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Boston Harbor Islands–Calf Island

Birding in Massachusetts

Boston Harbor Islands
Important Bird Area
Calf Island

Boston Harbor Islands webpage
Boston Harbor Islands (National Park Service) webpage
Boston Harbor Islands map
Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area IBA

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Plymouth County

BHI–Calf Island
Coordinates: 42.3405289, -70.895462
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About Calf Island
Tidal marshes, wildflowers, tall grasses, and wild fruit trees are some of the varying aspects of Calf Island.

The island was likely used for seasonal occupation by Native Americans for thousands of years. In the 1600s, the island was granted to Elder Brewster of Plymouth Colony; later it was owned by Charles Apthorp, who also owned Long Island and other property in the harbor. In 1789, the Massachusetts Humane Society constructed a “hut of refuge.”

James Turner (who later became the keeper of Bug Light at the western end of Brewster Spit) owned the island in 1845 and built his home from two deckhouses that washed ashore from the wrecked steamer Ontario. In the same year, the island was occupied by a small group of lobster fishers, who built small wooden shelters on the island. Illegal boxing matches were staged on the island in 1883.

In 1902, Benjamin P. Cheney and his wife, actress Julia Arthur built a colonial style, two-story summer estate with roofs used to collect rainwater. The last of the estate remains were burned in 1971, and one of two chimneys was toppled by vandals in the 1990s. The US Government acquired rights to the island during WWI until the end of WWII.

About Boston Harbor Islands
Located just minutes from downtown Boston, the Boston Harbor Islands include 34 islands and peninsulas spread over 50 square miles. Working with city, state, federal and nonprofit partners, the park is a place where you can walk a Civil War-era fort, visit historic lighthouses, explore tide pools, hike lush trails, camp under the stars, or relax while fishing, picnicking, or swimming, all within reach of downtown Boston.

Between the horn of Cape Ann to the north and the defiant, jutting arm of Cape Cod to the south and east, the Boston Harbor forms a giant crescent in the central coast of Massachusetts and is the beating heart of the New England shoreline. The harbor sits within an ancient feature, known as the Boston Basin, which predates the formation of North America. Over the course of over 400 million years, it has seen tropical latitudes, multiple advances and recessions of the sea, and multiple periods of glaciation—the latter couple of which deposited and then carved many of the hills that currently dapple its surface. Today, within a vibrant metropolitan area, the Boston Harbor Islands provide a dynamic assembly of ecosystems, ranging from rocky, windswept shores to dense forests to developed and filled land—all with a long and complicated history of human use.

The hub islands, Georges and Spectacle, offer a world-class experience complete with hiking trails, picnic areas, interpretative walks, recreational programs, concessions, and state-of-the-art visitor centers. The more rustic islands, Peddocks, Bumpkin, Grape, and Lovells, provide camping adventures that offer a unique experience for locals and visitors to the Boston area. Thompson Island is open to the public via public ferries on specified weekends throughout the summer and fall.

Allow at least a half day to see one island and a day to see more. Georges, Spectacle, and Peddocks Island have fresh water and restrooms, while Lovells, Bumpkin, and Grape island have composting toilets. There are no trash receptacles; please pack out what you pack in.

A visit to the Boston Harbor Islands is an opportunity to play, learn, serve, and work within the largest recreational open space in the Boston area.
From Boston Harbor Islands (National Park Service) webpage

The Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area comprises 34 islands ranging in size from less than 1 acre to 274 acres. A variety of habitats, including marine, rock cliffs, beaches, salt marsh, and forests support many different species in all seasons. Several species of special concern in Massachusetts have been observed on the Islands including Common and Least Tern, Barn Owl, and Common Loon. The Northern Harrier, a threatened species, also occurs on the islands. Significant numbers of colonial-nesting waterbirds, including Double-crested Cormorants, Black-crowned Night-Herons, and Snowy Egrets have been present for at least two decades. Migratory shorebirds, raptors, and songbirds utilize the harbor islands during the spring and fall, and great flocks of waterfowl overwinter there.
From Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area IBA