Beautiful fall on Cape Cod

I know that many of us simply love the fall just about anywhere but fall on Cape Cod is pretty special. We get a late frost which means a lot of late bloomers are still around. The trees are colorful longer into November than many othe places and the marshes are just gorgeous.

We also get some exceptionally high and low tides around the full moon…  Beautiful reflections abound,,,,
  Red maples put on a beautiful show….  Even the swans look majestic in this sort of light….
  Can’t get enough of this lovely shade of red….  or this yellow orange of rosa rugosa leaves in the dunes….
  A few dragonflies are still around….  And scads of mushrooms like these honey mushrooms….
  More color against the autumn sky…  and the golden color of the marshes….
  Some yellows in the woods are always nice….  and at the beach, it’s all about that autumn light!
 I hope you are getting out and enjoying the wonderful weather here this week!

Horseshoe crab sheds, not deads!

Right about this time of year everyone gets a little worried about the horseshoe crabs. They see dozens, even hundreds, of what appear to be dead horseshoe crabs washed up on the beach.

They might see them lined up in a wrack line, tossed about in piles of seaweed or just a few here and there as the tide recedes.

  As disturbing as this may seem, it’s perfectly normal for all these old shells, which are the outgrown exoskeletons of the horseshoe crabs to wash ashore. The horseshoe crabs are growing fine new shells that will accommodate their growing bodies. As a friend of mine likes to say, these are sheds, not deads!
  It’s the time of year when birds are molting feathers, mammals are molting summer coats and animals that have exoskeletons may be molting as well. This is why we are seeing all those crab shells on the shore and in the marshes as well. Pick one up. If it is as light as a feather, it’s a molt. If it is heavy and stinky, it is indeed a dead animal so don’t take that one home.  One of the things that fools people is that the sheds have legs, gills and all those important parts. When the crab leaves its shell it takes its actual legs, gills and other parts with it but leaves the old coverings behind. It’s pretty amazing when you stop to think how a horseshoe crab crawls out of its old shell and yet leaves it intact!
  So, if you’re walking the beach this weekend, don’t be surprised to find lots of horseshoe crab shells washed up. This shows that there’s a good population in your area and that’s a good thing for the horseshoe crabs, whose numbers have been dwindling in recent years. And pass the word along when you can….there are a lot of worried people out there thinking that hundreds of horseshoe crabs have died instead of just having molted their shells.

Enjoy the long weekend and get outside!

Beach rose hips are NOT beach plums and other things

Happy September!

It’s that time of year when everyone gets all confused about beach plums and beach rose hips. The rose hips are big, fat and juicy orange and red at this time of year and you’ll find them on those same bushes along the beaches and dunes where you saw the beach roses, Rosa rugosa earlier in the summer.

They are edible but quite tart! Some people make tea, jam or jelly with them but it seems to be harder than I want it to be so no jam for me. Jelly and tea, maybe….

Anyway, the photo below shows a beach rose hip.


  Beach plums have been ripe for a few weeks now and look quite different. They are small, hard purplish fruits and are much desired for making beach plum jelly. These photos were from the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary where the crop was lush and is always left for the wildlife to consume.
    Did you know beach plums were related to cherries? Check out their leaves. Below are some that are not quite ripe but these are desired by those that make jelly as well as the unripe fruit helps the rest of it set, especially if the jelly maker is not using pectin.
  Below is a choke cherry and you’ve probably been seeing lots of these around. The birds and many mammals go crazy over them! Note to all! Do not park under a choke cherry tree or you’ll be sorry!  Below is a photo of a wild lemonade I made using staghorn sumac. I know, crazy, huh?
  I have heard about it for years but this is the first year I actually made some and it was delicious! You add about 8 fully seeded heads to a pitcher full of cool water and let it steep for at least 4 hours. Do not heat!  Here are the seed heads before adding them to the water.
    And here is the seedhead on the staghorn sumac bush. These are all over the Cape but before eating, do make sure your ID is correct! Not all sumacs are good for you…. Anyway, that is just a little wild food inspired post for today…..enjoy!

November days

November is such a bittersweet month here on Cape Cod. It starts out like this


And ends like this


There is much in between of course




It is still nice enough to just go out the door for walk without too much fuss about warm clothes but on some days we need to be prepared for a lot of wind. I don’t take many selfies but Arlo and I were feeling pretty blown away on this day at the beach and thought we’d share.


Wild bird food on Cape Cod

Many of us love to feed and watch the birds that come to our feeders. We dutifully fill feeders with sunflower seed, thistle seed and suet. Some also add safflower seeds and other goodies.

What many of us forget is that wild food is better for the birds and many of us actually have wild bird food right in our own yards. Goldfinches are especially fond of evening primrose seeds so I always leave some stalks in the yard for them.

024Goldfinches have pretty good camouflage for the fall and winter. Look how nicely they blend into the landscape against the seed stalks.

027 032Many gardeners and yard lords really, really want to clean up the yard and gardens until there is nothing for the birds at all. I understand not wanting to leave piles of leaves and weed seeds in certain areas but surely there is a place or two in your yard where you can leave some leaves on the ground for the birds to forage in and some weeds and wildflower stalks with seeds that the birds can feed on.

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You will make some little birds very happy and it will make you happy to watch them as well. Look how lovely these sweet goldfinches were today. I do offer thistle but they prefer the natural seed at this time of year and some days I have several dozen feeding on various seed stalks. Other birds like them, too.


Weekly Nature Watch is now online!

Weekly Nature Watch, the column I write for the Enterprise Newspapers on the upper Cape, began back in January 2012. I write two other columns now but this one will always have a soft spot in my heart.

Just this past week my column was added to the online version of the Enterprise at which is very exciting and fun!

Last week I wrote about moving on in the fall and here is the link to the Weekly Nature Watch column.



Ah, bittersweet

At this time of year I see them everywhere, the gatherers of bittersweet. They love those colorful berries on the vine and they bring them home by the armful and the trunkful.


It’s so pretty, they say. They make bittersweet wreaths to hang on their fences and doors. They put it in fall arrangements indoors and out. They love it so much.


And then something funny happens. The bittersweet berries are full of seeds after all and the bittersweet begins to grow and grow and grow. It climbs up houses and strangles bushes and trees.


It grows and grows and grows

Until it alone stands in the landscape….

Of course bittersweet hasn’t taken over the landscape quite yet but think twice before you bring it home and let it wreak havoc in your yard.

When people say a plant is invasive bittersweet is one of the Poster plants!



After the storm

All weekend long it blew and blew. It rained, it poured and it drizzled. Roads flooded, yards flooded and trees blew down. Power went out. November asserted herself.

And then the next day, the sun shone….


We went for a drive down Cape and stopped at Fort Hill


And over to Coast Guard Beach and Nauset Light Beach where we saw seals and hundreds of gulls and gannets.





As the sun lowered itself closer to the horizon we went to First Encounter Beach where everything had a golden hue.





We saw a late rose and the moon rise over some trees



We saw hundreds and hundreds of ducks fly into the bay as the sun set


And bid the sun farewell