Monthly Archives: January 2014

For the Birds…

After the December hype of the holiday season dies down, things get pretty quiet in the North of Boston region (with the exception of the occasional blizzard – but even those become rather tedious after awhile).  The rest of winter is for the birds.

Literally.  For dedicated ornithologists and casual birdwatchers alike, the end of January/beginning of February bring two of the biggest birding events in the area- the Cape Ann Birding Weekend and Merrimack River Eagle Festival.

CapeAnnWinterBirdingWeekend2014-1024x623Cape Ann Birding Weekend
January 31-February 2, 2014
http://capeannchamber.com/signature-events/cape-ann-birding-weekend/
Bird watchers of all skill levels from all around flock to Cape Ann for the Cape Ann Birding Weekend.  Organized by the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce and Massachusetts Audubon Society, this event birding enthusiasts to join expert guides on tours of birding hotspots, attend birding workshops, and more.  Artists will also be in attendance giving live demonstrations and showing off bird-related pieces.  Explore Cape Ann’s scenic coastline and see winter seabirds, grebes, Harlequin Duck, Purple Sandpiper, and more!

eagle-festival-logo_mediumMerrimack River Eagle Festival
February 8, 2014
http://www.massaudubon.org/get-outdoors/wildlife-sanctuaries/joppa-flats/news-events/the-merrimack-river-eagle-festival
The Bald Eagle makes it return to the Merrimack Valley this February!  Celebrate its return at the Merrimack River Eagle Festival and join the Mass Audubon at Joppa Flats and the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge for a day full of free activities including an Eagle Tour, eagle magnet, mask or button-making, and so much more!  This year, Festival is pleased to debut the Eagle Festival Eagle Eye Scavenger Hunt!  Now through February 8, visit participating Newburyport merchants and find hidden eagle facts in their stores. You can download a scavenger hunt form or pick one up at the Joppa Flats Education Center or at Newburyport Public Library.

A bit of Massachusetts history…

If you look closely, you can see the bit of New Hampshire that separates Maine from Massachusetts. Don’t blink!

Massachusetts and Maine are very close.  Blink as you make your way through Massachusetts up I-95 Northbound and you’ll find that you’re in Maine (during that blink, you’ve missed a bit of New Hampshire, by the way).

Did you know that, at one point in time, Maine and Massachusetts weren’t just close in distance but were also one in the same?  For this week’s Fun Fact Friday, we shared the story of the bond between Maine and Massachusetts.

Until 1820, Maine was a part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 

Among other issues, Maine was disappointed in Massachusetts’ lack of protection during the War of 1812. So, in 1815, the people of Maine began pushing for statehood, which came to a head in 1819, just as Missouri was campaigning for their own statehood.  There had been earlier cries for Maine to be its own state but they weren’t taken terribly seriously and quietly died off.

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img_g5u7_quiz_missou_comp

Map from http://www.mhschool.com/ss/ca/eng/g5/u7/g5u7_quiz.html)

In the early 19th century, there were an equal number of free and slave states.  Missouri, a pro-slave region, wanted to join the Union but abolitionists worried that this would offset the balance and give the slave states the upper hand.  Maine, an anti-slavery region, seized the opportunity and agreed to join the Union as a free state – keeping the balance between abolition and pro-slavery and getting to be their own state.  Thus, under the Missouri Compromise of 1820, Missouri joined the Union as a slave state and Maine entered as a free state.  And was forced to adopt “ME” as its abbreviation because Massachusetts (MA), Michigan (MI), and Minnesota (MN) beat them in the statehood race.

Geographically, in our opinion, the split makes sense as Maine and Massachusetts do not share any borders and it seems that it would be difficult for the Massachusetts government to look after Maine.

Despite this split, though, Massachusetts and Maine remain good friends – both states share an affinity for lobsters and lighthouses and offer fantastic outlet shopping.

To learn more about this separation, visit  http://www.massmoments.org/moment.cfm?mid=81

North of Boston Strange History: The Gloucester Sea Monster

Tales of sea monsters have been around for centuries – the most famous being Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster.  But did you know that Cape Ann (specifically, Gloucester) was once said to be the home of it’s very own monstrous sea serpent?

800px-1817_Gloucester_sea_serpentIn August 1817, reports started surfacing of a creature – anywhere from 40 to 100 feet long – with a horned turtle-esque head (around the size of a horse’s) and a long, scaly jointed body swimming around Gloucester Harbor.  This wasn’t New England’s first sea monster sightings: the earliest reports dated back to the mid-1600’s.  For whatever reason, though, Gloucester’s sea monster caught on and was soon the subject of an investigation by General David Humphreys (formerly of George Washington’s staff) and the Linnaean Society of New England.

Humphreys and the Linnaean Society interviewed and questioned eye witnesses about the mystery creature and published a report dubbing the creature Scoliophis atlanticus.  The report was generally scoffed at and became a subject of ridicule.

Sea monster sightings in Massachusetts seemed to have tapered off after this – the most recent being in 1962 off the coast of Marshfield.  The general consensus seems to be that these sightings are a case of mistaken identity (we can’t help but wonder if perhaps these were whale sightings).  Some argue, though, that over-fishing in the region depleted the creature’s food supply, forcing it to migrate elsewhere.

Whether Gloucester’s sea monster was real or fake, it’s a fun legend.  If it is real, we really hope that one (a friendly one, that is) shows up on a whale watch one day.

Sources:
http://animal.discovery.com/tv-shows/lost-tapes/creatures/sea-monsters-gloucester-sea-serpent.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_serpent
http://www.americanmonsters.com/site/2010/02/gloucester-sea-serpent-massachusetts-usa/