Birds and Beach!
A Trip to Plum Island, MA.
I must confess that this road trip is one I will gladly take time and again. I visit the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island, just outside Newburyport, MA as often as I can. As the place I came on our first date, I may be prejudiced, but nonetheless it is a beautiful spot that I encourage you to visit. Located just over the border from New Hampshire, this refuge offers a wide variety of activities for everyone. As a protected wetland, it shelters many shorebirds and is a good resting place for birds during spring and winter migration. Established in 1941, this refuge has miles of shore on one side and salt marshes and ponds on the other. Rachel Carson even wrote about it, you can find the link on this page, along with a lot of other helpful information.
One of the nicest things about this refuge is that it is very accessible. For toddlers, older folks or for those who are not as mobile but still want to get out in nature. Though leave your four-legged friends at home, they are not allowed on the refuge. There are boardwalks and wide paths that are wheelchair and stroller friendly. There are towers to climb to better see the birds and the landscape. And there is a pristine beach too. If the beach is your primary destination, be sure you check the website to make sure that the beach isn’t off limits. The piping plover, an endangered species, nests on the beaches each year.
Although migration is the ideal time to come if you want to see a lot of birds you can go anytime and still enjoy the birds. Two weeks ago, I saw a bald eagle, great blue heron, several hawks and many different ducks. On the beach side of the refuge we watched gulls and waves as we strolled a near empty stretch along the ocean. If you want to try your hand at fishing or clamming you can obtain a permit and bring your gear.
Before entering the refuge, I encourage you to stop at the visitor’s center. The staff are helpful and there are some wonderful exhibits about the park along with some additional information about the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Directly across from the visitor’s center is the Joppa Flats Education Center, run by Mass Audubon. A family friendly stop this dedicated group offers classes and keeps track of birds seen on the island each day.
Plum Island itself is fun to explore. It is a small barrier island filled with beach cottages, a public beach and several restaurants. Bob Lobster is a traditional seafood shack that is open year-round. I have not sampled the Plum Island Grille yet, but if their full parking lot is any indication, it is on my must- try -soon list.
Next week we will continue our road trip and explore Newburyport, Massachusetts. Although you can do both in the same day, to give each place your full attention, it is best to either start very early, or stay overnight to fully enjoy this unique New England region.