‘You never know what’s gonna wash up’: Lloyd Center kicks off 2024 with beach walk

Jan 1, 2024

WESTPORT — The sea was calm and the sun was just visible as a white disk through the gray clouds as people arrived to start their first day of 2024 with a casual, morning stroll around Gooseberry Island. 

In what has become a New Year’s Day tradition, the Lloyd Center for the Environment hosted its 33rd annual nature walk on the island. Research Associate and bird specialist Jamie Bogart led the group of adults and kids along the rocky shore strewn with thousands of seashells.

Bogart carried a telescope and tripod over his shoulder while keeping an eye out for the various species of waterfowl that migrate to Gooseberry Island during the winter months. From the elusive Snowy Owl to whales, Gooseberry Island is host to all manner of migratory birds and marine life.

“Along the beach, you never know what you’re gonna see,” Bogart said. “You never know what’s gonna wash up.”

Now and then, when he caught sight of a bird paddling offshore, Bogart invited people on the nature walk to look through his telescope to catch sight of a Purple Sandpiper or Bufflehead duck. Gooseberry Island’s protected and “unspoiled habitat” is what makes it an ideal spot for studying birds, Bogart said. 

Gooseberry Island is one of the historic nesting grounds of the endangered Piping Plover, a North American shorebird that breeds along the sandy shores of the Great Lakes and New England coast. The building of roads, parking lots and homes has reduced the Piping Plover’s shoreline habitat, Bogart explained during the walk. 

Without conservation efforts like the ones carried out on Gooseberry Island, the Piping Plover population would collapse, he said.  

“It gets people in the conservation mindset,” Bogart said of the importance of nature walks. 

For Dartmouth resident Peter Medeiros, exploring Gooseberry Island on New Year’s Day is a decades-long tradition. No matter how many times he comes back, there’s always something new to see, Medeiros said. One of his most memorable moments on Gooseberry Island is when his group crossed paths with a Harlequin duck.

“It jumped on a rock and let everyone walk up to it and take its photo,” he said. “It was the most spectacular thing that we’ve seen.”

Andy Dolan has been coming to Gooseberry Island since he was a boy. Now, he brings his family and grandkids to the island, sometimes to watch meteor showers. Some evenings, Dolan comes at sunset to watch the full moon rise over Buzzards Bay. Not a month goes by that Dolan doesn’t come to the island.

 “It’s always been a family thing,” Dolan said of his trips to the island.