Behind The Story: Reporting On The Puffin Project On A Remote Maine Island

Aug 5, 2019

For a recent story on the National Audubon Society’s Project Puffin, Maine Public deputy news director Susan Sharon and creative services producer Brian Bechard traveled to Eastern Egg Rock.

The island is a 7-acre, treeless wildlife sanctuary owned by the state, and it takes about 30 minutes by boat to get there. Susan and Brian were greeted by a small cadre of interns and research assistants, hundreds of screeching birds, and Associated Press photographer Robert Bukaty, who joined the Maine Public crew for the boat ride and camped out on the island for a separate project.

Here's a look at what they found and some of the challenges they faced in their field reporting:

Puffins on Eastern Egg Island.
Credit Brian Bechard / Maine Public
Brian and Susan make their way around the island.
Credit Robert F. Bukaty
"Terns seemed to be more apprehensive about our presence on the island, especially as we got close to nests in the rocks."
Credit Brian Bechard / Maine Public
Terns "zip around you constantly and occasionally bounce off of your head with their feet," Susan said, "as if to tell you that you're in someone else's backyard."
Credit Brian Bechard / Maine Public
Brian ducks for cover amid a swarm of terns. Susan says you do eventually get used to them.
Credit Robert F. Bukaty / Maine Public
A seabird had just bounced off Susan's head in this photo, taken while attempting to film a short video.
Credit Brian Bechard / Maine Public
"You have to constantly look at the ground to make sure that you're not stepping on camouflaged puffin eggs and chicks that are all around the island."
Credit Brian Bechard / Maine Public
A puffin on Eastern Egg Rock.
Credit Brian Bechard / Maine Public
Dr. Stephen Kress in a bird blind on Eastern Egg Rock.
Credit Brian Bechard / Maine Public
Puffins on Eastern Egg Rock.
Credit Brian Bechard / Maine Public
High winds on Eastern Egg Rock called for this giant microphone screen, known as "the blimp." Susan borrowed this one from Maine Public reporter Fred Bever.
Credit Robert F. Bukaty
Brian shoots from the top of the "Egg Rock Hilton," where crew members seek shelter during thunderstorms, which can get pretty intense when you're on an exposed island and you're living in a tent.
Credit Susan Sharon / Maine Public
Puffins on Eastern Egg Rock.
Credit Brian Bechard / Maine Public

Originally published Aug. 2, 2019 at 10:06 a.m. ET.