Last week my husband and I ventured to Cape Cod for a little Labor Day get-away and to visit family in the area. We rented a cute little cottage in Wellfleet, MA, which is considered part of the Outer Cape. It is home to the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (which is managed by the Massachusetts Audubon Society), and has easy access to the Cape Cod National Seashore and the Cape Rail Trail, which makes for lots of great nature and outdoor activities as well as a leisurely day at the beach, if that’s more your speed. We love spending time on the Cape, as it provides both ocean and woods areas to explore, and holds happy childhood memories for my husband who grew up spending family vacations there.
When we visited last week, we were afforded the opportunity to visit the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary with the mother of a friend, who lives in Wellfleet and volunteers as a naturalist at the sanctuary.
We headed out pretty early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day, and to hopefully see more wildlife. Our naturalist hosts explained a bit about the area, and we took off walking on the hiking trail to head towards the Cape Cod Bay shoreline to hopefully see shore birds in the morning before the tide moved out and they were too far to see.
One of the things we were told to keep our eyes out for were turtle egg nests. Apparently it was hatching season for Diamondback Terrapins, a Threatened Species under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. Most of the nests were clearly marked and protected with a mesh wire cage, and were tagged with a number. If you noticed any hatchlings in the nest, you were asked to call it in to the Wildlife Sanctuary office so they could send out the volunteers who were trained on how to retrieve them, because once they hatch, they are vulnerable to predators. Before they hatch, the eggs are buried in the sand (maybe 3-4 inches?). Once the baby turtle hatches, it climbs and digs up to the surface.
We were walking along, enjoying the beauty of the sanctuary, and taking in the wealth of information from our hosts, when we came upon a caged turtle nest. We’re looking down at it, and our hosts are explaining what to watch for. I bend down further to get a closer look, just before we are about to walk away, and amazingly, I spied 8 little hatchlings in the nest! Tiny little turtles, about the size of a quarter. Our experienced naturalist hosts were shocked to discover they had almost missed it, and immediately sprung into action. We called the office, and within 5 minutes there was a crew of about 5 volunteers ready to dig in, literally! We watched the whole process of them retrieving the hatchlings, as well as dig a few inches down to see if there were others – and sure enough there were 4-5 more hatchlings that hadn’t quite hit the surface yet, as well as a couple of babies that didn’t make it.
It was an amazing experience. I felt honored and humbled to observe, and be a part of this effort to assist these little creatures, whose entire species hangs in the balance due to human population growth in their coastal habitats.
Every moment, we have the opportunity to witness amazing things.
There is beauty happening all around us, all the time. Some moments bring us joy of a simple variety, like birds and flowers and trees. Other moments contain beauty of a more humbling variety, or the type that cause us to pause and consider how fortunate we are. Each of us is a witness here on Earth, and by living in the right here, right now, there is so much we get to enjoy about today. Worry less about what happened yesterday, or what might happen tomorrow. Focus on today, this moment, and all that it is. If I hadn’t been making a true effort, and honed my skill of being truly present, there are some little baby turtles of a threatened species that might have just been passed by. If you constantly focus your attention on the past or the future, you miss out on so much that is right in front of us, in that moment. Tomorrow isn’t promised, but today is a gift to savor, and we can impact so much in our own lives and the lives of other beings by just being present today.
Have a healthy & mindful week!