new Buzzards Bay Coalition website

We’ve launched a new website and blog!

The Buzzards Bay Coalition recently launched a new website at savebuzzardsbay.org. The redesigned Buzzards Bay Coalition website features brand new content about Buzzards Bay and places where you can get outside and explore the region.

If you’re looking for our old blog posts, you can find them over on our new blog at savebuzzardsbay.org/news. There, you can sign up for our monthly Bay Buzz email newsletter to stay up to date on the latest news, events, and adventures on Buzzards Bay.

volunteers and first responders practice an oil spill response on Buzzards Bay

As official volunteer coordinator, Coalition working with partners to improve oil spill response

In the event of another major oil spill on Buzzards Bay, thousands of local residents like you will undoubtedly want to pitch in to help. And as the official volunteer coordinator for Buzzards Bay, the Coalition is your first call to find out what you can do should a spill happen here.

Although we hope to never see another major oil spill foul Buzzards Bay’s beautiful shoreline, it’s important to prepare for the possibility. At a day-long session hosted by the Coast Guard this month, partners from federal and state agencies, local first responders, and the Coalition gathered to plan how partners will communicate, coordinate, and respond to an oil spill.

The Coalition is the designated volunteer coordinator for Buzzards Bay by the Coast Guard and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This is an integral role that we filled in 2003 after the Bouchard B-120 spill, when a barge ran aground and spilled 98,000 gallons of heavy #6 fuel oil into the Bay.

Thankfully, it’s less likely now that Buzzards Bay will see another major oil spill. In the wake of the Bouchard B-120 spill, the Coalition led a successful campaign to secure the Massachusetts Oil Spill Prevention Act, one of the strictest oil spill prevention laws in the country. We’ve taken the lead to protect Buzzards Bay from oil and help communities better respond to spills.

But with 2 billion gallons of oil passing through Buzzards Bay each year, it’s not impossible that the Bay will experience another major spill in the future. Along with federal, state, and local partners, the Coalition will remain ever vigilant to the threat of oil spills in our irreplaceable Bay.

people capture photos of seals in Woods Hole with their phones on a Buzzards Bay Coalition seal watch

15 places to discover the best of winter around Buzzards Bay

Winter can sometimes feel like a journey – a long, dark tunnel between fall and spring. But for those who bundle up and brave the weather, winter on Buzzards Bay is a treasure trove: quiet beaches, beautiful evergreens, surprise wildlife sightings, sparkling snow, and outdoor adventures that aren’t available during the warmer seasons.

Here are 15 places across Buzzards Bay that we recommend you check out this winter to spot wildlife, explore on ski or snowshoe, and simply enjoy the peace of the season.

Search for Wildlife

woman holding binoculars sitting on beach at Nasketucket Bay State Reservation

Birdwatching is popular in winter because new species of birds visit Buzzards Bay during their annual migrations.

This time of year, our local wildlife populations look a little different: new birds migrate here for the season, and seals swim south from Maine and Canada to spend winter along Buzzards Bay’s rocky shores.

If you want to spot some wildlife this winter, join us for a Bay Adventure  – we’ve got seal watches, a bird watch, and lots of hikes lined up through February. But if you prefer to go on a winter wildlife safari of your own, here are a few suggestions:

#1: Gooseberry Island (Westport)

Gooseberry Island is a prime birding destination near the entrance to Buzzards Bay. Visit the island in winter to take a gander at some ganders – and all sorts of waterfowl – or simply enjoy a walk in the quiet season. It can get windy here, so be sure to dress warm.

#2: Haskell Swamp Wildlife Management Area (Rochester/Mattapoisett/Marion)

Haskell Swamp, a state wildlife management area that straddles the Rochester/Mattapoisett/Marion town lines, provides habitat for species like white-tailed deer, coyote, and wild turkey. The wide woods roads offer easy traveling on foot – but be aware that there are no trail maps or signs here, so this area is best for those who are more comfortable exploring. You can also see some species of evergreen trees, which means your winter exploration doesn’t need to be without color.

#3: East Over Reservation, Hales Brook & Sippican River Tracts (Marion/Rochester)

The trail at the Hales Brook and Sippican River Tracts of East Over Reservation crosses a small stream and unique wetland habitat. These protected sections of water are a haven for wintering birds. You’ll also spot holly and other evergreens along the way to brighten your walk. Access the 2.5-mile trail from County Road in Marion.

#4: Great Sippewissett Marsh (Falmouth)

Great Sippewissett Marsh is another excellent birding destination, best accessed on foot from Chapoquoit Beach at low tide. This marsh was a cedar swamp thousands of years ago, but rising sea levels flooded the swamp. The peat moss from the swamp created the base for the marsh, providing lots of food for migrating waterfowl.

