Several drumlins emerge from the Ipswich coastal landscape, including Great Neck, Little Neck, Tilton Hill, Bar Head, Wigwam Hill, Castle Hill and Steep Hill. These drumlins date to the end of the most recent glaciation about 15,000 years ago. As the glaciers grew, they pushed massive amounts of stone and soil ahead of them like a bulldozer. As the glaciers melted, they left behind whale-shaped hills ranging from about 100 to 200 ft. high. The featured photo above was taken by Stoney Stone.
Large boulders are strown about the beach and the tidal flat, which is prime habitat for seaweed, crustaceans, and mollusks. The area where Steep Hill meets Crane Beach is near the confluence of the Parker River and Ipswich Bay. This is a favorite location for catching striped bass, which are found close to beaches and river mouths. Seabirds often forage in the boundary areas between freshwater and sea water, which is where zooplankton and prey fish species are most concentrated.
Donald Oakes added, “If you can catch the beginning of the brants (a small sea goose) working their way back north you know old man winter is in retreat. It’s the old salts’ sure sign that spring is back on the North Shore. They will ricked up the eel grass on the falling tide just on the corner of Pavilion Beach heading towards Clark’s pond, where there are ancient boulders that have fed those birds for decades. And often small flocks of Bald Crowns, or American Wigeon, will work behind them picking up what the Brant cast aside. Lazy foragers those Bald Crowns are! Then the Brant will bowl up on the lee side of the narrows on Conomo point. Keep a weather eye out for them and watch the warmth of spring follow them north. “
Thanks to Karen Lisa for the photo below of Common Eiders, Common Scooters and White Wing Scooters “rafting” in the current near Steep Hill, feeding on small mollusks and mussels at low tide, which are living in the rocky ocean bottom at that location. The rafts can contain upwards of 200 birds. As they drift beyond the rocky area, the birds fly back upstream a few hundred yards and start drifting again, repeating this behavior for hours. Eider populations have rebounded in the past few decades. Donald Oakes and Elaine Hamill helped with the identification.