In the aftermath of Hurricane Bob on Cape Cod, visitors who head down the Mid-Cape Highway this fall will be struck by a dramatically altered landscape. An early fall has struck, with shriveled brown leaves beginning to drift from trees and shrubs ZTC -- the result of the fierce, salt-drenched winds.
Many of the fast-growing, shallow-rooted locusts planted in groves 60 or 70 years ago have been uprooted, while the frail survivors dangle overhead; groves of oak, maple and pine have been "pruned by nature," as the professionals put it. Many Cape Codders are left with unaccustomed sunlight and a decade's worth of firewood.
"Most of the trees will recover in the spring unless heavily saturated with salt," says Susan Lundquist, director of the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster. April Phillips, park ranger for interpretation, Cape Cod National Seashore, points out that the non-native species like locusts and cherry trees fared worst.
Naturalists say that the defoliation will prove to be a boon for birders this fall.
"The warblers were starting to leave in mid-August because they had come north early during the warm spring," said Robert Prescott, director of the Massachusetts Audubon Society's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.
"But the storm delayed the wave of migrants by a week or so. Now, September should be a fine month for warblers, and, as a benefit to birders, they will be able to see species more easily through the barer branches."
The following local organizations offer programs of fall walks, birding and sea-creature expeditions and lectures on nature and local history. Visitors should call for complete programs, which may include additional lectures or walks geared to the effects of the hurricane:
* Center for Coastal Studies, Box 1036, 59 Commercial St., Provincetown, Mass. 02657; (508) 487-3622.
* Massachusetts Audubon Society at Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, off West Road, Box 236, South Wellfleet, Mass. 02663; (508) 349-2615.
* Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, P.O. Box 1710, Brewster, Mass. 02631; (508) 896-3867.
* Thornton Burgess Society, 6 Discovery Hill Road, East Sandwich, Mass. 02537; (508) 888-6870.
* Cape Cod National Seashore, Salt Pond Visitor Center, Eastham, Mass. 02642; (508) 255-3421.
* Province Lands Visitor Center, Provincetown, Mass. 02657; (508) 487-1256.
* Nickerson State Park, Route 6A, Brewster, Mass. 02631; (508) 896-3491.