Goose Pond Trail

The Goose Pond Trail is the most popular trail at the Sanctuary. This trail leads you through pine/oak woodlands, by two ponds and a coastal heathland, and along the edges of a salt marsh. Goose Pond itself is a brackish water pond, known for its concentrations of shorebirds and wading birds during the summer and fall.

Highlights of the Goose Pond Trail

Wetland Plants

While on Goose Pond Trail, look for a variety of wetland plants.

  • In the deep water of Silver Spring, look for the round, flat, floating leaves of water lilies (Nymphaea odorata). Stems and roots are hidden below the surface. Large white flowers bloom in mid-summer and open only during the day.
  • Pickerelweed's (Pontederia cordata) large, oblong leaves reach up from shallow water. In summer you may see the bright purple flower spikes, which provide nectar for many insects.
  • The small white flowers of sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia) are clustered in 3" spikes. When they are in bloom, a sweet smell is especially strong along the beginning of the Goose Pond Trail.
  • Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) grows in swamps and along wet margins. Like its relative the American holly, winterberry produces bright red berries in autumn. This fruit is especially favored by American robins and cedar waxwings.

Birds of the Goose Pond

The Goose Pond can be one of the best spots for bird watching at the sanctuary.

  • In late summer, Goose Pond serves as a feeding and roosting site for wading birds. One of the most regularly seen is the Snowy Egret (Egretta thula). Look for white feathers, a long black bill, black legs, and bright yellow feet.
  • Yellowlegs (Tringa species) are among the 15 types of sandpipers you might see feeding at the Goose Pond. As their name implies they have long, bright yellow legs. Look for Greater Yellowlegs in shallow water, trying to catch small fish. Lesser Yellowlegs are more often seen walking daintily along the shoreline.
  • Red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) nest among the cattails. Males arrive in late February or March, choose territories, and attempt to attract females with a liquid konk-la-ree. Males are robin-sized, jet black, with red shoulder patches, while females are brownish and heavily streaked below.

Sounds of Amphibians

If you are here during the spring or early summer, listen for the sounds of frogs. Each of them has a distinctive voice:

  • The peep...peep...peep of Spring Peepers (Hyla crucifer) peaks in intensity during late April, although their clear, high whistle may be heard at any time of year. This tiny frog (about one inch long) is very difficult to see.
  • The nasal waaaah...waaaaah...waaaah of Fowler's Toads (Bufo woodhousei fowleri) reverberates in late spring. During August, tiny toadlets emerge from the pond and move across the trail to upland areas.
  • Green Frogs (Rana clamitans) do not chorus like peepers and toads. Their single notes sound like the twanging of banjo strings. Rarely leaving the pond, Green Frogs call throughout the summer to define a territory.
  • Bullfrogs (Rana catesbiana) rumble jugarum... jugarum... jugarum in the warmth of mid-summer. Bullfrogs are the largest frogs on Cape Cod; it is quite possible to see one with a body measuring five inches in length!

Fiddler Crabs

Rustling sounds in the salt marsh may be caused by fiddler crabs (Uca species) crawling among the grasses. The behavior of the male, holding its large claw aloft and waving it around as if playing a fiddle, gives this crab its name. Watch for their nickel-sized holes and neat pellets of excavated sand.