A Favorite Summer Walk at the Sanctuary

Silver Spring (Christine Bates)

Even on the busiest summer days, there is always a place to find a quiet moment at Wellfleet Bay. On a recent afternoon, in need of a tranquil moment and a break from the glow of a computer screen, I set off from my desk to search for recently-seen otters along Silver Spring.

When I arrived at the Silver Spring dike, I heard a rustling in the reeds to my right and spotted a long, rat-like tail moving about between stalks of phragmites. A chunky, brown shape emerged and I briefly locked eyes with a muskrat before it disappeared into the reeds

With no sign of the otter, I decided to retrace my steps to the Silver Spring Trail. It was a hot, humid day and the canopy of vegetation along the trail gave a jungle-like feel to the experience. As I wove through tunnels of grapevines and cherry trees, I began to hear a familiar zeee, zeee coming from overhead. I emerged to find a brilliant red stand of cardinal flower flanked by maple and cherry trees.

Cardinal flowers along the pond (Christine Bates)

In the top of a cherry, I spotted the source of the zeee, zeee; a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher actively catching insects in the canopy. As I watched the gnatcatcher, a flash of green came within inches of the bird; a hummingbird began dive bombing the gnatcatcher; he had claimed this stand of cardinal flower as his own and wanted this interloper to find a new place to forage!

I continued along the trail on my otter quest. After traveling through another tunnel of vegetation, I came to a short, wood-chipped path to a dock; one of my favorite places at the sanctuary. I heard the buzz and snap of dragonfly wings and the mechanical rattle of a kingfisher before watching a pair fly by, low to the water. A painted turtle swam amongst the lily pads below, munching on vegetation. Upon further investigation, a shiny lump on the muddy edge of the water revealed itself to be a giant bullfrog. A monarch silently glided by, its path erratic.

American Bullfrog (Christine Bates)

I sat in silence for several minutes. I didn’t see an otter. As I’ve discovered over years of chasing rare birds, sometimes the journey to find your “target” species is the best part of the experience. When I returned to my desk, I took note of the time. I had only been gone for twenty minutes, but I felt rejuvenated. In those twenty minutes something unusual had happened; it was July on Cape Cod and I hadn’t seen another person, yet as the muskrat, gnatcatcher, hummingbird and bullfrog will tell you, I was far from alone.

This post was contributed by Wellfleet Bay visitor experience and outreach coordinator, Christine Bates.

4 thoughts on “A Favorite Summer Walk at the Sanctuary

  1. Diane Silverstein

    I was there with you just now as I read your lovely piece. It triggered many memories for me from my past years as volunteer coordinator, when I,too, would sneak out to clear my head. I hope to return some day soon to walk the beautiful trails there!

  2. Diana and John Haley

    What a sweet and lovely commentary on our beloved sanctuary experiences. After decades of annual visits to one of our favorite places in this country, we moved away from New England and were unable to return for almost 7 years. This past June we were happy to return for a brief visit and were thrilled to discover how little our experience differed from our cherished memories! Thank you to all who contribute their time and talent to maintaining and improving this incredibly important and beautiful place.

  3. Kathleen Miller

    So true, so many surround us with their own busy lives. So much to notice and be a part of. What a lovely piece, thank you Christine.


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