So that the people of Falmouth may learn more about their land,

water and air, and better protect and enjoy all of Nature.

The Earth is your habitat.
Try to keep it as healthy as you found it, in every respect.
All of life is interdependent. What we give will return to us.
What we take we must return. All life is circular.
Whatever we do must be sustainable for generations to come.

I recommend:

Butterflies Through Binoculars, Boston through Washington by Jeffrey Glassberg
Butterflies Across Cape Cod, by Tor Hansen and Mark Mello
Newcomb's Wildflower Guide, by Lawrence Newcomb
Nabokov's Blues, by Kurt Johnson and Steve Coates
Peterson's Bird Guide, East; and Newcomb's Wildflower Guide.
Plan B 2.0   Rescuing a Planet Under Stress by Lester R. Brown
A Safe and Sustainable World by Nancy Jack Todd

And come join us.

Nature's Circle Invites You

to Any and All Walks and Events

Nature's Circle Calendar 2016

Out of date? Need the latest schedule?   Call or email Nature's Circle to find out the latest schedule.
508-564-4331   or  


New Articles:

Bird Migration Through Falmouth in Spring

Alison Robb

 Migrating birds look for sites in their long journey from wintering places south of here in warmer climes to breeding areas to the north.  They need to find food and shelter, to replenish their energy.  They tend to gather at sites well provided with food that is easy to procure so that their stay may be brief.

 On their way north along the east coast of North America, Cape Cod presents itself, literally stands out, as a stopping place.  Probably the most enticing site for a stopover on the Cape is the Beech Forest in the Provincelands.  It is a densely forested valley between the dunes at the final northern end of the Cape.  It is where all Cape birders head sometime from mid-April to mid-May to observe as many warblers and other migrants as they could see in one area.

 A large pond provides water, fish, insects, and moisture.  The forest provides shelter, food and plenty of company.  The interaction among birds is obvious.  One observes flocks and groups of birds gathering, moving together among the trees, and calling to each other.  Large and small groups of birdwatchers also gather, move together among the trees, and call to one another, often exchanging news of what has been seen when and where.

 Once replenished, migrators take off across the last lengthy ocean crossing as they head northward -- over Stellwagen Bank and the Gulf of Maine -- to their breeding grounds.   More than twenty species of warbler may be seen in the middle days of May in the Beech Forest, along with tanagers, orioles,  Black-capped Chickadees, Eastern Kingbird, American Redstart, Swainsons Thrush, White-eyed Vireo, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and a Spotted Sandpiper.

 Birds migrating on a more inland route may stop over in Falmouth.  There are plenty of species to find without going beyond the boundaries of Falmouth.  On our migrating warbler walks, the Town Forest that surrounds Long Pond is a favorite.  Where we park just off Gifford Street, for several years we have seen Baltimore Oriole nests hanging from the nearby trees.

 In the open areas where the tall pines were topped by Hurricane Bob in 1991, and the trunks later removed altogether, Prairie Warblers, Pine Warblers and Yellow Warblers were common.  A pair of Red-tailed Hawks were often seen watching us and the smaller animals from the top of a pair of Norway Spruce trees at the edge.

 As we moved on, past the Lady Slippers and into the deciduous woods, Palm Warblers were heard.  There was once a large flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers at the edge of Long Pond.  A Black-and-White Warbler called but was not seen.  In the pine-oak forest east of the pond we could hear Hermit Thrushes and Ovenbirds teasing us to find them.  A Brown Creeper crept head-downward on a pine trunk.  Farther on a pair of Scarlet Tanagers was spotted, which stayed on, we discovered, to nest and bring up their young.  Black-throated Green Warblers were heard and seen nearer the pond.

 After a good walk of discovery in the Town Forest, we usually moved on to the west end of Morse Pond, which we reached from Dillingham Avenue where the tennis club used to be.  That is next to a town conservation parcel which we hope never becomes anything but a  conservation parcel.  Our first season there we were delighted with a Northern Parula, a Black-and-White Warbler, a Blackburnian, a Chestnut-sided and a Bay-breasted Warbler -- all within a minute.

 Someone called out that they had seen a Palm and a Pine, while a Yellowthroat made itself heard.  That day there were also Red-breasted Nuthatches, Tufted Titmice, Chickadees, Red-bellied Woodpeckers,  a Rose-breasted Grosbeak and our year-round Carolina Wrens.  It is a tiny open space surrounded by small deciduous trees, and very near to the pond.  Water is important to all animals.

 Later that day, in Hatchville at Coonamessett Pond off Boxberry Hill Road, we heard and saw a Black-throated Blue Warbler, a White-throated Sparrow, Red-tailed Hawks, a Sharp-shinned Hawk, Common Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds,  a Great-crested Flycatcher, as well as Mockingbirds and Blue Jays.  Bluebirds had returned to some nesting boxes in a Hatchville field.

 Peterson Farm on Woods Hole Rd. has become another favorite birding site.  Red-tailed Hawks can commonly be seen year round.  Barn and Tree Swallows -- the Barn Swallows contentedly using the sheep shed as a nesting site -- zoom after insects and decorate the fences.  House Wrens occupy the roofs and interiors of the new bird houses.  Song Sparrows, Mockingbirds, Flickers, Peewees, Phoebes, Goldfinches and Catbirds add to the Spring welcome.

 There is the annual return of a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird which signals spring as well as anything.  He perches on the tallest tree or vine at the northwest corner of the open fields, probably to announce his return and his control of that territory.   In the woods we have seen and heard a Solitary Vireo and a Red-eyed Vireo,  Black-and-White Warblers and Chestnut-sided Warblers.  The visiting northern Robins have been replaced by the resident Robins, returned from their southern wintering spas, out on the field feasting on spring worms and insects.

