I have been to Monhegan many times in the eighties and nineties. My quest was to research, experience and study the styles of carving of the noted decoy carvers from the areas along the
The decoys in
By the standard of decoys in the early 1900’s his decoys were rugged and structurally sound and captured the “essence of the species”. But by today’s standards, they are prized works of sculpted art standing alone and unmatched as collectible decoy sculpture.
What makes Gus Wilson’s “Monhegan style” so appealing? Quite simply, it is the design of the head approach to the body. His Monhegan decoys showcase the downward pointing bill as if the bird was preening its chest. Many have interpreted this design as Mr. Wilsons desire to incorporate other active poses into the decoy rigs to add a natural appeal. In studying the design however, I believe it was a very innovative two-fold design first to prevent breakage to the vulnerable horizontal neck seam which often broke during normal usage. With the head designed featuring the downward angular bill, the head could be carved at a transverse angle with the grain, and with the bill touching the neck it would add much needed support and strength that discouraged breakage. With this rugged construction method added to the design, the added appeal of a preening bird resulted making it both eye appealing and structurally sound……and of course; sui generis!
Gus Wilson also carved many sea duck decoys in many other poses such as preeners, sleepers, open winged, calling, open billed sea ducks with clams, mussels and leather fish for Red-breasted Mergansers which also featured horse hair crests.
Gus Wilson “Monhegan” White-winged Scoters-
Gus Wilson Surf Scoters (aka “skunkheads”)
Gus Wilson Common Eiders-
Gus Wilson Red-breasted Merganser-
A few of my decoy mantle sculptures I have carved over the years influenced by Gus Wilson and
Harlequin Duck and Oldsquaw-
Common Eider with mussel in bill-
The collection of decoys below was photographed at
Jen had never been to Monhegan, so we decided to go. We stayed in the Port Clyde area, but unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate. The morning we were going to Monhegan it was foggy and rained all the way out.
Here is the Laura B docked in
Welcome to Monhegan!
When we disembarked the Laura B onto the dock, it was raining very hard. Dressed in our ponchos we took a walk around the Village. We started to walk along the coastal trail #1 but it started pouring. Feeling it was a bit too much to go birding (and for my camera) we decided to take cover in a coffee shop to wait it out. After a few cups of coffee, we walked up to the Monhegan Lighthouse-
The view from the Lighthouse of the village and
We ended up walking down to the main dock to wait for the return ferry. The rain had let up and the sun finally broke through- the front had passed! The birding from the dock was actually quite good!
Inner Duck Rocks-
Moulting hen Common Eiders-
……with Cormorants, Greater Black-backed and Herring Gulls.
This mallard duckling (second hatch) is only a few weeks old.
One of the many local Ring-necked Pheasants that walked around the village-
A begging Herring Gull-
This Double-crested Cormorant swam under the main dock and surfaced just below us-
The sun eventually came out towards the end of our visit. So we enjoyed the many Common Eiders and Black Guillemots in the Harbor by the main dock. Many of the Guillemots were flightless from moulting-
Just after leaving Monhegan, the Captain spotted this adult Bald Eagle on outer Duck Rocks, (a cluster of small rocky islets just north of Monhegan) and got closer for good looks.
On the trip back in we spotted more swimming Eiders and Guillemots, a few flying Gannets and Greater Shearwaters. Passing by
As we approached the main dock of
Sula by Surprise!
May 01, 2001- Coxes Ledge on the Gail Frances cod boat- Jen and I had returned early Monday morning from the long weekend (left early Thursday morning) from the World Championship Carving Competition in
After such a long weekend show and a very long year working intermittently on my Toucanet sculpture, I needed a day (or two) to decompress! So I decided a late spring pelagic birding/codfishing trip was a good way to unwind, so I drove to
I was talking with Capt. Richie DeLuca as the fog started to break up; it was late morning. As we were chatting seven Gannets appeared out of the mist including a smaller bird that was dark brown. Capt. Richie is a birder as well, and we both just assumed the bird was a small juv. Gannet; we never expected anything else. The bird disappeared into the mist with the other Gannets. About an hour later the bird reappeared and circled the Gail twice. In 2001 I was still shooting film cameras, and slide film is what I had with me that day (unfortunately I later had the slides converted into digital images and the quality is poor). I took a few quick shots of the bird as it passed by the stern before it disappeared again.
