Hog Island: My Volunteer Experience

Back in the 1990s, I learned about Hog Island on the Internet. I wanted to attend one of the camp sessions for birders. However, time and money kept me from applying. In 2014, I was looking for a volunteer opportunity that involved birding. I remembered Hog Island and so I looked it up online to see if they needed volunteers. I soon signed up to volunteer during Raptor Week, July 2014.

When I arrived I just had enough time just to put my bags in the room I would be staying in. Since I was the first volunteer to arrive I was given a tour of camp by the volunteer coordinator followed by my first assignment of putting together bedding for the camp and making up a few beds for early arriving campers. I spent the next several hours collating sheets, pillow cases, blankets, and towels. I was later joined by two more volunteers. Soon we were in a whirlwind of frenzied activity making up all the beds and cleaning the dormitories scattered around the tip of Hog Island.

My first impression of Hog Island was that it was a pretty island with far too many mosquitoes! Apparently 2014 was the worst year for mosquitoes that they have had in years. Each time, I ventured outside the mosquitoes descended on me to feast.

The next morning more volunteers arrived. Interestingly, all of us were women. We spent all day making beds and cleaning the bathrooms and common areas. Later that day, the campers began arriving. We volunteers set up the dining area and helped the cooks with prep work.

Buggy Beach
A Buggy (But Beautiful) Beach

After we volunteers finished eating we cleaned up the dining room, washed all the dishes, emptied the trash, and compost materials. We would repeat this service for every meal. It was hard work. We also received individual tasks. My assignment was coffee duty. I had coffee duty and ensured that there was always coffee available starting with before breakfast and throughout the day.

Volunteers were also paired up in teams to clean the dormitory bathrooms daily and resupply towels, and toilet paper. We were kept busy from early morning to early evening with short breaks after meal service before we began getting ready for the next service.

As volunteers, we could go on a birdwatching trip such as a boat ride out to see puffins on Eastern Rock though there was a caveat that this was depending on space availability. In the end, only two volunteers were able to get on a boat trip. I was not able to go. I assumed when I signed up that volunteers would get to participate more in the birding activities. Thankfully, there were some birds around the camp.

An osprey family nested at the camp right near the dining building that I got to see frequently. We could also watch them on the video monitor set up in the dining room. There is a video cam of this osprey nest that anyone can view online. Check out the Osprey Cam.

A special treat for everyone was a family of Merlin that decided to set up in a tree on the edge of the camp near the last dorm building. It was fun watching them and seeing the little ones. I also saw hummingbirds, song sparrows, and warblers out in front of the building while working or during brief breaks.

I managed to get enough time for an hour walk into the interior of the island. That did not get me far but gave me a chance to see the pristine forest. It had rained a lot and there were interesting mushrooms growing from the ground and trees. The interior forest of Hog Island is a very beautiful special place.

A Walk in the Woods!
A Walk in the Woods!

Volunteers attended lectures when not working. I managed to attend a few. I was really impressed by the lecture by Israel scientist and ornithologist Yossi Leshem. I did not know that Israel was such a critical birding stopover for migration. Prof. Leshem’s presentation was inspiring and provided an excellent overview of his amazing conservation efforts. There is an excellent short video about Prof. Leshem and his work online. Please check it out it: The Man Who Taught Me How To Fly. Also take a peek at the Israel Birding Portal. I sure hope to one day go birding in Israel!

Here is the newsletter from the summer I volunteered: Friends of Hog Island News 2014.

For information about volunteering at Hog Island, check out the Friends of Hog Island website:  FOHI

“The mission of the Friends of Hog Island is to preserve the legacy and support the conservation and nature programs and activities of the Audubon Camp at Hog Island, Maine.” (FOHI)

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4 thoughts on “Hog Island: My Volunteer Experience

  1. Kelly, thank you for this great post about Raptor Rapture! I was one of the attendees and your work and that of the other volunteers helped make it a memorable experience – so memorable that I am returning this July. Let me just say that I feel bad that you volunteers did not get to participate more. You all certainly deserved it.

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    1. Thanks for your kind words Diane! I miss Hog Island and Maine this summer. I am busy volunteering at the American Bird Conservancy full-time and am in front of a computer. I try to get out and do a little local birding though. Kelly

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  2. Kelly, I’ll be attending Raptor Rapture next month. I got a scholarship from explore.org that is covering half the fee. You might look into it. It requires that you do some educational activities when you go home after camp. I’ve already got mine set up. I’m so thankful I am able to go. Check it out. I do know how important volunteers are, and that sometimes it can seem thankless.

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