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Wing Island


Getting there:  Wing Island is located in at the northwest corner of town.  It is accessed via a trail leading behind the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History at 869 Main Street (Rt. 6A).  Note that there is no public parking at the museum; please park a bit further west at Drummer Boy Park.  The trail across the marsh floods at high tide, so check the tide chart at the kiosk behind the museum.

Offers:  Nature trails, coastal beach, mud flats.

Description:  John Wing Trail (1.3 miles) passes through the coastal pitch pine woodlands, across a salt marsh, to Wing’s Island and finally descends through a salt marsh swale to the barrier beach and tidal pools of Cape Cod Bay. This is truly a microcosm of the Cape’s  landscape. The tidal flats and creeks are home to a variety of  fish, crabs, shellfish, worms, horseshoe crabs and snails as well as many seaside plants, grasses and trees.The Cape Cod Museum of Natural History also gives guided nature walks and programs on Wing Island.

The town owned property extends from Paines Creek on the east to Quivett Creek on the west, and up to the uplands to the south.  Please respect marked trails and do not disturb wildlife or plants while visiting.  If you bring a dog, please keep it leashed and away from any marked bird nesting areas.

Background:  This property consists of 122.1 acres, including 11.9 acres of Cape Cod Bay beach, 32.5 acres of uplands, and 77.7 acres of tidal saltwater marshland.  Wing’s Island is now under the direct management authority of the Town of Brewster Board of Selectmen.  The Town of Brewster acquired the Wing’s Island property through a series of purchases from private owners.  These purchases were proposed in a special town meeting held on April 4, 1961.  The order of taking was made final on July 14, 1961.  The total cost to the Town for the properties was $19,358.50.  The total area of the acquired properties is 122.1 acres.

This purchase was the first open space acquisition for the Town of Brewster. Wing’s Island has been a place of cultural importance for thousands of years. Recent archeological excavation of Wing’s Island has uncovered artifacts as many as 8,000 years old.  

Habitat:  Wing’s Island, like most of Cape Cod, was formed by glacial activity and has since been modified by erosion. The upland area of the island is now thickly forested; a meadow in the latest stages of succession. The dominant species are Pitch Pine and several species of oak. On the north side of the island, visible from Paine’s Creek, is a large stand of Sassafras of considerable height and age.

A ten acre meadow habitat has been established on the western side of the island. This is maintained through mowing and controlled burns. Also on Wing’s Island there is an “abandoned Field Community” where many “pioneer” plant species can be found. The most noticeable are the eastern red cedars, sickle-leaved golden aster, the New England Blazing star and a variety of fall asters. These species are shade intolerant and continued succession of the surrounding forest threatens to shade out this pant community.

On the east side of Wing’s Island there is an area of sand dune habitat. American Beach Grass is the dominant plant here and it is extremely important for securing the sand against the eroding forces of the tides. Several other common dune plants are found here including Beach Pea, Tall Wormwood, Dusty Miller, Seaside Goldenrod, and Beach Plum. This area provides a home for Fowler’s Toads and Hognose snake and possibly Diamond-backed Terrapin, a federally endangered species. Throughout the property non-native invasive plant species can be found, including Japanese Honeysuckle, Oriental Bittersweet, and Phragmites.

Along the edges of the salt marsh a woody thicket thrives. The dominant species here are High-bush Blueberry , Arrowwood, Bayberry, Chokeberry, and Bush Honeysuckle. Moving towards the water, these shrubs give way to Salt Reed Grass .

The salt marsh is flooded twice daily by the tides. This flooding brings essential nutrients to the marsh and the many organisms that thrive there despite the harsh conditions presented by sun, wind and salt. The tide also brings in fine sediments that gradually contribute to the build-up of salt marsh peat. In some sections this peat layer is twenty feet thick and four thousand years old. The predominant plant species here are Salt Meadow Hay, Spike Grass, Large Bulrush, Black Grass, Marsh Elder, Seaside Goldenrod, and Glassworts.

Many birds frequent this area including Tree Swallows, Red-wing Blackbirds, Kestrels, Starlings, Marsh Hawks, and Green and Great Blue Herons.




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