Bird Watcher's General Store

A Visit to Pochet Island on Cape Cod
11/07/14


Dear Bird Folks,

In the past you have written about your birding trips to different parts of the country, but I’d like to know more about birding around Cape Cod. Any chance you could write a column about birding locally?

– Randy, Yarmouth, MA

I think I have, Randy,

Like a lot of people of a certain age, my memory isn’t quite what it used to be, but I’m pretty sure that just a few weeks ago I wrote a column about birding South Monomoy. (At least I think that was me.) And just about every April I write a column that is totally about local birds. Sometimes these birds are so local they can’t be found anywhere else in the world. But not to worry. I have the day off tomorrow and I’m planning a day of birding. If I find a good spot, I’ll write about it. But if the day is a bust, I’ll just pretend your question got lost in the mail or the dog ate it. (Some excuses never go out of style.)

I awoke to a beautiful morning and the forecast was for the weather to become even more beautifuller as the day went on. I decided it would be a good day to check out Pochet Island. Pochet Island, which sits in the northern section of Pleasant Bay in Orleans, should be in the hall of fame of the world’s truly amazing properties. Not only is the island drop-dead gorgeous and a great place to see birds, but it is also loaded with good karma…super good karma. Where does the good karma come from? Pochet is a private island, but in an astonishing act of generosity, the property owners don’t discourage visitors. In fact, they welcome all who want to explore the island (as long as we don’t act like boneheads). How cool is that? Someone needs to send these folks a basket of muffins.

The other good news about visiting Pochet Island is that you don’t need to take a boat to get there. All you have to do is walk and cross a short bridge. However, the walk is over a mile and a half long, through soft sand. That makes it tough for folks who have mobility issues. But, on the other hand, it keeps away the tour buses, school groups and, hopefully, the ubiquitous dog walkers. The hike begins at the far end of the Nauset Beach parking lot. Once you park your car, head south down the ORV trail, which runs along the backside of the beach. The minute I stepped on the trail I was greeted by a passing Northern Harrier (aka, Marsh Hawk to old people like me). I interpreted the harrier sighting as a good omen. We’ll see.

After walking on the ORV trail for about ten minutes I came to a bridge on my right. Don’t take this bridge. In sharp contrast to the good folks on Pochet Island, this bridge leads to a neighborhood of homeowners who are considerably less generous. Instead of welcome, they have plastered this beautiful area with an endless array of no trespassing signs. I continued down the road for another thirty minutes until I spotted a second bridge. This is the charming entrance to Pochet Island. Before you cross the bridge you need to know a fairly important piece of information. The path leading to the bridge floods big time at high tide (after all, it is an island). I checked my watch and saw that I had nearly three hours until the tide came in. That should give me plenty of time to explore the island, check out the birds and make it back across the bridge. We’ll see.

The first thing I heard after I crossed the bridge was a huge mob of screaming crows. Most people tend to ignore crows (or complain about them), but crows are nature’s early warning system. They sound the alarm whenever a predator is spotted. I was sure that if I found the crows, I would also find a large hawk or an owl of some sort. But before I could focus on the crows, I became distracted by a mockingbird…a very obsessed mockingbird. Each spring we receive tons of calls when territorial birds attack their reflections. By fall birds have abandoned their territories and have stopped all of the crazy attacking. Well, not all birds. Mockingbirds set up a separate winter territory and fight to protect it. About twenty feet from a berry-filled bush (the mocker’s favorite winter food) was an old shed, with a very reflective old window. This mockingbird could clearly see “another” mockingbird in the window and it wasn’t having any of it. The harder this poor bird attacked the “intruding bird,” the harder the intruder fought back. I watched the battle for while, but then had to continue my search for the noisy crows. The mocker and its twin would have to settle their score without me.

A large percentage of Pochet Island consists of wide-open fields, so when I stumbled upon a hidden trail through the woods, I took it…of course. The trail, which was totally covered in a canopy of lovely-smelling cedars, slowly wound its way towards the south end of the island. The path was so enchanting that I half expected to come across a family of Hobbits on their way home from work. After about ten minutes of meandering, the trail ended on bluff that offered a stunning view of both Pleasant Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Wow! Are you kidding me? I just stood there, taking deep breaths and taking it all in. I might have stood there all day, but the crows were getting louder. I like beautiful scenery, but I really came here to see birds. I went back down the Hobbit trail, determined to find what the crows were yelling about. I’ll let you know what I found next week.




Artwork by Catherine Clark


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