Purple Martins Majesty

A Little Slice of Heaven at Damons Point

By Richard Trust Photography by Rosemary Tufankjian

One hundred eighty colorful birdhouses line the dock that extends out into the North River from the property of Christian Haufler and his fiancée, Claire DeYoung. The couple lives in a house at the end of Damons Point Road, beside marshland that abuts the North River. Nearby residents of this scenic neighborhood enjoy glorious sunsets and, thanks to Haufler, fabulous birdwatching.

Damons Point Road is accessed from Summer Street and ends at the North River where a bridge once connected the Point to Scituate via the Old Colony Railroad. The train traveled between Plymouth and South Station in Boston starting in 1871 and carried its last passengers on June 24, 1939. The railroad tracks were embedded where Damons Point Road is today.

This private section of Marshfield is named for the Damon family whose members were prominent during the town’s early history. Residents here today enjoy scenic coastal views that change not only with the seasons but often daily.

“The grass on the marsh changes tremendously,” says Haufler. “In the middle of summer [the grass] will be a dull green. But if there’s a really good rain, [the marsh] turns a bright, almost Kelly green.  It’s absolutely mesmerizing and so soothing.”

Birds Of A Feather

Haufler’s birdhouses lure a variety of feathered friends, but his true objective is bringing home the soaring, stunning purple martin.

“You can sit on my deck in the summer or by the road on the bench that I put in,” Haufler said, “and if you look all the way up in the sky, all you can see are purple martins. They fly so far up; you’d think they’re jet planes. When they come down, they set their wings and they just float and spin, float and spin, float and spin.”

The purple martin is the largest North American swallow, averaging 7.9 inches in length from bill to tail. Adult males are entirely black with a glossy steel blue sheen. The birds arrive each year around April 15 and depart around August 8. They fly up from Brazil and Argentina to breed, traveling upwards of 6,000 miles from South America to the South Shore.

“All they do is sing,” said Haufler, an attorney born and raised in Scituate. “You sit out here on the porch and they have a beautiful waltz in the air. And when the light hits them, they sparkle purple.”

Haufler started with one birdhouse built by a local carpenter some 20 years ago. At that time, he was renting a summer home in Mashpee when he attended a Habitat for Humanity fundraiser on Cape Cod. Various artists and celebrities had created eye-catching birdhouses, and Haufler bought one built and signed by Michael J. Fox, called “Back to the Future.”

Haufler has paid as much as $5,000 for birdhouses.

“I like to support the arts,” he says. “Many times I’ll build a birdhouse or buy them and commission an artist to paint them. That gives them money and gives me functional art. I paint some of them myself.”

While birds are apt to return to familiar perches on their own, Haufler employs purple martin callers with big speakers and puts them on the roof of his home as part of a stereo system blasting out the song of a purple martin. He found the sounds on the Internet.

A range of other bird species has also been spotted here. Kingfishers, hawks, bald eagles – one with a 6-foot wing span – hummingbirds, king eider, yellowlegs, sandpipers, seagulls, orioles (including rare orange orioles), and winter sparrows also check into Haufler’s bird haven. Visitors often take pictures of the birds and their houses, and when ready, they’ll return, knock on the door and offer Haufler their photographs.

Loving Life at Damons Point

Most of the homes at Damons Point were initially small cottages, and they were few in number. Haufler described his original home as a small “Summer of ’42” beach cottage. Five years ago the house was rebuilt, expanding from 650 square feet to a whopping 6,500 square feet of luxurious living space.

“This is the best place in the world,” says Damons Point Road resident Ivy Frances, an avid photographer who works for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). “It’s like living in a park, quiet, beautiful oak trees, so scenic.

“You walk down the end of the road and it’s like another world. You see neighbors out for a walk and we all say to each other, ‘Don’t you just love living here?’ says Frances.

Frances has shared her ranch-style home with Mary Kay for four years, after moving from neighboring Scituate. Injured in a motor vehicle accident 42 years ago when she was 18, Kay walks with crutches or a walker inside their home but operates a motorized wheelchair when outside – savoring the view while carrying a feline passenger. A retired school teacher, Kay says the Damons Point environment makes her feel “like I’m on vacation all the time.”

George and Anne Bohsack enjoy a 220-degree view from the living room of their retreat on Bartlett’s Island, which is connected by road to Damons Point.

“This is ideal,” says Georg Bohsack, who has owned his slice of heaven since November 2013. Peace and quiet are valued here.

“Do you hear any cars?” Bohsack asks a visitor.

“No,” is the reply.

“Do you hear any trucks?”

“No.”

“Ideal,” says Bohsack.

Bohsack, now semi-retired after having traveled the world teaching doctors how to use modern cataract surgical instrumentation in a process known as phacoemulsification, couldn’t ask for more.  He maintains an office at home, and his wife, Anne, works in the same field in Pembroke. “[What we see] changes all the time. You would think I get bored, but not really because every day there’s almost a different view.”

Retirees Roy and Maureen Young Manns, married for 27 years, have many reasons for staying in their renovated, L-shaped, 1950s ranch-style home on Damons Point Road.

“It’s a little bit of heaven, even in the midst of a blizzard,” said Maureen Manns, who served as director of chaplaincy at both Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Quincy Hospital. “It’s very peaceful and my dogs love walking down to the water. You see a lot of wildlife.”

“It’s heaven,” says Diane Legro, another Damons Point resident. “Just walking to the end of [the Point] in the morning is like church. And at sunset, when the entire world is quiet, you put your cares away and let nature give back to you.”

Haufler and DeYoung couldn’t agree more. They awaken each morning, often between 4:30 and 5 a.m., to the songs of the birds in and around their many birdhouses.

“It’s like nature’s alarm clock,” says DeYoung. “It’s just beautiful.”

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