A remodeled nest of a home on Scorton Creek takes a cue from its serene setting
Unlike many other migratory bird species, the bald eagle often builds a nest designed to last for years. The male and female construct their abode together, weaving sticks in the crooks of the strongest tree they can find, up high in the super-canopy of an area where they’ll have the finest of views; and they always build near water. Their work often takes up to three months to complete, during which time the two birds bond—and perhaps dream of the family they will raise together. While the outside of their nest may appear like a rugged pile of sticks, the eagles are painstaking in their efforts to create an interior “egg bowl” that is soft, homey, and even pretty. They use various grasses, mosses and their own downy feathers to craft the most comfortable living area for their fledglings, and they decorate their nests with sprigs of fresh greenery throughout the summer.
Should their mating prove successful and lead to the births of eaglets, the eagles will usually return to their nests year after year. Surely, they will need to renovate each time they migrate home, but they will retain their space. As the couple continues to add additional sticks over the years, eagles’ nests typically grow to about 6 feet in diameter, but some expand to even greater dimensions; the largest on record, found in St. Petersburg, FL, measured nearly 10 feet across and 20 feet deep. Its estimated weight was over two tons. Because of its scale and intricacy, the bald eagle’s nest even has its own name, an aery.
In recent years, the bald eagle has made a comeback on Cape Cod and in Southeastern Massachusetts. Birders spot them at local ponds and estuaries; this past February, the Cape Cod Times ran a photo of an immature bald eagle flying above Scorton Creek in Sandwich. This is an ideal location for these magnificent birds, one with ample forested areas alongside a protected waterway, with Cape Cod Bay just across a barrier beach.
While there may be no actual aery in Scorton Creek yet, a recent home renovation in the area shares some similarities with the work of bald eagles. The home takes advantage of spectacular views, and, appropriately enough, its location is on a street called Nesting Way. The homeowners purchased their abode with the intention of using it as a second home, one to which they could regularly migrate from New York City and New Hampshire. However, a job change led to them selling their place in New Hampshire, purchasing a condo in Boston for work and renovating here in Sandwich. They had owned the home for a year before they began in earnest; the project was massive, one that would require a complete rebuild to create the kind of space that the family would want to use as its primary residence. As the owner describes, “It was a very dark Cape—not one of the five bathrooms had a window. So our main goal was to bring in more light.”
Three craftsmen and designers would take starring roles in the rebuild of the family’s Nesting Way aery: Michael “Mick” Lahart of Pinsonneault Builders in East Falmouth; Dave Johnson of Skaala Architecture in Camden, ME; and Laura Urban of Urban Design Interiors in Harwich Port. Lahart and Johnson worked closely with the family in the initial, rebuilding phases of the renovation, while Urban began her collaboration later on. She would spend over four years with the owners to complete room by room, space by space, the home’s ideal interior. Though the physical renovation came to completion in 2013, Urban’s work continues today, as, like eagles, the family continues to find ways to improve their home.
When the family purchased what would evolve into their home on Nesting Way, the house was, according to the owner, “a colonial take on a Cape.” As such, it seemed more like a fortress, to keep the elements and perhaps hostile intruders at bay. It needed to open up, and the owner’s goal was “to let the outside in.” This can prove difficult, however, in a home with exposure to the sea. Winds and weather race down Cape Cod Bay, especially during the ever-more-frequent nor’easters of winter. Thus, a major part of renovation necessitated the replacement of every window with glass of hurricane grade.
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