Songo Blue Skies

Monday, February 23, 2009

Machias Seal Island

Several summers ago I had 10 days to myself. I took a leisurely drive through NH doing some genealogy research and then to Calis Maine. After that I followed the coast south driving out all the inlets and small towns. One of the highlights of this trip for me was my trip out to Machias Seal Island.

A long time ago I saw a special on TV about reintroducing puffins to the islands off the coast of Maine to see if they could reestablish breeding colonies. There are several islands along the coast where they have done this. Machias Seal Island is not one of those islands because there have always been puffins on it. However, ever since that time I have wanted to see these birds up close. So I did some research and found one place that even allowed you to go onto the island and view the breeding colony.

Machias Seal Island is about 15 acres and 9 or so miles in the Gulf of Maine near the Canadian border. It has about 3000 breeding puffins. Both Canada and the US claim the island with Canadian Coast Guard active on the island. There are several tour operators offering sight seeing but few actually have the landing permits. Norton of Jonesport, Maine is one of those operators.
You have to arrive at 7:00 AM in the morning to Cpt. Norton's boat in Jonesport, Maine. After an hour and a half trip out into the ocean you finally reach Machias Seal Island. You can see hundreds of sea birds of many types (Auks, Artic Terns and others) flying around the island. On the day we arrived it was overcast and the lighthouse appeared through the mist and fog. We had to wait for about 20 minutes until the tide went down enough to get onto the island. The big boat can't get close. So we climbed into a smaller motor boat that took us to the island.

Getting on the island is interesting. There is no dock so it's just clamoring onto and over the rocks to get onto the island with someone offering you a hand. I felt bad for the women who had worn her high heels that day. Wonder where she thought we were going?

Once on the island the wildlife personnel talk to you about the puffins and also the rules. You must stay on the paths and not wander off. They lead you in groups of 3 to the bird blinds, basically boxes out in the rocks. There you're told you can open the sliders on the front as long as you only open the windows on one side. Apparently as long as the birds can't see through to the other side of the boxes they remain oblivious to your presence. These boxes are right down in the rocks where the puffins and other birds are nesting. Because I went in August most of the babies had fledged and therefore the adults were not feeding babies under the rocks. As you can see from the pictures you are within a few feet of the puffins.

We were allowed to stay in the blinds for about 45 minutes, then someone comes to get you and you return to the central area. On this day 1 baby had actually fledged the night before. For some unknown reason when the babies leave the nest on this island they head for the light house and gather there at night. This makes it easy for them to be tagged. We were able to see the fledgling. Puffins are black and white and their bill is darker for most the year. During mating season they acquire the brightly orange beak. So the birds in the pictures here in their familiar regalia are their mating features. After the mating season is over they return to the sea and shed the colors on their beak.

When that baby leaves the island it will remain over the water for about 5 years. At that point he will return to Machias Seal Island and find a mate to breed with. Puffins often mate for life. They only come ashore during breeding season. The rest of the time they are at sea. It is kind of mind boggling to think that they remain over or in the water for the first 5 years of their life and then for 9 months out of the year there after.
This is a wonderful trip and so worth it. Cpt. Norton's boat was great with heat and none of us felt seasick. The Captain is very knowledgeable about the puffins and other birds. As I remember correctly we saw a school of porpoises and a few whale backs. All in all the entire trip takes about half a day.

I'm planning to take the trip again, it was that worth it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Just another cup of tea please...

Well today is a lazy day. Nice to have one of those for a change. I have to admit I haven't even gotten dressed yet. Guess I really needed a day of doing nothing. I've done some genealogy research and catching up on emails. What is really staring me in the face is the need to clean the house. Not exactly what I want to do on a week of vacation. Which leads me to the picture. I took this two summers ago soon after sunrise. I woke up early and the morning fog was on the lake and the dawning sun was painting the sky in muted shades of pink.

I guess what I'm saying is I'd rather pull out a good book and have a cup of tea sitting on the dock in the early morning watching the sunrise. Well, I may not be able to be there but I think I will have another cup of tea and then maybe clean the house...or not.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Two Seasons of a Barn and some family history

Here are a couple of pictures of the same barn taken just south of Haverhill, New Hampshire. I was on my way to Haverhill last February to do some genealogy research. I came upon this picturesque barn. It's just a beautiful barn, doesn't even look that old. The black and gray against the snow and blue skies just caught my eye sitting up on the little hill. Then I went back there this summer to continue some research and the barn looked just as nice sitting in a summer field. [Almost looks like a Wyeth painting]

The research I was doing was for my Campbell family line. I had had a hard time connecting this one to my tree. William Gregg Campbell had first married Nancy Riddle of Bedford, NH. She died in 1837 at the age of 33 leaving 5 children and her husband. William then married Betsey Webster in 1842. They had one son according to the 1850 census but then it had been hard to track them. I finally found them on the 1860 census in Haverhill , NH but not the 1870 census. I saw that a Daniel Campbell from Newbury VT had passed in 1870 census (death schedule) and he seemed the right age.

Somewhere in between I checked again some reference books. Many of the Campbells had come from Windham, NH. Lo and behold here he was the son of Abner not the son of James as I had thought. Once I knew they had gone to Haverhill, the book on Windham history helped because it said son of Abner removed to Haverhill VT and died in 1869. Thus the trip to Haverhill, NH to see what I could find.

I couldn't find any death record for William in 1869 in Haverhill. So I checked the land records and William Gregg Campbell and his second wife Betsey and son Daniel had moved to Haverhill in 1850. Interesting, it is Betsey who had bought the land, though both their names were on the deed when they sold it in 1866. Since I was pretty sure that the Daniel who died of Diabetes in 1870 across the River in Newbury VT was William and Betsey's son, my guess was that William and Betsey would be there also. But it was already late in the afternoon and I wanted to get across the Kangamangus highway while it was still light. So I didn't find the rest of my answer until the following June.

