Ten miles southeast of the quaint town of Cutler, Maine, lies a true gem for birders and photographers. Machias Seal Island spans a mere twenty acres, but during the summer months, the rocky shores host thousands of breeding seabirds. Most notable among them is the Atlantic Puffin.
The island is contested, claimed by both the United States and Canada, and is only accessible by tour boat. Only one company from each country is permitted to access the island each day, with only fifteen passengers at a time. Twice in early August, I was fortunate enough to take that trip.
I boarded the “Barbara Frost” with the help of Captain Andy Patterson and deck hand Tyler Warner. Owner of Bold Coast Tours, Captain Andy is both knowledgeable and kind, providing information on both the history of the island and the birds that inhabit it. During the breeding season, it isn’t hard to see how much he cares for the birds and other wildlife that lives around him.
Greg Miller of “The Big Year” movie fame (as portrayed by Jack Black), led a trip to Machias Seal in early June, and Wildside will be returning to the island in 2017! Chartering a trip to the island with Captain Andy runs a very affordable $130 for the day, which includes a few hours on the island, with opportunities to be feet away from the Puffins in wooden blinds! Fair warning though, landing on the island is not guaranteed. Inclimate weather and rough waters could hinder a landing, but have no fear, you will still have fantastic looks at these birds from the boat!
Also present on the island are Razorbills.
Can’t forget the Common Murre!
The bottom line is this folks… I can’t recommend this visit enough. It’s the trip of a lifetime for any birder! So if you are already planning to be in Maine, don’t hesitate to contact Bold Coast, however, if you want a well-rounded guided tour that includes many Maine breeders, including Bicknell’s Thrush and Black-backed Woodpecker, check out Wildside’s BIG YEAR TOUR: Maine’s Mountains and Coast!