Boston’s Harbor Islands Day 2

The next day we met bright and early to travel to Georges Island for some vintage baseball.

It was a pretty good game; I was surprised at how good the players were, though there were several ball drops since they were playing without mitts.

Before the game started, we explored the island to find some tide pools since we were near low tide. I walked around until I found a nice big pile of rocks, then climbed over to the other side to find…

A very large tide pool! It was totally filled to the brim with little shrimps and hermit crabs.

It was also hiding several gulls and one of these cool little birds:

Oystercatchers have these very long, thick bills that let them pry open oyster shells in places like tide pools. If you can imagine the strength of their beaks, try prying one open one day. It’s hard!

If you can imagine how fast the tide comes in, this next picture is shifted a bit to the right of the first one; however, it’s taken only 5 minutes later. I could see the little hermit crabs starting to roll around as the waves started entering the pool.

My companion also had a great eye; as we were walking back to the fort, she noticed all of these other types of crabs hiding just above the tide line:

These are juvenile green crabs, a species that isn’t native to Massachusetts, but started showing up there a little over 100 years ago. Presumably, barges brought them into the Harbor and they decided they liked it enough to stay.

Whilewe wandered around Georges Island some more and tried to avoid the killer swallows, we got some really good looks at some of the gulls inhabiting the island.

This first one is an adult great black-backed gull, the largest gull species in the world. They are monstrous and dwarf all the other gulls in the area. There were also some juveniles skulking around in the background hoping for some bread ends, but instead all they got was blinded by the camera flash. Don’t ask me what kind they were because all the juvies look the same to me.

We also decide to revisit Peddocks Island, where we learned to play Pole Golf from the park rangers (and I got resoundingly beaten by a five year old) and went Indiana-Jonesing all over the old buildings of Fort Andrews. And yes, Indiana-Jonesing is totally a verb, kind of like museuming. While we were traipsing around the crumbling remains of history, we saw so much cool stuff, like wild blackberries and raspberries trailing all over the place:

We also saw something that wasn’t supposed to be on the islands. I saw what I thought was a group of yellow warblers; I snapped a picture of one and we moved on. When I was going through pictures later, I noticed that it was definitely not a yellow warbler I had a picture of.

Any guesses? I actually went to WhatBird for confirmation because I couldn’t believe that there was a group of these on the island. This is a male saffron finch (some of the other pictures I have show the orange spot on his crown). Saffron finches are from South America; so what were they doing in Boston? Apparently people have been using them in a crazy cross between Siamese Fighting Fish and cockfighting. The males will fight to the death over females, so people will put a female between two males and take bets on which male will come out on top. Not only is this brutal, but it’s very sad and terrible.

On a brighter note, the island contains several sparrow species, including some like this little female rose-breasted grosbeak:

All in all, the Harbor Islands are a definitely worthwhile excursion for a weekend. Next week, I’ll tell you about some of the other oceanic things I got up to while I was in Boston.

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