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The Island Where You Will Get Pooped On

Check out the Petit Manan Island slideshow!

Few people, if any, have the opportunity to visit a refuge bird colony, and this past week I had just that experience while working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Just about 6 a.m. and everyone on the island is awake.

My mission was to visit national wildlife refuge Petit Manan Island, one of the Maine Coastal Islands National Refuges, and document what Fish and Wildlife scientists were up to. The focus of service biologists in the Maine Coastal Islands is the restoration of colonial seabirds and to provide a place of refuge. Petit Manan Island is an important and unique refuge as it has historically been a place of seabird colonization, and on it rests a fully functioning historic lighthouse.

My boss and I set out for the island Tuesday morning, after spending the night in Ellsworth, Maine, which doesn’t have much going on. We took a boat loaded with camera gear, sleeping bags, and food for four meals from Milbridge, Maine to the island. The forty-minute boat ride was brisk and refreshing after enduring unbelievably hot and humid weeks of heat in western Massachusetts. And we saw seals off one of the islands along the way, which added to my Maine coastal experience.

There are no citizen visitors allowed on this island.

When we hit land at Petit Manan Island, we were greeted by the biologists, most of which were still in school, working on their wildlife degrees and the like.

The seabird restoration team lives on the island all summer without running water, or a “proper” Internet connection. They have a propane stove, get electricity through solar panels, and use an outhouse and a composting toilet.

While the island hosts various kinds of birds it’s the Terns and Puffins that take much attention.

Daily tasks for the restoration team include provisioning, capturing birds, documenting information about the birds, taking samples to get tested, predation control, banding, and keeping track of pretty much everything the birds do.

Immediately stepping foot on the island, one shouldn’t be surprised if they get pooped on by the massive numbers of Terns flying merely a few feet above (it’s like the Hitchcock movie). Also, don’t be surprised if they start dive bombing one’s head. Luckily, I sported a baseball cap which sheltered my soon-to-be-even-more-dirty hair from the single poop that hit the top of my head.

Sitting in a blind with the cameras.

But, the biologists are even more hardcore, adorning poop splotches on their hats, shirts, and pants. They often boasted about how the occasional plop would make it into their hair or the side of their face. Imagine all that and only being able to take a cylinder shower once in a while. But getting pooped on is like an initiation process, it’s bound to happen.

Bird monitoring is something the team does a lot of. They do this often from the lighthouse and blinds built around the island. They communicate to each other with walkie-talkies and write down data as they see it.

Pretty much every day for about three hours, the team conducts provisioning. Each member takes a hidden post, looks through binoculars, and jots down information on the Terns feeding their chicks. How much fish is being feed to each chick? How big is the fish? How often? Etc.

A Tern ready to feed its young.

These sort of tasks seem monotonous, but the team really loves the birds. Even when they go in the house to take a break or eat dinner, they are always on watch through the windows, whether they are looking out for what the chicks are up to or whether they are watching for predators such as falcons, which often fly over from Acadia National park. When such predators come around, the team scurries to where the birds are squawking in chaos. They watch with binoculars, eager to know what will happen.

The team monitor’s Puffins just as well as Terns. On Wednesday, the the biologists got up at 4:30 a.m. to start capturing Puffins at 5 a.m. Once Puffins were captured (harmlessly of course), team members used walkie-talkies to communicate to one another that a Puffin entered the capturing device. The young woman heading this work would run out to where the Puffin was located and bring the bird back to where documentation of the bird was taken, it was tagged or received a new tag, and was quickly and carefully released.

Coming in for a landing.

The team has also began tracking the Puffins and what they do with the implementation of GPS units. The units weigh around 3% of the bird’s body weight and are made waterproof to endure whatever elements the puffins may encounter. The reason for the GSP units is because few know what Puffins actually do when they are not in human site or are at sea as they are pelagic animals.

My time spent on Petit Manan Island was truly an experience. Besides everything that I learned about Terns and Puffins, I learned about the awesome dedication the team has towards studying and conserving the birds of the island. And I also learned that living on a somewhat remote island with hundreds of birds, and the simplicity of rocks and grass is not something I could handle, while I could handle using the outhouse and lack of running water. I do love the comfort of be able to walk away from a place like the island with millions of miles ahead of me.

We finished our supreme video-photo documentation Wednesday afternoon and took the boat back to the mainland, where I hit the sheets at 7 p.m. after a hot shower and fell asleep at 9 p.m. in the excessive comfort of a hotel bed.

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Ups and Downs of London’s Natural History Museum

London’s Natural History Museum is a real treat for adults and kids alike, however, I’m not sure it compares to other natural history museums such as the one in New York City or The Smithsonian. It has it’s ups and downs, and despite it’s lack of outstanding impression, I’d go back again.

The Down

What wasn’t great was the dinosaur exhibit. It’s not as big as one would expect. There aren’t that many fossils, and there might even be more posters and information cards up than bones around.

There's a good collection of animal specimens.

 

The Up

What was great was the ecology portion of the museum. The exhibit covers the basics of life on earth, the environment, climate, and ecosystems. It’s also a bit of eye candy for those who like beautiful and shimmering displays and shiny lights. And the kids will love the life size and blown up models of the farm and plant cells.

