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February 2021

Vol. 49, No. 1

Observations from Several Months Spent on the Island of Tuckernuck in 2020

Skyler Kardell


The Gray Heron, originally found on September 5 on Tuckernuck, was subsequently refound the next day by a small party of observers on nearby Muskeget. All photographs by the author.

Tuckernuck is a privately-owned, low-lying island just a stone’s throw away from the “faraway” land of Nantucket, 28 miles southeast of mainland Massachusetts. A few kilometers north of Tuckernuck lies Muskeget Island, a remote slump of sand with a well-documented breeding history of gulls, terns, skimmers, and ducks written and catalogued by Wetherbee, Forbush, Mackay, and Snow, among others. Renowned naturalist Skip Lazell called Tuckernuck “surely the most remarkable bit of land along our entire Atlantic coast.” (Lazell 1976, p. 36) Various organizations, including the Nature Conservancy and the town of Nantucket, have assumed responsibility for the endangered Roseate Terns that nest there, and actively work to combat the ongoing threats that other avian inhabitants and visiting humans pose toward these birds. Farther still, across the Muskeget Channel, the island of Chappaquiddick can be seen on clear days from Bigelow’s Point or North Head on Tuckernuck, and often Cape Poge Lighthouse is visible as well. Nantucket Sound protects this broken archipelago from mammalian predators such as raccoon and otter as well as more sedentary raptors like Barred and Screech owls, all of which are unreported or absent here.

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