The unusually warm December day found us at my favorite spot on the shore, Gooseberry Island, Westport, MA. The difference in water and air temperature created an impressive fog bank as we drew closer to the shoreline. The air was still, the water like glass. We could see only a few feet off shore when we started walking. We could hear, but not see, a boat a distance off shore. How far was impossible to tell. Sounds carries well over water, but we had no visual clue to help us out, the fog was so thick.
Soon we began spotting a few birds–5 eider ducks quite near shore floated along, seeming to take a rest in the calm of the early afternoon. Then sand pipers showed themselves along the shoreline, 30-40 birds all busy pecking away amongst the rocky shore, hunting for tasty tidbits.
My birding skills are not up to snuff–clearly these are in the sandpiper family, and the piping plovers have migrated south meaning these fellows are something other than piping plovers. I”ll have to check with my birding expert buddies.
An opossum startled us as it scurried away from the surf, right past us, and quickly dodged into the scrub brush on the edge of the sand. He was too quick for us to get a good picture. His fur looked rather soggy. Swimming, perhaps? It had rained earlier in the day. Perhaps he (or she) was simply drying off.
Seagulls and grebes became visible as the fog began to lift. The wind picked up only slightly. This is perhaps the calmest I have seen the shore in a long time. At the far end of the island is a point of land I always enjoy standing on, watching the waves collide form each direction on either side of the island. On days of rough surf the power of the waves’ collisions is impressive. This day, the currents met with hardly a ripple.
The days are short now, before long we realized the sun was close to setting. In the west we spied glimmers of light working their way through the cloud cover. Time to head back. As we strode along the middle path that bisects the island, I shed several layers. The scrubby growth on the island shelters visitors form the windy shoreline, and I often get overheated on our return trip. This time I was able to enjoy the walk more, avoid getting overheated, and spotted animal paths into the bushes. Clearly deer and other animals, beside birds and opposums have found a safe haven on this small outpost of land jutting into Long Island Sound.
Till next time. Happy trails!
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. Just out is her latest book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are.
She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress.