It’s luck, mostly.
That’s what I tell my friends when they ask me about how I landed such a cool job.
But every job has its ups and downs. As an outdoor reporter, I get to spend a lot of time in the Maine wilderness, enjoying the fresh air and learning about wildlife and the environment (which is all fun for me), but I also get stuck in front of the computer writing stories until my brain hurts and I want to rip out my hair. Deadlines — sometimes they just aren’t fun. But then I remember the time I held a puffin, and I love my job again.
In July, I was lucky enough to visit Petit Manan Island, which is off limits to the public during the summer, when thousands of seabirds are nesting on the island and raising their chicks. But to write a story about the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge and their efforts to track seabirds during foraging and migration, I was able to tag along for a day with refuge biologist Linda Welch and the field technicians living on the island.
On the island, it was a special day — one of the three days out of the year that they check the burrows and actually handle the birds to gather important information about their health and abundance. The field technicians living on the island all summer called the day “Christmas.” The rest of the time, they observe the birds from a distance, by binocular.
It’s difficult to describe such an exciting experience. Thousands of seabirds wheeling through the sky. Terns dive-bombing my head (which I covered with a baseball cap to avoid a bird poo hairdo). Puffins rapidly beating their short wings as they circled with fish clenched in their colorful bills, waiting to drop into rock burrows to feed their fluffy black chicks. Laughing gulls hovering over the tall grass. Petit Manan Light towering over the treeless isle. Hard to describe, yet engraved in my memory.
Here are some photos I took during that lucky day ashore Petit Manan: