July 12, 2016

Walden Circumambulation - Honoring Henry's 199th Birthday

Each town should have a park, or rather a primitive forest of five hundred or one thousand acres, where a stick should never be cut for fuel, a common possession forever, for instruction and recreation. (Journal, Thoreau, 10.15.1859)  Prophetic words from a visionary who would be 200 years old next year.  The National Park Service turns 100 years old next month, and Walden Woods now has more than two thousand protected acres surrounding the pond.

So I start this morning's walk around Walden's shore with these milestones in mind and eyes open.

Signs of the people's re-creation - swimming, fishing, boating, walking, reading, writing, rendering, communing

Bright morning sun meets clear water, and the dance of light in the pond begins another day.

A still green frog remains vigilant
I just learned this week, at the Thoreau Society Annual Gathering, that renowned black-and-white photographer Edward Steichen photographed Walden through the seasons in 1936 for a limited publication.  It appears that the most popular image of that series was one of birch bark, so it is in mind when I spot these two unlikely appearances in the water.

Birch tree reflected (center)

Birch log submerged and bathed in light
Ripple prisms create infinite patterns as sunlight moves through their lenses into the clear water to project on the sandy, rocky glacial till below.

Great-spangled fritillary butterflies move quietly about in Little Cove.

Walking toward Long Cove, to the southwest, the eastern sun dances off the submerged cobbles and projects the shorelines green and gold across the pond's surface.

In the protected corner of the cove, young mallards are taking their mid-morning nap.

I take a detour across the tracks down to the Andromeda Ponds to check for blooms on Thoreau's still prolific colony of swamp loosestrife (Decodon verticillatus).  A serenade of wood thrush, scarlet tanager, towhee, blue-headed vireo, blue jays, redwing blackbirds, and a yellow-throat usher me along the path and then quiet in time for me to hear a rustling just in the woods above one of the ponds - a fisher.  He digs, pounces, jumps, and twirls about as he hunts in the soft ground unfazed by my lingering.

Returning to the pond, more wildlife...a slaty skimmer dragonfly sits motionless on a rock.

Butter-and-eggs are bloom brightly around Ice Fort Cove, a flower whose scent Thoreau reported  by moonlight near Walden on his birthday in 1851.

The shallow water in Ice Fort Cove forms a perfect watering hole as the footprints of the thirsty and playful are revealed.

Buttonbush blooms and fades at the mouth of Thoreau's Cove.

The light-play of ripple prisms continues into the cove, leading me to my second encounter this summer with the mysterious Eastern soft-shell turtle(s) that have made Walden their home since their likely release by some visitor over a decade ago.  This one looks smaller than the one I met last month, so perhaps two still thrive.

The far-shore visitors are eager to engage today, sharing all manner of tales...and nearly everyone knows it is Thoreau's birthday!  This long-time sun worshipper is paddling to the shade to take a break from the sun as his dermatologist has ordered.

Now with the sun high in the sky, the light play has lost some of its drama along the northern shoreline.

My circumambulation comes to an end where I started and the sounds of birds and lapping water are replaced with the hum of conversations, children laughing and splashing, and lifeguards on their megaphones.

Wildness meets re-creation around this blue eye of a pond.

May 21, 2016

One Day in May - Dawn to Dusk at Great Meadows

This strangely undulating spring season has finally taken hold and migrating, nest feathering, courting, breeding, and newborn appearances are at a crescendo.  As my birthday week dawns, all the land again looks fecund and familiar, the perfect inspiration for a dawn to dusk communion with the wild rebirthing of the year.

Last night's brief but thorough watering has brought on the rising mist at dawn.  While gossamer has draped the vernal marsh for many days, this morning reveals the first perfect orb weaving of the year (above), appointed with shocks of chartreuse buttonbush leaves emerging.  Swallows twitter and soar over the water dining on thick clouds of spring gnats.  And mama wood duck emerges from her box for a breath of morning air.

April 14, 2016

Red-tail Dining Surprise

Over the last nine years of regular forays around Great Meadows, there are a few memorable moments that pulled me deeper into the wild intimacy of this refuge like no other.

Yesterday at dusk, I walked slowly along the westbound dike trail scanning night song for the bubble and squeak of rusty blackbirds, when I spotted a young red-tailed hawk high above in trees.  As I raised my camera to catch his silhouette against the sky, he plunged headlong in front of me, crashing into the tangle of cattails beside the trail.  I stood for many minutes in the chilling sea breeze waiting for movement or sound until the hawk finally stumbled into view, his foot seemingly caught up on something.  But it soon became clear something was caught up in his talons...a male wood duck.  

