Call of the wild

There’s still time to enjoy the outdoors at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary.


Turn off Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road and then follow the winding dirt road for quite a while. Just when you think you might be lost, you’ll come to a little piece of heaven. Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary is indeed a sanctuary, an expansive field and salt marsh to explore marine life, small mammals, birds as well as turtles, frogs, and fish. Whether you’re a nature novice or pro, 2 years old or 80 years old, there is something for everyone during the last week of August.

For the first offering of the day on Thursdays, you need to be a morning person. Early Birders, from 8 to 9:30 am, is for adults, because wrangling kids out of bed during vacation time and out the door to Felix Neck could be quite the challenge. Early-morning adults can also come for the Morning Meditation and Labyrinth Walk next Tuesday, August 28, from 8 to 9 am. You will be guided through a seated and walking meditation in a mindful maze. What better way to center yourself for the rest of the day? In the afternoon on the same Thursday, from 1 to 3 pm, you can get your hands dirty alongside Felix Neck’s very dedicated garden volunteers, who work on all of its gardens, but particularly the Butterfly Garden. Liz Dengenis, education assistant, reports that it tends to be mostly women, so come on, gentlemen, let’s see if you can diversify this volunteer workforce.

The majority of the daytime, however, tends to be filled with children’s and family programs. If you believe your child would prefer focusing on just a few creatures and pieces of information, then choose Snake and Turtle Tuesdays from 10 to 11 am. You’ll start looking at them in the Discovery Center, then head out for a walk to search for snakes and turtles in the wild. Creature Feature is geared to 3- to 5-year-olds and, as the title suggests, focuses on a single animal.

If the afternoon works better for you, then from 1 to 2 pm on Friday, August 24, and Monday, August 27, there is Tank Time, when staff feed and chat about the saltwater oyster toadfish, American lobster, and spider crabs. Up for a little fishing? Marine Discovery on the Skipper out of Oak Bluffs Harbor occurs on Tuesday night, August 28, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. You’ll also bring up a lobster trap and have a chat about these amazing crustaceans.

If you want to swim in knowledge, do the dip-netting program Seashore Discovery on Monday August 27, Wednesday, August 29, or Friday, August 31, from 10 to 11:30 am. Dengenis explains, “You’ll go down to the beach and learn about so many things, so many crabs, so many fish, and so many shells, and everybody wants to learn about what they found, so you’ll learn a ton of information.”

Asked what she wants children to walk away with overall from their experience at Felix Neck, Dengenis shared, “I would say an appreciation for nature and wildlife, and a comfortability getting outside. It’s nice for kids to come to a program and for them to see and learn how to have a different experience with nature, and when they go home, if they’re not from the Island, they will know how to explore. I want them knowing how to be out learning and exploring rather than just being able to identify the name of a bird or what an animal eats — which is important, but I want them to want to get outside and have that excitement of encountering wildlife.”

If you want to enjoy Sengekontacket Pond and nearby Sarson Island, there are the Family Guided Kayak Tours on Thursdays August 23 and 30. But it’s adults who get to go on the Sunset Kayak Tours on Monday, August 27, or Wednesday, August 29,, and/or join the Moonrise Kayak Tour on Saturday, August 25. Call 508-627-4850 for specific times.

“We can get wrapped up in our lives so much and see nature as this separate place you go. Yet, especially on the kayak tours on Sengekontacket Pond, adults get to see that just right on the other side is State Beach, and realize that they pass by there every day,” Degenis said. “I also want them to realize that there is a staggering diversity of birds just on this one Island, from tiny, tiny plovers to big cormorants, all living together here. I want to get them excited to get out there again and step away from the insanity, especially on the Island in August, when it can get a little crazy. Felix Neck is a nice place to take a breath and remember that not all the things that we get bogged down with every day are important.”

For an updated listing of programs, go to the online program catalog and type in the dates and desired age group you are looking for, then go out there and enjoy yourself. There’s certainly plenty to choose from.