A Cape Cod Notebook | CAI

A Cape Cod Notebook

Credit Kathy Shorr

A Cape Cod Notebook can be heard every Tuesday morning at 8:45am and afternoon at 5:45pm.

It's commentary on the unique people, wildlife, and environment of our coastal region.

A Cape Cod Notebook commentators include:

Robert Finch, a nature writer living in Wellfleet who created, 'A Cape Cod Notebook.' It won the 2006 New England Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Radio Writing. He has lived on and written about Cape Cod for forty years. He is the author of six collections of essays, including "The Iambics of Newfoundland" (Counterpoint Press), and co-editor of "The Norton Book of Nature Writing." His new book, "The Outer Beach: A Thousand-Mile Walk Along Cape Cod’s Atlantic Shore."

Mary Bergman, originally from Provincetown, now lives on Nantucket.  She is a writer and historian, working in historic preservation and writing a novel. 

Nelson Sigelman is an award winning former reporter, outdoor writer and author. He has been honored by the Outdoor Writers Association of America, the New England Outdoor Writers Association and the New England Press Association. His most recent book is Martha’s Vineyard Outdoors, Fishing, Hunting and Avoiding Divorce on a Small Island. He currently works part time for the Tisbury Shellfish Department and lives with his wife Norma in Vineyard Haven.

Susan Moeller - Susan Moeller is a freelance writer and editor who was a reporter and editor with the Boston Herald and Cape Cod Times. She’s lived on the Cape for 45 years and when not working, swims, plays handbells, pretends to garden and walks her dog, Dug. She lives in Cummaquid. 

Dennis Minsky's career as a field biologist began in 1974, at Cape Cod National Seashore, protecting nesting terns and plovers.  A Provincetown resident since 1968, he returned full time in 2005.  He is involved in many local conservation projects, works as a naturalist on the Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch, and tries to write.

 A Cape Cod Notebook is made possible in part with support from Titcomb’s Bookshop on Route 6A in East Sandwich.


Every six hours a 6-foot-diameter weather balloon is launched from Truro to gather data on the atmosphere. On spring evenings, a balloon's release may be accompanied by the flights of woodcocks engaged in their distinctive rocket-like mating display. On A Cape Cod Notebook, writer Robert Finch ponders the curious juxtaposition: helium-filled science balloons and avian courtship behavior.

Audio essay posted above.

Here's a video of a weather balloon launch at the Cape Cod National Seashore:

AFP/Getty Images

The high percentage of seniors on Cape Cod can make personal indications of aging easier to ignore. On A Cape Cod Notebook, Robert Finch tallies some of the signposts of aging, including failings of the body, and encounters with professional figures younger than appears seemly. Recently, he was struck by a fresh age-related realization: the newly elected Pope might just be his last.

Audio essay posted above.


Between two spasms of violence that gripped the nation's attention - the Marathon Bombing and the subsequent manhunt that shut down Boston - Robert Finch found himself seated on a bench in Harvard Yard reading poetry. It was only later, looking back, that he perceived how unknowingly that pretty spring day embodied the eye of a storm. 

Audio essay posted above.


Scattered groups of migratory herring – pink, dark-finned shapes, curved and elusive in the water - appear no more than wisps of current that circle and disappear with each shimmer of light. On A Cape Cod Notebook, Robert Finch notes that these fish, also known as alewives, represent visual camouflage of the highest order. They become an integrated part of the stream as they proceed to spawning ponds each spring.


Many rewards in nature come from procrastination. On a Cape Cod Notebook, Robert Finch recounts a recent experience of walking out to get the mail and finding his wind-littered driveway alive with bright foraging birds.

Audio posted above. 

Robert Finch

An indoor swimming pool may be artificial, chlorinated, fluorescent-lit, and tepid. But on A Cape Cod Notebook, naturalist Robert Finch notes that the indoor pool does have its charms and pleasures, its distinctive character allowing for an observation of the nature of water in a way that would be impossible out of doors.

Robert Finch

An impressive number of trees were blown down or fractured by winds in our recent season of storms, as gusts reportedly reached hurricane force in many places. The trees fell according to their nature; shallow-rooted red maples in low-lying swamps tended to uproot entirely, raising great, shaggy, vertical disks of roots into the air. Oaks, stronger and more deeply rooted, did not succumb as often, or if they did, showed that they were weakened by inner decay. But it was the pitch pines that suffered most.

Robert Finch

At the height of the tide, with a 3-foot-plus storm surge urging it on, a mighty cataract of furious white-water poured through the break, shattering the flanking dunes and spreading out in a 500-foot fan of salt flood waters into the marshes of the Pamet. On A Cape Cod Notebook, Robert Finch witnesses this dramatic event at the height of last week's storm, and he recalls other incursions made upon Ballston Beach by the sea.

University of Leicester / Reuters/Landov

Sometimes the past returns, and surprises us with what it tells us about the present. The recent discovery of Richard III's bones under a parking garage in England sparks Robert Finch's newest essay for A Cape Cod Notebook.