Hit the Beach

a girl walks on the beach in Wareham in winter

Beachcombing is a fun activity for kids and families all year long.

In the summer, beaches across Buzzards Bay are bustling with bodies. But in the winter, you can have a whole beach to yourself. Believe it or not, our local beaches are a prime winter destination for outdoor exploration. Hunt for shells and sea glass, walk your dog, or enjoy one of winter’s golden sunrises or pretty pastel sunsets.

Here are a few of our favorite beaches to explore in winter:

#5: Horseneck Beach State Reservation (Westport)

In the summer, Horseneck Beach is one of the busiest spots on Buzzards Bay. But in winter, the crowds dissolve, leaving a vast expanse of beach that’s perfect for long walks at sunset. Plus, dogs are allowed here during the off-season, so it’s a great place for our four-legged friends to get some exercise, too. Make sure to watch for marked piping plover nesting areas and take your time to explore one of Buzzards Bay’s treasures.

#6: Fort Taber (New Bedford)

New Bedford’s extensive beaches are considerably quieter during the winter months. Enjoy the solitude and the views of New Bedford Harbor, Butler Flats Lighthouse, and Buzzards Bay from Fort Taber while searching for shorebirds and seashells.

#7: West Island State Reservation (Fairhaven)

West Island State Reservation is on the eastern side of the island, making its beaches and salt marshes an ideal place to enjoy a glorious winter sunrise. West Island is wonderful for a walk any time of day; wide, flat paths lead through the woods to the shoreline, and the sandy beaches offer quiet places to enjoy the beauty of the Bay.

#8: Onset Beach & North Water Street Beach (Wareham)

This pair of beaches in Onset Village provide lovely views of Onset Bay and Broad Cove, respectively. In the summer, Onset is a busy destination for beachgoers and tourists; in winter, it offers a quiet place to walk and reflect. Watch the sun set over Broad Cove from Wareham Land Trust’s North Water Street Beach, admire Onset Bay from Onset Beach, or take a short jaunt over the Stone Bridge in Onset and string the two together on a tour of charming Onset Village.

#9: Old Silver Beach (Falmouth)

In the summer, Falmouth’s Old Silver Beach is popular with swimmers and sunbathers. In the winter, the beach population shifts to dog walkers and beachcombers — and explorers like you! Enjoy views of the Bay as you search the shore for wildlife and washed-up treasures.

Take to the Trails

a boy on snowshoes next to Onset Bay in Wareham

Snowshoeing is a fun winter activity that explorers of all ages can do!

Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are two great activities that let you take advantage of winter snow. They’re both great exercise, and they’re a lot of fun! Plus, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are easy for beginners, but offer plenty of long-term enjoyment for more experienced adventurers.

Last year, we gave you some suggestions for places to snowshoe and cross-country ski around southeastern Massachusetts. Here are a few more:

#10: Westport Town Farm (Westport)

At The Trustees’ Westport Town Farm, visitors can travel back in time as they traverse the landscape. The site was a working farm for more than 100 years, and an antique farmhouse and stone walls still remain. The mile-long trail loop follows an old farm lane, and the broad path makes for easy movement on skis or snowshoes.

#11: Destruction Brook Woods (Dartmouth)

Destruction Brook Woods’ wide, gentle trails are perfect for practicing skiing and snowshoeing. This Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust property is home to several trails of various lengths, so no matter how much time you have, you can plan a great adventure here.

#12: Nasketucket Bay State Reservation (Mattapoisett)

The wide paths at Nasketucket Bay State Reservation in Mattapoisett are ideal for hardy explorers to tromp through on snowshoes. And the coastal scenery along Nasketucket Bay makes for a beautiful final destination. Bring a thermos of something warm to enjoy along with the view, and it’ll make your trek extra special. You can access the reservation from the main parking area on Brandt Island Road or by way of Shaw Farm Trail in Fairhaven.

#13: Myles Standish State Forest (Carver)

Several of the trails at Myles Standish State Forest are designated for skiing during the winter. Additionally, some of the roads that are open in summer are gated in winter, creating undisturbed routes through the pine barrens that are a wonder to discover.

#14: Cautamet Greenway (Bourne)

Bourne Conservation Trust’s Cautamet Greenway has a maze of trails along Red Brook Harbor. They’re fairly hilly, so this place is best explored on snowshoe or by experienced skiers. The variety of trails and views of Red Brook Harbor make Cataumet Greenway well worth a visit to see how snow transforms the landscape.

