Published on November 8, 2021

Duxbury Beach Summer Reflections

Duxbury Beach is a truly stunning place. On approach, you cross the iconic Powder Point Bridge that spans Duxbury Bay and connects to a narrow 7.5 mile stretch of sand. The mud flats, salt marsh, and numerous estuaries protected by the fluid but stalwart barrier of Duxbury Beach define the community historically, sustainably, and ecologically. Each of us, regardless if we ever visit, benefit from the rhythms of its tides, seasonal cycles, endurance against rising seas and stronger storms, and calming influence on our collective psyche.

The beach’s benefits extend well beyond its geography. In the fall, one may find of dozens of wading Great Egrets congregated during southward migration, gorging on schools of Mummichogs and Sheepshead Minnows. Other visual treats could include a murmuration of Tree Swallows; Monarch Butterflies feeding on Seaside Goldenrod; or the return of a Northern Harrier, its shadow contouring the dunes. The summer beachgoers have mostly gone, save the few who are privy to the spreading secret of this autumnal glory. 

Program participants surveying the marsh at Duxbury Beach

Last Summer’s Programs

Fall offers an opportunity to reflect after the busyness and intensity of summer. In Mass Audubon’s South East Region, we observe this ritual each year as we debrief the contracted summer programming we provide in partnership with The Duxbury Beach Reservation, Inc.

This nonprofit partner provides annual funding for educational programs that Mass Audubon has the delightful responsibility of implementing. Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday in July and August, we host ninety-minute programs covering subjects from Hermit Crabs and eelgrass to bryozoans and terminal moraines.

In 2021, a total of 267 participants joined us for 26 programs, an average of 10 people per session. Popular themes included Salt Marsh Ecology, Mudflat Limbo, and Kites and the Science of Flight, and many of these programs grew long waitlists. Due to COVID-19, we had to require preregistration and limit enrollment as we did in the summer of 2020. We look forward to collaborating on a new program lineup in summer of 2022, and hope to be able to expand our numbers again to allow even more people to benefit from these free offerings. Keep an eye on our website and Facebook page where we publish the schedule each June.

While numbers are one way to measure success, the most impactful statistics are often more difficult to quantify. One of each summer’s recurring highlights is the impressive level of interest and involvement among the program participants. Conversations about subjects like species decline, habitat loss, sea level rise, and climate change can be difficult, but program-goers' enthusiasm, connection, and wonder provide the perfect antidote.

Child examines underside of horseshoe crab in hand

Inspiration and Hope

This level of engagement, especially from younger folks, is heartening. While we don’t want the burden of solving our environmental challenges falling to our youth, they do seem to possess an innate and dauntless sense of justice that is rare among adults.

It is refreshing to see kids—unencumbered by the lens of recreational justification—fully appreciating the need to protect Piping Plovers. And hope can’t help but brim over when you watch a child explain to a new participant what an operculum is, or beckon a parent to come watch a Lady Crab swim using its specially-designed hind claws as swimmerets.

At Mass Audubon, we are continually inspired by these precious moments of beauty and promise, as well as the ambitious scope of our newly-released Action Agenda. While the work ahead is not easy, it is absolutely achievable. With the collective engagement of our entire organization and our valued partners, we are taking our work into a new dimension of visibility, impact, and consequence. We are endlessly grateful to all of you—our members, volunteers, donors, and program participants—for being on this journey with us.