It has been said by those who were there, that the Audubon Camp on Hog Island was like a family in the early years, with Carl and Susie Buchheister, Allan and Helen Cruickshank, Don and Elizabeth Borror, Joe and Lu Cadbury, Bart and Ginny Cadbury, Farida Wiley, and Margaret Wall. There was a special camaraderie that developed among the staff as they returned year after year, devoted to each other and to the environmental education cause they served. They lived in close proximity and intimacy on a small island for several months each summer, and the affectionate family feeling was tangible and communicated itself to the campers who came to learn from them.
That warm family feeling was recreated, quite literally, this past July, as two special groups came back to Hog Island to participate in the Friends of Hog Island (FOHI) Festival. Hog Island Center Director Seth Benz and his enthusiastic staff welcomed 26 members of the extended Buchheister family and 10 members of the staff and student assistants from 1971 under the leadership of Dur and Peggy Morton to a reunion, which not only celebrated the extraordinary history of the camp, but also gave concrete samples of the type of program going on in the present, and outlined Maine Audubon’s plans for the exciting future it foresees for the Center.
The 3-day party began on Monday, July 23, with participants arriving in the late afternoon in time for a cocktail reception on the lawn, a welcome by Hog Island Center Director Seth Benz in the Fish House and a slide presentation by Dur Morton, and Chef Janii’s wonderful supper in the Bridge. This was followed by a short talk about the history of the Audubon Camp by Art Borror, and Hog Island historian Tom Schaefer’s slide show retrospective honoring Carl Buchheister (first director of the Camp) and his wife Harriet (known to all as Susie).
Tuesday dawned foggy and damp, but not enough to dampen the enthusiasm of the early morning bird walkers! After breakfast, the Morton gang departed on the Osprey III for an all-day boat trip and picnic on Harbor Island, while the rest of us enjoyed a cruise around Muscongus Bay aboard the Center’s “new” boat, Puffin V, the fruits of the first phase of Hog Island’s current capital campaign.
We caught a glimpse of the Bald Eagles nesting on Wreck Island, and had fabulous views of the puffins and terns nesting on Eastern Egg Rock, as they flew right by the boat and floated close by in the water. The clouds cleared up in time for a picnic lunch and family reunion time back on Hog Island, during which the Buchheister children and grandchildren delighted all by presenting Maine Audubon with pledges for a significant and most welcome donation to the Hog Island Capital Campaign, currently in its “leadership” phase. Then, to add to the excitement, there was a surprise early 80th birthday party for Mary Carol Massonneau, “matriarch” of the Buchheister clan, complete with copious glasses of champagne and an after-dinner birthday cake from Janii.
Scott Weidensaul was the evening speaker and gave an engaging slide lecture entitled “Return to Wild America,” in which he spoke of his journey retracing the steps of Roger Tory Peterson and James Fisher some 50 years earlier. They had traveled around the North American continent — 30,000 miles in 100 days — and recounted their trip in the classic “Wild America.” Scott made himself available for discussion, questions, and book-signing after the program, which led to conversations about the direction of the environmental movement in America, both past and present.
Wednesday was lovely and sunny, and was devoted to the Center as it is today: there were four events scheduled, some for those who wished to remain close to home, and some for the “explorers” who wanted to range farther afield. First up was a choice between a geology walk along the shore with Eric Snyder or a talk and demo on bird/butterfly gardening with Tom Leckey. At 10:30, everyone returned to base to choose their next program: a spruce woods walk with Art Borror or a discussion of the camp history with Tom Schaefer. After lunch, with the tide going out, we formed into two groups to explore the intertidal area with Art, Heather, and Sue Schubel, bringing back our “finds“ to be examined by microscope or added to the aquaria or touch tank.
Another cocktail party that evening and a lobster feast on the lawn rounded out a perfect day, which ended with an old-fashioned campfire in the Fish House, led by Betsy and Peggy Cadbury, Art Borror, and Seth Benz. Many of the skits and stories from the “olden” days of the camp were reenacted, and the hilarity ended with Hog Island taps: “Day is done, gone the sun, from the bay, from the rocks, from the sky. All is well, safely rest. God is nigh.”