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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.