In June my daughter and I headed north the day school ended. We are both teachers. It was Sunday when we got to Newbury. Of course the town clerk's office was not opened, but I asked for directions to West Newbury where Daniel was recorded to have been in 1870 when he died. I asked if there was a cemetery out there and she told me how to find it. We actually found it and there Daniel and William Gregg were side by side.

Now I just had to check the death certificate to see if William's father was named. I was hoping to find Abner Campbell. So after taking some pictures we went to the clerk's office the next morning. We found William's death certificate and the father was named "Adner." I was a little disappointed but I figured someone had dyslexia or the accent just tripped them up. Seeing as the Windham book said he died in VT and the son and wife were the same as on the 1850 census, this just had to be the right family. 'Adner' and 'Abner' are close enough for me. So finally I could email a 2nd cousin who had been helping me and say this is the best that it gets, but I think we have the right one. So at this point I can say, with as best as it is gonna get, that William Gregg is the son of Abner Campbell, who descended from Deacon Samuel (2) , Henry (1) who arrived in Londonderry, NH from Ireland in 1833.

I felt bad for the wife Betsy. She lost her only child, a son, as well as her husband within a year of each other. When I located her on the 1880 census she was living with a sister and brother-in-law in Laconia, NH. She as listed as mentally incapacitated, no wonder.

So all that to say, how I came across this beautiful barn in two different seasons.

I love genealogy because you have to be a detective. I love the challenge. I had been working on this family for at least 5 years now. Always knew I missed my calling. I love to solve problems; finding the clues and putting them together to do so.

Enjoy the pictures of the barn and have a great day my friends.

Monday, February 16, 2009

My close encounter with a loon

Every once in a while I experience a close encounter with nature. I feel these are privileges. I got my love for animals and nature from my maternal Grandfather Walter Brewer. When I was ten my Grandparents moved from Lawrence, MA to Deerfield New Hampshire. They lived in this rural town by a small river. I remember seeing a mink by the river one fall.
Grampa Brewer trained a family of chipmunks to feed out of his hand. If I sat very still they would come and eat out of my hand. In the winter he always had bird feeders by the window. We enjoyed seeing grosbeaks [both evening and rose breasted] and other assorted birds while we ate breakfast. Later he even got the chickadees and sparrows to eat out of his hand. If I put on his red jacket I could go out and stand very still with a few seeds in my hand. The birds would come and sit on my hand and take a seed and fly off. It was so cool.
My greatest joy happened a couple of summers ago. I was up at Songo Pond in mid July. I saw a lone loon in the water so I got my camera and stayed a respectable distance watching her [could have been a male for all I know as well] for signs when I seemed too close. She paddled around and it seemed to me she might be injured or something. Over time she let me get to within about 5 feet or so. I talked to her quietly and she even dozed while I stood by. Over the next week when I saw her near if I used their social call she would come nearer to me.
One day she was in the water and I was taking pictures. I ran out of film and my sister brought me a new one. As I was changing the film near the shore, she came over and gently put her beak around my ankle. I jumped a little in surprise. Guess she thought my ankle was a fish or something.
The neighbors said she stayed close to shore for a couple of days after I left, but then moved to the other end of the pond which is their usual habit. It will remain one of my favorite memories.

This was such a great blessing and experience to have this usually shy bird come so close.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Thoughts about covered bridges

Durgen Bridge

Well, seems like the February thaw is over; the water is frozen again in my back yard. Spring bulbs have poked their heads above the frozen ground teasing me, but alas I will have to wait for their beautiful colors a bit longer.

Speaking of frozen water. The picture of Durgen Bridge was taken by standing on the frozen river bed. This part of the river was very frozen; no sign of open water. Isn't walking of water fun? I have taken many pictures of this bridge before, which is over the Cold River near North Sandwich, NH, but this is the best picture yet.

Covered bridges fascinate me as they do a lot of people. I think partly because they are remnants from the past. They certainly can add color to the countryside; those that are painted red or green also look great against snow covered rivers.

So why were these bridges covered? Around 1800 people had moved beyond the immediate coast and New England has many rivers and streams. Everyone needed to cross these rivers on a regular basis. Trees were pleantiful so they built the bridges of wood, but the only problem was the weather did a number on them especially rotting the superstructures. A typical uncovered bridge would last about 9 years whereas a covered bridge would last 30 years or more. It was the trusses that needed the most protection.

Well enough of the history lesson. The sun is down, I need some dinner and my daughter's dog, Tinkerbell, will need a walk soon.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

It's been a long time !

Mt Washington over Saco River, N Conway, NH

Well, I started the blog with a lot of enthusiasm, but then life crept in. Since I'm a teacher I do get some nice breaks. That's when I do my genealogy research and blog etc.. This year has seemed especially busy at my school. I volunteered for a couple of committees, but then was put on several others as well. It seems like I just meet one deadline and then I find another one in the cue waiting.
I was up in the Brooklyn Historical Society building last night where they were having a crafts fair. I talked to Gary Heller, a photographer showing his work [ His blog is linked below]. Really liked his images. It inspired me to get back to blogging and posting some of my own photos. In fact as it is winter break, I am hoping this week to take a couple of short trips. One to upstate NY, Delaware CO to take some pictures and to do some research on the woman that our school is named after. Then I am hoping to get up to Maine, NH. A bit ambitious perhaps. It is the creative process of taking photos and getting out into the countryside that relaxes me and renews me. We'll see where I end up.