About a half hour later, Capt. Richie and I were chatting again when the bird appeared and the same thing happened, it circled the vessel again, and flew off to the east.
Fifteen minutes later it showed up again, and again circled the Gail, but this time I snuck over to the starboard side in hopes to catch the bird as it passed by, but I never saw the bird. I assumed that the bird had flown towards the bow and kept flying out of sight.
A moment later, Capt. Richie came out from the wheelhouse and walked down to the main deck to tell me that the bird had landed on the upper deck. When I reached the upper deck, there it was; it was perched on the railing! Not only was it perched on the vessel, I finally realized that I was looking at a Brown Booby; a species that I would have never expected to see!
I took a roll of slides as the bird started preening, and I slowly slid closer on one of the benches as I changed the roll of slide film…….
…..until I was very close to the bird, it was spectacular! I shot three more rolls of slide film which left me with only one roll (I am glad that I finally went to digital cameras)! The last roll of film was placed in my camera and filled it. I was so close to the bird at this time that I actually reached out and stroked the bird which it seemed to enjoy.
The bird stayed for an additional hour which Capt. Richie and I enjoyed. The Booby eventually took off and flew east and out of sight. This will always remain one of the most memorable bird interactions of my life!
Cape Cod, First Encounter Beach, Orleans,November 19, 2010- Jen and I enjoy the
Later that morning at
Because the water is so clear, it was easy to photograph this alcid “flying underwater”!
We parked my tuck near the other cars at the edge of the large puddle waiting for the Gull to (hopefully) show up. We were there for only ten minutes when I looked down to check the settings on my camera. Jen exclaimed that a Gull just landed in the puddle right in front of my open truck window. As I glanced over, Jen said, “ It’s got yellow legs”! Interesting side note- the Gull left the area the next day and was not seen again. Here is the Gull-
The Gull flew around the parking lot a few times often landing nearly in the same spot in the puddle where it was standing before it took off.
One time, it landed on the beach behind the bathhouse mingling with the Herring Gulls.
Sea-Pigeon of the North
On the way home we made two stops; one at Salisbury Beach Reservation and Sandy Point Refuge in
At the point of
Short-eared in the Snow and Rain
Pintail pair up close and personal
Oyster River, Woodmont, CT, February 20, 2011- On another coastal Gull search I stopped at one of my usual spots; Oyster River Beach. There were two tagged Ring-billed Gulls there one of which is “A485)……
…..and this magnificent pair (of three) Pintail on the beach with the Mallards, Black Ducks and Geese. The pair granted me a close look staying only a few yards away from me-
Pintail x Mallard Hybrid
Merlin attacks Crow
Uncommon Winter Guest- Black-headed Gull
Rare Fall Migrant- Hudsonian Godwit-
A Special Viewing- Peregrine Falcon
The skimmers flew around a few times “skimming” and then landed back on the beach-
A Pair of Black Guillemots
Another CT Razorbill
Meigs Point, Hammonasset, December 22, 2010- I found this to be a good season for Razorbills in CT. I had seen quite a few that wintered off
CT Common Murre
Meigs Point, Hammonasset, January 29, 2011-
Coxes Ledge, from the deck of the Gail Frances, October 26, 2007- It was a long ride to Coxes with 20 – 25 knot east winds and very large seas. This was the first day I was using my new and first digital camera; a Canon 10D! Coxes was covered with a continual passage of sea birds: Greater Shearwaters, Northern Fulmar (including many blue morph) and a handful of Pomarine Jaegers.-
One of the many blue morph Northern Fulmar…..
…..and one of the Pomarine Jaegers.