First Cape Cod mayflowers now blooming

It didn’t take spring long to wake up the trailing arbutus, also known as the mayflower, our state flower.

Look for them along sunny banks in pine and oak woodlands. They sprawl across the ground with tough woot leaves and are sporting buds in most areas.

Just this morning I found my first blooms and in an old abandoned wood lot in Hyannis so you never know where they may show up.

Some areas should be just gorgeous with these sweet smelling flowers very soon.

Cape Cod Walking Groups

It’s spring, finally! That means it is time to get outside, explore old favorite paths but find new paths and new places to explore as well. I grew up here on the Cape and am familiar with many, many places and yet every year I find new places that become new favorites. There are probably enough places to explore, even in a small place like Cape Cod, that I will never find them all.

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So how do you find new places? Go off the beaten path and take a road you’ve never taken before. The Cape is only so wide and only so long. You can only get so lost!

Joining a group or signing up for a nature walk with any of the many wonderful nature minded organizations is also fun and you’ll make some new friends as well.

I learn new things every time I take a walk with another naturalist, birder or botanist so I try to mix it up and go on all sorts of walks throughout the year. Check out Mass Audubon at Wellfleet Bay and Mass Audubon at Long Pasture for seasonal walks. The Cape Cod Museum of Natural History has weekly walks with Connie Boyce that are very popular and the Green Briar Nature Center has bi-monthly Wild Women Walking walks with Mary Beers. There are many others as well. Mashpee runs public walks as does the Harwich Conservation Trust, the town of Barnstable and the Barnstable Land Trust (an independent group, not town run.)

The other day I went on one of Mary Beers’s walks at the East Sandwich Game Farm. Mary is so knowledgeable you’ll gather all sorts of interesting information.

This walk is not for exercise as much as it is for natural history so don’t plan on any serious hiking. You can go back by yourself for that. I know the game farm pretty well, having worked with Mary there many times over the years but we found a few things I never knew before…

Like there is a special patch of reindeer lichen there…

052 Not only is reindeer lichen a favorite food of reindeer in areas where they live–which is not on Cape Cod–but a close up will show you that the little branches look like reindeer antlers. I have seen this in a lot of places but not in a big patch like this one! Mary told us the patches are few and far between on the Cape…053We also found little holes like these on a sunny hillside path….the sun had gone in but it was still warm when we found them….

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Mary thought they might be the little nesting spots of solitary bees and as we looked carefully on the ground we started to see the bees coming out of the dirt. Most were just waking up from the winter! 048They lay their eggs in these tunnels and bring pollen in that will feed the larvae when they hatch. How cool is that?

We heard and saw the usual birds but a belted kingfisher gave us a nice close look and we watched both osprey and a Cooper’s hawk fly overhead.

Check the links that are highlighted to find more information about each group’s walks. If you’d rather just go walking by yourself, there are also lots of good books out there as well, with maps and info.

Just get outside. And take a kid or two or three!

 

I went looking for spring in the  Cape Cod woods…

But what I found was more winter…

I  started my day at the Lowell Holly Conservation Area in Mashpee. This is usually a delightful place to walk but it had many icy and snowy areas along the trails that were tricky to navigate.

There were many lovely vistas however

  

You find lots of white pine, beech and of course, American holly here. I also found a nice little stand of Princess pine and tea berry .

Carpet moss is nice and green but the lake is still mostly frozen.

Later, at the Jehu Pond Conservation Area I saw lots of trailing arbutus leaves so mayflowers will be blooming soon!

I saw my first pine warbler of the season and courting hairy woodpeckers but the woods were pretty quiet.

One thing that becomes obvious as the snow melts is how tough winter was for birds and other wildlife. I found signs and remains of multiple birds and even those of a hawk .

But I also found this– a little reminder of the hope that is spring!

Finding spring on Cape Cod….

After a week of being sick and housebound and watching the snow blow yet again outside my window I went in search of spring this week. 

  

Where is the best place to find spring? At a farm! Every year about this time I pop on over to Peterson’s Farm in Woods Hole to see the little lambs. It doesn’t get much cuter than little lambs jumping and running about. No matter how grumpy or out of sorts you may be feeling I think it would be hard to stay that way while watching little lambs frolic. 

   

 

I even got to visit with Harley, the llama and his older charges. That Harley is one patient dude, hanging out with the chickens as well as those persnickety old sheep.

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Birds were singing all about,  none as brightly or loudly as this happy song sparrow, though.

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Robins and grackles were everywhere in the fields, some even finding worms or grubs. It’s late for worms and grubs but there is still snow on the ground in many places. In the warmer spots, however, worms and grubs were nearer to the surface.

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A rabbit watched me as I watched it, hidden well within the brambles…

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It gave me a nice little flash of white tail as it made its exit.

016The shrubs and vines are showing life and were full of birds…

  

   

 

 In another few weeks it will be full on spring at the farm. I can’t wait! Happy Spring, everyone!

 

Cold front blows through

Last night around 6 o’clock the bright sun faded as a huge dark cloud approached from the north. Living on the south side by a harbor we were treated to a sky half sunny and half stormy…

The wind blew, branches bent and on the north side of our house fat raindrops hit our windows. The front passed in minutes, leaving golden light behind.

That’s the same scene just moments later. Pretty amazing, huh?

Then there was this

And this

It was like fire in the sky which then calmed and faded to this

Within minutes it had faded to this

Do you see the tiny star?

It was definitely worthy of a wish!

All photos taken with my iPhone and within an hour or so last night.

