Video captures the spirit of Hog Island

Famed videographer Lang Elliott has produced a new 6-minute video about the ornithology and teen birding session at the Audubon Camp in Maine on Hog Island.

Elliott and co-videographer Martyn Stewart capture the spirit of the legendary camp which will celebrate its 75th anniversary next summer.

The video features well-known birders Kenn Kaufman, Scott Weidensaul, Greg Budney, Sara Morris and Steve Kress. Lang will join the field ornithology instructors for the 2011 Hog Island program.

There’s always a rainbow at Hog Island

Juanita helps clear debris from Eastern Egg Rock during September service session

Do you remember being at Audubon camp on Hog Island for the first time and hearing a strange word dropped into conversations and introductions – “fowee” “fohigh”. What did it mean? At the end of the session, you realized it was one of those delightful acronyms, which have become part of our lexicon, meaning Friends of Hog Island (FOHI).

Do you remember, too, how when you left you were eager to continue receiving news about an island that held special meaning and made you smile when you thought about it?

Well, we have good news! Friends of Hog Island formally formed in 1998 will shortly become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit group. You will be able to support your beloved island and buildings directly. Friends once again have heeded the call to assure Hog Island’s future.

The recent Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel) service program at Hog and the subsequent FOHI workweek to close up the camp produced fertile discussion and positive actions. Concerned over the closing of the camp in 2009 owing to lack of funds, the participants and FOHI sought positive solutions and came up with reconstituting FOHI as a 501(c)(3) with the goal of providing an annual supplementary income stream for the camp.

A board is currently being formed with Juanita Roushdy, a FOHI who moved from North Carolina to just up the road from Hog Island, as President; Kenn Kaufman, noted author and Hog Island instructor, Scott Weidensaul, Hog Island instructor, nature writer, and dedicated FOHI; Steve Kress, Director of Project Puffin and the person responsible for the cost-covering programs this year; David Klinger, a former president of FOHI and long-time friend of Hog; Gaye Phillips, another dedicated and long-time FOHI who comes each year from Dallas Texas with her husband, Robert, for the FOHI work weeks.

Now that’s good news! So, here is some more.

Where do FOHI’s get their energy? This is a question asked by many. September 19-24 was the first-ever FOHI workweek to close up the camp, and energy surged.

In 5 days, 16 FOHIs stripped beds, washed linens; vacuumed and swept all buildings; put away furniture; scraped and painted outdoor trim; glazed windows; primed and painted the new rooms in the Crow’s Nest; removed screens on all buildings; put up winter shutters; and completed a myriad other winterizing tasks., including kitchen duties.

But perhaps the most gratifying and most demanding task was removing and cutting up a gargantuan pile of lobster traps and other marine debris from Eastern Egg Rock. Sally Sanderson, a FOHI volunteer, upon seeing the pile on the rocks thought to herself, “there’s no way we’re going to be able to remove all of that in one trip.” Three hours later, 7 FOHIs and Eric and Sue’s Herculean efforts in rowing the trash-laden dory back and forth had cleared the island and left it once again ready for next year’s nesting.

Although we didn’t see a rainbow during the workweek, the good humor and beaming smiles made up for it.

Keep an eye out for more news of FOHI as it moves forward and be part of this wonderful energy that the Audubon Camp at Hog Island nurtures.

Juanita is a full-time resident of Bremen, ME and lives just up the road from Hog Island. She is currently on the board of Audubon North Carolina and founded and was president of the Cape Fear Audubon Society in Wilmington, NC. During her professional career she was Senior Editor and later Director of Community Relations at the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C. She’s an active volunteer, birder, and conservationist.

The reach of the humanities

When I first came to Hog Island as a camper in 1981, I was far enough along on a humanities degree that my next big hurdle was to complete the “project” phase of the program. Since my focus was on conservation history, I figured hanging out on an island in Muscongus Bay for two weeks, as the Audubon Camp program was back then, would provide a wonderful time for a guy from the Midwest to reflect and, I was sure, discover the absolutely right topic for that culminating graduate project. I can remember that I was mildly disappointed when, after having prowled around the camp compound for only a few hours, the project idea jumped up from the island itself and grabbed me. And I never would have guessed that Emily Dickinson would be at the heart of it all. But she was.

