The automated radio telemetry station in First Bend on Coatue (the flags on the guy wires are to prevent birds from flying into them).

During the past few weeks, we have been getting some phone calls here at the Foundation’s office questioning the purpose of several towers (a.k.a. automated radio telemetry stations) that have been placed on our properties on Coatue and at Eel Point. Last winter, we were approached by researchers from the Department of Environmental Conservation at the University of Massachusetts Amherst requesting permission to install these towers on our properties and radio tag some of our nesting American oystercatchers to obtain information on the movement patterns of this species and common terns in and around Nantucket Sound. Our Board of Trustees voted favorably on this request, and the installation of the towers was subsequently approved by our Nantucket Conservation Commission.

Pam Loring is heading up this effort for her PhD research at UMass Amherst, and we asked her to write a guest blog describing her project:

Tracking offshore movements of common terns and American oystercatchers in Nantucket Sound

Coastal birds are commonly found throughout the shorelines of the Cape and Islands. However, little is known about their occurrence and flight paths throughout offshore environments, and this information is of high priority for marine spatial planning. With sponsorship from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, researchers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Migratory Birds and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) Offshore Wind Energy Program are using digitally coded radio transmitters and an array of automated radio telemetry stations to track offshore movements of birds throughout the eastern Nantucket Sound and adjacent waters of the Southern New England shelf.


Caleb Spiegel, Biologist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Division of Migratory Birds, and Pam Loring, Ph.D. Student in the UMass Amherst IGERT Offshore Wind Energy Program, attaching a transmitter to an American oystercatcher.

Our research is focused on American oystercatchers and common terns, two species of conservation priority. At key coastal sites where birds tend to concentrate (including Nantucket’s Great Point, Coatue Point, and Eel Point), we strategically deployed automated radio telemetry stations programmed to collect around-the-clock data on the movements of radio-tagged birds within a 10+ km radius. We are also running a receiving antenna on the HyLine’s “Great Point” ferry, and actively tracking birds using land-based, boat-based, and aerial telemetry. Our collaborators in the Gulf of Maine are conducting similar research this summer, and our automated radio telemetry stations in Nantucket Sound will be tuned to detect their radio-tagged birds passing through the region during fall migration as part of a broader, Northeast Regional Migration Monitoring Network.


Shiloh Schulte, American Oystercatcher Recovery Coordinator at Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, releases a tagged oystercatcher on Coatue Point.

This large-scale, exciting project is made possible by the support of many our wonderful partners, including the Nantucket Conservation Foundation, the UMass-Boston Nantucket Field Station, Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, Nantucket National Wildlife Refuge, and Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences. For more information, please contact Pam Loring (