Kettle Pond Swimming on Cape Cod

by Donna Cain, Innkeeper and owner

Boat Meadow Bay Beach

Boat Meadow Bay Beach

Everyone thinks of beaches when they come to Cape Cod for their summer fun. Most are drawn to the National Seashore beaches where one can see the crashing waves from the Atlantic, or on the Bay side with our breathtaking sunsets. But for Zen like swimming in little seas of tranquillity, Cape Cod also has many beautiful kettle ponds.

Flax's Pond in Nickerson

Flax’s Pond in Nickerson

Today we had a beautiful walk in Nickerson State Park. Since we can’t take our dog Harrison swimming on the bay beaches we are always looking for new places to let him swim during the summer. Nickerson is a beautiful park which has wonderful biking and walking paths.

Bike path at Nickerson

Bike path at Nickerson

Kettle ponds have an interesting geology on Cape Cod as they were formed more than 15,000 years ago, when blocks of glacier ice melted, leaving massive holes, called kettles, that filled with fresh water.
These kettle ponds are sprinkled around Cape Cod and are great places to have a summer swim. Harrison can attest to how wonderful they are….

Harrison swimming after a stick

Harrison swimming after a stick

We love to hike around Nickerson. It’s such a beautiful park with many hidden areas.

Byron in Nickerson State Park

Byron in Nickerson State Park

For afternoon relaxation many of our guests staying at the Captain Freeman Inn also enjoying relaxing by our lovely pool. It is flanked by beautiful gardens and singing birds.

Captain Freeman pool

Captain Freeman pool

Exhaling on Cape Cod and feeling very blessed!

Going “Wild” on Cape Cod

by Donna Cain, Innkeeper and owner

Cape Cod is known for it’s natural beauty and with that comes an unlimited amount of wildlife.  While staying at our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast, the Captain Freeman Inn, we like to up your chances of encountering unique wildlife. So while you are exhaling on Cape Cod to  relax your soul, we might also suggest that you take a “walk on the wild side” to see some of our unique wildlife and habitat. Listed below are some of our favorites:

Cape Cod Whalewatching

Cape Cod Whale watching

Whale tales- Many of our guests staying at our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfasts enjoy a day of whale watching during their stay on Cape Cod. We usually recommend the Dolphin Fleet out of P’Town which has several 4 hour + excursions each day. Many of our guests tell us that seeing the whales up close was on their bucket list…..and most just rave about their experience. P’Town is such a unique town and is full of many other things to do after your whale watching such as biking on the bike path to Race Point beach, having lunch at the Lobster Pot which is a great place to have your old fashion “lobster eating experience”, climbing the Pilgrim Monument and shopping at the many unique shops on Commercial Street. The whale watching cruises get you very close to the whales and usually include sightings of Humpback and minke whales that frequent and feed the waters off of Cape Cod. Recent sighting of the rare Right Whale means you may even see a more unusual species. The trips are narrated by a naturalist who share the natural history of the area and teach guests about whale biology and their natural habitat.

Seal

Seal

Seals of approval- Everyone loves to see seals, and we recommend to our guests that they stop by the fish market in Chatham to see all of the seals that wait for the fishing vessels to return and the dinner that they receive when the fishermen throw into the waters their unused bait. Adorable grey and harbor seals are frequent visitors to Lower Cape beaches, where they swim, frolic and sunbathe. Blue Claw Boat Tours out of Orleans brings seal watchers to the shores of Pleasant Bay. The Monomoy Island ferry, based in Chatham, takes visitors to the Monomoy National Wildlife refuge, barrier islands off the Cape Cod elbow that are home to a sprawling colony. Recent news last summer included shark sightings since the seal habitat has become so large and makes for a nice meal to the sharks:(

Birds of a Feather- Midsummer is a perfect time to view migrating shorebirds including short-billed dowitchers, whimbreds, Hudson godwits- taking a break en route to South America. Diane Silverstein is a local expert and is a member of the Cape Cod Bird Club. Members provide free guided walks in bird friendly spots from Sandwich to P’Town. For self guided strolls look for barn swallows and Baltimore orioles at the Ashumet Holly Wildlife Sanctuary in East Falmouth, herons and terns in the National Seashore on the outer Cape, or ospreys at the Cape Cod Natural History Museum.

