The Audubon’s Hog Island program started as a summer camp for adults in 1936, specifically, for teachers.

“Because teachers could have a multiplying effect for the conservation movement,” explained Stephen Kress, camp director and an instructor who’s been with the program since 1969. “It may be one of the first outdoor education centers in the country.”

One of the 11 six-day camps held each summer — with names like “Raptor Rapture” and “Living on the Wind” — is still focused on teachers, he said. The rest are open to avid birders, curious birders and what Kress jokingly calls “trailing spouses” — husbands and wives with no particular ornithological passion who “often get hooked by being around.”

Most of this summer’s programs filled up last fall after registration opened in October. There’s only one with openings left this year, “Fall Seabird Biology and Conservation,” in September.

Rates range from $995 to $1,795 per person, and people come in from around the country.

Part of the draw is the setting itself, Kress said. Hog Island is a quarter-mile off the coast in Bremen (and yes, it had hogs back in the day). It has a heavily wooded spruce forest with ospreys, bald eagles and merlins. Sixty people can fit in the rustic accommodations at a time.


In classes, there’s walking, talking and, depending on the program, lessons on identifying birds, tagging them and taking boat trips to see them on other islands.

Nancy Dickinson, 61, was an administrative assistant at Cornell University, living in upstate New York, when she took the introductory “Joy of Birding” program in 2010.

“It was so joyful — it was life-changing,” said Dickinson.

She took two more classes and then, in retirement, moved to New Harbor so she could be close enough to the island to become a regular volunteer.

“It was like going back to summer camp from when I was a kid. Kind of an escape and yet you’re immersed in this beautiful environment and learning from brilliant birders who are all very funny and charming,” she said. “You’re learning, but not really feeling like it’s drudgery; you’re just out having adventures with all these interesting people.”

More adults are finding their inner child at Maine camps

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