#15: Beebe Woods (Falmouth)

The glacial landscape at Falmouth’s Beebe Woods gives skiers gentle slopes to glide down. Many of the paths that wind through the woods are wide, which is great for both skiing and snowshoeing. Start at Highfield Hall and venture out to the Punch Bowl or Ice House Pond, or visit the sheep and their attendant guard llama at Peterson Farm.

If you want to get outside and discover some of these places this winter, then join us for a Bay Adventure!

a duck on the icy Acushnet River at The Sawmill

14 birds to watch for on Buzzards Bay this winter (and where to see them!)

Sure, winter can be a bit chilly. But if you venture outdoors during our coldest months, you’ll find a vibrant variety of birds that visit Buzzards Bay.

Winter offers incredible opportunities for birding and wildlife watching here in southeastern Massachusetts. Many different species of birds that migrate along the Atlantic Flyway settle here for the winter. Some of these species we see here in winter spend their summers in the Arctic, which means they’re only here this time of year. Searching for our winter visitors can be a fun diversion as temperatures turn chilly, and the fact that these birds usually aren’t around the rest of the year provides a little extra incentive to bundle up and get outside.

In addition to the usual robins, mallards, sparrows, and starlings, here are 14 birds you might see this winter, and some suggestions for places you can go see them. So grab your binoculars and head outdoors, whether on your own or with us on a birdwatching Bay Adventure. And remember, this list is just the beginning — bring along a field guide and see what other species you can find!

1. American Wigeon (Anas americana)

American widgeon flying through the air

American wigeons can be identified by their small, gray bill. (Image: hjhipster/Flickr)

American wigeons are dabbling ducks, which means they feed at the surface of the water instead of diving underwater. American wigeons eat more plant matter than other species of dabbling duck, perhaps because they often leave the water to feed in fields.

The American wigeon has a small, gray and black bill. Males can be distinguished by their white foreheads, which is why this species was once called “baldpate.” They favor shallow freshwater wetlands. Look for them in places like Sippican Harbor or along the Agawam River in Wareham until April, when they return to Montana, Idaho, and North Dakota for the summer to breed.

2. Brant (Branta bernicla)

a brant goose standing on a rock by the water

Check the coastline of places like Dartmouth, New Bedford, and Fairhaven for flocks of brant geese. (Image: hjhipster/Flickr)

If you see a goose that doesn’t quite look like the common Canada goose — a little smaller, a little darker — then you may have spotted a brant. Brants are great travelers; they nest farther north than any other goose, and when they migrate they fly at altitudes of several thousand feet high.

In the winter, brants visit Buzzards Bay to feed on eelgrass, and can be seen in flocks along the coastline at places like Demarest Lloyd State Park in Dartmouth, West Island in Fairhaven, and New Bedford Harbor.

3. Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)

a flock of buffleheads floating on the surface of the water in winter

Buffleheads are small diving ducks whose white face patches make them easy to identify. (Image: Jeff Bryant/Flickr)

One of our smallest wintering waterfowl, buffleheads are chunky little ducks with a striking appearance. Males have a large white patch on the back of their puffy head, and females have a white smudge on their cheek. They may have evolved their small size to fit in their nesting holes, created in tree trunks by large woodpeckers.

Buffleheads are diving ducks, bobbing in and out of the water in search of insects and shellfish in sheltered areas along the coast. Look for them in places like Little Bay and Nasketucket Bay in Fairhaven, Sippican Harbor in Marion, Red Brook Pond in Bourne, and along Cape Cod Canal.

4. Common Eider (Somateria mollissima)

some common eiders on the water next to two harbor seals

Flocks of common eiders are often seen in Woods Hole in winter, along with another winter visitor: harbor seals!

With their distinctive wedge-shaped head and bill, common eiders are another winter duck that’s simple to identify from land. The common eider is the largest duck in the northern hemisphere. Like most other duck species, the males are colorful whereas the females are a dull brown color.

Although eiders are sometimes seen here in summer, they’re most abundant in winter. Flocks of hundreds – even thousands! – of eiders can be spotted in places like Woods Hole, Horseneck Beach and Gooseberry Island, and at the head of the Bay and in Cape Cod Canal.

5. Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)

a common goldeneye takes off over the water

Common goldeneyes are named for their bright yellow eyes, which stand out against their dark head. (Image: Rick Derevan/Flickr)

Named for their piercing yellow eyes, common goldeneyes actually transition through a series of eye colors: from gray-brown when they’re hatchlings to purple-blue, blue, and blue-green before changing to their golden eye color as adults.

