Wanted: Intrepid FOHI Volunteer Coordinator

Yes, it’s true, FOHI is looking for a FOHI Volunteer Coordinator.

Hey, we’re looking for a new Volunteer Coordinator!

This is your chance to spend time on that magical Hog Island, working with a dedicated and passionate group of volunteers. Check out the job description; the position includes room and board and an hourly wage. You’ll get to see all that happens on the island and get to know all the instructors and staff. You’ll be part of an amazing Hog Island team. Send a cover letter and resume by e-mail to president@fohi.org or by snail mail to Friends of Hog island, P.O. Box 242, Bremen, ME 04551. Deadline has been extended to February 28, 2018.

Not interested in being the Volunteer Coordinator, then check out our volunteer opportunities for 2018. Even if a session has no volunteer slots, put your name on the waitlist; we often have cancellations.

It Was Only Yesterday and Now its Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Who would have thought back in 2010 that FOHI  would be alive and thriving in 2017. Yes, FOHIs remain tenacious in their care and support for the Hog Island Audubon Camp. With another year under our belts, 2017 was home run for the camp and for FOHIs.

Thanks to Audubon staff and registrar, the camp was 94 percent full! Teen sessions sold out almost immediately after posting. FOHI volunteer spots for most sessions were full by March with waiting lists! Hog Island continued to work its magic -great staff, great food, great volunteers, great programs, great staff, and a setting beyond words.

FOHI volunteers

FOHI volunteers staffed 16 sessions, including the opening and closing weeksand special events on the island for a preliminary total of 6,004 hours! Streamlined organization enabled FOHIs to work efficiently and have more time to enjoy the island and programs. Even 31 cancellations was not a show-stopper thanks to our “desperadoes,” especially Jenny who stayed on for two extra weeks, a hearty thank you, and to our Whirlwinds who help with turnover days!

The gardens blazed with color thanks to Helen and Betsyand the Old Bristol Garden Club, who also donated a number of Verbena bonariensis plants that butterflies found irrestistible.

FOHI volunteer coordinator. Yes, at long last FOHI will hire a paid volunteer coordinator. If you, or you or anyone you know, would be interested, check out the job description. We hope to have someone in place for 2018.

Camp happenings

Bailey, Rachel and Steve’s last surviving chick had a summer akin to a Raidersof the Lost Ark adventure. She survived multiple attacks by hornets, a Great Horned Owl,  a disgruntled Mrs. Boathouse, and a Bald Eagle that landed her in the water. She was rescued and transported by a FOHI to Avian Haven as the eagle had punctured her side. A thorough examination and x-rays showed that Bailey had an old wrist fracture that had not healed. She continued at Avian Haven, having daily physical therapy and care for more than a month. Frigid weather forced a move to a warmer clime – Florida. Bailey now is in the care of Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland.  Bailey is a true internet star. You can follow her progress on their Facebook page.

The solar panels that FOHI donated and helped install provided 93.8 percent of the camp’s needs. Next year, we hope for 100 percent! Let the sun shine on!

Two new 15-passenger vans for exclusive Hog Island program use;FOHI contributed $11,000 to their purchase. Campers loved them. They now live in a new garage on the mainland!

Two new rental sessions proved a great success: Birdwatcher’s Digest Reader’s Rendezvous and Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. We hope to see them both back again in coming years.

Artist-in-Residence program had 4 artists participate each for two weeks. They stay in the Bingham Cottages, renovations funded and done by FOHI volunteers. A writer, two artists, and photographer all found their muse.

Tomorrow is 2018

Wow! Can it be possible that 2018 is heading for yet another blockbuster year: a new Spring migration session; a teen Costa Rica trip in July, a new Mountains-to-the-Sea session for teens, plus the usual great sessions including Raptor Rapture and Arts and birding. It’s not even December and registration is at 54 percent. Likewise, FOHI volunteers are signing up to secure their favorite session with their friends.

Ah, too much news and not enough space! Close your eyes, think of Hog Island and smile. Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Hog Island to all of you.


Eclipse chasers: A special order of Nature’s People

It matters little whether we regard the point of view
of the savage…or that of the astronomer,
the total solar eclipse is a most imposing natural phenomenon.

