Wednesday, July 11, 2018

What's It All About Wednesday: Here!

"Here," reduction linocut, 12" x 18"  © Sherrie York

If it's Wednesday I'm on a boat, headed out to see puffins at Eastern Egg Rock and then do some hiking and sketching on Harbor Island.

Visits "to" Eastern Egg Rock are generally boat trips around Eastern Egg Rock. During the breeding season the 7-acre island is off limits to all but researchers and the occasional supervised visitor. One can get some great looks at birds from the water, but there's really nothing to compare with the opportunity to set foot on the island and spend some time in an observation blind. Which, I'm delighted to say, I've been able to do a couple of times.

Sitting in an observation blind is sort of like being backstage in a theatre. Puffins in particular are largely facing the grand stage of the sea, and from the blind one sees a lot of backsides, as well as off-stage interactions as birds quickly come and go from rocky burrows.

To help keep track of breeding success, researchers have labeled burrows and given names to landmarks across the island that can be seen from an observation blind but not from the water. In this linocut you can see bits of those markings. A careful observer might also notice that this adult bird is wearing a small silver identification band around its left leg. It's probable that this bird was banded on Egg Rock as a chick and has returned here to breed. Here to breed.

It's a funny title for an image, "Here." But for me this look at a puffin stretching its wings represents time and place in a unique way. Puffins were extirpated from the coast of Maine, and efforts by Project Puffin researchers over the past 40+ years have helped them return to historic breeding grounds like Eastern Egg Rock. But decades of study have also taught us a lot about the lives of these amazing birds, and the scientific record shows us the effects of a changing environment.

That open-winged gesture is for me one of celebration and invocation. Here on this island is success and failure, possibility and opportunity, invitation and warning. Here be puffins.

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