Zoom. . . there goes another year!

Yes, that’s right zoom! When you’re having fun, time flies. The 2018 season at Hog Island was just that – educational, lots of work, and fun, with lots of new and returning campers. It was filled to 87 percent capacity! Registration opened for the 2019 season in October and slots are being filled right and left.

On this Thanksgiving Day, FOHI has so much for which to be thankful. Not least are our volunteers. They gave again almost 6,000 hours of time during the sessions, opening and closing weeks, and throughout the other times of the year. Volunteer slots for the 2018 sessions were filled well in advance. The same is happening for 2019 –  like registration for the camp, volunteers are rapidly signing up for their favorite volunteer stint. Many sign up for more than one week. In 2018,  the longest was the whole season, the next was five weeks at one time. So, you see, volunteers love the island. Plan your summer – be a volunteer, a camper, or both! Bring your friends and family. Find the balance between fun, work, and giving.

FOHI is excited about two new books about Hog Island. The first was published by Norton in October 2018,   After Emily: Two Remarkable Women and the Legacy of America’s Greatest Poet, by Julie Dubrow, Tufts University.  Julie was the speaker at the 80th Anniversary Celebration of Hog Island in 2016; FOHI published her address at the 80th. The second is Nature’s People: The Hog Island Story from Mabel Loomis Todd to Audubon, by Tom Schaefer, a former camper and FOHI board member. During his Artist-in Residency at Hog Island he also produced a book of poems: A Forest of Ferns. Nature’s People is scheduled for late 2019.

FOHI is also excited about the generosity of our donors too. Without them we would not have had the funds to hire in 2018 our first employee, a volunteer coordinator, which was needed with the growth of our volunteer team; this was thanks to two-year funding by a donor. We have also just received notice of a $10,000 match for a new work boat. With the increased volunteers, staff, food, materials and so much more, another work boat is essential to the continued efficiency of the island. Volunteers were surprised and thrilled with the new washer and dryer funded by another donor to replace the failing old ones.

This is just a smattering of FOHI’s work at the camp, not to mention the planting and maintenance of the garden beds with the help of the Old Bristol Garden Club each week.

Enjoy the spirit of Thanksgiving knowing that each of you in your own way enables Friends of Hog Island and the camp to flourish.





Change is in the Air

Spring in Bremen is desperately trying to get a foothold. Snowdrops, crocus, daffodils and many other harbingers of spring are popping up only to be blanketed with snow again, but the birds know it’s spring!

The Search is Over

An intrepid FOHI volunteer coordinator has been selected from among a fine line-up of applicants: Tony Ferrara. Tony was a camper on the island in 2016 and 2017, attending Raptor Rapture and Field Ornithology sessions. He worked as a web and database professional, and will be retiring from this career in April to pursue his passion for the mission of Hog Island. He and his wife Cheryl will be moving to Maine from Florida after his retirement.

Tony was a volunteer beach steward on Marco Island, Florida, for many years, and served as the volunteer coordinator for that program. The beach stewards keep the beach clean, protect birds and other wildlife, and engage with tourists and residents to make the beach a safe and enjoyable place for everyone. Tony also served on the Beach Advisory Committee for the City of Marco Isla

He is an avid birder and also enjoys photography, making music, hiking, cycling and skiing. He is looking forward to contributing to the FOHI operation supporting the great work that is done at the Hog Island Audubon Camp and Project Puffin. FOHI is looking forward to working with him. Welcome to the FOHI team, Tony!

New York, New York

Juanita Roushdy, Kathleen Chalfant, Tiffany Huenefeldt, Rebecca Gilman, and Valentina Fratti.

On March 20, a few die-hard FOHIs were in New York City to see the reading of Woman of the World, by Rebecca Gilman, as part of the Miranda Theater’s First Annual Liz Smith Reading Series. The reading performed by the legendary Kathleen Chalfant brought the audience to their feet. The reading and the play—about Mabel Loomis Todd’s complex life as Emily Dickinson’s posthumous editor and rescuer of Hog Island—ignited a new interest in the Hog Island Audubon Camp and FOHI’s work. Rebecca is a professor of playwriting and screenwriting at Northwestern University, an artistic associate at the Goodman Theatre, and a birdwatcher. She is a former camper at Hog Island and it’s first Artist in Residence. FOHI had sponsored an earlier iteration of the play that had been performed at Hog Island.

What Else is Popping Up?

FOHI’s 2017-18 year-end news is out, so you can catch up on latest figures and happenings. Camp registration is at 82 percent, so check out the sessions and find one right for you. FOHI volunteers were the early birds this year, filling up most of the volunteer slots by February! But don’t despair, we still have two sessions in August that need volunteers and cancellations always happen, so put your name on the wait list even though it may say full! Also welcome, Anthony Pizzarello to the Hog Island team as co-chef. He and Kristi Bokros will be sharing the chef position.  The Hog Island team and FOHI are already chomping at the bit with excitement about the new season.

See you on the island!


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 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