Cape Ann is a peninsula which juts out into the Gulf of Maine just north of Boston. During the summer it is crowded with tourists and is the departure point for many whale watching boats. In winter the rocky shores are good for seawatching especially before and during a good strong Nor'easter. Any wind from the east enhances the birding at Cape Ann. There is an annual Cape Ann Christmas Bird Count.
There are two ways to visit Cape Ann. Both require warm clothes in winter and a good scope mounted securely on a strong tripod. Restroom breaks require advance planning.
On any winter day, birders may make a tour of the peninsula started at Gloucester and working around to Lanesville. Of course the tour can be done in the opposite direction as well. No birder would make this tour looking only at seabirds.
A second alternative is on the day of a good blow from the North East called a Nor'easter is to take a position at one point and count the birds that pass you at sea. The most popular places for this type of seawatch is Andrews Point in Rockport and Halibut Point State Park. To jump to the information on these sites use the navigation links at the top of the page.
Not Birder Friendly
Cape Ann is densely populated and there is very little public land on the peninsula. Most of the good seawatch areas are adjacent to private lands. Houses that twenty years ago were summer residences only have been converted in recent years to year round residences and the new owners not surprisingly find it disconcerting to have large groups of birders blocking streets.
The Massachusetts State law allows the public access to the beach or water area up to the level of high tide. There are usually public right of ways to the beach between property lines. The catch is they don't have to provide parking and access can effectively be blocked by banning parking on adjacent streets or by restricting it to residents with parking stickers. Birders must respect private property and parking regulations at all times. It is important to know where you can legally go and where you cannot.
While both birders and residents must respect the law, it is best to avoid problems. If you pull up to a viewing area and find a large group of birders already there, move on to the next spot and backtrack later. Large groups should not stay at any one spot very long.
Enhance The Birding Presence
If you patronize any restaurant, hotel, whale watch or other business on Cape Ann use the opportunity to make proprietors cognizant of the money birding brings to the area. Wear your binoculars when shopping, lay them on the table in the restaurant, ask birding questions at the hotel. And yes, do some shopping at Cape Ann. It is a great place to buy a Christmas Kissing Ball. Browse the shops and art galleries at Rockport before Christmas.
Winter: Common and Red-throated Loons, Red-necked Grebe, Horned Grebe, Common Eider, and if you are lucky King Eider, Harlequin Ducks, Long-tailed Ducks, Black, Surf, and White-winged Scoters, Red-breasted Mergansers, Great Cormorants,, Guillemots, Razorbills, Murres, Dovekie, Gannets. Spring and Fall: Shearwaters, Jaegers, Wilson's and Leach's Storm-petrels.
See the seawatch
We will start our tour in Gloucester and proceed to Rockport and on to Lanesville. Take Route 128 north and east from I 95 around Boston. Take Exit 14 or Route 133 south.
After scanning the Gloucester Harbor your next stop is usually Eastern Point. Continue on Route 127 into the heart of Gloucester making a right turn at the first light and a left turn at the bottom of the hill. After the left turn continue to the junction with Route 128. To skip Eastern Point and continue straight. on to Rockport stay on Route 127A. To go to Eastern Point turn right.
Andrews Point WIP
An excellent article on seawatches from Andrews Point see Heil
Page author: Emmalee Tarry