The Red-footed Falcon was a bird that wasn’t on anybody’s radar until August 8, 2004. No one expected that this was a bird that could fly over here because it was a falcon. It hung out in the grasslands for two weeks, and literally 10,000 people came from all over the country to see it. Walter Cronkite was looking through my scope at it. Even people that weren’t interested in birds showed up—there’d be a thousand people lined up along this field. It was like a Martian landed on earth.
I ended up moving to Nantucket after the Linda Loring Nature Foundation was formed. They were looking to hire their first employees in 2007, and they ended up picking Kitty Pochman as executive director, and me. I’m the resident naturalist—I love that title. Our goal is really to educate kids. Linda Loring claimed her interests in the outdoors saved her life when she was a child, and we’re trying to instill that as much as possible with young people. I work with the schools a lot. I’ve taken most of the third, fourth, and fifth graders on Nantucket on field trips.
The Nantucketers and the Vineyarders usually only see each other once a year at the football game. It’s very funny how many people on Nantucket have never been to Martha’s Vineyard and vice versa. The people are similar, but the birds and the geography are really different. Nantucket is very flat. It’s called “The Rock,” but there are actually very few rocks here. It’s way out to sea, very little in terms of vegetation. The biggest trees are downtown.
Nantucket, being further out to sea, has the best gull show. There are more gulls here in the fall and winter than anywhere on the eastern seaboard. Nantucket also has a spectacular flight of these ducks—they used to call them Oldsquaws, but now they’re called Long-tailed Ducks. It would be worth it for anyone to take a trip over here to see this phenomenon. About a million birds spend the night on Nantucket Sound, and they get up every morning just before it gets light, and they fly. They start barking, and they head out over the west end of the island and go south 20, 30, 50 miles off the coast and feed all day on these tremendous concentrations of amphipods, these small things that right whales used to eat. Apparently, they’re so nutritious and they can get so much energy from them that it’s worth the daily commute. They’re flying an extra 100 miles a day that they don’t have to fly. There’s no other duck anywhere in the world that does this. The Long-tailed Duck show on Nantucket is one of the greatest ornithological phenomena, not only in Massachusetts, but anywhere in New England or beyond.
I love living on Nantucket. Of course, where I live on Nantucket is fantastic, too. I’m out here with not really much around me. While we’ve been talking, two Northern Harriers have come by my window. There aren’t many places you can just sit and see that kind of stuff.