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… And then the Birds

By Marty Peak Helman

It was the last meeting during which President Bruce will wield the gavel, and both he – and everyone in the club – was in rare form. Our speaker was Lucy Puentes, a marvelously entertaining representative of the Audubon Society. She updated us on Project Puffin, the project that re-introduced puffins to Maine and which has been ongoing now for 50 years.

Lucy explained how Dr. Stephen Kress collected 10-day-old puffin hatchlings from Newfoundland, where they have tens of thousands of the little guys, and moved the babies to Eastern Egg Rock, in the hope that they would “imprint” on their new home. After puffins fledge, they spend their first few years at sea, and then they return to the place – often the very burrow – where they were born. The key was to trick them into thinking they were Mainers (not Newfoundlanders).

Kress used wooden puffin decoys to help the little birds find their way home and to make them think the colony was healthy, and as the project continued, Kress also used decoys of terns. That’s because terns are very aggressive toward raptor birds and protective toward puffins and the puffins feel safe nesting near them. The subterfuge continued with piped-in tern and puffin sounds, and later, mirror boxes so that the puffins would see other birds around them.

And it worked! Now, 50 years later, there are over 175 nesting pairs of puffins on Eastern Egg, 600 pairs on Seal Island and 500 pairs on Matinicus. It all sounds crazy, but not only did Kress’ subterfuges work with the Atlantic penguin; the science pioneered by him here in Maine has become the standard in sea bird conservation throughout the world.

Our speaker Lucy ran a lively Q&A. Inter alia, I learned that a baby puffin is a “puffling,” and that the collective for a group of puffins is a “raft.” Who knew? Lucy also invited us to check out the puffin-cam available for viewing 24/7. I just did so and it is totally cool:

In club activities, Judi White asked us (last chance) to give to The Rotary Foundation, the 501 (c)3 that underwrites everything Rotarians accomplish beyond the club. Our club has received Foundation funding for local and international projects; the only way that money exists is through our donations. Plus, the club will match all club members’ donations up to $100 per person. And if members choose to give to polio eradication, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will match 2-to-1 ($100 donation means $300 on the ground!). Check it out at, or call Judi.…

President-elect Tory spoke about Windjammers, and especially, the Windjammer Parade. Everyone who wants to work (!) on our float is invited to do so on Tuesday at 11:00 am at the clubhouse; parade goers who want to ride on the float need to be at the HS parking lot at 3:00 pm on Wednesday, wearing a Rotary shirt. The theme of the float is something to do with bubbles. Bubblicious, to be sure! I can’t wait.

Alice Mutch and Tom Churchill unveiled a plan/agenda for when our Rotary Exchange guests arrive from Catalonia. They will be here from Sunday August 27 to Tuesday September 5. Host homes are pretty well established; what the team is looking for now (in addition to translators) is club members who would like to be included in various activities through the week, serving as hosts and sharing in the fun. Reach out to the team to get involved.

Brian McGrath said that he had run into our Club name twice recently – first, the Memorial Library has erected a much-needed shed, and is naming it after our own beloved Skip Kreahling. And then Brian was thanked for the flat-bottomed dinghy we gave to Damariscove Island a few years ago. We make a difference!

This coming Thursday, June 29, will be our changeover event, when Bruce gets that much-coveted “past president” pin, and Tory gets to strut her stuff. We expect a crowd, so we will need extra waiters – sign up on People Power. And then a short break – the Clubhouse will be “dark” on July 6 and the new Rotary year will begin July 13. Of course the Rotary Barn at 66 Montgomery never sleeps – we’ll be open for business every Saturday in the near (and not so near) future from 8:30 to 11:00 am. Treasures, rare finds, seriously good deals and more. Be there.

Do you want to be part of the action and the fun? Our meetings are (almost) every Thursday at 6:00 pm at the Rotary Clubhouse at 66 Montgomery. We’re always looking for new members who love the Region as much as we do and want to give back. Join us!