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Springtime Secrets

Four local naturalists share their favorite places to savor the arrival of spring

Photo by Deb Casso

Barnstable Great Marsh wildlife Sanctuary, West Barnstable
Newly opened in 2012, the 114 acres of this Mass Audubon sanctuary—which boast protected salt marshes, forested uplands, man-made ponds, and freshwater wetlands—await discovery. The spring months of March and April are ideal times to explore the sanctuary’s five trails that meander through the marshes and ponds, offering views of Sandy Neck. “There are two really nice freshwater ponds,” says Ian Ives, who has been working as director of Mass Audubon’s Mid and Upper Cape sanctuaries since 2006. “It’s a great place to see raptors such as Northern Harriers as well as Great Horned Owls and Screech Owls in early spring.” The salt marsh is one of the region’s most active and biologically rich ecosystems, supporting a wide range of birds, plants, and marine species including spartina grass, striped bass and bluefish, and shellfish such as quahogs, clams, and mussels. While passing the freshwater ponds and wetlands, look out for otters and listen for early spring amphibians like wood frogs, salamanders, and peepers. Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary has a wide range of adult and family programs including guided walks, kayaking, boat cruises, interpretive tours, and more. “We encourage people to come on a walk,” says Ives, “learn about [the area], and then you can go out on your own.” For more information, go to

From the Mid-Cape Highway (Route 6) take Exit 6 on to Route 132 North. Follow to Route 6A in Barnstable and take a right. Travel one mile heading east and look for 2444 on the left just after Barnstable-West Barnstable Elementary School entrance. Follow driveway to parking area. Parking area can accommodate roughly four vehicles; please be courteous and avoid blocking private driveways.

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