nature 06.14 Sandy Neck

Sandy Neck

The signs are everywhere. Cars with out-of-state plates are already jamming our roads, which means no more left turns for a few months. The grocery stores have longer lines and it’s no longer a breeze to go to your favorite restaurant. Graduation pictures have taken over local papers and end-of-year recitals, concerts and assemblies are happening all over. In just a few days, most local schools will let out, due to our having no snow days this past winter.

Gardens are blooming, grills are grilling and everywhere you go people are sprucing up their homes and landscapes. Beaches are groomed and ready, empty lifeguard chairs and sticker checker stands wait patiently for their people to arrive for work.

Baby birds are hatching, little bunnies and chipmunks are everywhere, and the frogs are finally a brighter shade of green. Summer is speeding around the corner on two wheels, skidding into view with bells on and lights a-blazing, tooting her own horn. She’s a hussy, that one.

Those of us who have lived here our whole lives, or most of those years, know that spring on the Cape is more an idea than a reality. This year, however, had to be the rainiest, coldest spring I can remember in more than 50 years. We joke that summer arrives two days after spring finally makes an appearance, but more often than not that’s sadly true, not funny. We go from winter to summer in a flash. So much for spring, or so we say.

Here’s the thing. Spring shows up anyway, and she did show up this year if you got out in spite of the rain and cold. The spotted salamanders, wood frogs and spadefoot toads all used those rainy nights to party hearty. This was a boom year for tadpoles, and they are either out of their vernal pools by now or on their way very soon.

The migrating birds were slowed a bit by weather, but most arrived pretty close to on time. Claiming territories, finding mates, nest building and laying eggs happened pretty much on schedule. The bad weather wasn’t great for birds that feed on flying insects and there has definitely been some mortality as a result, of both young and adults. Sad to say, but a certain amount of mortality occurs every year for one reason or another. It will be interesting to see actual numbers for this spring compared to others.

I’m a huge fan of the spring ephemerals—the tiny, often-delicate wildflowers that bloom before the canopy of the woodland leafs out. All my favorites were easy to find in the damp woods. Mayflowers, spice bush, trout lilies, wood anemones, star flowers, sarsaparilla, Canada mayflowers, lady slippers and more all put on a good show. My most recent walk early in the week was sort of sad. All the ephemerals are fading fast.

Summer brings its own special blooms, of course. Right now, the beach roses and beach peas are in bloom. They seem to have liked the rain and are blooming in profusion everywhere. Piping plovers have hatched, and ospreys are feeding babies in all the nests I’ve checked this week. There’s something sweet about watching a large bird of prey tear off tiny chunks of fish to feed a tiny bird.

Yep, summer is rushing in. It’s time for fishing, sailing, chilling on the beach, lobster rolls, long walks at sunset and reading all those books that have piled up next to the bed. Well, maybe at least some of the books. And of course, it’s time for crowds. And traffic. And bugs, especially bugs that bite.

Summer’s a bit of a showoff but even if you don’t always like her flamboyant, extroverted ways, there is something to say for a few months in which to run around barefoot. She’s on her way, like it or not, and you know what they say—some like it hot. As for me? I’ll be hanging out in the shade.

Mary Richmond is an artist, writer, naturalist and educator who grew up on the Cape and lives in Hyannis. More information at

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