Laughing Gulls are then found at the shopping malls stealing food from the local eateries).  Life in the dunes is tough. One of the daily duties of the park employees is cleaning up deceased chicks. Here again nature has its own way of dealing with this. Dark ominous shadows flew over the nesting ground. The Turkey Vultures had arrived to see how many chicks didn’t make it through the day and were soon fighting over the spoils. Such is the circle of life in the dunes.

     On a more cheerful note, a newly hatched Royal Tern scampered down the dunes with adults in pursuit trying to keep up with the little tyke. This late hatchling was hungry and looking to be fed and made haste to join “the big kids”. It made me smile. Hope you do too! Blessings 

When I returned from my Maine trip I found the Royal Tern Chicks were fully feathered and beginning to fly.

This fledgling Royal Tern is now flying to the surf zone for a meal ..

Adult Royal Tern bringing a HUGE squid to the fledgling Terns..Inked again though.

Adult to chick handoff must be fast to avoid the Laughing Gull stealing the food.

In 60-90 days the adults have reared a new generation but it sure takes a lot of food from the sea, sometimes up to 10-12 feedings a day.

 

The ever present thieves, the Laughing Gull says he who laughs last (and steals food) laughs best..

Mortality rates are high and the Turkey Vultures make regular visits to clean up the dead

The Laughing Gull chicks seem to be hungry all the time..What do they do the adults do with all that stolen food I wonder?

This late Royal Tern hatchling scampers towards the surf zone to be with the "big chicks" too. 

It will take about two months for this Royal Tern hatchling to fully fledge and be ready to fly on its own.

It's "Time to Fly" for this young Tern...see ya next week..

The Maine Event..part two

     The only thing better than seeing the Puffins is being able to share the experience with others. Excited about the first-day’s “Maine Event”, I returned to the Riverside Inn and started to download my photos. The computer indicated this would take three hours so I went down to the Inn lobby to talk to the owner Cynthia. “I need your help,” she said. Two guests (Liz and Claire) had arrived to go on the Puffin tour the next day and Cynthia wanted me to meet them and tell them all about what to expect. They were concerned about being able to make the trip and I shared with them what would happen and agreed to be their personal escort.  These two beautiful ladies were both young at heart, fit, and raring to go.

     Early the next morning Liz, Claire, and I grabbed our breakfast-to go bags and headed for the wharf. The sun is up by 4 AM so there was plenty of light at 0630 when we arrived. The seas were calm and the thin layer of morning fog was beginning to burn off already. I helped the ladies down the beach to the waiting skiff that took us to the Barbara Frost to begin the 45-minute transit.  The lighthouse keeper greeted us as we disembarked and then escorted us to our photo blind. When I opened the little observation windows to see the Puffins, Liz and Claire giggled like two little schoolgirls. They were so excited. Our time went too fast and soon we were headed back to Cutler bay with fond memories and photographs to boot.

     Both avid hikers, Liz and Claire still wanted to get in some exercise. Lubec Maine is a short drive up the coast so we went there for lunch and a hike and to see the West Quoddy Head Lighthouse. This is the Eastern most point on the US Coast where the sun first shines on our great nation. Since 1808, there has been a lighthouse there to guide ships through the Quoddy Narrows. The current one, with distinctive red-and-white stripes, was built in 1858, and is an active aid to navigation. We found a nice place for a late lunch. I had some fish chowder and a lobster roll and finished off with some fresh strawberry pie.

     The next challenge I faced was to keep pace with Liz and Clair as they hiked up and down the park trails to a rock outcrop. The smell of fresh pine forest filled the air. The cool coastal breeze was like a natural air conditioner.  Those gals wore me out by the time we were done.  Clumps of lavender Lupine dotted the return route to the Inn (Liz was surprised I knew what Lupine was).  To end our perfect day we decided to have nothing but desert for dinner and went to HELENS eatery for more pie. Blueberry season was still just beginning so I was forced to have some more wild strawberry pie.

     I said goodbye to my newfound friends and the next morning drove the coastal route back to Boston. There is nothing like a steamy bowl of Boston Clam Chowder on a rainy day. Now the Editor has the task of choosing her favorite Puffin photo for me to frame. Here are some more Puffin smiles. Hope you enjoy them as much as Claire and Liz did. It was a pleasure sharing it with them. Be Blessed. Harry

How is this for a Puffin Smile?

How is this for a Liz (left) and Claire (right)  smile?..you should have seen the look on their faces when I opened the blinds to see the Puffins.

These photo blinds opened a world of wonder for my friends Liz and Claire..and me too!

