There’s been a couple of stories of late related to our local environment that held encouraging signs.
In the fall, the Newburyport waterfront received some bad news — the downtown waterfront-based Prince of Whales would no longer be offering its whale-watching tours. It was the only ship in Newburyport that offered these tours, which drew up to 10,000 people a year.
The Newburyport Waterfront Trust has acted quickly and responsibly in finding a new provider. This week it selected an offer from the Charos family to host the tours from the locally based charter ship Captain’s Lady III. The Charos family has a well-established reputation for offering charter trips aboard its Plum Island-based ships. The Captain’s Lady III will take the prominent docking spot that the Prince of Whales had held for years.
Newburyport has done a good job of recognizing the importance of keeping its waterfront open and accessible — and pleasant — for the public. It also has the correct vision of encouraging maritime-based activities along its downtown shoreline.
Newburyport’s waterfront is the dynamic core that built the city, yet it is also a connecting link to a far more interesting world that surrounds us. The Merrimack River and our local coast are worlds unto themselves, well worth exploring. Whale-watching cruises provide a fulfilling experience of both the river and the coast, and they complement the interesting variety of maritime opportunities that are offered here — like sailboat cruises, river and marsh cruises, kayak rentals, and charter boats.
Walking the boardwalk gives a flavor for what our maritime environment holds, but there is nothing like getting out in a boat, feeling the power of the Merrimack under you, the lap of the waves on the sea and seeing the interesting sights that occur everyday along our coast, to give a full measure of appreciation.
For years, wildlife enthusiasts have been counting bald eagles in January to keep track of how many of the majestic birds are living in a given area. But this year, the statewide eagle count is being postponed to March to give a more relevant assessment of where they are and what they are doing.
It seems eagles like it here as much as we do and are taking up permanent residence along the lower Merrimack River from Haverhill to Newburyport. Counting in March will allow researchers to determine how many eagles are nesting here, as opposed to using the river as a winter residence.
Tom French, assistant director of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, said on the lower Merrimack River alone there are eight nesting adults and perhaps four juveniles. That’s a remarkable figure, he said, considering that in 1979, when the state first started its eagle count, there were only eight in the entire state.
Bald eagles seemed headed toward extinction a half century ago. Today, they are no longer considered to be endangered and their numbers grow each year. The most recent count found a record 107 eagles across Massachusetts.
Thanks to all those who have worked to bring eagles back from the brink of extinction, we can all enjoy the sight of these beautiful birds in the skies above the Merrimack River.