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For a couple of Maine lobstermen, it’s been a good year for catching attention online.
Fifth-generation lobsterman Jacob Knowles of Winter Harbor was able to do something his fishing forefathers could never even have imagined: achieve fame on the social media platform TikTok. A video of Knowles rescuing a wayward songbird miles off the coast has reeled in more than 6 million views and helped him net more than 165,000 new followers.
“When the wind’s northerly, little birds like this get blown offshore,” Knowles explains in that video, where the bird is pulled from the ocean and nursed back to health aboard his boat. “So we bring him in here and we set him next to the heater, and we feed him some crackers for the ride home. Let him dry out. Poor little guy. You’re all right. We’ll give you some crackers and some chips, we’ll take care of ya.”
The bird, which the BDN’s avian expert Bob Duchesne has tentatively identified as a female American goldfinch, spent some time in the video sitting on Knowles’ head and hand, before being released out of the boat once it returns close to land.
“See you later, buddy!” Knowles said to the bird as it flew away.
The video has taken off on TikTok, and for good reason. It’s a perfect combination of cute animals and Maine ruggedness. As the kids say, it’s lit. Or something like that.
Knowles isn’t the first Maine lobsterman to generate buzz online in 2020. Earlier this year, Leroy Weed of Stonington landed his own success with a YouTube series called “Ask Leroy!” The videos, produced by the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries, feature Weed answering questions and telling stories about working on the waterfront.
“Every day is different,” said Weed, a lifelong fisherman in his late 70s. “You never know what you’re gonna come across when you go out.”
Case in point: Knowles finding the little finch in a pinch out at sea.
In the wake of the now-famous bird rescue, Knowles is celebrating his new social media followers with a contest in which he is sending five live lobsters to five winners across the country who like, comment and follow his page.
Weed may not have been delivering lobsters to his online fans, but he did deliver one of the best quotes of the year when interviewed about his YouTube success for a September story in the BDN.
“I don’t have an internet,” Weed said at the time. “I still use a rotary phone. I don’t care about that kind of thing. If it makes people happy, then I’m happy.”
Through Weed and Knowles, anyone watching their videos online can catch a glimpse of Maine compassion and character.
“We’re resilient people. We know how to take care of ourselves and make do with what we’ve got,” Weed said. “You get good years and bad years.”
With their charming online content, these two Maine lobstermen have helped make this bad year a little better.