Henry Beston Notices a Winged Visitor upon Cape Cod on a September Morning

In September 1926 American writer and naturalist Henry Beston went to his new summer house on Cape Cod in Massachusetts for a couple of weeks but stayed there for a year. It resulted in a book “The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod”. Book is filled with keen observations of weather, waves, dunes, birds, occasional human being and seasonal changes. In the first weeks of living there Henry Beston notices a large and beautiful bird and writes about it in a chapter “Autumn, Ocean, and Birds”.

“It chanced that on a mild September morning, as I was standing a moment at a window looking west over the marshes and the blue autumnal creeks, an alarm of some kind began to spread among the gulls. The incoming tide had already crowded the birds back on the higher gravel banks and bars, and from these isles, silvery cloud by cloud, I saw the gulls rise and stream away to the southward in long, fugitive storm of wings. They were flying, I noticed, unusually low. Interested to see what had thus disturbed them, I stepped out a moment to the pinnacle of my dune. As I stood there staring after the vanishing gulls and questioning the sky, I saw far above the birds, and well behind them, an eagle advancing through the heavens. He had just emerged from a plume of hovering cloud into the open blue, and when I saw him first was sailing south and seaward on motionless wings, seeming to follow in the great sky the blue course of a channel far below.”

Henry Beston “The Outermost House” 1928

During the autumn he sees this same bird half a dozen different times. “I could tell when he was about by the terror of the gulls.” Author believes that it is a bald eagle, which by nature is a fish eater. “I never saw him pay the slightest attention to the fugitives,” Beston writes, “nevertheless, he may well have a fancy for gulls when they are plump and he is hungry. At any rate they fear him.”

“The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod” by Henry Beston was originally published in 1928 by Doubleday and Doran. This beautiful edition is published in 2019 by Pushkin Press with an introduction by Philip Hoare. Photo by Beach Books.

“Eagles are by no means rare upon Cape Cod,” Beston adds. “The birds arrive here as coastwise visitors, find the region of their liking, and establish themselves in various favourite domains. They fish in our sandy bays and inlets; they have rather a fancy for the more isolated Cape Cod ponds.”

“Seen at close range, the bald eagle is a dusky brownish bird with a pure-white head, neck, and tail. I never had a near view of this Eastham visitor, but one of the coast guardsmen roused him up one day from a thicket close by the head of a creek running up into the moors – he heard a sudden noise of brush and great wings, he said, and, turning round, he saw the eagle rising free of the scrub and the bright leaves.”

Henry Beston “The Outermost House” 1928

You can borrow “The Outermost House” together with “The Easternmost House” by Juliet Blaxland, which was partly inspired by Henry Beston .

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