 Another day of birdwatching may bring us to Salt Pond Areas Bird Sanctuaries, Inc.'s  Salt Pond parcel, which includes all the shores of the pond and forty acres of woods, upland and wetland.  Besides being my favorite field trip site for showing people the diversity of plants -- about 150 species of plants that I am aware of -- those acres of successional fields now sparsely treed and shrubbed make good nesting and feeding for woodland birds, as well as hawks, owls, American Woodcocks, and an occasional Northern Shrike.  The wintering waterfowl on the pond have flown off to their northern nesting areas, leaving our returning Double-crested Cormorants, Ospreys and terns to share the pond with the resident Belted Kingfishers, gulls, and Mute Swans.

 In the autumn we will have another chance to sight some of these same birds on their passage south.  The warblers will have lost some of their bright colors and will be difficult to distinguish one from the other bur we shall be out there watching, and we welcome everyone to join us.


Suggestions for backyard planting

In My Yard Are Many Habitats by Alison Robb

Gulls are wheeling and calling overhead Red-tailed hawks glide high over my neighborhood looking for small mammals in the fields. From April to October ospreys can be heard and seen, and in the spring they are gathering nesting material for their very large nests atop poles and towers near the shore. My yard really has nothing to do with the presence of those high-flying birds, but I did choose a place to live which has clean air, and water and which I hope will continue to be protected by caring residents.

At the front edge of my yard I have planted native trees and shrubs, probably too densely for their future health, but when one is planning a "woods" where there is none present, one tends to want it to be a thick screen from the road in a year or two. So there are two dogwood trees, a lilac, blueberry bushes, a white pine, and raspberries on the edge. In the 16 years since then bayberry has arrived and spreading, black cherry trees increase in number annually, and a five-foot "red cedar" has sprung up. Now the "woods" is dense and provides cover for rabbits, birds and who knows what else.

A black oak and a maple mark my driveway, while a pin oak and a scarlet oak dominate the side yard -- they were there 50 - 100 years ago. Tall sassafras trees and many cherries fill out the boundary at the rear.

I have since added Buddleia bushes to attract butterflies, currants and gooseberries to feed birds. Without invitation, bittersweet and multiflora rose are trying to cover everything on the north side. They do provide berries and rosehips for the birds in winter. On the south side is a privet hedge whose flowers provide nectar to american lady butterflies, monarchs, wood nymphs, and little wood satyrs.

What was lawn when I arrived has been put to better use: The only parts that are mowed these days are paths around and between patches that contain the woods, a wildflower meadow, a vegetable garden, an herb garden, a quince bush for the hummingbirds and orioles, and more buddleia.

In the meadow for nectar are black-eyed susans, butterfly weeds, clover, daisies, bergamots, phlox, goldenrods, verbena and coreopsis. Host plants for butterflies (the plants that butterflies need to lay eggs on that the larvae will feed on) are queen anne's lace, carrot, dill, parsley, milkweed, snapdragons, plantains, and thistles.

My driveway is crushed stone bordered by clover and milkweed. It is important to cover one's driveway and parking areas with a permeable surface. The earth needs the rain filtering downward to replenish the soil and the aquifer below. Any material that stands in the way of that natural process is not a good ecological choice. This includes cement without perforation and asphalt. Added to the demise of healthy soil beneath an impermeable surface is the problem of run-off of the rain which washes the oil and other chemicals off the asphalt and carries them in a channel or stream to the place of least resistance which may erode your yard or someone else's yard or else drain straight into the road drainage system and then into the nearest pond, bay or sound. Asphalt and cement should be used only on roads where speed is necessary. Crushed stone, flag stones or mowed areas are best for driveways and parking lots.

The same drainage system receives run-off from lawns and gardens. If herbicides and pesticides have been used they will poison not only weeds and insects but also the air, the water, animals and humans. The very weeds targeted by herbicides are some of the welcome wildflowers in my meadow. So, as a beginning in my effort to live sustainably, I am not going to add chemicals of any kind to my yard. Before I take steps to use even organic methods of controlling weeds and insects, I will let the plants and insects come to a balance of their own. Birds and butterflies and dragonflies will control many insects. Most of the caterpillars that eat the plants will become harmless moths, flies, beetles or butterflies. Or they may be welcome dinners for our songbirds.

I have just brought home some plants favored by nectaring butterflies -- lantana, impatiens, zinnias, cardinal flower, salvia, Mexican sunflower and echinacea. With a little luck, and plenty of rain, my yard will be enjoyed by many creatures.



Alison Robb is a naturalist living in Falmouth. She leads walks all over Falmouth where she introduces people to the birds, plants, butterflies and ecological systems, in an effort to enhance their knowledge and enjoyment of their surroundings. She can be reached at Nature's Circle, 508-564-4331, email and on the website

All lectures and field trips are without charge and open to the public. They are sponsored by Nature's Circle, a local nature center which endeavors to bring residents and nature together through education and many field walks throughout the year. Nature's Circle may be contacted at 508-564-4331. and at

Reading List: (moved to a new page)

*** Call Nature's Circle, 508-564-4331, for further information for these events and for additional scheduled walks. All local field trips are without charge and open to everyone. Do join us. You don't know what you have been missing ! See our links to other sites and sources. Call if you would like a slide lecture or walk especially for your group or organization.

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This page updated February 2016