Mabel Loomis Todd
Total Eclipses of the Sun (1894)

If you and yours were some of the millions of Americans who traveled mucho miles to personally witness the celestially rare experience of a total solar eclipse last 21 August, you have something uniquely in common with Hog Island history.

And if you are an Audubon camper, you no doubt remember the part of the opening session narrative as retold from Millicent Bingham’s decades of addressing campers about her mother, Mabel Loomis Todd, who is still blessed there regularly as both primary ‘savior of Hog Island’ and the first editor of the Emily Dickinson canon of poetry and letters. Somewhere in that storytelling you might also remember mention of Millicent’s father, David Peck Todd, who is usually simply noted as chief astronomer at Amherst College a century ago and notorious for being, among other things, a global total solar eclipse chaser.

First off, let me just say how impressed I am with mathematicians who for millennia have accurately calculated solar eclipse events on the Earth. Though they couldn’t figure out exactly where they would show up until the 1850s, skywatchers from the time of the Babylonians recorded celestial events accurately enough to recognize the moon’s variable orbit plane that has everything to do with the timing and location of both solar and lunar eclipses. David Todd contributed to improvement in the plotting of such celestial dynamics only fifty years after it was first accomplished in Great Britain.

As a college student, David Todd cut his eclipse teeth by observations not of Earth, but of Jupiter. His meticulous observations and record keeping of eclipses of Jovian moons, and subsequent publication of that data, caught the attention of famed American astronomer Simon Newcomb who gave Todd his first job as a special assistant and ‘calculator’ at the Naval Observatory in Washington D.C. A few years later, Todd would take the astronomy job at Amherst where he and his new wife and little girl would make their home which proved fertile ground for the development of three very illustrious and successful careers.

Getting to totality, of course, is the first order of business before witnessing this unique and ‘most imposing natural phenomenon.’ My wife and I braved expected heavy interstate traffic through Ohio and Kentucky to get to Tennessee for our experience. We heard on the news that those 60,000 folks who joined us at Triple Creek Park in Gallatin, thirty miles north of Nashville, came from 39 states and 17 countries, including two busses of Japanese observers. During David Todd’s era of observations, one can only imagine the added degree of difficulty required to get not only expedition members to the precise path of totality, but also crates of sensitive optical equipment, often over miles of difficult terrain. All for a mere few quick minutes of totality.

As if expedition life wasn’t hard enough, often on the outskirts of civilization, there was never a promise of clear skies. Twice, in both 1887 and 1896, David and Mabel and observation teams sailed to Japan to record the sun’s corona using an innovative photographic camera system designed by Todd. It took eight months of difficult sailing and overland travel to record on wet photographic plates what solar science could only view at totality. And it was cloudy. Both times. So if you had clear skies like we did at Gallatin, you did a whole lot better than many of Todd’s dozen or so expedition teams. Such makes it easier to understand Millicent’s family anecdote that the only thing her father ever admitted to really upsetting him was clouds at totality. And if you know much about Todd family history, that really was saying something.

In part because catching totality under clear skies was inherently risky, David Todd assembled broadly based scientific teams to join his expeditions. The thinking was that even if all the money and effort spent on photographing the sun’s corona resulted in failure, other scientific natural history data, like flora and fauna study and collections, would result in the team bringing something of value home. Keep in mind, too, that the nation of Japan the Todds personally experienced was not yet fifty years removed from Commodore Perry’s abrupt appearance in 1854 to negotiate a trade treaty. Japan was a nation of mystery to Americans who were eager to learn more about the secretive and exotic Land of the Rising Sun. Which is another place in history where Mabel Loomis Todd fits right in.

