April 2020

Vol. 48, No. 2

Coastal Birding from Wareham to the Cape Cod Canal

Nate Marchessault

The Wareham area is not well known as a birding hotspot. In fact, most people probably have been to Wareham only to get to Cape Cod or to watch cranberries being harvested. Despite the lack of birding coverage, there are plenty of locations that warrant exploration all year.

Due to its coastal location, Wareham's beginnings were in the shipbuilding industry. Today, cranberries are its major industry. Therefore it is only natural that one of the birding locations in the area is a complex of old cranberry bogs. Wareham, Bourne, and Sandwich are the towns that abut the Cape Cod Canal. The canal slices through Bourne and Sandwich—which are officially part of Cape Cod and Barnstable County—putting a small section of each town on the mainland. Wareham, west of Bourne, is entirely on the mainland and is part of Plymouth County. It was incorporated as a town in 1739 by combining territory from parts of Rochester and Plymouth.

The Cape Cod Canal is an artificial waterway that was built to improve navigational safety. "The Canal" (as locals call it) is an approximately seven-mile-long shortcut from Buzzards Bay to Cape Cod Bay that allows ships to bypass more than 100 miles of treacherous Atlantic Ocean waters along the coastline of Cape Cod. The Boston, Cape Cod, and New York Canal Company began digging the canal and building the bridges over it in 1909, finishing in July 1914. The canal was a privately owned toll waterway until the federal government purchased it in 1927. The United States Army Corps of Engineers widened the canal to 480 feet from the original 100 feet and built the current Bourne and Sagamore bridges and a new railroad bridge in 1935. The canal had a different entrance when it was first built; remnants of the original entrance near Mashnee Island in Bourne can be seen on a satellite map.

Map 1. Overview of Wareham.

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