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.

Robert Finch

One of the most widespread and fascinating phenomena to be found on the cliff face of the outer beach is what I call sand-leaves, or sand-pseudopods. These are distinct, ropy strands of sand and clay that flow down the face of the cliff and expand at the bottom into a bulbous, organic shape. Eerily organic in appearance, these leaves of sand can form almost anywhere and at any time of the year, though they are most common on uniformly sandy scarps interrupted by horizontal clay layers.

Wikimedia Commons

One of my regrets is that I came to the Cape too late to ride the passenger train along the Lower Cape to Provincetown. I missed it by many years, since passenger service to P-Town ceased in 1938. In 1964, when I first lived in Orleans, the freight train still ran as far as the old cement plant off Nauset Road in North Eastham. The train delivered coal at the old Snow’s hardware store, and my wife and I, living on a very short budget, used to go down and glean pieces of coal that had fallen off into the tracks for our stove.

Allison Richards / flikr

 One never knows what one is going to find on the outer beach. One day last month I drove out to Newcomb Hollow. When I arrived at the parking lot, there were about a half dozen cars there from all over the Northeast: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey – as well as one from Illinois - an unusual diversity of visitors, I thought, for this time of year.

When I arrived at Le Count Hollow, the slope had been cut several feet up from the bottom by recent storm waves. It was an hour past high tide, and the waves, all foam and milk for several hundred yards out, had the hollow, grinding roar of a receding storm surf.

Along the upper beach there was a nearly continuous ribbon, or river, of rockweed and kelp, from a few feet to several yards wide. Rockweed, as its name implies, grows on submerged rocks. Where does so much rockweed grow off our sandy shore? Where was it all ripped from?

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.