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In Plymouth, Hurricane Sandy brings out the birdwatchers

PLYMOUTH -- On Manomet Point in Plymouth, a high bluff with panoramic views of Cape Cod Bay, bird watchers from across Eastern Massachusetts braved wind gusts of 40 to 50 miles per hour today to scan the horizon with binoculars. They said the storm presented a rare opportunity, with powerful northeasterly winds pushing bird species they normally don’t see into viewing range.

“We’re out in force,” said Steve Arena, a veteran birder from Westborough who parked his car at the edge of the bluff and sat studying the skies over the ocean from the shelter of the driver’s seat. “We’re here for the day.”

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Nearby, Plymouth bird watcher Mark Faherty pointed out a Cory’s shearwater, a seabird that nests closer to the Mediterranean. “It’s flying left – just turned right,” he said. He added it to a list of sightings that included the horned grebe and the white-winged scoter.

During a storm last year, Faherty said, bird watchers at the Quabbin Reservoir spotted species they would normally have to go to Bermuda to see.

“There are holy grail birds like the Atlantic puffin, and sometimes, in a storm like this, you get them,” he said. “But you have to put in the time to get a real find.”

Behind him, the small, gray-shingled Manomet Lobster Pound was open and doing a brisk business in clam chowder, cooked shrimp, and crabcakes, employees said as the wind banged the door open and shut. Outside, cars crawled past on their way to the edge of the scenic promontory.

“It’s like a parade,” employee Bryan Williams said of the steady traffic. But, he acknowledged, the storm “is quite the show.”

Lobster Pound founder Frank Collins, who started the landmark Plymouth business 49 years ago, was unimpressed.

“This is a normal nor’easter, compared to some of the serious storms we’ve had,” he said. “I haven’t even bought new flashlight batteries.”

A short drive down the coastal road, on White Horse Beach in Manomet, school nurse Robin Deshowitz was witnessing her first major ocean storm, and she felt awe at the sight.

“It’s beautiful … It’s amazing,” said Deshowitz, who moved to Plymouth last fall, as she took pictures of the towering waves, bundled in a blue L.L. Bean windbreaker. “It gives you an appreciation for nature … It’s scary, and you hope everyone is safe, but at the same time you feel humbled.”

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