The ecology exhibits hosts a trace-like video encompassing nature, earth, oceans, and life.

 

Giant plant cell.

The Unique

What was unique about the museum was the exhibits on memory and how a baby is made. I’ve never seen such complex or unique exhibits like these at science museums or natural history museums. One could spend a half hour plus in each exhibit.

Exhibit on how babies are made.

 

The extensive memory and senses exhibit.

 

To Eat

If you get hungry, there are several eateries, but one can also bring a bag lunch and have that on the fronts steps or the museum’s side garden. 

When & When Not

Avoid going on Wednesdays and weekends if you can help it. If those are your only options, head out early because the line will be long – a half hour plus! So get there well before it opens if you want to get in early.

Impressive architecture.

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Photo of the Day – Imperial War Museum

March 9, 2010

A chunk of the Berlin Wall outside London's Imperial War Museum.

If you’re interested in history or war or both, London’s Imperial War Museum is an educational experience for adults and children alike.

London's Imperial War Museum.

 

The collection boasts exceeding numbers of artifacts from the 20th century. The major exhibits feature World War I and World War II. Not only can one see letters, weapons, uniforms, and read about the tactics of the wars, but a unique trench experience is set up for those who want to walk through the model.

The trench experience.

 

While the exhibits are large, they also wind their way in circles. It’s easy to get a bit turned around, miss something, or look at things backwards rather than forwards. 

Following the world wars are smaller sections on the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, and conflicts in the middle east. The most recent war highlighted in the Persian Gulf War, while even smaller exhibits highlight genocide and conflicts within the last few decades.

Some of the most ironic things about the museum is the British school children and teens touring around. While a light shined the words ‘Cold War’ on to a wall, a group of uniformed school girls took their picture below the sign; smiling in a line as if they were posing for a calendar. Around the corner at the Vietnam exhibit, a girl walked up to several TVs playing a montage of war and administrative footage to the music of Jimi Hendrix’s version of  “The Star Spangled Banner,” and said, “Why do we have the same thing playing on three screens, and very weird music playing?” She turned away from the display and went on giggling with her friends.

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Photos of the Day – Plethora Trois

February 13, 2010

In a Swansea club in Wales, there were a significant number of men in kilts because of rugby matches.

February 14, 2010

Journeying 300 feet down into a live mine was one of the unique experiences Wales has to offer.

February 15, 2010

This is the misery of my uploading photos issues.

February 16, 2010

Cheap movie tickets are sold at old theaters like the Coronet on week days.

February 17, 2010

The beauty of a stairwell.

February 18, 2010

Embracing the London rain.

February 19, 2010

Pickled vegetables at Fatoush's Lebanese restaurant.

February 20, 2010

London's China Town has many things to offer: Food, sweets, drinks, and a unique site.

February 21, 2010

Chinese New Year celebrations last a week full on in London.

February 22, 2010

I'm always so intrigued by the Westfield shopping centre.

February 23, 2010

There are some pretty cool tech devices at the London science museum.

February 24, 2010

To me, Frost is New England. One thing I miss while in England.

February 25, 2010

And, still, I embrace London's rain.

February 26, 2010

Around where I work and Westfield shopping centre.

February 27, 2010

While the Millennium Bridge isn't that inspiring, St. Paul's Cathedral always is.

February 28, 2010

The National Gallery is my primary place of retreat in London. Love it to death.

March 1, 2010

Side streets of main streets in London aren't all this boring, but a lot are.

March 2, 2010

Rooms Deluxe in Valencia, Spain offer a wide range of cool and hostel-hotel-like accommodations..

March 3, 2010

From high tours, Valencia offer a beautiful view that rivals even that of Barcelona.

March 4, 2010

Valencia's Botanical Gardens offer impressive landscapes and extreme sixes of cactus and palm trees, as well as numerous stray cats that love your attention.

March 5, 2010

Valencia's aquarium might just be the best museum attraction in all of the city - but be willing to pay big bucks.

 

March 6, 2010

Valencia's "Silk Exchange" is a beautiful building of Arab influence in a trendy part of town, and is free on Saturday.

March 7, 2010

This is the crowd one can wade through when trying to catch the changing of the guards on Sundays.

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Sermons in books

I’ve been researching stone walls for a school project. So I checked some books out from the library.

When I opened Sermons in Stone: The Stone Walls of New England and New York, by Susan Allport, I found someone had written their own inscription, or perhaps sermon, or, something inside the cover’s check-out card pocket.

It reads in a vertical column: YOU, ME, HIM, THEM, US, HER, IT.  In a horizontal row reads: NOW, TOMORROW. Then implies these words won’t change between now and tomorrow, the future. I wonder if the writer is alluding to pronouns and genders. I don’t know. Why, in this book? Who?

According to this Web site with no clear title or author, these are object pronouns, and the site allows one to fill in the pronoun blanks.

I found a blog called you me him and her. It has many images of fashionable and design savvy items.

There is also a song by Jay-Z called “You, Me, Him and Her.”

And there is a movie based on a book called And Now Tomorrow.

Only speculation. And mystery.

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