Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary
Spending time with Augustus (Gus) Ben David 2nd at the World of
Reptiles is a learning experience from start to finish.
But it is in the snake room, in the basement of his home in
Edgartown, surrounded by over a hundred feet of slithering reptiles
locked in wooden cages, where Mr. Ben David is in his element.
Today is fall festival, a traditional celebration at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown. Every year since 1980, the sanctuary has held a day-after Thanksgiving event which brings together strangers and friends, young and old to sip hot cider and participate in an array of family-friendly activities.
While other people are busy shopping and scurrying about with holiday errands, at Felix Neck there is a different kind of tradition for those who want to get outdoors and work off some of that turkey dinner.
Leading a tour of the Sengekontacket, Felix Neck guide Emily Smith rounded Sarsons Island Friday in her red kayak and stopped. Something in the pond had caught her eye. She backtracked, peered into the water for a few moments and then pulled out a horseshoe crab. The kayakers on the tour crowded around for a look, bumping their boats together as they packed in. She flipped the crab over to show its small legs squirming in the air and began spelling out facts about the creature.
Conditions were perfect — finally — last Thursday evening for the Marine Discovery Tour leaving Oak Bluffs harbor. It was sunny, there was a gentle breeze, and plenty of families were lining up to board the fishing boat Skipper.
This Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary program was supposed to begin running twice a week on June 27. However, the outing on July 30 was the Skipper’s first of the season. Felix Neck educator Justen Walker put it down to “a combination of the weather and the economy.”
It was spider crabs that drew them together.
A circle of children, parents lingering at the back, gathered recently at a new screened-in space at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, the Vineyard’s MassAudubon center on Sengekontacket Pond, ready for the day’s Creature Feature.
Creature Feature is a program for kids aged three to seven, and today it was Gretchen Tisch’s job to tell them everything they ever wanted to know about spider crabs, a creature whose two names separately can strike fear in the imagination.
Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary will conduct new research with the help of citizen scientists, thanks to an environmental science research grant awarded by the Vermont Institute of Natural Science and the Student Conservation Association.
The grant provides funding for a conservation intern to work on wildlife research projects, including horseshoe crab monitoring, dragonfly and damselfly inventories, and breeding bird and salamander surveys.
As the moon rose over Sengekontacket Pond on Sunday night, Felix Neck education coordinator Cristina Pereira led a small group of adults through the trails of the sanctuary. The next day, Ms. Pereira guided a group of high school students for their morning lesson about otter scat remains.
But no matter who Ms. Pereira or other educators at Felix Neck are working with, the goal remains the same: to encourage Islanders to engage with their natural habitat.
Saturday, May 14 dawned a little differently. It was the morning of Felix Neck’s Birdathon and there was not a strong wind roaring out of the northeast. The woodlands were pretty quiet as the day started out overcast, but the sun shone through about 9 a.m. and seemingly brought the woodlands to life. The complete list of birds observed on that Saturday appears at the end of this column; here are a few highlights.
We are all fired up at Felix Neck!
And why shouldn’t we be? Summer staff is here, camp is going strong and we are getting ready for the big parade next week. But it isn’t just the kids and counselors who are animated.
Our fields are full of light and love in the form of bright beetles. I know exactly what Bishop Reginald Heber was experiencing when he observed, “Before, beside us, and above, the firefly lights his lamp of love.”