A Cape Cod Notebook

by Robert Finch

A Cape Cod Notebook can be heard every Tuesday morning at 8:45am and afternoon at 5:45pm.

A nature writer living in Wellfleet, Robert Finch has written about Cape Cod for more than forty years. He is the author of ten books of essays, the latest of which is "The Outer Beach: A Thousand-Mile Walk on Cape Cod’s Atlantic Shore," published by W.W. Norton.

A Cape Cod Notebook won the 2006 and 2013 New England Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Radio Writing.

For archives of A Cape Cod Notebook, including programs dating from before November 2012, go to the Cape Cod Notebook Archives.


 A Cape Cod Notebook is made possible in part with support from Titcomb’s Bookshop on Route 6A in East Sandwich.

Dave Inman http://www.flickr.com/photos/79254232@N08/

Going ashore on Bird Island one morning 30 years ago, Robert Finch and two companions found 30 freshly killed Roseate terns - what amounted to one percent of the entire continental population. As the men collected bird corpses, they gradually pieced together a picture of the predator. It seemed most likely to have been a peregrine falcon, by sad irony another endangered species.

Audio essay posted above. This is part 2 of a 2-part essay. Part 1 is posted here.

 

Mark Hatchski http://www.flickr.com/photos/8752845@N04

In May of 1984, two-thirds of the entire North American population of Roseate terns were believed to nest upon Bird Island, a small pile of glacial debris located in Buzzards Bay about a half-mile off the coast of Marion. The colony at Bird Island was long considered secure from predation. On A Cape Cod Notebook, Robert Finch recalls the morning when he and others made a painful discovery which shattered that presumption of safety.

http://www.jessicacrabtree.com/

Nature flourishes even in unlovely locations. On A Cape Cod Notebook, Robert Finch peeks behind Wellfleet Center where, amid dumpsters and bags of recycling, grows an immense black willow. It rises over 60 feet into the air. A true wild native, it is there not because of human tending and protection, but in spite of the lack of it – a king in an environmental slum.

undegroundcapecod.com

Every six hours a 6-foot-diameter weather balloon is launched from Truro to gather data on the atmosphere. On spring evenings, a balloon's release may be accompanied by the flights of woodcocks engaged in their distinctive rocket-like mating display. On A Cape Cod Notebook, writer Robert Finch ponders the curious juxtaposition: helium-filled science balloons and avian courtship behavior.

Audio essay posted above.

Here's a video of a weather balloon launch at the Cape Cod National Seashore:

AFP/Getty Images

The high percentage of seniors on Cape Cod can make personal indications of aging easier to ignore. On A Cape Cod Notebook, Robert Finch tallies some of the signposts of aging, including failings of the body, and encounters with professional figures younger than appears seemly. Recently, he was struck by a fresh age-related realization: the newly elected Pope might just be his last.

Audio essay posted above.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nkcphoto/

Between two spasms of violence that gripped the nation's attention - the Marathon Bombing and the subsequent manhunt that shut down Boston - Robert Finch found himself seated on a bench in Harvard Yard reading poetry. It was only later, looking back, that he perceived how unknowingly that pretty spring day embodied the eye of a storm. 

Audio essay posted above.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jakecaptive

Scattered groups of migratory herring – pink, dark-finned shapes, curved and elusive in the water - appear no more than wisps of current that circle and disappear with each shimmer of light. On A Cape Cod Notebook, Robert Finch notes that these fish, also known as alewives, represent visual camouflage of the highest order. They become an integrated part of the stream as they proceed to spawning ponds each spring.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rightantler/

Many rewards in nature come from procrastination. On a Cape Cod Notebook, Robert Finch recounts a recent experience of walking out to get the mail and finding his wind-littered driveway alive with bright foraging birds.

Audio posted above. 

Robert Finch

An indoor swimming pool may be artificial, chlorinated, fluorescent-lit, and tepid. But on A Cape Cod Notebook, naturalist Robert Finch notes that the indoor pool does have its charms and pleasures, its distinctive character allowing for an observation of the nature of water in a way that would be impossible out of doors.

Robert Finch

An impressive number of trees were blown down or fractured by winds in our recent season of storms, as gusts reportedly reached hurricane force in many places. The trees fell according to their nature; shallow-rooted red maples in low-lying swamps tended to uproot entirely, raising great, shaggy, vertical disks of roots into the air. Oaks, stronger and more deeply rooted, did not succumb as often, or if they did, showed that they were weakened by inner decay. But it was the pitch pines that suffered most.

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