many charms and attractions include one of the richest ornithological
heritage's anywhere in the country: the town's location, thrusting
prominently seaward combined with its diversity of habitats have
long attracted both birds and bird watchers from far and wide.
Premier among the town's and, indeed, the Northeast's)
avian hotspots is the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge. This
coastal jewel encompasses some 2,500 acres, mostly islands, comprising
dunes, saltmarsh, tidal flats, freshwater ponds, and seaside
thickets which provide habitat for numerous nesting gulls, terns,
herons, and waterfowl, as well as a multitude of migrant shorebirds,
ducks hawks-the magnificent Peregrine Falcon is a feature-and
songbirds. Although most of the refuge and its birds can be reached
only by boat, a small portion, including the austere but beautifully
situated headquarters building, is located on Morris Island which
is accessible by road. The beach and flats on this portion of
the refuge host an excellent variety of waterbirds year round
and a visit there is well worthwhile. Those wishing to make a
boat trip to the islands should contact the refuge headquarters
(508-945-0594). The guided tours offered by the Wellfleet Bay
Wildlife Sanctuary (508-349-2615) or the Cape Cod Museum of Natural
History (508-896-3867) are highly recommended.
Chatham Light overlook, one of the most popular tourist
stops on Cape Cod, affords some fine bird watching as well. Gulls,
terns, and sea ducks are often abundant, though you will need
a telescope to see many of them. The adventurous birder can embark
from here on a trek down South Beach, the long barrier spit visible
to the south. South Beach attracts many of the same birds found
nearby on Monomoy islands and often in the equally impressive
numbers, but it is an arduous hike to reach the largest concentrations
of birds at the south end of the spit.
The Chatham Fish Pier, another popular tourist attraction,
is a good birding spot, particularly during the winter when gulls
and sea ducks can be viewed, often at very close range.
Pleasant Bay forms the scenic northern border of Chatham
and hosts a wonderful array of bird life, especially waterfowl.
Great views of the bay can be had from the ends of Scatterce
and Cotchpinicut Roads in North Chatham, and from Strong Island
Road in Chathamport.
Chatham's southern coastline, fronting on Nantucket Sound,
also has much to offer birders. Forest Beach is worth checking
for wintering ducks and herons, and shorebirds during the warmer
months. Be sure to look for Ospreys that nest on one of the poles
in the marsh. Harding's Beach is a lovely barrier beach, well
worth a visit at any season. A walk to the picturesque old lighthouse
(privately-owned) at the end of the spit may produce Northern
Harriers coursing the marsh, wintering Snow Buntings, Horned
Larks and sparrows at any season, nesting Piping Plovers, a few
migrant shorebirds, and a good assortment of wintering ducks