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Grand Manan Island Diary: The Puffin Safari

Puffins on Machias Seal Island

By Gary Walther

The Arctic Terns are in a dither when we land on Machias Seal Island, a 90-minute voyage southeast of Grand Manan Island–and the one trip you should do during a stay here because you may not get another chance.

A Peregrine Falcon had just turned up and spooked the colony. En masse the Terns wheel out over the ocean, a move called “a dread.” It’s the perfect word because here it has a two-fold meaning: the Terns’ dread of the Peregrine and their follow-on dread (I’m assuming) of leaving their chicks exposed–Arctic Terns nest on the ground–to the brutal rapacity of the abundant gulls.

This cruel dilemma, though, is a sidelight to the reason we’ve come: Getting close-up to the enormous colony of Atlantic Puffins (10,000-odd, says the naturalist) and Razorbill Auks (thousands, too) that nest here annually in summer.

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Gary Walther, the former editor-in-chief of Departures and ForbesLife, now writes “The Hotel Detective” column on Forbes.com

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