CREDITS: I would like to thank Jeremy D'Entremont for providing much of the history one can find on this site. He is a speaker, author, historian, and tour guide who is widely recognized as the foremost authority on the lighthouses of New England. For a story on Jeremy or to visit his site (New England Lighthouses: A Virtual Guide), use the corresponding link in the right hand information bar under "Related Links".

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I have set up this site as a means to share my photographs of lighthouses. Since retiring and finding more time to study photography, my interests have expanded a little. For some of my work other than lighthouses please enjoy my Facebook page at, John Shaw Photography. Come visit, enjoy, and 'LIKE' if you wish.

Also, for your enjoyment, I have provided a slideshow of our journey. To view it please use the link on the right under 'Site Navigation Tools'.

I sincerely hope you enjoy my efforts and use my site not only for information and education but also to provide directions for many enjoyable, inspirational visits to the beacons along our beautiful coas.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Laughing Gull

The Laughing Gull

     The Laughing Gull is a medium-sized gull of North and South America. It breeds on the Atlantic coast of North America, the Caribbean, and northern South America. Northernmost populations migrate further south in winter.  It's name is derived from its raucous kee-agh call, which sounds like a high-pitched laugh "ha... ha... ha...".

     The Laughing Gull is easy to identify. It is 14–16 in long with a 39–43 in wingspan. The summer adult's body is white apart from the dark grey back and wings and black head. Its wings are much darker grey than all other gulls of similar size and they have black tips.  The beak is long and red. The black hood is mostly lost in winter.

The Laughing Gull
     Laughing Gulls take three years to reach adult plumage. Immature birds are always darker than most similar-sized gulls.  First-year birds are greyer below and have paler heads and second-years can be distinguished by the wing pattern and structure.

     Laughing Gulls breed in coastal marshes and ponds in large colonies. The large nest, made largely from grasses, is constructed on the ground. The 3 or 4 greenish eggs are incubated for about three weeks.

    The Laughing Gull is normally diurnal, being active during the day. During the breeding season it forages at night as well. It usually looks for food along the beach at night, but will also hover to catch insects around lights. These are omnivores like most gulls, and they will scavenge as well as seeking suitable small prey such as fish, squid, shrimp, and berries.

     Nest colonies in northeastern United States were nearly eliminated by egg and plume hunters in the late 19th century. Populations have increased over the last century, following protection.

The Laughing Gull

     The male and female Laughing Gull usually build their nest together. If a male cannot find a mate, he may start building a nest platform and then use it to attract a female.
The adult Laughing Gull removes the eggshells from the nest after the eggs hatch. If the shells are not removed, a piece can become lodged on top of the slightly smaller unhatched third egg and prevent it from hatching.

The Laughing Gull

     A similar species, Franklin's Gull, is daintier; bill straight.  Adult has pattern of white-black-white on wingtips. In summer it sports a black hood and pink-flushed white underparts. Compared to the Laughing Gull, the winter adult retains more extensive dark markings on head; first-winter has narrower dark tail band.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Atlantic Puffin

     The Atlantic Puffin is a rather small sea bird that spends most of its time at sea in the North Atlantic Ocean. They are Auks or members of the Alcidae Family of birds (alcids). The only time it usually comes ashore is to breed and raise a chick.
     These are the only puffins that occur in the Atlantic. There are two species of puffins that occur in the Pacific - Horned Puffins and Tufted Puffins. They are so appealing probably because of the multi-colored bills that they display during the breeding season and have given them nicknames like "sea parrot" and "clowns of the sea". Puffins have always been liked by people but, for a long time, for reasons other than bird watching. When the early pioneers came to the North Atlantic coast in the 1600's, they began killing seabirds for food. As more settlers came to New England, puffins (and many other birds) were killed for their feathers. These feathers were used often as decorations in ladies' hats! Puffins have long been hunted in some parts of their range and are a common food item in Iceland and the Faeroe Islands today.
      Puffins had nested along the Maine coast on at least 6 islands: Eastern Egg Rock, Western Egg Rock, Large Green Island, Matinicus Rock, Seal Island and Machias Seal Island. By the early 1900's, there was only one pair of puffins left south of the Canadian border. That pair lived on Matinicus Rock, a lonely pile of rocks 22 miles off the coast in Penobscot Bay. After Matinicus Rock's lighthouse keepers began protecting the puffins from hunters, the puffins began to come back and there are now about 150 pairs that nest there. Puffins had always remained on Machias Seal Island on the Canadian border which today supports a breeding colony of about 3,000 pairs of puffins.
     Puffins never came back to 4 of the other 5 islands on their own maybe because of the large populations of gulls, especially the large, aggressive and always hungry Great Black-backed Gulls.
Back in 1973, Stephen Kress began Project Puffin to re-introduce puffins to Eastern Egg Rock in Muscongus Bay off mid-coast Maine. It took about 8 years of trips to Newfoundland to bring back puffin chicks to "transplant". Today there are puffin breeding colonies on at least 5 of the original 6 islands off the coast of Maine: Eastern Egg Rock, Seal Island NWR (re-introduced colonies), Matinicus Rock, Petit Manan Island and Machias Seal Island (natural colonies).
     The size of the puffin colonies vary greatly. According to Project Puffin's Egg Rock Update, during the 2010 nesting season the colony on Seal Island had over 500 pairs and the colony on Eastern Egg Rock increased to 123 pairs of puffins.
     By comparison, Machias Seal Island's colony numbers in the thousands of puffins each year. I think it's fair to point out that Eastern Egg Rock's colony IS growing since the re-introduction program began and "wild" puffins are joining the colony every breeding season. It's just a smaller colony.
Some Important Facts...
     Puffins are very abundant birds of the North Atlantic and have never been endangered or threatened (worldwide). There are an estimated 14 million puffins from Maine to Norway and many of the islands and coasts in between.
     Hunting puffins on the Maine coastal islands probably added to the demise of some of the colonies, however there may have been natural climatic reasons also. The mid-1800's were especially cold years here in the southernmost limit of the puffin's range. A return to normal tempatures may have helped force the puffin range to move back further north. Some scientists feel that Machias Seal Island is the southernmost limit of the puffin range and that any other colonies south of this point are "fringe" colonies.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Fun With Lighthouse Photographs

     I have had some fun doctoring up some lighthouse photographs.  I thought you might also enjoy them.  Below are the before and after photos.  

Indian Island Before

Indian Island After
Marshall Point Before

Marshall Point After
Portland Head Before

Portland Head After

Portland Head Reflected
Pumpkin Island Before

Pumpkin Island Reflected
Pemaquid Point Before

Pemaquid Point Reflected
Cape Neddick (Nubble) Before

Cape Nedick (Nubble) Reflected