Race Point

Please regard all images as copyrighted and ask permission before using. Thank you, DEClapp.

The sandy spit of land that heads east and then north from Massachusetts is called Cape Cod; after the great fisheries of yesteryear. The major fishery in this region now is for Spiny Dogfish Shark; not famous, not a sports fish, and rarely sold in the US. But anyway, Cape Cod is a remnant of glacial periods past. The Cape Cod Canal has been cut near the mainland to facilitate and shorten the shipping lanes from the Atlantic coast (New York for instance) to Boston and north. From the canal it is 30 miles to the Orleans rotary and then another thirty or more to Provincetown and the end of the road.

For the summer vacationer Provincetown is a destination for theatre, bars, food, whale watching, and more. It is the liveliest town on the Cape. In the winter there isn’t much life north of the rotary and only an aging residential population between the canal and the rotary. The Cape isn’t the Jersey Shore.

But for a mature person the outer Cape is pretty special. From the rotary towns (Eastham, Orleans, and the more southerly Chatham) heading north there are lots of Atlantic beaches. Newcomb Hollow, Marconi, Coast Guard, White Crest, and Nauset are a few names the visitor might remember. On the Bay side there are also beaches in Wellfleet, Truro and Provincetown. The fresh water ponds add to the possible biodiversity. At the far end of the Cape is Provincetown and all it has to offer. For most it is the hustle and bustle of an energetic small town. But for the nature folks it is the extensive outer beach that starts by heading north out of Eastham, Wellfleet, and Truro and then curls almost 360 degrees before stubbing out in Provincetown Harbor. This outer beach offer miles of sand and pummeling ocean edge but for the birder it offers a winter’s smorgasbord of oceanic specialties.

There can be unusual gulls such as Little, Black-headed, Ivory, Kittiwakes, Iceland, and Glaucous. Then there are the little cold water birds that so resemble tiny penguins. Birds like Puffin, Murres, Razorbills, and Guillemots. Then the departure of Shearwaters may not be complete, certainly there are days with hundreds of Northern Gannets and the avian predators (the Jaegers) are in and out of the scene as they harass the fish catchers.

We spent a few hours out on the sand a few days ago and here are a few of the things we saw. This bit of geography has great opportunity and I am sure it will reappear in other posts.

This is a Great Black-backed Gull. It is a common coastal bird, larger than the Herring Gull which might be called the medium-sized gray-backed gull. The Ring-billed Gull is also rather common and patterned much like a Herring Gull only smaller.
The Black-legged Kittiwake is a cliff nester from the northern coastal edges. There are no white spots in the black-tipped primaries and the smudgy head of the wintering bird has replaced the full black head of the breeding bird. It is a bird of both coasts of North America reaching up and around Alaska in the west and then over the top of Canada and down the eastern side of the continent. It is a salt water bird for the most part and has the tern-like habit of diving into the water.
The world has lots of cormorants. Here we have the nesting Double-crested Cormorant and the much less frequent winter visitor from the north, the Great Cormorant. This is a Double-crested. By November most of our DCCO have migrated in large goose-like V’s to the south. But there are a few that linger and even fewer who might stay through the winter. They nest on breakwaters and are doing rather well. They have a hook-like bill and are adept at catching fish underwater. They are not exclusively salt water birds and can be found nesting in trees in and around large lakes.
The cute little black and white bird in this image is a Razorbill. This is an Alcid; a group of stocky, mostly black and white, sea birds best known by the cute/odd/colorful/toylike puffin.

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