A Maine Man's War With Canada

Barna Norton is at war with Canada.

Every time he comes ashore to this tiny island 20 miles off the coast of Maine, he does the same thing. As he plants the American flag he says, "Once again in front of this sign I declare this island belongs to the United States."

The Evil Empire first stuck a lighthouse out here in 1830. But, Barna claims his ancestors won the right to the rock in 1865.

Barna says it is his island, left to him by his great grandfather Barna Beal.

It's called Machias Seal Island, a haven for puffins and razorbills and Arctic Terns. And, it is heaven for the "birders" who come to look at them. Barna and his son John have been hauling birdwatchers out here for decades.

The Puffins especially are a joy to watch, a wonder of nature's whimsy.

He claims it's the greatest place in the United States for birds, except it is in Canada.

But Barna says, "This isn't Canada. You're all messed up."

But the lighthouse is surely Canada's. And, the lighthouse keeper is Canadian too. A generous fellow named Paul Cranford who sometimes plays the fiddle when the birders stop for lunch. He and Barna argue over whether the lighthouse really is in Canada.

The birds don't seem to care one way or another but the State Department backs up Barna's claim. And, if the Canadians ever decide to play rough, Barna and son John vow to fight on.

Most everyday this summer Barna Norton will return to plant his flag. Each trip a tiny victory in this smallest of battles.

For Harry Smith's full report, click above.

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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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