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  • Discovery at Little Hog Island, Chapter 3, part 2 (15)

    Links for Little Hog Island installments

    Chapter 3, Part 2

    "Hi Phip. I said ‘Darn. Darn Barn Beezlewax.’”

    “That sounds pretty rude, Rude.”

    “It can’t be rude, it’s what my Mom says.”

    “Oh, well, that settles it, then. Are you supposed to be peeking into Mr. Brunelle’s room while he’s lecturing?”

    “Nope. Wasn’t me. How come he always runs late? Me and Billy Owens need to get going. Garrett too.”

    “Billy Owens and I. And where are you off to, if I might ask?”

    “You can ask—it’s for your Advanced Placement Biology Class, Phip. We’re going out to Little Hog Island. You said we could work on our Ecology project together. We want to study the roseate terns. Dad says they’re really rare.”

    “You need to be especially careful not to disturb them. I wish you would talk to me about it.”

    “Oh, he’s done, here they come. Can we talk to you right now? We want to get going.”

    “Sure, Rude. Hey Billy, Garrett. Rude says you’re going out to Little Hog Island to study the terns. Can you come by my room?”

    “Aw, Phip, we wanted to get going. It’s such a nice day and it’ll take awhile to bike down and row out there.”

    “Just a couple minutes, boys. I promise it won’t take long.”


    The boys stripped down to their shorts. Wave-tips glinted in the sun, but the wind was cold. Rude wanted to put his shirt back on, but didn’t want the other boys to think he was a wimp. They all had gooseflesh when they pulled into the small bay on southeast shore of little Hog Island. Billy’s lips were blue and Garrett was shivering.

    “This is stupid,” Rude said. He pulled his shirt back on, and then his sweater. The others hastily followed suit.

    Billy had the field guide and the camera that Phip had lent them, Garrett was carrying the binoculars, and Rude had a spiral notebook and pencil. Phip had said to take their field notes in pencil. He’d instructed them to make careful notes and sketches but never to get closer than about 15 feet and never to stay even that close more than 3-5 minutes. Rude’s Dad had pretty much told him the same thing.

    They were ready.

    They followed the faint path through the woods along the shore until the trees started getting warped and shrunk. Then there was the open rock, with withered shrubs and terns wheeling in and out. Nests everywhere.

    “Let’s start by hiding here, behind this outcropping. They can see us when they fly over, but if we’re still, maybe they’ll get used to us or forget us,” Rude said. They lay on their bellies on the rough stone, trying to avoid the white whitewash. “Dad said most of the terns are arctic terns,” Rude added, as they settled themselves.

    “The book says we can tell the roseate terns by using a combination of field marks. It sounds as one of the easiest ways to tell is by the pinkish under parts, if you can see them. And paler grey upperparts, and its mostly black bill during breeding season. It says the Roseate Terns lack the dark trailing edge of the other species with only the outermost primaries having dark areas near the tips. Garrett, see if you can spot any,” Billy said.

    Garrett was already peering through the binoculars at the flying birds. “There’s a lot of birds,” he said, “and they’re hard to follow.”

    “Look at the ones on the ground,” Rude suggested.

    “I can’t see their bellies,” Garrett complained.

    “It says here,” Billy said, brushing his long blond hair from his eyes for about the hundredth time, “‘In contrast with Common Terns which usually nest in open or exposed sites, Roseate Terns usually hide their nests under some sort of protective cover such as rocks, vegetation, or washed-up debris.’ Look for the Roseates near some of the junky stuff, Garrett.”

    Rude made a sketch of the Island, the way the long spit of rock curved out into the waves, the small bay-like area formed by the curve, the sandy spots in the mini bay, the birds wheeling and diving overhead. They were small, graceful and acrobatic. He drew a couple birds close-up, so he could try to catch the long fork of their tail and the graceful curve of their wings.

    Billy stuffed the book into his backpack and started fiddling with the camera. “How did Phip say to set the light?” he asked, brushing his hair from his face.

    “Like this,” Rude said, showing him how to turn the controls for speed and f-stop. “He said if it was sunny to shoot at 500 shutter speed and f 22, remember?”

    “Oh, yeah, that’s right,” he hoisted himself up on his elbows and took aim at bird flying over. The shutter sounded, followed by a groan. “I think I missed it.”

    “Aim at the ones on the ground,” Rude suggested again.

    Billy made a strange sort of strangled noise. Garrett and Rude looked over at him. He was pointing out over the water.

    Notes: This "story: is part 15 of my serial novel hopeful, Discovery at Little Hog Island Here are all the current links for Little Hog Island installments on cowbird.

    Section i of Chapter 1 is here:  Section 1
    The section directly before this, section 14, is here:  Chapter 2, section 7, Chapter 3, section 1 (14)
    You can view all of Chapter 1 from Cowbird without photos here.
    You can view all of chapter 2 from Cowbird without photos or large breaks here.

    The image is from California (Big Sur), not Maine (from our recent vacation), and the sailboat (fake) is there to alert readers that this is a DaLHI installment. There, however, is a certain similarity in the landform.
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