When we moved to Brewster in the summer of 2019, our experience with winter on Cape Cod was limited. An awesome surprise was learning that many birds migrated south from the Arctic to winter in both the ocean and ponds of the Cape. Watching and photographing the birds from shore became a much-loved experience and hobby, one which evolved into winter kayaking on Seymour Pond. Our kayaks are wide and stable, and include skirts to keep us covered from the waist down.
December 12, 2020 was an unusually warm and calm day and into our kayaks we went. There was a thick fog over the cold water and I thought it might offer the opportunity to quietly drift a little closer to the many scaups on the pond. Many greater scaups and other species of ducks are often seen on Seymour Pond. However, they are very cautious and keep their distance even from quiet drifting kayakers.
My wife eventually found and joined me after I had disappeared into the fog. She was only able to see about 20 yards off shore. This presented a very eerie feeling for her so she chose to stay close to shore. When one sense is blocked, others rise in accuracy. The sounds were amazing. We did rendevous near the Harwich Public beach end of Seymour Pond before I disappeared again in the fog.
In time, I found myself close to the middle of the pond and couldn’t see the shore in any direction. It is hard to describe the unique experience of sitting in blankness and hearing the low sounds of the scaups in the distance, then the chaos of wind flapping during takeoff and the whistling noise from their wingtips as they gain speed.
I also had the good fortune of seeing an immature bald eagle perched along the shore. Bald eagles have recently started to nest on Cape Cod after an absence of a century! So wonderful to witness the return of these magnificent birds.
Seymour Pond is connected to Hinkleys Pond by a canal dug in the 1800s to support a long abandoned cranberry bog. The canal offers a migration path for blueback herring and alewives. I was very lucky to see some of the young at the mouth of the canal apparently gathering to leave for the sea.
Cape cod ponds are a wonderful part of the ecosystem of Cape Cod and can be enjoyed in all seasons.
Story and images: John Kielb, Citizen Scientist, Brewster Ponds Coalition
Marcia Kielb, Board member of BPC and chair of Pond Education Committee
Got a Pond Story you want to share? Email Kristin Andres at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pond Stories are a collection of writings from Cape Codders and visitors who love the 1000 local ponds that dot the Cape. We hope this collection of stories, that are as much endearing as they are environmentally aware, will awaken your inner environmentalist to think deeper about our human impacts to these unique bodies of water. Check out these valuable resources to learn more about the current challenges Cape Cod ponds are facing and how you can be a better pond steward in your town.