Mabel Todd did not accompany David on all of his expeditions, but she didn’t miss many. Following both trips to Japan, she published articles in national publications with broad readerships, including The Atlantic Monthly and The Century Magazine. Whereas Dr. Todd and his team collected scientific data, Mabel focused on cultural issues in articles titled ‘An Ascent of Fuji the Peerless,’ ‘In Quest of a Shadow: An Astronomical Experience in Japan,’ and ‘In Aino-Land.’ American readers were hungry to hear more about the island nation most would never have the opportunity to travel to.
Mabel Todd produced a few full-length books from her global travels with her husband. Total Eclipses of the Sun (1894) had a mostly scientific bent but was aimed at explaining astronomical phenomena to laypeople while Tripoli the Mysterious (1912) focused on north African culture, another topic with broad interest among American readers at the time. A third book, though, Corona and Coronet (1898), offered a theme that resounded deeply in me as we awaited totality in Tennessee. Mrs. Todd wrote about the camaraderie that developed among the expedition team sailing on the Coronet on the long and difficult trek from New England to Japan. David even mentions that bonding by dedicating one of his own published works to the Coronet crew.

I surely don’t mean to imply the thousands of us who gathered at Triple Creek Park became best of friends like the Coronet crew did, but there was a palpable sense of community among us. I felt it, as did my wife, my brother, his wife, and the dozen or so strangers who found shade under the same tree we did. We had gathered to witness a once-in-a-lifetime event, and that elevated place we found ourselves was not lost on us. I did not hear one hostile word from anybody I saw all day. One family under our tree gave a tee shirt away to a guy who they only knew by first name who had gone to look for one, but found they were sold out. Another family offered surplus catered lunches they brought along to a younger family with kids just because the young ones looked hungry. I went over and tapped the younger dad on the shoulder and said, ‘Kind of like the loaves and the fishes, eh?’ He grinned and nodded while another woman who heard me looked up a bit startled and said, ‘I wonder if that’s how the miracle did work? People just brought out food to share when they knew their neighbors were hungry.’ How could I disagree? Maybe spectacular celestial events just bring out the best in us.

I’ve been a fan of Mabel and David Todd for years, even before I first heard their story about Hog Island. Being able to witness, first hand, that same spectacular yet elusive prize David spent a career trying to capture makes them feel even more like kin. It’s not just the aura of being on that special island in Muscongus Bay that they protected over a century ago, but now the etched-in-consciousness singular event of experiencing the sun and moon in their unique dance that produces the only time human beings can see the corona and planets together at midday. Now we have another commonality that assures our place in the fold of Nature’s People.


If you enjoy hearing stories about legendary Hog Island personalities, be on the lookout for my book, Nature’s People: The Hog Island story from Mabel Loomis Todd to Audubon. I’ve been at it for a while, and it’s a whole lot closer to publication, but there’s still fathoms to go. Look for an announcement at fohi.org when it’s available.

Images:  Opening image of totality (Tom Schaefer, 21 August 2017, Gallatin TN) David and Mabel Todd (Todd-Bingham Family Papers at Yale University archive) ‘Amherst Station, Esachi, Japan 1896’  (Todd-Bingham Family Papers at Yale University archive) Note Mabel Loomis Todd standing in the doorway.

Tom Schaefer
Dayton, Ohio
August 2017

Can It Be July!

The summer solstice has come and gone, July 4, too,  and the days are getting shorter! But life at the Hog Island Audubon Camp remains upbeat, high energy, fun, and each new day a joy. Northern parulas, song sparrows, phoebes, our resident ospreys, Rachel and Steve, and other birds on the island are all busy raising young, with some fledging already. Life effervesces, as do the rocking FOHIs.

With four camp sessions under their belts, Birdwatcher’s Digest Reader Rendezvous, Joy of Birding, Arts & Birding/ Teens, and Field Ornithology/Teens, they are ready to take on the next part of the season. Registration at the camp is at its highest ever – 90% thanks to word of mouth and social media, notwithstanding Eva’s efforts and all the instructors to fill their sessions. FOHIs have likewise been spreading the word about volunteering and the sessions are full. But if you want to volunteer, sign-up for the wait list – things happen.

Thanks to Helen Walsh and Betsy Cadbury’s initial plantings of flowers and the continual watering and upkeep by the Old Bristol Garden Club, the gardens and window boxes are thriving. They were particularly appreciated during Arts week.

