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The Arctic Comes Visiting

January 13, 2017  |  by Bryan Pfeiffer  |  3 comments

OKAY, THAT’S NOT THE ARCTIC. That’s a view of today’s sunrise and (nearly full) moonset from Schoodic Point here in Maine’s Acadia National Park. The moon is setting behind Cadillac Mountain on Mount Desert Island. Soon after I shot this photo (an iPhone panorama), and once I got around to birding, a Black-legged Kittiwake, visiting from points north, its wingtips dipped in ink, carved turns above the waves offshore.

But the Arctic scene gets better. Imagine a Snowy Owl perched on nearby rocks below that moon. Okay, that actually happened a few days ago, when Mark Berry, the president and CEO here at the Schoodic Institute, discovered a Snowy during one of his regular visits to the point. I managed to get over for a really nice look with birder Michael Good (but a really lousy photo). Mark relocated the owl a day later. (Hey, the guy’s wired in; he runs the place, after all.) For a distraction with Snowy Owls, consider my essay in Aeon magazine, which begins with yet another Snowy on the Maine coast.

More Arctic comes in shades of purple. Okay, not really purple, but a warm silvery-chocolate: the ill named Purple Sandpiper. Most self-respecting shorebirds are in South America by now. But Purple Sandpipers are tough — they winter here on the rocks, farther north than any regular shorebird. This particular “Purp,” as we affectionately call them, I photographed not here at Schoodic, but at Sachuest Point in Rhode Island many years ago.

Also flying offshore this morning were Razorbills, about a half-dozen of them in close — they nest in the Gulf of Maine. Meanwhile the cormorants are great — no, really, they’re all Great Cormorants (not Double-crested Cormorants). This shag is a world citizen, breeding in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia; here in this corner of Planet Earth, Great Cormorants breed only in scattered sites from Maine to Greenland.

I’ll leave you with the actual Snowy Owl from Schoodic Point. Sorry, here in Maine this month I’m mostly writing — and not often lugging around the camera gear. So most of the time I’m shooting with my iPhone or little point-and-shoot. And full disclosure: that iPhone panorama above didn’t quite capture the moon this morning. So I patched that moon in (from a separate shot with my point-and-shoot). I could have faked a bigger, more dramatic moon (as is too often the case out there in the littered landscape of faked digital photography). But the moon really looked like that today, bright like the lemon glow in the eyes of a Snowy Owl (okay, not this particular owl).

3 comments
  1. Linda says:

    Wow. Great to hear your thoughts as you jump around on the rocks
    Love the photos.

  2. Ron says:

    iPhone or not, your photography is matched only by your wit…

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