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Boston Harbor Islands–Thompson Island

Birding in Massachusetts

Boston Harbor Islands
Important Bird Area
Thompson 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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Suffolk County

BHI–Thompson Island (restricted access)
Coordinates: 42.3154643, -71.0101748
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About Thompson Island
This island of diverse habitats is home to the Outward Bound education center. Access to the island is restricted to participants in the program.

The island is home to Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center, a non-profit organization that puts people in fun but challenging situations in order to help them develop teamwork, compassion, and self-confidence. Activities include sailing, climbing, leadership training, and environmental exploration.

The island’s services include summertime expeditions for youths ages 12-17; leadership, environmental education and summer learning programs for youth groups; and corporate teambuilding with Outward Bound Professional. Thompson Island Signature Events and Conference Center also offers catered clambakes, company outings, parties, weddings, and meetings.

The island’s natural features include a drumlin and a moraine; oak, tamarack, maple, and birch trees; open fields, wildflowers, and berry bushes; and 50 acres of salt marshes. It is home to many animals, including egrets, herons, peregrine falcons, and hermit crabs.

Previously inhabited by Native Americans, David Thompson establishes a trading post on the island in 1626. During the next two centuries, ownership of the island changes several times but is used primarily for grazing livestock. In 1833 the Boston Farm School was established on Thompson Island and merged with the Boston Asylum for Boys two years later. Renamed the Boston Farm and Trade School in 1907, its vocational and farming emphasis remained until the middle of the 20th century when it was renamed Thompson Academy. In 1988, Outward Bound partnered to operate the island, creating a new entity, the Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center. The island continues its mission to serve the underserved youth of Greater Boston with programs that instill teamwork, self-confidence, and compassion, and encourage learning by doing.

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

42.3154643, -71.0101748