Sunday, July 19, 2009


Every once in awhile I'll talk to a refuge visitor from out of state or out of town who tells me "I'm staying at the hotel." There's only one hotel on the island so I know they mean Blue. Now Blue has been named one of America's top seaside inns in the July issue of Travel and Leisure. I love how the write-up starts out with "Unlike Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, this 11-mile-long barrier isle off the state’s North Shore has remained relatively undiscovered." Undiscovered by Travel and Leisure readers maybe, but definitely very much discovered by birders and striper fishermen. Birders come from all over to add to their lists during spring and fall migration.


PI may not be "destination birding" the way Cape May or Point Pele or some of the other famous spots but it's up there. I've run into birders from the UK who came specifically for shorebirds during the fall migration. And when there's a rarity like a black-tailed godwit or a fork-tailed flycatcher, the traffic jams on the refuge's one road are legendary. That's why I laughed my ... off when I read in Mark Obmascik's The Big Year that when one of the competitors comes to tick off the fork-tailed flycatcher at Parker River NWR the cars lined up at the gatehouse are there for the "white sand beaches" and not for the fork-tailed flycatcher. As I wrote in my 2004 book list back when I read it: PI does not have white sand and those traffic jams at the gatehouse during the fork-tailed flycatcher's visit that year were definitely people who came to see the bird."


And if PI is not "destination birding" it is certainly "destination fishing". Yesterday when I was watching the "kids fishing day" activity, I remembered visiting Plum Island in the 1950s and dodging around the poles and lines of surfcasters. My childhood memories of the island are very hazy because I was very young and we didn't stay there -- just drove up from Boston to visit my uncle who rented one of the funky little cottages and fished there. I mainly remember being car sick and thinking this island was impossibly far from Boston. It's not. It only seemed that way.

I bought a DVD of Reel People, a documentary about the fishermen of Plum Island, at Surfland to give to my brother Bob The Ex-Pat for his upcoming birthday. I had to watch it first, of course. It was totally worth it to see Unit 61 talking about the biggest fish he ever caught. Yes, everything comes back to life on the refuge. 61's 15 minutes of fame rocks. My other favorite part is about the scientist tagging schoolies in Plum Island Sound. Just after I watched the movie, I read an article in the Daily News of Newburyport about the research.. (Mass Audubon has an article about the acoustic tagging of schoolies project in Sanctuary.)


So now that Plum Island has been discovered by the quaint seaside inn Travel and Leisure crowd, I can only wonder where they're all gonna park.

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