Osprey at the Natural history Museum

Osprey at the Natural history Museum

Not to be missed are the array of bird life that can be seen from the bird feeders in the front and rear of the Captain Freeman Inn. Guest have recently seen cardinals, finches, woodpeckers, robins of course, and chickadees.

Finch resting in our Lazy Susans last summer

Finch resting in our Lazy Susans last summer

Audubon- The Cape’s Audubon wildlife sanctuaries can be a great place to view egrets, herons and ospreys, but there is more to be seen at these properties. The Wellfleet Bay sanctuary offers walks, lectures, and kid’s day camps. At Long Pasture in Barnstable, visitors can wander the Butterfly Mosaic trail looking for unique butterflies, diamond back terrapin and pipping plovers, or maybe the threatened spadefoot toad.

Baby plover

Baby plover

On Martha’s Vineyard visit Felix Neck sanctuary to hike four miles of trails, watch resident barn owls or sample wild edibles. You can find scheduled for each at http://www.massaudubon.org

Walking trails full of nature including the trails in our Brewster Nickerson State Park, the unique White Cedar Swamp Trail at the National Seashore where you can enjoy an easy 1.5 mile walk on an elevated boardwalk with swampy trees and peat lined swamp full of unique bird life.

Ahhhhh, exhaling on Cape Cod and being amazed at all of the natural beauty and wildlife that surrounds our two inns, Brewster by the Sea and the Captain Freeman Inn.

Captain Freeman Inn on Cape Cod Captain Freeman Inn on Cape Cod[

 

Herring run in Brewster

by Donna Cain, Innkeper and owner

We always know when spring is here as we hear all of the seagulls “squaking” with content at the Stoney Brook Grist Mill which is just behind our second inn, Brewster by the Sea Inn and Spa. It’s quite a sight to see the seagulls swooping down and eating many of the herring that are jumping upstream to reach Upper Mill pond where they will spawn over the summer months.

Herring Run

Herring Run.

It was interesting to read that the herring population is very healthy and increasing every year. The article below was written last year by the “Wicked Local” There is much debate as to why the population is increasing. When we first moved here over 10 years ago it was fun to watch the kids catching the herring in their nets. When the population starting decreasing you could not get a permit to catch the herring.

Herring at Stony Brook

2007 – 22,300
2008 – 25,289

2009 – 11,062

2010 – 48,099

2011 – 37,091

2012 – 41,028

2013 – 153,262

(one wonders how they can count the actual number of herring:)

Herring in Brewster

Herring in Brewster

They won’t be packing barrels of smoked herring out of the Stony Brook Mill site like they used to 100 years ago, but maybe some day folks will be able to dip their nets in to catch the sparkling silver fish once more for their private smoking.

The Association to Preserve Cape Cod reports last spring’s estimated record run of herring was 153,262 fish.

“It’s certainly encouraging to see this big increase at Stony Brook,” said noted Jo Ann Muramoto, senior scientist at the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, who oversees their work with herring. “Still it’s so, so low compared to historic records based on the barrels of fish they used to take out. I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet.”

Prior to 1903 Brewster had an official herring catcher who had to supply each town family with one eighth of barrel of herring a year. The average annual catch was 225 barrels. In contrast, in 1912, Harwich’s Herring River produced 1,200 barrels.

The official “record” only covers eight years, the formal herring counts began in 2007 but it still a good sign. The previous high was 48,099 in 2010 so this represents a tripling.

The question is, is the bounce due to the reworked (in fall 2010) culvert under Route 6A, which is now 18-feet wide instead of 4 feet, or does it reflect a general rebound of herring around the state?

“I’d like to think it’s a combination of both of those,” Muramoto said. “I do think making the culvert wider has made a difference. During the run itself a number of people including myself stood over the culvert and looked down at thousands of herring schooling to pass through the culvert whereas before maybe a dozen could move up at one time. An entire school could make it through now.”

Muramoto explained that herring seem to like to form a school before they move upstream.

“It’s probably the way they migrate upstream. If you watch at different points they seem to like to congregate in schools. This schooling pattern is pretty common,” she said.

Herring

Herring

That could be a way to reduce the chance of predation by gulls or other animals.

