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Machias Seal Island Puffin Tour

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If you want a guaranteed opportunity, weather permitting, to photograph Atlantic Puffins, this is the tour to take.  I first heard of this tour on PBS's "Wild Photo Adventures".  I have wanted to go to New England for quite some time so I included this tour on my things to do.  I will try to be informative but brief.

I booked this tour through Bold Coast Charters out of Cutler, ME.  Your Captain is Captain Andrew "Andy" Patterson.  They start taking reservations shortly after the New Year.  This year, reservations were closed by Feb. 15.  I tried to make one for the "peak" (June 19) of the season on Jan. 3.  That date was already booked.  I was able to make a reservation for June 12 by Jan. 6.  The fee is $150, half due at the time of reservation the other half at departure.  Cash or check.  Refunds provided for weather related cancellations.  You might not go.  You might go but not land. Please go to the Bold Coast Charter website for more particulars.

I chose what turned out to be a "perfect" day.  We left at 8 a.m. It takes about an hour to get to the island.  The Island is disputed between the USA and Canada.  If you land, you are on a Bird Sanctuary.  You are expected to follow directions that are given.  Nothing major. Just do as you are told.  Once everyone in the party is on the dock you go up to a gathering spot, offered use of the outhouse (one at a time walking to and from), then you are escorted to your photo blind.  Four people per blind and we were allowed 1 hour.  Blind time might vary.  There are so many puffins and Razorbills so close to the blind I would have been satisfied with 15 minutes.  You do not need a very long lens.  I used my Zuiko 50-200mm zoom with 2x teleconverter.  Our blind was oriented south (door) to north.  Four slide up shutters along each side alternating standing and kneeling eye levels and one standing opening on the North end.  4 strangers and we all took turns at different openings.  You do not need a tripod or monopod.  The window openings are adequate.  The host of the PBS show used a tripod, but he had an entire blind to himself (with photographer).  He supposedly had only a half hour!

Birds - On the island you will see: My personal lifers - Atlantic Puffins, Razorbills, Artic Terns, and  Savannah Sparrows were very common.  I also saw a Northern Gannet and a Red-breasted Nuthatch.  The only previous seen bird were Common Terns.  When you walk to and from the outhouse the terns, protecting their nests will harass you flying around your head.  I was pecked twice.  Fortunately I had a knit cap on.  On departure, Captain Andy cruised briefly offshore the main island and a very small neighboring island.  From the boat I was able to photograph Lifers - Common Eiders and Common Murres.  Also some seals and a Bald Eagle (not a lifer).  Going and coming I photographed for the first time a Common Loon and a Black Guillemot.  So one trip, 10 lifers if my math is correct.  Some people in the group had taken the tour multiple times.  Some were planning on going again.  I enjoyed it, but the weather was so nice I think this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me and am looking forward to visiting other areas of the USA for bird photography,

Atlantic Puffin




Arctic Tern


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