Monday, March 13, 2006

Winter at the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

We drove down to the Wildlife Sanctuary at Massachusetts Audubon, hoping to see the flocks of “neon” bluebirds, reported in last week’s local paper, but not one bluebird did we spy. There were chickadees, and redwing blackbirds, as well as cardinals and starlings, all of which serenaded us as we proceeded along the Silver Spring path. Each treetop seemed to have been claimed by a different type of bird. The branches of huge old trees reached down towards the murky water. There were brambles everywhere, and, in some places, a canopy of vines. Sven commented that it was fun to see the landscape, no doubt similar to what this whole area must have looked like in the past. Ice remained visible on the inlet despite the recent thaw. We crossed the wooden bridge. The medley of silver, gray and burgundy surprised us with its stark beauty. We paused to admire the somber colors, which sprang into greenery more than once in my imagination. I did notice one over-zealous clematis sprouting tiny green leaves, as eager for spring as we are.

How distressed the staff must have been after the December storm! The slope was covered with pine. Everywhere tall trees had been knocked down. At one point, along the trail, we counted five downed trees. Perhaps Audubon will set up some picnic tables in the new clearing?

Construction is in full swing. Several new structures have already been built beside the old Nature Center. There was no one around, except for a few carpenters and a couple of tourists from Illinois. Hard-hat only areas are off-limits to birdwatchers. In fact, only one trail seemed to be officially open.

We sat down on a bench near the hummingbird garden and listened to the joyous symphony, being conducted in the barren trees above our heads. The birds must have been pleased to have visitors. They would flit from feeder to branch and back again, thistle seeds in their beaks. It was very peaceful there.

The Nature Center’s composting toilets were closed today. With grant money from the Renewable Energy Trust, Mass Audubon is going way beyond its four original composting toilets. The new buildings will be “a model of green design and energy efficiency, featuring passive heating and cooling, innovative water management, daylighting and environmentally sound materials.” We were able to admire the large bay windows. I look forward to our return once the Nature Center opens to visitors again.