He dragged the duck partially up out of the water, then spent a long hour feasting.

It's hard to get a close view of these beautiful and demure little ducks in the impoundments due to their overly secretive and skittish temperament, but there are many within the refuge.  Love them as I do, I was impressed by this young hawk's brazen hunting prowess.

April 10, 2016

Sweet Violets Stir Memories

Opening this weekend, these diminutive English sweet violets have announced spring's debut in our yard,with their intense purple glow and intoxicating perfume, for nearly four decades.  They're a cherished gift from the vibrant Jean Baxter, one of my favorite volunteers at the Garden in the Woods when I was working there in the late '70's.  Jean's wooded back yard in Lexington Center was carpeted with the progeny of a small violet plant she'd smuggled in from England several decades before that, and one precious pot full from the Lexington colony has flourished near my house for all these years.  Jean worked faithfully with Concord's Penni Logemann to catalog the extensive slide collection in the New England Wildflower Society's library, creating informative slide programs that were rented throughout the region, their weekly banter as they worked always entertaining and informative.  I wonder what Jean would think of the way we share images now...I've no doubt she'd be enthralled with the internet and digital photography.

Each spring, when I catch the scent of these first tiny violets, I remember Jean.

April 6, 2016

April Snow Standouts

Yesterday, I took a walk around Great Meadows on pristine, snow-covered trails, canopied by a pure blue sky.  Long stretches of sparkling white were unbroken by the footfalls of visitors and patterned by resolute tracks and foraging signs of wildlife and the intricate shadows of its rooted residents.  Several scenes stood out for early April, and one was a first for any of the colder months.

Green on white, multiflora rose...a sequence we don't want to see in early April.  Though multiflora rose and other invasive shrubs tend to be some of the first to leaf out, the heat spikes of February and March prompted buds nearly two weeks early this year.

Muskrat channels under the ice are usually hard to spot during any winter from the vantage point of the trails and overlooks.  But with the flash freeze of the last two nights (19º and 15º F. respectively), combined with the muskrats' early spring activity, these channels were quite evident yesterday, both along the entrance driveway and in the flooded forest areas on the eastern edge of the refuge.

Four and a half foot strides along the cross dike trail would have gotten my attention in themselves, but these tracks had bare feet!  Though likely wearing toe shoes, these tracks were startling to see on a morning with a single digit windchill.  The unusually large foot size and stride along with the bare footprint  were the closest evidence I've seen yet for the Sasquatch that's often reported on the refuge chalkboard!

March 12, 2016

Venerable Trees in Fairyland

Deep in the protected hollows of Concord's Town Forest, grows a venerable and beautiful white pine, which I met for the first time in the spring of 2010.  Her exuberant and towering feminine form and the hallmarks of significant age, prompted me to call her the Grandmother tree, and I have made many pilgrimages to commune with her since our first meeting.

Her trunk is pillar-like and tall, covered with a deeply furrowed bark that has patches of exfoliation.  Enormous roots brace the tree, looking like large toes curling into the high duff (leaf litter) mound at her base.  Massive limbs at the top rise up to the sky and the light, to hold spare tufts of dark green foliage interspersed with wind-snapped branches.

March 5, 2016

Spring Walks 2016 - Great Meadows/Concord

Sunday, March 20, 3-5 pm - Spring Equinox walk   Note date change!
Sunday, April 17, 3-5 pm
Sunday, May 15, 3-5 pm

Any necessary rescheduling or other updates will be posted here.

Join Cherrie for walks among spring wildflowers, returning birds, mating reptiles, splashing fish, and all of the sensual splendor of this awakening season. Wear layers for comfort out on the Dike Trail.

Open to all ages.  No pre-registration required.

Donations will be gratefully accepted. 

Led by local naturalist, Cherrie Corey

Co-sponsored with Friends of the Assabet River NWR

Please note:  Refuge headquarters waives the entrance fee for these walks.  However, I encourage everyone to consider purchasing a $12 annual pass to help support critical visitor service needs at Great Meadows - Concord.

Meet at the information kiosk at Great Meadows NWR in Concord.  Take Rte. 62 to Monsen Rd.  Follow Monsen Rd. and turn left into refuge driveway when road turns sharply right.  Follow refuge road to the parking lot at the end.

For questions or to be added to the emailing list for notice of these and impromptu evening walks, contact Cherrie at cherrie.corey@verizon.net or 978-760-1933.