Picture Perfect Morning

at Sandy Neck…

Ever since I was a little girl it has been one of my favorite beaches…

Even back in the day the snow/sand fences were there to keep the parking lot separate from the beach. You can walk along the beach into Sandwich toward the canal or you can walk back toward the tip of the neck to the point that protects Barnstable Harbor. In either direction you can walk for miles. The towns of Barnstable and Sandwich co-own this beach and I remember sitting up late at night waiting for my mother to come home to see if Barnstable had bought the land that extended out into the dunes and behind the great marsh. It was a long and hard battle and an expensive purchase and no one knew for sure which way the votes at town meeting would go.They had bought it! It was the largest piece of conservation land Barnstable had bought and managed at that time and today it is a true jewel in the Barnstable conservation and recreation system.

Even in winter the mystery and romance of the dunes lures walkers, horseback riders and hikers out to explore. The area is great for birding and other sighting of wildlife. Beware of hunters at certain times, however, for the area is also open to certain kinds of hunting. It is open as well to overland vehicles and campers, an agreement that irks some but has made huge supporters of the area in the larger community.

When I was in high school and college I spent untold hours roaming in the dunes, sitting in the sun with friends sharing bad poetry and hopeful dreams. We talked, we napped, we drew pictures, we rolled down the dunes in the warm sand. In winter we hid in the dunes to stay warm on sunny but cold days, days we should have been in a math classroom or history classroom but we were out in nature’s classroom instead. At least that’s what we told ourselves and in many ways it was true. The dunes are wonderful in the summer of course but they take on a very different quality in the winter, a quality that reminds young minds of quests and queries and questions about the meaning of life, survival and death.

Every time I walk on Sandy Neck there are layers and layers of memories of previous years, months and days spent walking here. And yet, as all good beach walkers know, no walk on the beach is quite the same as the one before, the one last year or 20 years ago….Like the birds flying above and the crabs buried below the beach is a living, breathing, ever changing thing….

Every visit is special but some days, like today, the morning is just picture perfect….

Migrating sea ducks and more….

Just after the recent storm I went looking for ducks. Sea ducks, that is. Each winter our bay area beaches are host to thousands of diving ducks, including various scoters and eider ducks as well as loons and grebes. Most come from farther north and west and visit our area for the warmer, more open waters.

At Sandy Neck the other day there were thousands and thousands of scoters and eiders. They were pretty far out and it was hard to really get a good picture of them.

Mostly all you could see for miles in either direction were thousands of these little dark dots on the water….

Many of these birds blew in with the storm and probably found shelter here. Many will disperse and spread into other areas but for this one day it seemed as if all the sea ducks on the east coast were hanging out at the neck…..a pretty amazing sight.

At the canal there were still some young cormorants–note their light necks and chests–

There were some brant–note their dark chests–and they are smaller than Canada geese, which they can resemble from a distance…

and there were about half a dozen loons–some of which were still in between their summer and winter plumages,,,

getting ready for a dive–check the back–

another view

sorry the pictures aren’t better but if you head out in that direction yourself you may be able to get better views!