the last (and first) time i went naturing with jesse was about a year ago, when we went to the [chuck] norris reservation in norwell and then later visited nearby scituate. that was my first time seeing eiders (since then they're common enough a winter shore bird that i hardly notice them now). today jesse and i joined forces once again to look for winter birds in nahant. i've been to nahant one other time, with joel back during the summer of 2005. as i recalled, the weather was sort of overcast, which was the case today as well. although nahant is very far from somerville-cambridge, it involves driving through some heavily industrialized areas of everett, charlestown, revere, and lynn, and it's not a particularly scenic or fun drive, until you actually get close to nahant.
nahant is essentially an island connected to the mainland via a strip of land (these geographic formations are called tombolo). driving into nahant, i spied a flock of birds i've never seen before at the head of nahant beach. since there was no way we could make a u-turn, we had to drive all the way down the strip of land before we could turn back around. feasting on the grass was a flock of canada geese; behind them, a flock of brants, which from a passing glance resemble smaller sized canada geese. for some reason i knew what they were called even though i don't remember ever seeing one in the wild before. later jesse was able to verify the identification from her copy of the peterson's field guide stashed in her car.
from the grassy field we walked to lynn harbor, on one side of that long stretch of road leading into nahant proper. here the water was calm and the shoreline was littered with rocks and shells. there were the ubiquitous seagulls but as well as some unfamiliar sea birds out in the water. for the most part they were too far away to see clearly (and definitely too far to get any good photos). it was also raining, so i was fumbling with not only my camera lenses but my umbrella as well. there were eiders, and a lot of small black and white ducks which we later identified as buffleheads. i'd seen wild buffleheads only one other time before, when i went to the great esker park in weymouth last winter. buffleheads also dive down underwater to feed, and pop back up to the surface, but not with the same hilarity as harlequin ducks. jesse also spotted some sanderlings
black-bellied plovers (they lose their characteristic black bellies during the winter) walking about nearby.
we crossed over the road and explored nahant beach on the other side. here the shoreline faced the ocean, as the receding waves lapped the beach clean of debris. there were no other birds here other than various seagulls of all shapes and sizes. there were people jogging, and people just walking around, and a few folks walking their dogs.
we got back into the car and drove into nahant proper. by then the rain had stopped. we snacked on the bag of wednesday bread i brought with me. we went to the very end of nahant and parked by canoe beach (despite the signs warning it was resident permit parking only).
a man was taking photographs and told us it was a great day for fishing because of the grey weather. despite the dreary conditions, the weather wasn't particularly cold (at least not for this time of the year, temperature at 51 degrees). the sky seemed to threaten rain but it never did rain after the initial drizzle when we first arrived.
motivated by a need to find a bathroom for jesse, we walked through the fence (despite the numerous "no trespassing signs") into east point, home of northeastern university's marine science institution. thinking that maybe we were the only ones there, we actually bumped into quite a few people (which made it difficult for jesse to find a suitable outdoor commode). we were even more surprised to find that the place was in fact a local park, with well-managed trails for walking and wooden benches for resting. the view was amazing, although a little dangerous since one false step could drop you into the craggy rocked oceanside abyss down below.
from our vantage point we could see distant light houses flashing their beacons. nearby was egg rock, an offshore island seemingly teeming with bird life as seen trough the binoculars. down below occasionally we'd see a sea bird or two, far enough away to sometimes be hard to identify. the weather looked violent, and at certain points on the horizon you couldn't tell where the ocean ended and the sky began. from the numerous abandoned gun turret tracks and cannon shelters we surmised that at one point this place was used as some sort of military bunker.
after about 3 hours of nahant exploration, it was time to go back home. along the way i asked jesse if she could do me a huge favor and drive me to allston so i could pick up a $20 apple keyboard from a craig's list seller. she said sure but first we had to stop at her apartment where she had to get something to eat. i shared some of her leftover soup and we ate some more of wednesday bread (it tasted better toasted). afterwards she drove me to allston were i got the keyboard and then dropped me off in cambridge.