Christmas Island – Threatened Paradise Photography Exhibit by Nigella Hillgarth Stetson Gallery, MA January 10-February 28


This exhibit highlights the paradox of the impact ice melting in Greenland and its impact on islands in the South Pacific so far away.

The islands of the South Pacific and their surrounding coral reefs are suffering from effects of climate change.  Warming oceans and atmosphere lead to rising sea levels. Water expands with heat, and land ice in the Arctic and Antarctic melts and adds water to the oceans.  This results in major problems for low lying islands.  Gradually islands have to be abandoned as seawater seeps into soil and freshwater supplies.  Eventually, land is washed away, and people have to leave their homes

Seafood is the main source of protein for the Islanders.  In recent years there has been much over-fishing in many areas.  Also, the coral reefs associated with these Pacific islands have suffered from the recent impacts of prolonged heating events over the summer when the water gets hotter than normal for months.  The coral ‘bleaches’ and may die.  These delicate ecosystems are not only highly biodiverse but also provide much of the food for the local community.

I have included photographs of Ikiribati (people from Kiribati) fishing, having fun on the lagoon and doing laundry in the ocean. This is designed to show how much their lives are entwined with the sea.  Other images show the beauty of the island together with its vulnerability from the ocean that surrounds it.

I have also included three images from Greenland where the ice is melting through several major glaciers down into the ocean.  Disco Bay is a world heritage site off the coast of the town of Ilulissat in West Greenland because of the huge icebergs that wait to go out to sea.  I think of these icebergs as beautiful and yet sad symbols of sea level rise.  The increasing melt in Greenland is part of the season the South Pacific islands are in trouble, however for the people of Greenland life is getter easier.  The harbour and coast no longer freeze all winter so fishing and transportation by boat to isolated communities are easier.  In the summer, there is more land suitable for farming as well.

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Late summer woodland birds in Maine

The last week in August is an interesting time.  Migrants are gorging on insects and seeds before moving south.  Resident birds are also taking advantage of plentiful food before fall comes.  Here are some photographs of residents plus a couple of beautiful warblers that will be leaving soon – A first year male Cape May Warbler and a female Black and White warbler.


Red-breasted NuthatchDSC_0765

White-breasted NuthatchDSC_0670

Hairy WoodpeckerDSC_0842DSC_0753

GoldfinchDSC_1280 (1)

Female Black andWhite Warbler DSC_0991

First year male Cape May Warbler DSC_0995

Chipping SparrowDSC_0828


Possible song sparrowDSC_1277

Black capped Chickadee

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A Redwing in Iceland

I was surprised by a loud, unfamiliar song, and a large thrush landed in the bush in front of me.  At eye level, I was confronted by the vibrant ghost of Irish winter past right in the middle of a bursting Icelandic spring. A redwing sang and preened in front of me.  I should not have been so surprised, but this is a bird from the Thrush family, that I have only known from the shadowy winter flocks of birds that lurked in the fields around my childhood home.


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Details on the Shore, Boothbay Harbor, Maine

The rock formations along the shore of Maine continue to fascinate me.  This spring I looked more closely and found nature details everywhere.  Violets and ground ivy tucked in around the rocks, or on the edge of flower beds nurtured by last year’s acorn husks. The ground ivy is not native to America but was used for food and medicine in Europe, and may have come to Maine with early settlers.  As a result, it has many common names. Field balm makes sense but, gill-over-the-ground still puzzles me.





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A walk in Porter Preserve, Boothbay, Maine

I went to Maine this Spring just before warm weather burst on the scene and buds broke fully open.  The land was green with recent moisture and seemed full of anticipation of real Spring.  Porter Preserve, Boothbay Region, Land Trust is a lovely small reserve on the Sheepscot River.  I took a few photographs with my phone as I walked along the three-quarters of a mile long trail.




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Good News for Hedgehogs

1200px-European_hedgehog_(Erinaceus_europaeus)Photo Credit: Gaudete

Hedgehogs were a familiar sight as I was growing up in Southern Ireland. We used to put out food for them at dusk. Our house was close to woods and soon a hedgehog would venture out and tuck into the scraps of meat in a bowl under the window. Sometimes we would see them trundling down the road at night and, alas squashed hedgehogs by the side of the road were common. Rolling up into a ball is no defence against an oncoming car so, what evolved as an excellent defence against predators, is no match for traffic.

My abiding memories of hedgehogs were the ones that came indoors. We had a black labrador and one Autumn day, I found a hedgehog rolled up tightly in the middle of a pile of leaves in the dog’s bed. We rescued the hedgehog, but over the next few days, the same thing kept happening. I discovered our labrador knew where to find a hibernating hedgehog under leaves in the woods and then started rolling it back towards the house, gathering leaves along the way as they stuck to the spines. Eventually, this large pile of leaves plus hedgehog ended up in the dog’s bed. The leaves and the spines protected the hedgehog from our canine predator, but we made sure the hedgehogs were not disturbed again!

Alas, these fascinating, spiny creatures are in decline in parts of Europe, especially Britain. The loss of amount and quality of hedgehog habitat is a major reason. Hedgehogs thrive in areas rich in soil invertebrates and much arable land today is poor and fragmented, and this is thought to be one reason why hedgehog numbers have declined from over 30 million in the 1950’s to around one million in Britain today. In Ireland, they are still thriving in many places but are thought to be in decline overall.

I love waking up to good news, and this morning I saw that a village in Yorkshire, England, is taking steps to save hedgehogs. The village of Burton Fleming has declared itself to be a hedgehog-friendly place! Carefully placed gaps under fences, feeding stations and even little ladders from ponds have been set up to make this village and its gardens a welcoming place for over 50 hedgehogs. So far it has been a great success, and other villages in Britain are going to follow suit. It is heartening to see that people are taking action to save this charismatic little spiky animal!

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The Glories of Autumn in Ireland: Part 3

Several insects and other small invertebrates came indoors as the weather turned colder.  The cottage is in the middle of the woods and close to the lake and wildlife finds a way to come inside.  Below are pictures of some of those visitors – except for the Pale tussock moth caterpillar that I found just outside!



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