Thursday, April 30, 2009

Soon to be in bloom all over Cape Cod

This wonderful bush is a true Cape Cod treasure with white fluffy flowers in spring and luscious fruits in late summer beloved by many old time Cape Cod cooks. Do you know what it is?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Look What's Up!

I found these lovely fiddleheads in East Sandwich. These will unfold into lush and lovely ferns. Do you know why they are called fiddleheads?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Knock, knock, who's there?

I was working in a garden today when I came across this new home someone was working on. There was lots of saw dust, both on the tree and on the ground.

Who do you think was building this home? I'll give the answer at the end of the week. If you missed an earlier post there are other animal homes here to identify, too. I will give those answers at the end of the week as well.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Spring is Springing all over!

Just came back from a fabulous walk in one of Barnstable's many lovely conservation areas. This one was the Otis Atwood area in Marstons Mills and on a lovely sunny spring afternoon the mayflower was in bloom all over, the chickadees were phoebe-phoebe-ing like crazy and we got a great look at a Cooper's hawk that tried to stare us down but gave up and flew off. My favorite part of the walk was seeing my very first spring azures, the tiny little blue butterflies that seem to arrive just in time for the blooming of the mayflowers!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Mucking About in Swamps

is probably one of kids' favorite things to do.

It's got everything kids love. It is goopy, slimy, mucky, muddy, dirty, wet, creepy, crawly and even a little scary because you just never know what might jump, pop, slither, or crawl your way without warning.

It is a place to look under rocks and logs, to jump and splash, to find frogs, toads, salamanders, turtles and snakes. Yep, perfect kid place.

This swamp is in Wellfleet on Cape Cod.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Kids and Nature

Kids and nature are a natural mix and just a simple walk can be full of all sorts of wonders.

You might spy a painted turtle on a rock.
You could stop at a bird blind along the way to see what you could see.

You might see a red-winged blackbird singing and showing off his red epaulets.

You could find a caterpillar like this wooly bear crossing the path. Notice how it curls up to protect itself.
Or a box turtle. This lady was the first to be found on the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary this season. She was brought in to the center to be weighed and measured and checked to see if she was a sanctuary regular. The sanctuary has been keeping records of the box turtle population there for many years and kids love to be part of gathering the data.

Or some Fowler's toads. These gentlemen had taken a wrong turn and were found in a damp stairwell when we went outside to play some games after lunch. Their black chins and release noise told us they were males. Toads often can't seem to tell the difference between males and females if they are excited about mating and the males have a special noise they make to let other males know they are not females. The kids were very excited to touch and hold these little toads before we released them far from the stairwell.

What did you see today?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

I'm old enough to remember celebrating the first Earth Day and am very glad it has had such a huge focus this year. I spent my day working with kids at a nature center all day so it was a pretty earthy day for me. How about you?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Animal Homes

So many people walk through the woods without realizing that all around them live hundreds, thousands of animals. Many of those animals are tiny such as worms, insects, arachnids and crustaceans that most people don't think of because they don't see them. Others, like salamanders, toads and shrews live much of their lives under logs, under leaves or in quiet dark holes. Even the animals we are used to, such as squirrels, rabbits, deer and foxes tend to hide from the noise we make tromping through the woods. Birds move around above our heads in the trees but even they tend to be quieter as we humans pass through.

When I go out with children on walks here on Cape Cod I often ask them to help me look for animal homes. Once they catch on to all the different kinds of animal homes that are in sight in just a small area they love to keep watch and point out possible homes for the rest of the walk.

Pictured here are a chipmunk home, a mouse house, a squirrel home, a bird home and insect homes. Can you tell which is which?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mayflowers are in bloom!

For the last week or so I've been on the lookout for mayflowers, also known as trailing arbutus (the Massachusetts state flower, too, by the way) but they are harder and harder to find. Their tough, sort of hairy leaves are easy to recognize but the plants hug the ground and the flowers are quite tiny. If you can get down to their level they have the most wonderful smell!

Yesterday we went walking in the Skunknett conservation area in Osterville and although there weren't too many blooming, we did find some of these lovely little signs of early spring. Personally I've always thought it was sort of amusing that mayflowers bloom in April, not May...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Cape Cod Turtles on the Move

Over the last few days I've been seeing lots of turtles. Most of these turtles have been sunning themselves and have been the common eastern painted turtles. I've also seen several large snapping turtles and these, as well as one of the painted turtles have been traveling across land from one pond to another. At least that is what it seemed to be what they were doing since they appeared to have left one body of water and were heading in the direction of another one very close by.This is the time of year that many animals and birds are thinking about mating and reproducing and turtles are no different. Female turtles generally won't lay eggs in our area until June but many will be starting to think of mating very soon.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Cape Cod Art and Nature Website Up and Running!

There's still a lot of fine tuning to do but I'm pretty excited that it's actually up and running! Please do stop by.

You can find it here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Watching Whales from Provincetown Beaches

It was a beautiful day on the Cape today and I decided to grab my camera and sketchbook and drive to Provincetown to see if I could see any whales from the shore. Reports of whale sightings from the beaches of Provincetown are fairly common at this time of year and I figured if nothing else it would be a great day to watch the gannets diving while I ate my lunch.

The view above is from Race Point where I didn't see any whales. There were many people playing ball on the beach and vehicles parked along the waterfront so I drove over to Herring Cove.

It's hard to see in this picture because my camera's zoom isn't working but that dark spot is a whale watching boat. Around the boat you could see all the spouts of the whales it was watching and sometimes there were three or four spouts going at the same time. As I scanned the horizon with my binoculars there were more whales and at one point one of them breached. It was pretty amazing and people were lined up along the beach hooting and hollering to each other to check it out.

The weather may not be as nice tomorrow but if you're on the Cape and you have a chance over the next few days to get to Provincetown you might check out the whale show!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Spring is springing!

Here on Cape Cod spring takes her sweet old time showing up and this year she really seems to be dragging her heels. It's been cold and raw for weeks now and even when the sun is shining the wind will still rip your face off, especially if you're walking on the beach!

We all have our favorite signs of spring and for many I think the sound of the spring peepers is right up there with the pussy willows and daffodils. Last week the first tentative peeps could be heard and by the time the big rains hit last Friday and this Monday a veritable frog symphony was going on around any damp or wetland area.

Vernal pools are wonderful and unique ecosystems. Here in Massachusetts a vernal pool must have at least 3 indicator species, I think. They include the yellow spotted salamander, the wood frog and the fairy shrimp. Vernal pools are spring pools; full of water in the spring but often dried up by late summer. You can find lots of great info about vernal pools here.

The vernal pool in the picture is in Sandwich and was full of wood frogs making their funny duck like quacking noises on a dark afternoon between rain showers this week.