Robert Finch

Robert Finch is a nature writer living in Wellfleet. 'A Cape Cod Notebook' won the 2006 New England Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Radio Writing.

Robert Finch has lived on and written about Cape Cod for forty years. He is the author of six collections of essays, most recently "The Iambics of Newfoundland" (Counterpoint Press), and co-editor of "The Norton Book of Nature Writing."

His essays can be heard on WCAI every Tuesday at 8:30am and 5:45pm.

Harvesting Bog Eggs

Apr 28, 2015
Pete and Noe Woods / flickr

In late March the shallow, tea-colored waters in the bog behind our house become full of small, round, gelatinous clumps of frog and salamander eggs stuck to submerged or floating objects. One spring I thought of collecting some of these egg masses and watching how they might develop. At the time I knew little about what I was doing and next to nothing about the different types of eggs I found there or what they might develop into. Whatever I learned, I learned afterward. I suppose that is the motto of the amateur naturalist: Collect now, identify later.

Raam Dev / flickr

Last week, on my way home from visiting friends in Vermont, I stopped in southern New Hampshire to climb Mt. Monadnock. It is one of those mountains that is not very impressive from a distance, but magnificent from close up. There was still a light covering of snow on its flanks, and a veil of cloud lifted briefly from the summit, tempting me on.

Yesterday morning I drove out to Newcomb Hollow and walked south a few hundred yards to the large outcrop of eroding clay bluffs there. They had clearly changed since I was last here, and had become, if possible, even more dramatic. Large chunks of light and dark blue clay lay strewn across the lower beach. On the face of the bluffs it was as if the ocean had fashioned a gallery of mini-sculptures, small animal-like sculptures that protruded out of the clay.

detroitstylz / flickr

One evening a little before seven o’clock I pulled into the vast empty parking lot at Marconi Beach in South Wellfleet. I had just come from Russ’s Marconi Beach Restaurant, a place I like to go two or three times a year for ribs. I always enjoy Russ’s Shakespearian innkeeper banter, the way he seems to know every customer personally, his hearty and infectious good humor that seems to rub off on everyone there. I had ordered my usual: the half-slab barbecued ribs dinner with coleslaw, baked beans, and smashed potatoes with gravy.

CPinoB /

This is the waiting time, the in-between time, when the advancing sun tells us that the back of this endless winter is broken, but the concrete signs of spring are still far and wee: a few ghost-like calls of clustered peepers in the bogs; the sole cardinal or a Carolina wren’s strident song, the first scattered flashes of daffodil sprouts on a still-sere hillside.

captpaulge / /

Many of you have no doubt seen the dramatic photos, recently posted online, of large chunks of ice that washed up on the shores if Cape Cod Bay in Wellfleet a couple of weeks ago.

By now, the idea of the Cape’s glacial origins has pretty much fixed itself in the minds of most residents and visitors alike. But before Louis Agassiz put forward his revolutionary glacial theories in the mid-1800s, the idea of a continental ice sheet seemed as improbable to the general public as the continental drift theory did to their mid-20th century counterparts.

If I asked you to guess what is the most abundant bird on Cape Cod and the Islands this time of the year, which would you choose: The chickadee? Herring gull? Crow? Black Duck? Starling? House sparrow?

Alan Vernon / flickr

I stood there on the beach, looking at the loon that was in obvious distress, hobbled and contorted by monofilament netting wrapped around its body.  I was miles from the mainland. What should I do? What could I do?

Don Faulkner /

It was during this month several years ago that I experienced what I still consider one of my finest moments here on Cape Cod. One February day in the first year of the new millennium, I took a walk along Chatham's South Beach at the elbow of the Cape’s crooked arm. This was the first time I had walked this beach since it had connected to the Chatham mainland at the base of the lighthouse about five years before.