Icebergs, Cape Cod Style

Perhaps you’ve seen the photos and news story that went viral about the giant (for us) icebergs breaking up and floating in Cape Cod Bay. Wellfleet at low tide was suggested as the best place and time to see them and that was around 9:30 this morning. Of course I had to go!

I was running a bit behind so I stopped at First Encounter Beach in Eastham. What a sight! About a dozen people were there taking photos and chatting….

Someone had walked out on the ice–not a great idea, by the way–and if you look really closely in the center of the second photo you can see a standing person dressed in black….gives you some idea of how big those chunks of ice were….

When I left there I headed to Wellfleet but at the last minute I thought I’d try Corn Hill in Truro. It should have had the same big ice and maybe not the crowds of Wellfleet. Whoa! I hit a bonus for sure! The water was glassy still, the sky clear and blue and the ice was clean and white!

 

The photos just don’t do it justice. It was profoundly beautiful, peaceful and sublime. I was there by myself for a long time but finally someone else came by so I could get some scale.

Finally I dragged myself away–it was a warm and lovely day here–and went to Wellfleet. What a mob! Hundreds of people and scraggly looking ice….

I took my lunch to Skaket where there were also a lot of people….

And in the end I was seriously glad I had listened to that little voice that told me to try somewhere different. It was truly a sight and a day I will never forget…

If you go, know that the ice is melting and that salt ice is not reliable, even on the sand. Dogs may try to jump and could be stranded so leashes are advised around the ice floes. Also, low tide is your friend. Don’t wait too long! They will be gone soon.

Winter visitors at the bird feeders

This has been a tough winter for many of our feathered friends. Copious amounts of snow have made it difficult to find natural food and many birds that don’t usually visit feeders have been coming around, hoping for some nutritious handouts to tide them over.

For the first time in my yard I have had a hermit thrush. Hermit thrushes do over winter here on the Cape in small numbers but in 30 years I have never had one in the yard until now.

036 037Another bird that we have all summer but not usually at a feeder in the winter is the gray catbird and yet one showed up about two weeks ago and visits the suet feeder daily.

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This isn’t a great shot but check out that rusty red under the tail feathers!020

Another unusual visitor has been this northern mockingbird. Again, a bird that we know is around even in the winter but which usually stays far away from the feeders.

005 009 011And then there is the visitor to the feeders none of the other birds like to think about but hey, it’s been a tough winter and even the Cooper’s hawks are hungry…

100Many people have been spotting unusual birds in their yards this winter. What have you been seeing?

 

Finding Beauty in a Cape Cod Winter

This has been quite a month and I’m pretty sure most of us are tired of the “S” word by now. Rain is predicted after beginning as snow for tonight and tomorrow and although it will probably make a mess of the roads I’ll be glad to see at least some of these huge snow piles wash away.

The beaches, though cold, have been stark and gorgeous, if you like that sort of thing, which I do.

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My husband and I took some time off to go exploring down Cape this past week and the reward was well worth it.

We originally aimed for Chatham so took Rt. 28, the southern route. This allowed us to stop at Seagull Beach in West Yarmouth

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and West Dennis Beach

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Chatham was freezing cold and windy so we just looked onto South Beach from the parking lot.

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We decided to head on up to Eastham and stopped at Fort Hill

And Coast Guard Beach

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And First Encounter Beach

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Where you can see how frozen Cape Cod Bay is

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Our last stop of the day was Paine’s Creek in Brewster

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As we traveled the temperature dropped about 20 degrees from morning until late afternoon but we went well prepared. Have you been out and around since all this snow fell? What is your favorite snowy beach scene?

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Blizzards make for hungry birds!

Today the sun is shining and the temperature is climbing to at least freezing. The howling winds and stinging snow are now just memories. What we do have is lots of snow to move around and lots of very hungry birds.

Although I had seed and suet out all through the storm the wind was so tough not many birds braved it. I threw seed out the back door and into areas where the wind wasn’t quite so fierce and we got some takers.

We got a lot of snow and had a lot of drifting…the day after the storm is when the feeding frenzy began and lasted pretty much through the day.

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My feeders are by my garden which has a chicken wire fence so the bird is not in a cage, just behind the wire…
006 I don’t remember seeing such hungry birds. I had dozens of birds everywhere I looked, eating, eating, eating!009I seem to have at least a dozen juncos that are calling my yard home this winter and I always think of them as the true snow birds…
030 Mr. Cardinal and all his cardinal friends were very hungry and at one point I had over 20 in and around the feeders.039

 

 

I was most excited to see that the little orange crowned warbler survived the storm! It showed up about midday yesterday….013

The resident Carolina wren also survived and was very territorial around the suet feeder.018

 

Blue jays arrived in a feisty little group to take over the ground feeding at one point.002This morning the sun shone clear and bright and Mrs. Cardinal posed as if to say, “All is right in the world today!”
027Things are slowly returning to normal around here and the birds feeding today are hungry as usual but not frantic. How did you make out in the blizzard? Any unusual birds to report?

 

Battening down for the blizzard

If you’re in New England you can’t help but know there’s a big storm on the way and it seems to have started already.

This morning its was totally serene and peaceful at the beach.

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I put out a lot of extra food for the birds, including extra suet for the little orange crowned warbler that continues here…that’s the little warbler on the left, on the suet.

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The regular visitors are also here such as the house finches

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and the white breasted nuthatches025and the cardinals, among many others…

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Stay safe and warm, everyone! And may the power stay with you!