Field Trip: Nantucket

Harbor seals on the Jetties, Nantucket Harbor.

I went up to Nantucket, MA, last week, taking a bus up to Hyannis and then the “slow boat,” the ferry, across the Sound. For a couple of years now, I’ve noticed osprey over Hyannis harbor and wondered where they nest. On the return trip, this time on the fast ferry, I saw an offshore nest with two adults in it. An interesting location: it was nestled between the reflective triangles of a marker anchored in some rocks approaching Hyannis Harbor/Lewis Bay. According to the chart, NOAA 13229, it looks like “Great Rock.”

Nantucket Sound, between the arm of Cape Cod and the island itself, supports huge numbers of sea birds in winter. All three species of scoters and long-tailed ducks in particular, and as the water was still chilly, a number of them were still around. The criss-crossing ferries rile them up: the scoters patter on the water with their feet as they take off, Flintstones-style

All told, I logged 48 species of bird. First for the year have been noted at the Birds tab above. The highlights here were Iceland gull and lesser black-backed gull, both lifers.

Birding by bus is far from ideal, you can just get the big obvious birds like osprey, crow, red-tail, vulture, above I-95, but on the return trip, just at the edge of Hyannis, I saw a posse of wild turkey crossing an old railroad grade. Talk about a big obvious bird. (The local NYC birding wires were buzzing last week with a turkey in Manhattan.)

Additional sightings on the island included harbor seal, eastern painted turtle, rabbit, deer, garter snake, bullfrog, and spring peeper, o, my, the spring peepers. Over the next couple of days I’ll be blogging about specific finds, etc.
Red maple. The island is not known for its hardwoods. Wind-swept and salt-water sprayed, it’s an unfriendly place to be a hardwood. However, they are a couple patches of non-pine woods to be found, if you know where to look.
Rabbits, cavorting in the yard. They come to munch in the late afternoon. These two were doing that running/leaping thing they do. One evening, there were three deer and three rabbits all in the back hanging around the bird feeder.
It’s normal to find dead birds on the beach. Beaches are, in fact, depositories of the dead (so far, my most astounding discover has been a 6-foot long leatherback turtle). This was a male common eider. I reported the leg band and found out he was banded in August of 2006 in Maine.

2 Responses to “Field Trip: Nantucket”


  1. 1 Kerry April 17, 2010 at 8:27 am

    Interesting reading about Nantucket. I have always had romantic ideas about the place since reading about it in a book when I was a child.


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