Saving Hog Island (Down East)

“Birders have been coming to the island, a few hundred yards off the Bremen shore, for seventy-two of the past seventy-four seasons, drawn by the opportunity to immerse themselves in its ecosystem in the company of extremely knowledgeable teachers….

“’Once you spend a week on that island, it can be a life changing experience,’ says Judy Braus, senior vice president for education at National Audubon in Washington, which has owned the island since 1936. ‘You interact with other participants and this ecologically diverse place, and I’ve seen people come with one set of values and expectations and in one week have changed them.’…

“But this year’s programs — which include a session for teens — have a lot on the line. The camp, which has been managed by Maine Audubon for the past decade, was closed last season because the Falmouth-based organization could no longer bear its all-too-frequent operating shortfalls. Myriad stakeholders have been at work to craft a viable model, but it’s not yet certain whether the birding programs are on the verge of a glorious new chapter, or experiencing their last hurrah….

“The loss of Hog Island’s bird program would likely close the book on one of the country’s most storied and venerable nature camps. Its birth predates the modern environmental movement by the better part of a century, to a time when few Americans had much sympathy for nature and even fewer realized that it was being undone by the excesses of the industrial age.”

Audubon Magazine Online Features Teen Alumna

Andrea Willingham, Coastal Maine Bird Studies 2007, has an essay on Audubon Magazine’s website. The 17-year old author’s piece is enhanced by a series of exquisite photos she took while at Hog Island last summer. Andrea says of her experience, “I knew I would never see the natural world the same way again.”

Come to your senses in the middle of Muscongus Bay

The island camp where all have congregated was started in 1936 by the National Audubon Society and is managed now by Maine Audubon. The 330-acre island of spruce, fir, white pine, and exquisite glades of ferns and moss is the legacy of a determined mother and daughter team.

Mabel Loomis Todd and her astronomer husband, David Todd, were enjoying their traditional summer sailing trip through Muscongus Bay in 1908 when Mabel, alarmed by the lumbering on Hog Island, decided to buy it. Several years later, she had amassed nearly all of the little lots on the island, and she and her husband built a small cabin in which they spent many subsequent summers with their daughter, Millicent.

Hog Island Featured in the Washington Post

“At just past 4 a.m. on a day in early July, the first hints of light appear on Hog Island’s horizon. Lobster boats on Muscongus Bay soon labor to their pots, their unmuffled motors providing percussion to a disjointed symphony of buzzy black-throated green warblers, laughing common loons and chattering red squirrels.

“By 4:45 a.m., sound and light have joined to wake many of the 52 people who have come to this 333-acre island just a quarter-mile off the coast of Bremen, Maine, most to attend Maine Audubon’s five-day natural history camp. The first risers are already wandering the native-plant-filled grounds, sipping cups of freshly brewed shade-grown coffee and watching one of the island’s signature sunrises….”