We have the best luck spotting birds when we visit shoreline spots we are familiar with. Again and again we find our way back to Gooseberry Island in Westport, MA and know we will see birds feeding just offshore on the rocky ocean bottom that offers great places for tasty creatures that diving birds are great at finding.
We visited Westport on a few outings in early spring and chose not to try Gooseberry Island, seeing a steady stream of cars crossing the causeway to the small spit of land jutting out into Long Island sound. But our most recent visit was on a day when rain was forecast. Perhaps it would be less crowded? Turns out, the answer was a resounding yes.
The reason we had the beach almost to ourselves (yes, there were a few other hardy souls out while we were there), was that before we arrived, the promised rain had already arrived. Not just arrived. The rain was blowing sideways, lashing our faces with stinging drops that felt like it might be hail.
We had prepared, and had sturdy rain jackets, rain pants, and good boots. And still, the wind was gusting up to 30 miles per hour (so we heard later). Maybe even harder. We made our way up the trail the runs the length of the island, figuring this middle path would offer some protection from the wind. We made our way on a small path to the western side of the island, somewhat protected from the wind blowing from the east. We grabbed a very few pictures, then headed back to the car where we enjoyed our lunch safe from the storm.
As we left, I grabbed yet one more picture facing into the wind, from inside the car. The howling wind and driving rain shook the vehicle. Crossing over the causeway, we spotted several diving ducks on the west side of the roadway. Watching for oncoming cars, we stopped and grabbed a very few pictures of a grebe and a golden-eye.
We moved on to the East Beach to enjoy the waves. As we pulled in, several seagulls hovered, apparently wind surfing in the wind currents coming off the water. The driving rain did not seem to deter them as they floated above the shoreline.
We find birds in other more local places as well, down at Silver lake, and often right in our own yard.
We had a steady stream of bluebirds visit us this winter, up to six at a time on occasion.
Turkeys arrive almost every afternoon, using our yard as their private turkey airport, soaring up into the trees growing down the slope from our yard. We live at the top of an esker, so the turkeys have a head start on reaching the tops of the trees growing on the lower slopes nearby.
We also got a chance to visit our local Great Blue Heron rookery, and found parents tending their nests in the protected spot. The birds’ nest are quite a distance from the shoreline, so we felt confident our presence was not going to disturb them. Even with this distance, we chose not to stay too long, and kept quiet. It’s the right thing to do.
Just today I spotted our seasonal flycatcher, that returns every spring to nest underneath our car port. The bird feeder also attracted several brown headed cow birds, new visitors to our yard. The group of them seemed irritated with each other. One bird spread his wings, warning off the others. Before long they were all gone.
And thus the daily drama of the birds continues. Their goals remain pretty simple–find food, raise and protect their young, and try not to be eaten. Our lives may feel a lot more complicated, but in the end, it’s a good thing to have enough to eat, to raise our children, and try not to get eaten. Finding joy along the way is a noble aim as well. At least for me, having birds and other magical aspects of nature makes a difference. Thanks for joining me along the way as you are able. 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.