Published on October 17, 2021

Fall Colors at Cape Sanctuaries Include Yellow School Buses

Cape Cod teacher naturalist shows a bird to a school group at Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

After 18 months of distanced online teaching due to the pandemic, our educators this fall have welcomed the return of local students and teachers to our sanctuaries.

Recently, students at several Cape Cod schools had an opportunity to get outdoors and experience in-the-field activities at Wellfleet Bay and Barnstable Great Marsh.

Fall Migration Up Close

Seventh graders from several schools visited Wellfleet Bay's bird banding station as part of a bird curriculum introduced several years ago. The highlight was a chance to observe bander Megan Miller show and describe the birds they'd caught.

Megan helped the students record the necessary data for each banded bird, including sex, age, weight, wing measurement, and fat content (to indicate readiness for  migration). Among the species netted that day were a Yellow-Breasted Chat, a Brown Creeper, and a Red-eyed Vireo, very likely life birds for every student!

Into the Marsh

Students collecting data at Barnstable Great Marsh © David Shapiro
© David Shapiro

Sturgis Charter Public School students explored Barnstable Great Marsh as scientists investigating the impact of sea level rise.

Focusing on prescribed points along transects of uplands and salt marsh that the school’s been tracking for eight years, the students noted the plants in each study location and the percentage of the area each species covered. They also tested the water for salinity to note any correlation of increased salt content with the advancement of salt-tolerant low marsh plants into the high marsh.  

As they collected data, the kids also noted all the life teeming in the marsh grass, such as crabs and even a praying mantis!

Educator Jessica Sheppard says the beauty of the Great Marsh was not lost on the students, many of whom, despite living relatively nearby, had never experienced it.

One student told her, "I've driven by this marsh a lot, but I'd never actually been in it!"