A Brief History of the Bird Sanctuary on Kent Island

Every story about the history of Kent Island begins with an Albatross. In 1913, Ernest Joy, a fisherman from Wood Island, spotted a large, white seabird flying near Kent Island, and shot it from his boat. Little did he know, Ernest Joy’s discovery would transform the course of his life, because he would become the warden on the bird sanctuary created on Kent Island. His friend Allan Moses, a naturalist and native of nearby Grand Manan, identified the bird as a South Atlantic yellow-nosed Albatross, the first recorded specimen in North America.


North Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross, the bird Ernest Joy found far from home in the Bay of Fundy http://www.biodiversityexplorer.org/birds/diomedeidae/thalassarche_chlororhynchos.htm

Ernest Joy’s discovery caused such a stir among ornithologists that the American Museum of Natural History in New York sent over representatives to buy the specimen from Moses, a skilled taxidermist. Moses made a deal with the museum to give them the bird, granted that they would invite him on an exciting scientific expedition. Fifteen years later the museum invited him to be the taxidermist on an ornithological trip to the mountains of central Africa, which was led and funded by Sterling Rockefeller. Legend has it that just when the expedition was giving up hope that they would ever find their prize specimen, Grauer’s broadbill, Moses shot it while he was alone at camp. When the rest of the team found him in the morning, he was asleep, the small green bird resting on his chest. Rockefeller was so grateful to Moses for finding the bird and was so impressed by his skills as a naturalist that he offered to grant Moses a favor. In an editorial in the Maine Naturalist, Sarah E.M. Smith, Moses’ sister, had suggested that the three islands near Grand Manan be turned into an eider sanctuary to save the dwindling bird population.

Moses made his sister’s proposal into a reality when he asked Rockefeller to buy the three islands, which include Kent Island, Hay Island, and Sheep Island. Rockefeller bought Kent Island from the McLaughlin family in 1930, and though he was unable to buy the other two Islands from Henry Ingalls, who lived on Hay Island, he negotiated access to the islands for “scientific purposes.” In 1932, Professor Allan Gross visited Kent Island to conduct a survey of the eiders after their successful breeding season under Moses’ vigilance.

1934_expedition copy

This image of the first Bowdoin students to study birds on Kent Island hangs in the Library of the Island’s dormitory. The caption reads, “The Kent Island Pioneers, 1934, returning home on MacMillan’s famous schooner ‘Bowdoin'”

When Professor Gross accompanied Commander Donald MacMillan, a famous Artic explorer and Bowdoin grad, on an artic expedition in 1934, he dropped off a group of Bowdoin students on Kent Island.This first group of Bowdoin student scientists studied and banded seabirds, inspiring Gross to propose establishing a college biological field station on Kent Island. Rockefeller “sold” Kent Island to Bowdoin College in 1936 for $1.00, under the conditions that the college maintain the bird sanctuary an employ wardens to take care of the Island. Ernest Joy, who discovered the Albatross that started the chain of events that led to the Bowdoin Scientific Station, replaced Allan Moses as the Island’s year-round warden. Yearly expeditions of students, of which I am part, have come to Kent Island ever since to study its diverse bird populations and tide pools, and to be inspired by its immense natural beauty.


Damon Gannon

Wheelwright, Nathaniel T. “First, There Was an Albatross.” Bowdoin Magazine. Bowdoin College. Web. 3 June 2014. <http://www.bowdoin.edu/bowdoinmagazine/archives/features/004943.shtml&gt;.

Ingersoll, L. K. Wings Over the Sea: The Story of Allan Moses. Goose Lane Editions, 1991.


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