What's in a Picture?
Prior to Puffins
When Robert Sisson snapped this photo for National Geographic in 1954, the seven treeless acres of Eastern Egg Rock Island in Muscongus Bay were without their signature species: Atlantic puffins. The clownish-looking seabirds had maintained a thriving colony here before being wiped out by egg hunters around 1885. Birders who visited the island in the ‘50s discovered gulls, terns, and shags, but alas, no “sea parrots.”
Here, Allan D. Cruickshank shows off a baby double-crested cormorant to a group of campers on a weeklong pelagic Maine seabird tour. A famed wildlife documentarian and pioneer bird photographer, Cruickshank served as one of the instructors at the Maine Audubon’s base camp on nearby Hog Island starting in 1936. Although it may have struck the photographer as just a quirky wardrobe choice, Cruickshank’s colorful Scottish tam o’ shanter serves a very real purpose: Not only is it far less likely than brimmed hats to fly off on a windy Maine island, but the pom-pom provides a soft target for drive-bombing terns aggressively defending their nests (an ever-present danger for offshore ornithologists).
Cruickshank died before Project Puffin helped reestablish the dormant puffin colony on Eastern Egg Rock in 1981. The National Audubon Society since named the island’s wildlife sanctuary after him to honor this ornithologist who gave Maine and the organization hundreds of lectures, innovative wildlife photography techniques, stunning documentaries, and yes, the Scottish tam — a tradition maintained by Audubon members today. —Will Bleakley
Photograph by ROBERT SISSON/National Geographic Stock