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.
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.
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.