I see you lookin at me! Atlantic Puffin only a few feet away made us laugh..

Now we know where they got the idea for Darth Vader's helmet..Razorbill laughing at us..

Sitting in the rain..

Sitting Pretty on the rock enjoying the day

Puffin Profile

Am I cute or what?

Wink n Wings....Atlantic Puffin

Say Ahhhh...the serrated pads on the roof of the mouth allow the Puffin to carry a whole mouthful of fish back to the nest burrow. 

Puffin in flight..

Northern Gannet, a first for me...six birds were trying to start a breeding colony on the island.

This is not a puffin...Harbor seal getting washed by a wave..

West Quody Light head

Where the sun first shines on our great nation

A view from the top

Looking down on Maine's rugged rocky coast..

Little River Light House Cutler Maine..you can spend the night here..

Come back and see me again ya'll. From the down east coast of Maine!

The Maine Event..part one

     One of the Editors favorite birds is the Puffin. I have been wanting to photograph one for her for a long time. One of my photography instructors informed me that Maine was the closest place to go to do that. It was then that I called Captain Andy of Bold Coast Charter Company to make my reservations to book three days on the Barbara Frost. I have been waiting for "The Maine Event” since January. 

     Bold Coast Charter Company operates in Cutler Maine. Captain Andy takes visitors and photographers during the breeding season of June-August to view the Atlantic Puffin in a setting that cannot be adequately described. You just have to see it to believe it. Ten miles off the coast of Cutler at the entrance to the Bay of Fundy is  Machias Seal Island. This disputed real estate has one of the few remaining manned lighthouses on the East Coast. The Canadian Coast Guard continues to staff the lighthouse, the first of which was constructed in 1832.  Devoid of trees, it's rock outcrops and soil covered top make a perfect breeding place for several species of Alcids. Alcids are of the family Alcidae,  which are web-footed diving birds with short legs and wings that includes the murres, razorbills, and puffins.

     Alcids live at sea and only come to shore to breed and lay one egg, usually in a dug-out hole under one of the many rocks and ledges on the island. Although similar in looks to the awkward walking penguins of the southern hemisphere, Alcids differ in that they can fly. They return yearly to the same island and often the same dug out hole to breed and lay their egg. They spend the rest of the year in the open sea. The Common Murre is the deepest diver of these Alcids. They can dive to depths of 300 ft. Here in the depths of the Atlantic, they gather small fish and take them back to the burrows to feed the young, a task both parents share. During the breeding season, the Atlantic Puffin's beak and legs turns bright red and orange. This gives them a look that will melt your heart.

     I stayed at a Bed and Breakfast called “The Riverside Inn” in East Machias. Miss Cynthia is the new owner and had breakfast-to-go ready for me each day. In the afternoon when I returned, I sat on my deck overlooking the river sipping coffee and watching a pair of Bald Eagles and their two fledglings. More next week about my adventures. Get ready to smile. Blessings.

Machias Seal Island, still disputed and manned by a Canadian Lighthouse crew is home to thousands of breeding Alcids which include Murres, Razorbills, and the Atlantic Puffin. 

Machias Seal Island, still disputed and manned by a Canadian Lighthouse crew is home to thousands of breeding Alcids which include Murres, Razorbills, and the Atlantic Puffin. 

A Murre (taking flight), a Razorbill to the right and three Puffins all are diving seabirds called Alcids

The "Maine Event" was getting to see these Atlantic Puffins only a few feet away from a photo blind.

Razorbill Profile, note the beak and eye stripe and broad sharp bill. 

Similar looking to Penguins, Puffins differ in they can fly and use the wings as flippers to dive deep into the ocean to gather fish.

Puffins have a unique ability to snatch and gather a whole mouthful of fish using their tongues and serrated pads on the roof of the mouth. The Atlantic Puffins lay one egg per season and both adults share in the feeding and raising the hatchlings which are called Puffings. 

The Murre can dive to 300 feet but only returns with one fish at a time..

Just a few feet from the photo blind this chubby Puffin fills the frame

 

Make sure to get my best side Mr Doohickey

During the breeding season of May-August the bills and cheek pouches and legs of breeding adults turn bright red and orange

Stay tuned for part 2 of "The Maine Event" next week

Low flight..

     A long time ago (but not in a land far away) I was standing on the bridge wing of a Navy Destroyer after a surface-to-air gunnery exercise. The assisting aircraft asked permission to do a low pass after the exercise and started his run. I will never forget standing on the bridge wing and looking down at a jet screaming by only a few feet above the water. Mind you the height of the bridge was only about 30 feet from the water line of the ship. That was indeed a brave and skilled pilot and a scene I shall never forget.