Other FOHI news

FOHI donated $10, 900 to the purchase of two new vans for the camp. It also gave full scholarships for a mother and daughter to attend Family Camp and for a local student to attend Field Ornithology/Teens. To make rooms brighter, new curtains were purchased for staff quarters and new linens and blankets for campers. We still have a wish list of a 16-foot skiff to replace the “scow, the workhorse boat; a gently used pickup truck; and a wood chipper for the island trails.



On Wednesday, June 28, board members had a two-hour no-impact meeting at Hog Island, where they decided to hire a FOHI Volunteer Coordinator, move ahead with funding for the Hog Island Archive Project, and work on a 5-year strategic plan. They are energized, engaged, and looking to the future. A no-impact meeting means no work for anyone: sandwiches from Fernald’s Deli in Damariscotta and coffee from Dunkin Donuts.

Thanks must go to the FOHI “desperados” who fill in at a moment’s notice when a volunteer cannot make it. Then, there are the “whirlwinds,” who on Friday mornings completely clean rooms and make beds for the next session. FOHI volunteers are dedicated, hard-working, and passionate and a little crazy! But we love them.

The solar panels continue to provide electricity. To date they have produced 18,511.2 kwh and the camp has used 13,188.0 kwh, with June having the biggest consumption of energy. Nonetheless, the sun continues to shine and so far we have a net of 5,322 kwh in the grid. Thank you to all who made this possible.

The savings is equivalent to: Miles Not Driven – 30,391  miles; Gasoline Not Used – 1,436  gallons; Coal Not Burned – 13,710  pounds; Crude Oil Not Used – 30  barrels; Mature Trees Grown – 327  trees; Garbage Recycled – 10,086  pounds

There are still a few slots in  some of the sessions, so visit Hog Island to see what is available. Also check out the trip for teens to Costa Rica in December. See you on the island and thank you for all you do for Hog Island and Friends of Hog Island.

So Much is Happening

The best news is that even though camp registration is at 81% of capacity, it’s not too late to register. Likewise volunteer slots are going like hotcakes with four sessions already with waiting lists: Educator’s week, Joy of Birding, Raptor Rapture, and Migration I. If you’ve been thinking about being a camper or a volunteer, don’t procrastinate. Register or sign up now; otherwise you’ll be on the wait list.

Not only is the scenery breathtaking, the instructors outstanding, the staff friendly, the volunteers amazing, the air clean, but also the food is locally fresh and oh so tasty. Chef, Cleo, and assistant chef, Kristi, are coming back for 2017, as are the rest of the team, Eric, Adrian, Eva, and Juanita. We look forward to breaking bread with you.

Breaking FOHI news

Breaking FOHI news is the election of five new board members: Leigh Altadonna, Randy Blackburn, Tiffany Huenefeldt, ex officio, James Li, M.D., and David Sturdevant. We heartily welcome them and look forward to fresh ideas and bubbling enthusiasm.

Alas, six members rotated off the board, Terry Haight, Kenn Kaufman, Walt Pomeroy, Tom Schaefer, Loretta Victor, and Scott Weidensaul. They were part of the original board of FOHI and contributed greatly to its continuing success. We thank them greatly for their untiring contribution to the wellbeing of FOHI and the camp and for their unflagging confidence that FOHI could make promises and keep them.

FOHI’s  newsletter is out

As outlined in the newsletter, FOHIs achieved a lot in 2016 from opening to closing and in between. Their contributions varied from hammering, building, painting, renovating, plumbing, fixing boats, painting furniture, washing dishes, cleaning, to creating art on doors – the list is endless and surprising.

Their gifts to the kitchen, housekeeping, maintenance, gardens, and, more added the caring touch and made tasks easier. The culmination of gifts and sweat equity was the acquisition and installation of the solar arrays on the Fish House and Bridge, which is covered in the newsletter and in an earlier post.

FOHI volunteers are a prime example of renewable energy; they’re work reenergizes them! We welcome to the team the Old Bristol Garden Club whose many volunteers tended the gardens weekly.

Like the campers, FOHI volunteers  arrive eager to start the experience and leave with big smiles knowing they accomplished many things. Thank you. We couldn’t do it without you.