Balmy – “pleasantly warm” and also “foolish and eccentric”
Yes and yes. Well, foolish and eccentric is a little harsh, but I found Cape Cod to be a bit quirky and eclectic, but in a mostly friendly and cheerful way. Also, a warm front had pushed out the frigid arctic air that had been blasting me on Cape Ann, leaving sunshine and unseasonably warm temperatures. Because Cape Cod is surrounded by water, it is blessed with a more moderate climate than rest of Massachusetts. Still, highs in the mid-60s in the first week of December were really unusual, even for the Cape. I made the most of the weather and the delightfully odd offerings of Cape Cod.
One of the first unusual things I found on the Cape was this little fella.
It looks like a Snowy Egret, which would be unusual on Cape Cod in December. But it is, in fact, a lot more unusual that that. This bird is a Little Egret, the Snowy’s Eurasian cousin. Little Egrets are extremely rare visitors to North America. Someone located it in Hyannis Port, just a mile or two from the famous Kennedy compound, a few days before my arrival.
Many North American birds have “sister species” in the Old World – closely related genetic relatives that descended from a common ancestor in the relatively recent past. Little Egrets look very similar to Snowy’s with a couple of subtle differences. Little Egrets have slightly larger, thicker bills and their lores (the area between the eyes and bill) are gray instead of yellow.
I spent the day traveling up the Cape, by which I guess I mean “down” the Cape. In the local parlance, the “upper cape” is the southern end (the “biceps” of the arm) while the “lower cape” is the northern end (the “fist”). I have to admit that this seems totally backwards to me (c.f. Michigan’s southern Lower Peninsula and its northern Upper Peninsula!). Those balmy Cape Codders. Coddians? Coddites?
Eventually I reached Provincetown, the small town on the northern (lower??) tip of Cape Cod. This is a fishing village and tourist spot, and in the off season it felt quiet and peaceful.
Provincetown is actually the very first place that the Pilgrims landed in the New World. They stayed in the area for several weeks, signing the Mayflower Compact there before traveling on to Plymouth. The tall tower in the picture below is the Pilgrim Monument, commemorating their landing in Provincetown nearly 400 years ago. At over 250 feet tall, it is the “tallest all-granite structure in the United States.” Hmmmm.
I also located the tallest Christmas tree made entirely of lobster pots in New England:
The lower Cape is a great place to go birding. Razorbills, a relative of the auks and murres, are common here. I saw several in the area, although they often stayed just a bit too far out for good pictures.
I also saw some dolphins and a whale:
I made two visits to Race Point at the very tip of the Cape. One in the afternoon when the skies were dark and threatening. Hundreds of scoters and mergansers were racing the wind above calm seas that stretched nearly 270 degrees around me at the point.
I returned the next morning at dawn to see Kittiwakes and Razorbills diving for their breakfast in the waves.
After several balmy days on Cape Cod, I felt like this Common Loon – ready for a nap!
But there was no time to lounge around. I had scheduled visits to several well-known schools, and was eager to spend some time with their teachers and students.