Nantucket: For the Birds!

The birds are setting up shop at Nashaquisset…you hear them everywhere, and it’s a wonderful sound indeed! Before I arrived last summer, I had no idea that birds that are rare in other parts of New England flock to Nantucket — our moors, meadows, and marshes…a lack of predators…and the abundance of wide open, undeveloped space are a welcome environment for avian diversity.

Set up your spotting scope near the salt marsh at Eel Point any time of year, and you’re bound to see shorebirds feeding—low tide is the best time. Endangered piping plovers and least terns nest on the ocean side in spring. Folger’s Marsh (about 3 mi east of town) and the Harbor Flats at the end of Washington Street on the eastern edge of town are also good shorebird-watching sites. Inland, a walk through Sanford Farm from Madaket Road to the south shore (covering upland, forest, heath, and shore habitats) will bring you in range of Savannah sparrows, yellow warblers, osprey, and red-tailed hawks, the island’s most common raptor. Check out the trails through for woodland species, and be on the lookout for protected Northern Harrier!

For more information on birding on Nantucket, check out:

Strong Wings (9 Nobadeer Farm Rd. 508/228-1769. www.strongwings.org) customizes environmentally savvy birding tours based on interest and group size and, depending on your preferred degree of difficulty, can include a hike, a bike ride, or a casual stroll.

The Maria Mitchell Association (MMA, 4 Vestal St. 508/228-0898. www.mmo.org) leads marine-ecology field trips and nature and bird walks weekly in spring and early summer and three times a week from June through Labor Day.

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