Petit Manan Lighthouse, courtesy www.lighthousefriends.com.
What do Matinicus Rock, Petit Manan, Falkner Island, Great Duck Island and Seahorse Key* have in common? They’re all islands and they all have lighthouses. But another thing they share is their relationship with birds.
Seabirds have taken over these islands, but for good reason – to protect their nesting areas and hence, their species.
As long ago as the late 1800s, laws were passed to protect seabirds when widespread sale of their eggs for food and their plumage for hats threatened the birds’ extinction. In 1900, the American Ornithologist Union (AOU) established a warden system to enforce these laws.
The U.S. Lighthouse Board cooperated with the AOU and issued orders to lighthouse keepers of all lighthouse districts on the Atlantic, Gulf, Northern Lake, and Pacific coasts to observe the laws and help protect all birds. Several lighthouse keepers in Maine were paid to be wardens while several others volunteered.
These keepers proved a valuable asset to the AOC by reporting the number and variety of birds viewed, and the date they arrived on the islands. For example, “the warden’s report of October 1901 by Keeper James E. Hall of Matinicus Rock Light details that 1000 Terns arrived May 15th, 75 Sandpipers arrived May 1st and on April 15th two pairs of Puffins and 75 Sea Pigeons (Black Guillemots) arrived.”