Cape Cod Times

Coast Guard Beach came through the recent blizzard largely intact - a surprise to some. In A Cape Cod Notebook, Robert Finch remembers the devastation imparted on the beach and its surroundings by the storm of 1978. He attributes the beach's survival amid the brutal Blizzard of '13 to nature having been allowed to run its course in this location.

Joanna Vaughan bit.ly/2kPJKDi / bit.ly/1dsePQq

The coast assumes a different character in winter. In A Cape Cod Notebook, Robert Finch sets out on a solitary walk in the Provincelands, visiting the dune shacks that stand against the wind in a desolate landscape.

Niels Linneberg / http://www.flickr.com/photos/linneberg/5411013129

Used to be, bitter cold was an expected part of New England winter. In A Cape Cod Notebook, Robert Finch observes that in recent years cold snaps have come to seem more a novelty. During a recent spell of frigid weather, he walked out to admire how extreme conditions can make art of nature.

My Mother's Catalogs

Feb 4, 2013
Robert Finch

My mother passed away in the fall of 2005, at the age of 92.  She lives on, however, not only in the memory of those of us who knew and loved her, but apparently also in the U.S. Postal Service. For several years after her death, I, as her executor, continued to receive letters from friends who had not heard of her demise, pleas for donations to various charities, and offers for Florida resorts and dance classes, both of which she took advantage of up to the year of her death.

More persistently than any of these, however, is the continued appearance of retail catalogs addressed to her in my mailbox. These are not just any catalogs, but are targeted at a specific demographic: women of my mother’s generation who identified themselves primarily as “homemakers.”

Audio posted above

Vern Laux

On Nauset Beach, Robert Finch contemplates the presence of eiders, and their embodiment of a natural community. 

H. K. Cummings / Snow Library Digital Collections

Early Cape Cod photographer H. K. Cummings maintained a mistress for more than 50 years, even vacationing with her and his wife. On A Cape Cod Notebook, Robert Finch continues the recollections of Rowena Myers. She explains the way a small town can assimilate unconventional relationships and keep a public secret.

View some of H. K. Cummings' historical photographs of Orleans and its people and environments at the website of the Snow Library.

H. K. Cummings / Snow Library Digital Collections

  The glass-plate photographs of H. K. Cummings bring to life Cape Cod in an earlier time. On A Cape Cod Notebook, Robert Finch recalls Cummings from the vantage of one who knew him, Rowena Myers.

You can view some of H. K. Cummings' historical photographs of Orleans and its people and environments at the website of the Snow Library.

Robert Finch

How far away do you need to go, to be from 'away'? On A Cape Cod Notebook, Robert Finch brings us another story about his old friend Rowena Myers of Orleans. She lived in the large yellow Greek revival farmhouse at the head of Town Cove from her birth in 1904 to her death in 1996. She recalled for Bob a story from her childhood, when a teacher singled out some classmates by their family names and origins.


Robert Finch's late friend Rowena Myers had a distaste for anything new. On A Cape Cod Notebook, Bob remembers when, as one of her "boys," he repaired her doorbell. She lived in the large yellow Greek Revival farmhouse at the head of Town Cove in Orleans from her birth in 1904 to her death in 1996. During the month of January, the Snow Library in Orleans will be presenting the annual Rowena Myers Concert Series on Saturday afternoons at 4 p.m., funded by a bequest from her estate.

Ricardo Wang / flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Building a night fire at the edge of a frozen kettlehole illuminates a world captured in stark relief. In A Cape Cod Notebook, Robert Finch creeps out upon the ice on all fours to peer into a frozen realm, where he finds surprising life.  

In Praise of Downtowns

Dec 19, 2012
: from the movie Voices from the Basement

A nature writer turns his observational powers on the city, as Robert Finch considers Boston's Downtown Crossing. He finds surprises, and cause for wonder, in this urban commercial crossroads, on this week's Cape Cod Notebook.

Gay Head Cliffs. Photo by K. McLeod., NPS

While abundant in many natural effects, Cape Cod provides few treasures to the fossil hunter. Nearby Gay Head is an exception.  But this week, from an unremarkable handful of clay on the Outer Cape, Bob discovers microscopic fossils of ancient sponges, diatoms, and pollen grains.


A walk among the departed of the Howes family at a cemetery in Dennis gives rise to contemplation and speculation, this week on A Cape Cod Notebook.


How did wild turkeys get into the National Seashore?  On A Cape Cod Notebook this week, Bob Finch ponders the much maligned wild turkey, and recounts a near mythic tale of how the wild turkey was re-introduced to Cape Cod and the National Seashore, skirting the letter of the law.

A Piano in the House

Nov 13, 2012


Nov 6, 2012

A Cape Cod Notebook by Robert Finch.  Bob points out that he recorded this essay before Superstorm Sandy arrived last week.