Thursday, June 14, 2012

Urban Oasis # 4: Birds and Boston's Fort Point Channel

A new dock in Boston's Fort Point Channel offers kayakers easy access to the water and great views of the city skyline. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2012.
Although I walk past the Fort Point Channel almost every day of the week, I have to admit that I don't actually know very much about this waterway or its role in Boston's history. I have noticed on more than one occasion, though, that a variety of waterfowl and diving birds are attracted to this relatively narrow corridor of dark water which sits in the shadow of the Boston skyline. This past winter I noted Mallards, Canada Geese, a Mute Swan, several Red-breasted Mergansers and a loon, not to mention numerous species of gulls, making use of the channel and various structures around the water. This spring brought Double-crested Cormorants to the channel, and Common Grackles, House Sparrows, Canada Geese and gulls remain present on the grassy patches and sidewalks close to the edge of the water.

Boston's Fort Point Channel offers visitors is a prime example of a city structure that has endured the test of time and connected generations of Bostonian to the harbor beyond. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2012.
At one time the channel was a very busy place, helping to supply Boston with the goods and materials that citizens needed for daily life. The Boston Public Library has put together a great website with a shirt history of the channel, which notes in part that

"In the early years of the Channel its wharves were used mainly for the storage of molasses and wool, but as Boston grew in prominence as a center for industry, brick and granite factories gradually replaced wood-framed storage sheds"

To read more of this interesting history, you can check out this page here. 

Seeing so many birds in the channel also got me interested in learning a little more about the wildlife in and around the harbor (which was, as I noted in my last post, at one time extremely polluted) especially with the presence of cormorants and Red-breasted Mergansers, given their role in the food chain as predators of fish.  I wonder if anyone has done a comprehensive study of the bird life which makes use of the channel throughout the year ? If so, I would love to hear about it (and share the results with New England Nature Notes readers) and to find out if the presence of marine life in and around the channel has noticeably increased since the clean-up of Boston Harbor. In any case, I plan to reach out to the people at Save the Harbor and the New England Aquarium to see if someone there might be interested in doing an interview for this site about the harbor, so please stay tuned for that. In the meantime, if anyone out there has interesting photos or a story relating to the ecology of Boston Harbor, I would love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2012.

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