‘Project Puffin’ tells how a kid from Ohio brought puffins back to the coast of central Maine

Project Puffin_300x448If the articles in our June 2015 issue about the benefits of birding with children weren’t enough to convince you that we need to get more kids interested in birds, then perhaps this thought will: The islands off the coast of south-central Maine almost certainly would be as free of Atlantic Puffins today as they were in the 1960s if the adults in the life of a young Stephen Kress had not encouraged his interest in skinks, frogs, and birds, beginning in the fourth grade.

Kress, of course, is the founder and director of the famous Project Puffin, vice president of bird conservation for Audubon, and director of the Hog Island Audubon Camp in Maine. In this book, he and Boston Globe journalist Derrick Jackson trace Kress’s roots from the woods of central Ohio, where he grew up, to a summer dishwashing job at an Audubon camp in Connecticut in 1963 and a life-changing moment in 1970. It was then that he learned that, a century earlier, puffins had nested on Eastern Egg Rock and other nearby islands in Maine’s Muscongus Bay. Kress asked himself, “What if?” Could puffins be restored to islands that were then vibrant gull colonies?

We know today that the answer is a resounding yes. Puffins, terns, and many other waterbird species nest on the bay’s islands. In fact, in 2014, a record 148 pairs of puffins nested on Eastern Egg Rock. We highly recommend Kress and Jackson’s book for its detailed history of Project Puffin, a story that is, at its heart, about how a kid from Ohio accomplished one of the biggest conservation victories of our time.

Project Puffin: The Improbable Quest to Bring a Beloved Seabird Back to Egg Rock, by Stephen W. Kress and Derrick Z. Jackson, Yale University Press, 376 pages, hardcover, $30.

Watch a video of Kress and Jackson discussing the book at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Kress receives conservation award from American Ornithologists’ Union.

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Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall is the editor of BirdWatching magazine and BirdWatchingDaily.com. He joined the staff of BirdWatching (formerly Birder’s World) in 2000 and has worn many hats over the years: reporter, story wrangler, photo editor, managing editor, and now editor. Originally from Omaha, he lives with his wife and two daughters in Milwaukee and holds a Bachelor’s in journalism from Marquette University. You can reach Matt at (617) 706-9098 and [email protected].

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