Silver Spring Trail
The northern section of this trail is dominated by oaks and sassafras. The southern section takes you high onto a ridge where pitch pines and black oaks loom above you, casting shadows over the pond below. At its easternmost point the trail crosses over a small wooden bridge where sweet pepperbush, sweet gale, and speckled alder are the most visible plants.
Highlights of the Silver Spring Trail
Silver Spring is one of the best places on Cape Cod to see warblers during the spring migration. If you walk along this pond in May you might see as many as 20 species of warblers. Any time during May can be productive, but it seems as if the best days come following strong southwesterly winds. Some of the more common species include yellow, black-and-white, pine, and prairie warblers. Look for them feeding on insects in the canopies of the oak, maple, and cherry trees.
Turtles and Artifacts
Through the trees lies a clearing that was once an old asparagus field. This area is now maintained as open grassland by mowing once a year. Each summer eastern painted turtles and common snapping turtles leave the pond, and eastern box turtles leave the woodlands, to search for nesting sites among the grasses.
Sunny, sandy slopes are best, for they are easy to dig in and the warmth aids in successful development of the eggs. People have also dug in this field during archaeological studies. They have uncovered many Native American artifacts dating as far back as 6,000 years!
The dark water below hides a world teeming with life. If you watch carefully water movements may reveal the presence of many animals! Dragonfly and damselfly nymphs burrow in the leaf litter on the bottom of the pond. Backswimmers and Water Boatmen swim throughout the water column. Water Striders and Whirligig Beetles skate on the surface. These insects, though small in size, are critical links in the aquatic food chain. They search for plants and invertebrates to eat and in turn are eaten by larger predators such as fish, frogs, and turtles.
Walking the length of Silver Spring gives you a glimpse into the geology of the sanctuary. Tens of thousands of years ago the Laurentide Ice Sheet extended south from polar regions and deposited tons of gravel and sand here. As the ice retreated meltwater streams washed out channels in glacial material left behind. Silver Spring may be remnant of a meltwater stream.
Evergreens and the Austins
Many of the trees surrounding are scotch pines, red pines, and Norway spruces. These trees are not native to Cape Cod but were brought here and planted during the establishment of the Austin Ornithological Research Station in 1928. This station was one of the largest private bird-banding stations in the world at the time. To diversify the property even further, the Austins strengthened the dikes near both of the ponds to create standing bodies of water.