Published on March 18, 2021

Gift to Wellfleet Bay Inspired by Former Volunteer's Love of Birds

Ruby-throated Hummingbird visiting monarda flower (Kristin Foresto/Mass Audubon)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Very few volunteers today remember Wellfleet Bay in what are known as the "farmhouse days." The farmhouse was the rambling summer home of the Austin family, who operated a bird research station on the property before it was acquired by Mass Audubon in 1958. The house served as an office and gift shop.

Sanctuary Director emeritus Bob Prescott recalls those years of his tenure—the 80's and the early 90's—were well before the first phase of the existing Nature Center was completed. There weren't nearly as many volunteers back then as there are today, either. "There couldn’t have more than a dozen [volunteers]," Bob says.

One of those volunteers was Doris Countryman. She served in what was known as one of the most demanding roles at the time—manning the sanctuary admission booth near the parking lot. The booth was located in the field that's now occupied by the day camp classrooms.

"The booth was small, it got hot in the summer, and it had green-heads [flies]!" Bob recalls. During spring and fall weekends (peak birding periods) the parking lot was often jammed with cars. "It could get a little crazy," Bob adds. 

Sharing a Love of Nature & Birds

But Doris was undaunted. As today's front desk volunteers know, the job of greeting visitors can bring a barrage of questions—many of them about birds and natural history. "Not many volunteers wanted to be in the booth!" Bob says.

"Doris loved birds," notes her son-in-law, David Podell. "She was always teaching me—'It's Canada Geese, David, not Canadian Geese!'" And he remembers some of her other instructions. "Teacher, teacher is the song of the Ovenbird, and chick-a-dee-dee-dee for you know who!" 

He says Doris also loved Great Blue Herons, hummingbirds, and "Chippy" the chipmunk, who made a living eating the fallen seeds under her bird feeders at home.

Doris Countryman with her grandchildren (Sam and Kate Podell) and son-in-law (David Podell)

Doris with her grandchildren (Sam and Kate)
and son-in-law David Podell

Connecting with the Future

Doris died in 2019 at the age of 94. After her passing, David informed Wellfleet Bay she had made a generous bequest to the sanctuary. Learn more about planned giving >

David and his grown children, Kate and Sam—who have never been to Wellfleet Bay—are looking forward to visiting this summer to see the special place where their grandmother spent so much time enjoying nature and helping many others enjoy it too.

Wendy O'Keefe, Mass Audubon's Cape Cod Development Director, says, "We are so grateful to Doris for including the sanctuary in her planned giving."

Bequests are gifts made through your will or living trust. "Naming Wellfleet, Long Pasture, or Mass Audubon Cape Cod in your bequest is an easy and wonderful way to invest in the nature of Cape Cod," Wendy adds. 

For more information about planned giving options, contact Wendy O'Keefe by email or call 508-556-7806.