A few years ago I took Cap’n Fish’s boat trip out to Egg Rock from Boothbay and enjoyed the National Audubon’s narrated puffin cruise. I even got a photo of a puffin in the water with a fish in his mouth. However, this year I had a magical experience when I had the opportunity to see the puffins up close and personal on Machias Seal Island as part of a 5-day photography workshop I took in Lubec, Maine with Hunt Photo’s Bold Coast Adventure.
Machias Seal Island is the largest puffin colony on the Maine coast, with thousands more birds than any other site! You may have read about the dispute of Machias Seal Island in the news. There are 2 Canadian Lighthouse keepers on the island year round. They do 28-day assignments and are taken out with supplies by helicopter. Only two boats are authorized to go to Machias Seal Island, one from Canada and one from Cutler, Maine. Captain Andy Patterson of Bold Coast Charter Company in Cutler, Maine has been giving tours for 30 years and takes a daily 5-hour tour from May through around August 12th when the puffins leave the island with their young and become sea birds, living on the ocean. They are only on land to hatch their eggs. We also saw Razorbills and Arctic Terns.
After about a 45 minute boat ride on the Barbara Frost we spent a few hours on the island which is about 10 miles offshore (3-hour limit to be on the island) and got to go in the bird blinds for about 50 minutes. We passed Little River Lighthouse, which is available for rent, and on the way back we passed a seal colony sunning on the rocks. The puffins are comical and sound like little lawn mowers (or some say cows!) when they all get going in unison.
They are only about 3-6 feet away from you when you are in the blinds. Puffins can live more than 30 years and you don’t know which ones are 2 years old or 30 years old because they are the same size. I do think the older birds get used to having people on the island. They come back to the island where they were born every year. Some of them catch a glimpse of you in the blinds and when your eyes lock you can see into their tiny, little soul! It truly is a magical experience. http://www.mainebirdingtrail.com/Puffins.html
For a once in a lifetime opportunity, put a visit to Machias Seal Island on your Bucket List!