Obamas and Ospreys: A Vacation Tip

categories: Cocktail Hour / Don't Talk About Politics

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You are half-way through your vacation, Mr. President.  The kids are bored, and you’re getting antsy, too.  Now that we are friends (sort of) I want to give you a little tip about the island you are on.  Here’s the thing about it: it is lousy with ospreys!  “Ospreys?” you ask in your almost-as-deep-as mine deep voice. “What do I, the leader of the free world, and my kids, the kids of the leader of the free world, care about birds?”

A fair question, Mr. President, but I have an answer for you.  You are a sports fan, right?  And out there on the Vineyard you aren’t seeing much in the way of pro sports.  But right around the corner, in fact maybe right in your backyard at the Blue Heron Farm, the greatest athletes in the world are flying and hovering and diving.  If you don’t believe me take a gander at this video that my friend Ian just sent me:  WILD OSPREY DIVES

Impressive, right?  They really are.  They are big, black-masked birds that hover like giant hummingbirds until they spot a fish and then dive down headfirst before popping a wheelie and going in with their talons.  Of course you may not see a dive right away, but what you can see is their nests: great, shaggy, unkempt affairs–filled with sticks and plastic and boat lines–nests that are big enough for Sasha to sit in. The birds are packrats that will collect anything to jam into their nests, and I once watched a nest that had a naked Barbie doll jammed into the side. But the great thing it that the birds are not particularly shy and so you can watch them go about their osprey business right in front of your eyes.  They might let go with their high pitched warning cry, like a gentle car alarm, but as long as you don’t get too close there is nothing to worry about.

If you want to see a particularly interesting nest, point the motorcade toward the Gay Head lighthouse on the western end of the island. Then you can head over to the Outermost Inn, which is run by Jennie and Hugh Taylor (who may look familiar and happens to be James Taylor’s brother).  Inside the Inn they have a telescope trained on a nest and with the scope you can look right inside the ospreys’ world.  Soon the birds you see will be making their 2000 mile fall journey down to the forests of Columbia and Venezuela.  I know this to be true, Mr. President, because one year I followed them on their journey down to South America.  I was in Cuba at the same time as the bird on the nest so I named it Fidel.  Anyway, the bird you will be looking at will likely be one of Fidel’s offspring, since ospreys are very nest loyal birds. Another good quality you will agree.

After you watch the birds for a while, Hugh, or maybe Larry the Bartender (is he still there?) could show you the path where you can hike down to the beach and walk below the spectacular clay cliffs of Gay Head.  Colors swirl in those cliffs: streaks of red, black, and white clay running down the cliffs and red clay rivulets crossing the beach.  By “clay” I don’t just mean earth, but actual clay, like modeling clay, and the girls will be delighted by the little sculptures people have left, a small red bunny, here, a lobster there.  Sit for a while and listen to the waves and you will see black-and-white eiders bobbing on the surf, terns diving, and rocks covered with cormorants.  you may notice that behind you the cliff is riddled with holes: these are the tunneling homes of bank swallows.

And of course you might well see a hunting osprey, maybe one from the nest you were just watching up at the house. Keep your eyes on the bird, Mr. President, and make sure Michelle and the girls do, too.  Because if it dives you will witness something wildly athletic, something that might just hold you over until football season starts.

After your adventure in nature you’ll be hungry, so head up to the shops near the lighthouse.  There’s a clam shack up there that has great grilled lobster rolls–not too mayonnaise-y–and my daughter highly recommends the little ice cream shop whose name neither she nor I can remember. Maybe ask the Taylors what it’s called—I’m sure they’ll know.

Anyway, I hope you have fun.  And tomorrow you can head over to Scargo Tower in Dennis…..





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