Massachusetts imposed a three-year moratorium on herring harvests (both alewife and blueback herring, both in the genus Alosa) on Jan. 1, 2006. That was extended for another three years in 2008 and has continued since. Connecticut and Rhode Island have also closed their herring fisheries however herring can be caught in the open ocean as a bycatch of other fisheries, especially Atlantic herring (Clupea Harengas). Most of the bycatch occurs around Cape Cod, according to a 2008 study.

“The effects of fishing at sea are not well controlled,” Muramoto observed.

Dana Condit, head of Brewster Mill Site Committee, puts more stock in the fishery shutdown than the new culvert.

“I grew up right there and I remember in the ’60′s they’d show up like this year and they would use that culvert,” Condit said. “In 1968 they changed the configuration where the fish go into the pond and they navigated that in huge numbers.”

The Stony Brook fishery was big business in those days.

“They used to sieve them out in the back of dump trucks and in barrels on tailor trucks. They took a lot of herring out of there,” Condit recalled.

Last year (2012) saw big runs of herring in the Charles and Black rivers, as well as at Stony Brook and in the Monument River in Bourne.

“This may have begun in 2012 and is continuing this year. We’ll know better when the Division of Marine Fisheries presents the results from around the state later this month,” Muramoto said. “I think 32 runs are monitored in Massachusetts. The highest numbers are on Cape Cod.”

Muramoto works with herring monitors in several towns.

“There are increases in some, others are the same,” she said. “The Herring River in Wellfleet almost doubled this year. Pilgrim Lake (in Orleans) was the same. The Mashpee River was the same but some counts were lost. The Quashnet (River) was the same. The increase for Stony Brook was one of the most dramatic.”

“I talked with construction guys from the DMF and they had wonderful numbers everywhere. It wasn’t just us,” Condit said. “A lot of runs did very well off Cape.”

The herring run generally peaks in late April and early May. Muramoto recruits 15 to 20 volunteers to do the counts. Nine counts are done each day at random times during herring season, at a designated location, each count lasts 10 minutes. Herring runs in Bournedale and Sandwich have electronic counters.

The herring do run at night, but nighttime counts have been problematic.

“We’ve tried to use a video camera underwater at night but had severe lighting problems,” Muramoto said. “We weren’t successful seeing fish.”

We stopped by the Herring run last night and Byron was able to get some great shots of the herring in the water. The pictures have an impressionistic feel and we both loved the shots so much that we want to frame some.

Herring in Brewster

Herring in Brewster

This particular evening the seagulls were flying overhead but were not swooping down for dinner…..maybe they had their fill for the day.

Herring

Herring

Many of our guests staying at the Captain Freeman Inn and Brewster by the Sea love visiting the Brewster Grist Mill. This weekend the town is celebrating Brewster in Bloom and the mill will be open for tours. They will also be selling their wonderful ground corn meal. We love to purchase the ground corn for our wonderful Captain Freeman Corn Muffins which we serve regularly at the inn.

Happy Spring!

Fantastic State Park in the middle of Brewster

by Donna Cain, innkeeper and owner

We are so lucky to have a wonderful State Park just up the street from the Captain Freeman Inn. Nickerson State Park is a 1,900-acre state park with sandy soil and scrub pines surrounding many kettle ponds.

Harrison was very excited when we entered the park as he knew a nice long walk was fast approaching.

Harrison's excitement

Harrison’s excitement

We love to go to the far end of the park and walk around Higgins pond.

Map of Nickerson State park

Map of Nickerson State park

The walk around the lake is always pristine, quiet and magical.

Byron and Harrison walking the trail

Byron and Harrison walking the trail

Views of the kettle pond with a wonderful walk trail around the lake.

Higgins lake at Nickerson

Higgins lake at Nickerson

It’s always fun when walking after a snow storm to see that you are the first to walk the trail…

tracks in the snow

tracks in the snow

Harrison went for a nice swim….

our lovable Harrison

our lovable Harrison

The sun was casting beautiful reflections on the lake.

Sunshine in Nickerson

Sunshine in Nickerson

As we were ending our hike my eye caught sight of a new little pine seedling…..new growth with spring in site….

Pine seedling in Nickerson

Pine seedling in Nickerson

i just heard on the radio that the first day of spring is 6 weeks away…..that’s great…. but winter in Brewster, Cape Cod is really special!