Published on March 12, 2022

Field Schools Offer Hiking,Tracking, and Birding Weekends

fs_hiking_Melissa Lowe

The 2022 Cape Cod Field Schools schedule is out with a full line-up of active, in-the-field experiences for adults. Two and three-day weekend programs, offered from spring through late fall, include hands-on, outdoor explorations with professional scientists and naturalists.

For a taste of field school life, program coordinator Sean Kortis shares a moment from a memorable weekend of kayaking Pleasant Bay last September.

Field School Adventure: A Pleasant Bay Paddle

The heavy fog that shrouded our paddle the evening before and cast a shadow of doubt on our weekend plans began to burn off as the late-summer sun pierced through the clouds and illuminated the clear waters of Pleasant Bay. The change in weather meant we’d be able to spend the morning out on the water, exploring the islands and expansive marshes along the edge of the horizon. Kingfishers rattled out their excited calls, and gray seals popped up to investigate our pod of kayaks, and perhaps guide us on our journey through this beautiful and diverse habitat.

Later, after a relaxing break on Sipson Island where we enjoyed lunch beneath the company of migrating Tree Swallows, we set out to end our long day and return to the realities of life back on land. Hesitant to end the journey so soon, we looked for any sign to extend the trip just a little longer and make the most of such a tremendous day together.

That’s when we saw it: a narrow channel of water, slowly meandering with the outgoing tide, between a vast salt marsh system and the sandy shores of Little Sipson Island.

Coastal Ecology by Kayak at Sipson Island 1

Following the Tide

We paddled into the channel and let the current guide us along the swaying marsh grasses, their green and gold hues reflecting on the waters of Pleasant Bay. Great Blue Herons and Snowy Egrets waded through the marshes in search of an afternoon snack, and we peered into their daily routine as we slowly drifted along the marsh edge, peering in at eye level. Just a few feet beneath us entire worlds of life moved about, from the dancing algae and skittering hermit crabs, to schools of fish. Even the ancient horseshoe crab paid a visit.

In this moment no explanations were needed. The experience spoke for itself, and we all felt the connection to the natural world, how it worked, and how that moment would linger long after our return to shore.

Sean Kortis is Mass Audubon Cape Cod’s Adult Programs Coordinator and oversees the field schools program.