Birdwatching in Chatham

Chatham's 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 offshore.


This is a reprint from "Chatham 1997" with kind permission from Thompson's Printing Inc.
51 Finlay Road, Orleans, MA 02653


Stage Harbor Real Estate • 29 Stage Harbor Road • Chatham, MA 02633
Phone: 508-945-0074 • Fax: 508-945-9113 • Email: info@stageharborrealestate.com