Wonderful Essex County islands IBA #ornithology talk by Chris Leahy | Straightsmouth keeper’s house gets love from Thacher Island Assoc & looks like a scene from Edward Hopper!

Esteemed conservationist and bird and insect authority, Chris Leahy discussed recent multi-year surveys of Essex County islands for Mass Audubon and Mass Fish & Wildlife with humor and depth as only he can having resided on the North Shore, in Gloucester, and championed this Important Bird Area for some 50 years.

The islands range in size and offer different kinds of nesting habitat. There are great shoals for fishing. Islands include familiar names like Tinkers, Straitsmouth, Thacher, Children’s, Kettle, House, Eagle, Ram, Cormorant and Ten Pound. Leahy recalled visiting some in the 1960s-70s for the first ever field counts with Dorothy “Dottie” Addams Brown, Sarah Fraser Robbins & others, and readily compares data then and now.

Some of the bird species making the count: gulls, egrets, herons, cormorants, harlequin duck, geese, loon, coots, purple arctic sandpiper, common eiders, and snowy owls. There are not a lot of songbirds due to restricted habitat although so many song sparrows he quips, “it almost feels like they’re going to attack.” Predators do and did. Gulls and rats stuck in my mind, and our ruinous plume hat trade. At that time “Snowy egrets– in FLA and elsewhere south– were slaughtered for plumage developed solely at breeding time, leaving any young to die and rot.”

Climate is partly a factor and population dispersement in the birds they find. Sometimes there are great “fallout” of migratories which are unpredicatable and awesome. Various species are easier to count especially those perched amid low tree shrubs. Guess which ones? Forgot the burrowers! Forecasts are exciting. He predicts we might see Manx shearwters maybe nesting here in the coming years.

Kindness of organizations and people with boats helps make this happen. And one steel hulled sailboat that makes access to these rocky isles a bit more possible.

Chris Leahy presented Treasure Islands for Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library. Mary Weissblum has endeavored to host evenings for Leahy’s numerous publications and projects, so many that she’s lost count. “Always a treat to be educated and charmed by his incredible store of knowledge,” she writes. Look for Chris Leahy’s next talk.

Learn more about Thacher Island Association (Paul St Germain) here 

Learn more about Birdlife International here

photos below ©Linda Bosselman Sawyer Free Library- thanks for sharing Linda!

GREAT NEWS FOR STRAITSMOUTH ISLAND AND CONGRATULATIONS TO PAUL ST. GERMAIN AND THACHER ISLAND ASSOCIATION!!

A huge shout out to Thacher Island Association and president Paul St. Germain for winning an Essex National Heritage Area partnership grant to restore the elevated pedestrian lighthouse walkway on Straitsmouth Island.

Paul St. Germain writes, “We will restore the original C 1850, 220-foot granite and wooden timber walkway to provide safe and easy access for the public to visit the lighthouse from the keeper house. This walkway has been there since 1854 and was destroyed sometime in the 1930’s. Besides its usefulness it has also been an iconic signature of the island’s profile for over 80 years.”

This unique 1906 photo shows the 315-foot walkway, the oil house, and keeper house, as well as Thacher Island’s Twin Lights in the distance.

Facts about Straitsmouth Island Light Station

  
  • First lighthouse was established in 1835 to mark the entrance to Rockport Harbor.
  • The lighthouse was rebuilt in 1851 and again in 1896.
  • A 6th order Fresnel lens was installed in the lantern in 1857.
  • The current Victorian styled keeper house was built in 1878 similar to the one on Thacher Island.
  • In 1932 the light was converted from white to green.
  • Coast Guard moved the station to shore at Gap Head and sold the island to private parties in 1934.
  • Coast Guard continues to maintain the light as an official aid to navigation today. In 1967 the island (except for the lighthouse) was donated to Massachusetts Audubon Society who maintains it as a wildlife sanctuary.
  • Straitsmouth Island was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.
  • In 2010 the lighthouse and 1.8 acres of land was given to the Town of Rockport by the coast guard.
  • In 2014 the Town of Rockport signed a long term 30 year lease with Mass Audubon for the use of the keeper and oil houses.

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THACHER ISLAND LIGHTHOUSE AND STRAITSMOUTH ISLAND LIGHTHOUSE, VISIT THE THACHER ISLAND ASSOCIATION WEBSITE HERE

Straitsmouth Island pounding waves after March nor’easter

DON’T MISS THE FALL ISSUE OF CAPE ANN MAGAZINE!

Don’t miss the current issue of Cape Ann magazine featuring a terrific article about the Schooner Lannon and Captains Heath and Tom Ellis (and Polly Five Toes!), written by Terry Date. There’s also a great read about the Straitsmouth Savages and their restoration efforts to reclaim Straitsmouth Island, written by Mary Markos, with photos by Desi Smith. Our issue arrived this morning and I have yet to read all, but am looking forward to reading from cover to cover.

Video- Straightsmouth Island Restoration Project

Joey, Here is a terrific video of the work being done out on Straitsmouth Island and some footage of Bill Lee’s Ocean Reporter going down.I was on board at the time showing the National Geographic film crew around Thacher and we stopped by Straitsmouth for some photos.We got more than we bargained for.

Paul St.Germain
President
Thacher Island Association