Mabel Loomis Todd, celebrated as savior of the island, was also the original editor of Emily Dickinson’s poetry back in the late 1880s.

The idea of attending the Audubon Camp in Maine came from a science teacher colleague who had attended the previous year on a scholarship from the local Audubon chapter. What a great idea, I thought, so I applied as well. I assumed that the Dayton Audubon Society targeted science teachers for their grants, so I held my breath until hearing that they had agreed to partially fund my humanities-based trip. I had also heard at just about that time in a graduate seminar on Dickinson that one of the students had visited Walt Whitman’s house while in Boston. Another great idea, I thought. I could stop by the Dickinson homestead in Amherst, Massachusetts, on the way to Hog Island. And I did. But that is another story. Suffice it to say that I had been smitten by Miss Dickinson’s life and work and was pretty excited to be traveling through New England to her home with the coast of Maine as my destination.

So there I found myself on that first Sunday afternoon on Hog Island. I was poking around, investigating camp buildings, but was really drawn to sitting on the rocky outcrop just north of the Fish House overlooking the bay. Although lobster was beyond my teacher’s salary, the look of the bouys dotting the bay was lovely, as was the view of neighboring islands, the sound of a lapping tide on the shore, and the fresh feel of a downeast sea breeze. The long drive from Ohio had already been rewarded. When I got up from where I was sitting, I noticed a sign just behind me giving notice that Hog Island was also called the Todd Wildlife Sanctuary. Something about that name seemed familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it. Soon after, while prowling around the Fish House, it hit me. The woman whose picture was framed on the knotty pine wall and celebrated as savior of the island, Mabel Loomis Todd, was the same Mabel Loomis Todd who was the original editor of Emily Dickinson’s poetry back in the late 1880s. Was it possible that my destination in Maine and my pilgrimage to the Dickinson homestead were connected? Indeed, they were.

To be sure, Emily Dickinson knew nothing of Hog Island. Mrs. Todd’s process of purchasing tracks of the island began years after Emily’s death and years after publication of Poems in 1890. Still, it is as clear to me now as was the Muscongus Bay air that Sunday afternoon, that the humanities played a key role in what would become the Audubon Camp in Maine.

With all of the fine natural history instruction and personal recreation that goes on at the Audubon Camp in Maine, it is good to see the humanities getting a share of the spotlight. Mabel, and Emily, I should think, would both be nodding in approval.

“The Epic of Hog”: The Todd-Bingham Family and the Establishment of the Audubon Ecology Camp in Maine is available through inter-library loan from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

Tom Schaefer is a retired high school history teacher who completed his masters project on the history of Hog Island. Tom is former FOHI President and Editor of Across the Narrows.

“A beautiful and special place”

“I learned more in one hour than in one month of school.”

“I can’t say enough good things about every aspect of your program — you care, you listen, you are flexible, knowledgeable, and still run a tight ship.”

“I had a wonderful time — the island is beautiful and a very special place. I hope to return.”

“It was wondeful to have such a fantastic experience. I loved the whole experience.’

“The food was miles beyond what I was expecting — and Janii’s personality and art really add to the uniqueness of this trip. We ate so well — and so healthy!

“Food was the best in the world.”

“Seabird Sue was totally outstanding. Her knowledge, smile and passion was catching. She never tired of our questions and seemed thrilled to share with us.”

“Kate was totally delightful. We were all impressed with her knowledge, enthusiasm and with how well she worked with everyone.

“I’d like to know more about the historic buildings. How were they were made, given the climate and weather and materials available. The stylistic features, and how to preserve them.”

“Food was delicious! Good variety. Abundant vegetables. Salad at lunch and dinner. Healthy options.”

“The staff was friendly, informative, approachable, and knowledgeable. Their enthusiasm was contagious.”