Monday, July 8, 2013

Vacationing: Part 1

Fog rolls into the harbor over the golf course where the Breakwater to the lighthouse begins.
     So, I've been a bit slow on posting anything new because my husband and I took a road trip to the gorgeous state of Maine. We did two days in Rockland, ME, two days in Acadia National Park, and one day in Dover, NH on the way back. What a nice couple of days it was and what a great time we had. I ate lobster 3 days straight and loved every minute of it, including a lobster at our campsite (high class camping)!
     Our stay in Rockland was with the Old Granite Inn, a lovely bed and breakfast. It provided the perfect home base for us, we opted for a very small room, but that is all we need, a place to sleep! The breakfasts were fantastic and a huge thank you to Ed, the Inn Keeper who cooked us for breakfast wild Maine blueberry Johnny cakes, egg fritattas, delicious ginger scones (huge fan of those!), baked eggs with lobster (HUGE yummers to that!), lemon crepes with wild blueberry sauce, and a great cup of coffee from a local roaster in town. I very much recommend this B&B, great location and very wonderful food!
     Our first full day in Maine included walking to the Rockland Harbor lighthouse on the harbor via the breakwater, a walk through Owl's Head State Park, and a Puffin Watch to East Egg Rock! I'll let the pictures do the 'splaining...
Barnacles at low tide. Barnacles are animals. Actually they are Arthropods (like insects and crustaceans!). After floating around as a larvae, they become sessile adults (that means they do not move). Often barnacles attach to rocks, docks, ship hulls, and even living things like whales and sea turtles. Barnacles filter food from the water for food with a feathery apparatus called cirri. Barnacles are more than just a bump on a rock.
Herring gulls perch on exposed rocks during low tide. Low tide also exposed lots of algae, sea weed, barnacles, and TONS of snails.
A ring billed gull reflects.
A herring gull reflects on his inner sea duck.
Our walk out to the light house. The breakwater protects the harbor from waves. Also apparently provides a great place to put out lobster traps. All the buoys are marking what I think are traps, as I did see a few with traps below them.
A double crested cormorant leaps into flight...
Pushes off the water...
A hop and a strong flap...
Departing the water...
Pull up the landing gear and off he goes!
We got to the lighthouse and both my husband and I noticed it was COVERED in these gorgeous spiders and their amazing webs.
Spiders are arachnids- that means they have 8 legs, two body segments, and they are awesome. What a beautiful pattern!
Credit goes to my husband for the spider pictures!
     At Owl's Head State Park, there was another light house. We also walked over the rocky shore investigating rocks, snails, and dodging the monstrous mosquitoes. We did see many Common Eider, a sea duck. These ducks pluck mussels off the sea floor and swallow them whole, shell and all. Their powerful gizzard can grind that mussel up so it may be digested. The male is white, with the black head. The females are brown, which helps them when nesting. Their camouflage seems to have worked well, take note of the adorable duckling eiders in tow!
Adorable eider families!
After stopping for a delicious lunch in Owl's Head, my husband went into the car and like any easily distracted by nature person, I ran across the street to check out the pond and this was staring back at me.
This is a green frog, looks like a bull frog except much smaller and makes a noise that sounds like you are plucking a rubber band pulled tight.  
     After a short rest from our morning activities, we drove down to New Harbor, ME and got on a puffin watch boat with Hardy Boat Tours. Their tours are endorsed by Audubon's Project Puffin and Audubon staff and puffin researchers were onboard to point out cool animals and tell us about the sea birds of East Egg Island and the amazing recovery effort that worked and resulted in the current population of Atlantic Puffins in this area.
     Our tour was rainy and foggy. Visibility was so poor and made it challenging in not wanting to hurl my lunch over the side of the boat. I was able to keep my bearings straight and did alright on the boat. The waves did make the boat move about and made picture taking a challenge and a half, but it was well worth it all.

Puffins are small and the waves are large. These birds, in the auk family are only about 10 inches tall but tough as nails. Their bright beaks give them their nickname, "parrots of the sea." Their beaks are brightest now, during breeding season. In winter months, puffins take on a more drab appearance and head out to sea. Breeding is the only time you see these birds hanging out on or around the rocky islands.
This island, East Egg Island is home to not only puffins but guillimots, laughing gulls, cormorants, three tern species, and eiders who also nest here.
That shack is actually a bird blind, where a person can sit and observe birds without causing too much disruption. People take 2-3 hour shifts sitting and making observations about the birds including the breeding puffins. The orange flag marks a burrow, puffins lay their eggs and rear their chicks in a burrow or rocky crevice. A project Puffin researcher spends a whole summer on this island with other researchers coming and going, making observations and gathering important data on these birds. This island was pretty much wiped out of puffins, project puffin began repopulating this island and others by bringing in chicks from Canada and attracting them back for breeding by using decoys. When puffins see other puffins it makes a place more inviting.
Common Eiders just offshore of East Egg Island.
Four Atlantic Puffins. I wish the water was actually that calm, don't let this zoomed in photo deceive you. 
Puffins have similar adaptations to penguins - that black and white color helps them camouflage, especially when under water - this camouflage is called counter shading. If a predator is below, they see light colors and if above the puffin, it blends in with the deep. They have the ability to dive and appear to fly underwater as they use their wings to propel themselves, but unlike penguins... 
...They can fly.
A black guillimot with it's catch. This bird is closely related to puffins.
How amazing is this little bird?! 
We also saw some marine mammals like the harbor seal. We saw some harbor porpoises as well.
Harbor seals breed here in the summer. In the winter, many migrate down to places like New York.
A female eider blends in while the male is very visible. There are also two cormorants to his left.
This one puffin flew in and landed right next to the boat just before we left. Isn't he just adorable?!

Love those little orange feet!
Before leaving we also saw a common murre, a bird that is not so common to Maine, so this was cool sighting. We also saw a razorbill as well.