Wednesday, April 1, 2009

March 31, 2009 - Damon's Point, Marshfield, Massachusetts

Damon's Point is today a dead end, a true point, a road that leads to an outstanding view of the North River saltmarshes, and a great place to watch shorebird migration activity in June and September. But if you could speak to a Marshfielder from say, 1875, you'd hear a different tune.

In those days, the people of Brant Rock, a little corner village of Marshfield were hoping to turn their piece of seashore into a summer destination for the people of Boston. They had the hotels, they had the restaurants, and they had the seaside amusements. But they had no reliable, fast way to get people to town. So they asked for the help of a railroad company. The railroad convinced the townsfolk to use their own cash to pay them to build the road, knowing it would eventually fail. When it did, they swooped in and bought it at a very low, unfair price, fleecing the people of Marshfield. The townsfolk were not happy. Not happy at all.

This point, Damon's Point, is a significant reminder of those days. The point, as well as Damon's Point Road, was part of the train right-of-way. There's a small island off the end that carried the railroad across the marsh to the Scituate side, and there was once a bridge that had to be moved for ships to sail through.

It's here, near the mouth of the North River, that the saltmarshes tell their tale, with channels cut between square parcels to show who owned what. I walked from the point to Bartlett's Island and back, ducking a diving sharp-shinned hawk that tried for a goldfinch nearby. I wondered if the island was really an island. It's not surrounded by water, but by saltmarsh, with a causeway built to it from Damon's Point Road. Perhaps it's a New England definition that I should be focusing on rather than a Webster's one. We tend to have different words for some things 'round hee-ya.

Time: 33 minutes.

New species: Snowy egret (130); Amphibians: spotted salamander (4).

Stranger hellos: 3 (155).

The rest of the day: participated in a conference call about osprey monitoring in the region; met the Coast Guard Historian and the Coast Guard Atlantic Area Historian at Coast Guard Station Point Allertoin in Hull, took them for a tour of the Scituate Maritime Museum and then joined them for lunch; worked the afternoon at Mass Audubon; visited a local vernal pool; gave a talk at the Quincy Public Library billed as "A Night with John" (now that's a first!).

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