The common goldeneye migrates south later than other ducks, and so you may not see one until after other species, like buffleheads, have already arrived. Look for them throughout Buzzards Bay, from Gooseberry Neck, West Island, and Nasketucket Bay across to Great Sippewissett Marsh, Quissett Harbor, and Woods Hole on Cape Cod.

6. Greater Scaup (Aythya marila)

male and female greater scaup floating on the water

Male and female greater scaup look very different. Males have a dark head, chest, and tail, whereas females are brown with a white smudge on their face. (Image: skuarua/Flickr)

Greater scaup are another diving duck, like buffleheads. Both males and females have a pale blue bill with a black tip, but that’s where their similarities end. Males have a completely dark head, chest, and tail with a lighter back and underbelly, whereas females are brown with a patch of white feathers around their bill.

The greater scaup has a lookalike relative, the lesser scaup, which is more commonly seen on inland waters. Look for flocks of scaup on the water at places like Fort Taber in New Bedford, Fort Phoenix in Fairhaven, Mattapoisett Harbor and Sippican Harbor, Little Bay Conservation Area in Bourne, and Woods Hole.

7. Green-Winged Teal (Anas carolinensis)

female green-winged teal standing on the water

As their name implies, green-winged teals have a distinctive green patch on their wings. (Image: Ingrid Taylar/Flickr)

When watching for green-winged teals, look for the distinctive iridescent green patch on their wings. Otherwise, females look similar to female mallards, but smaller; males have a red and green head with a speckled chest and a white stripe up their shoulder. They feed in marshes and wetlands, dabbling at the water’s surface for seeds.

Green-winged teals aren’t always as common here as some other winter species, but there’s usually a few to find each year. Look for flocks of green-winged teals in marshes and mud flats at Allens Pond in Westport, Washburn Park in Marion, or Four Ponds Conservation Area in Bourne.

8. Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)

hooded merganser pair on the water

Hooded mergansers get their name from the feathers on the back of their head, which form a tall plume or “hood.” (Image: don r faulkner/Flickr)

Mergansers can be differentiated from other ducks by their bills, which are thinner than most. The hooded merganser, however, is unique even among mergansers — this bird is the only living member of its taxonomic genus!

Hooded mergansers get their name from the feathering on their head, which forms a tall plume or “hood.” In their winter plumage, the hood can look a little bedraggled. They prefer shallow water, both in bays and inland on rivers, ponds, and swamps. Look for them in places like Great Sippewissett Marsh, along the Acushnet River at LaPalme Farm and The Sawmill, or along the Agawam River in Wareham.

9. Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris)

horned larks in a snowy field

Look for horned larks in the farm fields of Fairhaven, Dartmouth, and Westport this winter. (Image: bob pruner/Flickr)

Around here, horned larks stay close to sea level. But these little songbirds are versatile, and can live at elevations up to 13,000 feet.

Horned larks gather in flocks in areas with bare ground and minimal vegetation, such as mowed or plowed fields. They have a yellow face with a black mask around the eyes and small black tufts of feathers that look like horns on top of its head. Look for them at places like Shaw Farm Trail, the Barney’s Joy area of Dartmouth, and around the Westport Rivers.

10. Purple Sandpiper (Calidris maritima)

purple sandpiper on a rock by the shore

This tough little shorebird nests deep in the Arctic in summer, and spends its winters along the rocky coasts of the eastern U.S. (Image: nebirdsplus/Flickr)

The purple sandpiper nests in parts of the Arctic that are so remote, the bird is rarely seen except when it migrates south in the winter. They’re also unique because they typically mate in monogamous pairs, and the male will care for the hatchlings.

Look for this mottled gray sandpiper on rocky, wave-battered shores or foraging among washed-up seaweed at Gooseberry Neck, West Island, and Woods Hole.

11. Red-Breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)

two red-breasted mergansers on the water

Red-breasted mergansers have feathers that look like spiky hair on the back of their head. (Image: Eric Heupel/Flickr)

The red-breasted merganser holds the record for the fastest duck ever recorded, traveling at 100 miles per hour while pursued by an airplane! Like the hooded merganser, it has a thin bill, but instead of a “hood” on the back of its head, it has more of a spiky hairstyle. Look for its red-orange bill and white wing patch, which can be seen during flight.

Red-breasted mergansers appear all along the coastline in the winter, particularly near piers and jetties on salt water. Look for them in places like New Bedford Harbor, Allens Pond, Cape Cod Canal, Quissett Harbor, and Woods Hole.

12. Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis)

snow bunting on a branch with seeds

Snow buntings feed on seeds in winter fields. (Image: Kelly Colgan Azar/Flickr)

With their white plumage and their tendency to travel in flocks, snow buntings have earned the nickname of “snowflakes.” These small songbirds feed on seeds, so they’re often found in fields, especially near the ocean.

Look for snow buntings this winter at places like Great Sippewissett Marsh, Nasketucket Bay State Reservation, Fort Phoenix State Reservation, and Allens Pond.

13. Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata)

surf scoter pair on the water

Male surf scoters stand out with their large, colorful bill set against a mostly black body. (Image: Alexandra MacKenzie/Flickr)

The surf scoter is easily recognized because it has a truly distinctive look: males have a large, thick bill colored in white, red, and orange, with a black patch on either side. Hunters sometimes call this sea duck the “skunk-head coot.”

In winter, surf scoters are most frequently seen in shallow salt water, and they prefer areas where the bottom is pebble or sand. Look for them in places like Gooseberry Island, Quissett Harbor, and around Woods Hole.

14. White-Winged Scoter (Melanitta deglandi)

a white-winged scoter flying over the water

White-winged scoters can be differentiated from surf scoters by the white patch on their wings and the black knob on their bill. (Image: Andrew Reding/Flickr)

White-winged scoters are somewhat similar to their cousins, surf scoters. But you can distinguish a white-winged scoter by the white patch on its wings, which is visible in flight. Also, its head is almost completely black, with only a small white patch below the eye. Males have a knob on their bill, which has the same patchwork of black, white, red, and orange as the surf scoter.

White-winged scoters can be found closer to the shore than other scoter species, and they prefer areas near shellfish beds where they can feed on mollusks like clams and mussels. Look for them near Fort Phoenix, Gooseberry Neck, West Island, and Woods Hole.

If you’re looking for an opportunity to go birding this winter, then we’ve got several Bay Adventures for you! Join us for a bird walk on Nasketucket Bay on Dec. 13 and the Acushnet River on Feb. 13. We’re also offering several Seal and Seabird Watches in Woods Hole all winter long. Sign up today!

two cyclists ride down bike path in Fairhaven

120 bike for clean water during ninth annual Buzzards Bay Watershed Ride on October 4

120 cyclists pedaled across southeastern Massachusetts yesterday to show their support for clean water during the ninth annual Buzzards Bay Watershed Ride.

The Ride was hugely successful, raising more than $90,000 to support the Coalition’s work to restore clean water, conserve land, and engage the community in efforts to protect the Bay. You can still support a rider or make a general donation to the Ride through Monday, Oct. 19.

“The ride was terrific!” said first-time rider Chris Porter of New Bedford. “It was challenging, but the feeling of accomplishment when you cross the finish line is well worth it. I’ll be back next year!”

Strong breezes and blue skies greeting riders in the morning at Horseneck Beach in Westport, where 80 riders began the 75-mile course. The first half of the route wound through Westport’s picturesque coastal farmland, Padanaram village, New Bedford’s working waterfront, the leafy Fairhaven bike path, and Mattapoisett’s rural roads before stopping for lunch at Eastover Farm in Rochester.

“I can’t think of a better way to see the Bay and the surrounding watershed than from a bike…even with 20 knots of breeze in your face!” said Kelly Wilbur, a two-time rider from South Dartmouth. “The more I ride, the more people I can connect with the mission of the Coalition.”

At the farm, 40 additional riders joined the Watershed Ride for the final 35 miles through Wareham’s cranberry bogs, over the Bourne Bridge and down Falmouth’s Shining Sea Bikeway to end at Quissett Harbor in Falmouth.

Everybody was in great spirits at the finish line, where riders and their guests were welcomed with warm food, drinks, prizes, complimentary massages, and live music from local singer-songwriter Rebecca Correia.

The Watershed Ride drew cyclists from nearly 70 communities in eight states and Washington, D.C. Three riders – Tom Gidwitz of Dartmouth, Leslie Knowles of Dartmouth and Ken Lipman of Fairhaven – have participated in every single ride since the event began in 2007.

The top fundraiser was John Mendelsohn of Falmouth, who raised $3,622. In second place was Andy Van Dam of Barrington, R.I., who raised $3,600, and in third place was Jeffrey Gonsalves of South Dartmouth, who raised $3,448. The top fundraising teams, The Buzzards and The Patch Pedalers, raised $6,000 and $3,400 respectively. In total, 13 riders raised more than $1,000 each.

Check out a few photos from the Watershed Ride below. (There are lots more over on our Flickr album!) And save the date for next year’s 10th annual Watershed Ride on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016!

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