February 11, 2011

Where to bird watch in New England this weekend – Cape Ann

Known as Massachusetts’
“other cape” Cape Ann is the jut of land that emanates out into the Atlantic between Plum Island  to the North and Salem to the South. Cape Ann is separated from the mainland by the Annisquam River and is home to the fishing towns of Gloucester and Rockport. Accessible from Rt. 95 to 128 North the Cape itself is looped by Rt. 127 and the usual day trip is to drive the entire loop stopping at various coves, overlooks, and headlands to scan the ocean for birds.

Cape Ann reaches out into the Atlantic and its rocky shores give bird watchers a chance to get close views of winter ducks, alcids, and wayward, storm-blown sea birds. Its reputation as a winter bird watching hot spot has long been known and during an onshore wind or sleet whipping Northeaster Cape Ann is an impressive, if not cozy bird watching experience. A scope is a must for viewing for seaducks as they dive for fish and bob between waves.

Seabird migration peaks in November though wintering Harlequin ducks, loons, razorbills, grebes, gannets and many more make Cape Ann a good bird watching stop all winter long. It should be noted that much of the Cape is private property and special consideration needs to be taken. Parking on roads and walking on piers is allowed though private property should be respected at all times. There are several locations on the Cape open to the public the most notable being Halibut Point jointly operated by the DCR and the Trustees of Reservation. A map to the walking trails is available.

For information about bird watching locations on Cape Ann visit: Rockport Mass Secret Spots, New England Seabirds, or read the wonderful write up in the October 2010 and December 2010 issues of the Bird Observer a quarterly journal that all New England bird watchers should subscribe too. Bring an extra jacket, wool mittens, and a thermos full of coffee for the trip is not warm, but hardy New Englanders should make the best of these cold birding months and make the trek to Cape Ann this winter.

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is an educator, bird watcher, and writer fascinated by the intersections of place, people, nature, and culture. He works for Mass Audubon and lives in the heart of Massachusetts. For questions or comments please contact: alexanderjosephdunn@gmail.com

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