‘An experience you won't ever forget’

Take a trip to see Maine’s Atlantic Puffin colony
Thu, 07/20/2023 - 11:15am

    A front row seat to the world's first restored Atlantic Puffin colony awaits on Cap’n Fish’s Puffin Cruise. Take the 2.5-hour trip aboard the Pink Lady II to Eastern Egg Rock to see Maine’s iconic cuties. Narration by a naturalist from National Audubon’s Project Puffin provides the history of the puffins and the Eastern Egg Rock restoration directly from the people involved. 

    “They are just the most charismatic birds,” said naturalist Arden Kelly. Kelly described the puffins’ beautiful behavioral patterns, such as pairs mating for life and co-raising one egg a year. As of 2017, there were at least 173 breeding pairs nesting on the island and that number is rising every year. 

    While climate change has not affected the puffins too much, Kelly said the warming waters have introduced the butterfish to the Gulf of Maine. This is a problem for puffins, as butterfish are too wide for them to swallow. However, efforts to manage local fisheries to make sure there are more edible than inedible fish have been successful. 

    “There's a lot of doom and gloom with our environment so, to have solid proof that our world is resilient, and these birds are resilient and ready to survive and thrive if we give them that support, gives people hope for the future, that we can make that difference if we do try,” she said.

    Project Puffin was started by National Audubon Society in 1973 to try to restore historic puffin nesting islands in the Gulf of Maine. The puffin population had been diminished by hunting and displacement from herring and great black-backed gulls whose numbers increased due to local fishing practices and municipal waste. Prior to recolonization, puffins last nested on Eastern Egg Rock in 1885. 

    Project Puffin pioneered the use of decoys and other techniques to draw the birds back and has since helped over 63 species in 17 countries via the methods developed on the island, according to Kelly. 

    Puffins aren’t all that people will see on their trip. According to Capt. Tabor Young of Cap’n Fish’s, visitors may spot gannets, shearwaters, seals, porpoises, sunfish and even whales. Eastern Egg Rock also hosts other birds like the black guillemots and the Common, Arctic and endangered Roseate tern. The trip also passes three lighthouses (Ram, Burnt, and Pemaquid Point), various islands, coastlines and more.

    “Puffins are quintessentially Maine,” said Young. “You have to take the journey and you have to find them for yourself. It's an experience you won't ever forget.”

    The Puffin Cruises run rain or shine from mid-May to mid-August. Binoculars are recommended. Find more information at www.boothbayboattrips.com or call (207) 613-7339.