     Recently I had a similar experience with another winged wonder. This one was not man made however. As I was watching the young Royal Terns gather on the beach I saw several Brown Pelicans emerge from behind the dunes at a low glide heading for the surf zone. I looked up as one swooped by only a few feet away and stared into eyes that looked like something from prehistoric times. I can clearly imagine now what a Pterodactyl must have looked like. The pelican continued its low glide over the beach, gently touching a wingtip in the sand as it silently sailed across the scene, every feather under precise control. Try as we may, man just cannot imitate nature at its finest displays of flight.

     Speaking of flight, I will be gone this week to the state of Maine. Off the coast of the city of Cutler is Machias Island. This disputed Island is home to one of the largest breeding colonies of the Atlantic Puffin, a bird that spends its life at sea. Hope to have some photos ready next week. This is one of the Editor's favorites. Blessings. 

– The Full Buck Moon – July July is normally the month when the new antlers of buck deer push out of their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur. It was also often called the Full Thunder Moon, for the reason that thunderstorms are most frequent during this time. Another name for this month’s Moon was the Full Hay Moon.

As I looked into the eyes of this Brown Pelican, it brought to mind the primal look of what prehistoric times may have been like when a Pterodactyl soared by.

This low flyer continued its glide over the beach, inches from the sand..

With every feather under control it gently scaped the sand with a touch and continued on its low flight to the ocean

Ain't that a real foot stomper for ya!

Here is your dose of cute chicks for the week...

I am gonna fly like that Pelican some day too!

Look, I'm flying!

Yippee I can fly...

Big mouth..

     Summer is here in Florida for sure. Heat, sweltering humidity, and the other thing that summertime is known for, I.E. hot chicks on the beach! No, not the human kind, the shorebird kind. Everyone has heard about the legendary “Bigfoot” creature that roams the Northwest forests and other haunts. But have you seen the “Big Mouth”? I have, thousands of them.  Royal Terns and Laughing Gulls raise up a new generation at one of our local beaches. The hatchlings emerge from the dune nests and are they always hungry. Fuzzy wings give way to feathers.  Each day, little birds with “Big Mouths”, venture out further from the security of the dunes and onto the beach, waiting to be fed.

     The Terns and Gull chicks are unable to regulate their body temperatures until their feathers grow in. They need shade relief to keep from overheating, which the parents provide under the protection of their wings. The cool wet sand provides some respite from the heat.  Royal Terns (unlike the gulls) also cooperate by helping protect all the hatchlings by gathering in groups called a “Creche”. Parents, aunts and uncles and adult cousin birds all look out for the baby terns, fending off predatory attacks (Unfortunately, Laughing Gulls often prey on the Royal Terns hatchlings. I observe this all too often. It would do little good to try to intervene).

     Each day the parents have the task of filling the hungry “Big Mouths” with fresh seafood. I am astonished at how large a fish or other meal they can swallow (or attempt to swallow). The Royal Tern chicks hear their parent calling and they run and open those huge mouths. The "handoff" of food from the parent is usually done in a fraction of a second. Capturing the precise feeding action takes practice, skill, and often luck. The parent will not feed another tern’s chick. The Laughing Gulls can often be seen standing near the Royal Tern chicks to try and steal the food or chase the parents and snatch it before it even gets to the chick. I wonder if that is where early man got the idea to steal food from others.

     They may have big mouths but they sure are cute. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for some of the big mouth “TV Stars” and politicians that permeate the news lately. I wish one of the Laughing Gulls would poop in their big mouths. Have a Happy Fourth of July. Blessings. 

It is summertime and the beach is full of chicks...Royal Tern Chicks that is

Meet "Big Mouth", the Royal Tern chick

Royal Chick says "FEED ME" to the busy parents

A female Boat-tailed Grackle tries to imitate the Big Mouths..hoping for a snack..

Royal Tern hatchling takes a cautions trip onto the beach. 

Hey Dad!, bring a big fish...now!

Calamari anyone? Royal Tern with squid ink all over its neck..

Royal Tern with fish spots its chick and starts a quick starboard turn..

Big Mouth takes a Big Gulp and down the hatch it goes

Here ya go son, swallow this with your "Big Mouth".

Out of the mouths of babes...Laughing Gulls will steal food food right out of the mouths of the chicks..

Royals have only a fraction of a second to get the food in the chicks mouth..

Jumbo Shrimp! My favorite..thanks Dad!

BIG MOUTH SAYS HAVE A HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY and GOD BLESS AMERICA!

email: selsorhd@me.com

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