February 5, 2017

A Year in Great Meadows - Video Tour with Cherrie Corey



In 2015, local historian and videographer, Electa Tritsch, got the inspiration to follow me along the trails at Great Meadows NWR in Concord for a full year, filming its seasonal highlights through my interpretive lens. The result is two 30-minute, on-line video programs featuring the sights and sounds encountered across this marvelous floodplain - a refuge for migratory birds, local wildlife, endangered species, and nature-lovers of all stripes.

A Year in Great Meadows - Part 1 (Spring/Summer)

A Year in Great Meadows - Part 2 (Fall/Winter)

Male marsh wren gathers cattail fluff for his nest
Beginning in early spring of 2015 and continuing for the next sixteen months, Electa and I spent countless hours on the trail in all kinds of weather and at all times of day. We moved and filmed as unfolding light, sounds, and encounters inspired us. Electa persevered to master her equipment in an on-the-move setting, while I rallied to overcome my awkwardness in front of a camera lens.

Electa Tritsch, producer and intrepid videographer
Yours truly

The result, an informative and inspired introduction to Great Meadows NWR in Concord, which I have been dedicated to observing and interpreting to the public for the past nine years. We document spring leaf-out and dazzling fall foliage, grazing muskrats and gaggles of goslings; explore the remarkable cycles of ordinary milkweed and cattails, summer flowers lining the Dike Trail, and dazzling ice patterns along the river's edge. We listen to crickets and warbler songs, watch gnats swarm, and observe a heron and coyote treading softly across thin ice in search of winter prey. Over nearly a decade, I have photographed seasonal wonders at Great Meadows more than in any other location in Concord, with some 140 of my favorite images included in these two videos.

Cherrie leading a monthly walk at the refuge
We are grateful to the Garden Club of Concord and the Concord Cultural Council (an agency supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council) for their enthusiastic grant support and to CCTV (the community access station for Concord and Carlisle, MA) for their generous contribution of expertise and state-of-the-art production facilities. The program was produced by Electa Tritsch and Oakfield Productions as part of her "Tracks in Time" series carried on CCTV.


These links also listed under Resource Links in the right-hand column of this website:

A Year in Great Meadows - Part 1 (Spring/Summer)

A Year in Great Meadows - Part 2 (Fall/Winter)


Errata (missed during post-production review):
Part 2/Fall-Winter:  Beaver Business (correcting two brain-freeze moments) - Active beaver lodges typically house two adults and anywhere from 4-7 offspring (yearlings and spring kits); Scent mounds are anointed with Castoreum (not castor oil), which comes from the beaver's castor sacs.

January 23, 2017

January Moods - Walden Changes


After several days of nursing a cold, I take a walk around Walden today for some healing communion.  Moody weather is moving in ahead of a forecast nor-easter.  It's late January, but it looks and feels like March has arrived.  The wind is quickening carrying troughs of both warm and icy air across the pond. Fierce snow squalls come and go and only a third of Walden's surface is frozen, with just a thin film of ice instead of the gleaming firm surface that usually marks a January day.

This scene that I photographed on January 17, 2015 is closer to Walden's familiar winter aspect ...


Today, in Thoreau's Cove, open water laps the shoreline with no hint of the ice adornments that gleamed here in mid-December.


Tributes hang nearby...




Back out on the pond, the northeast wind howls toward the western shore and snow squalls are whirling across its surface.


But as I round the turn to the southern shore and move further into the lee of the wind, a thin high tinkling sound catches my attention -- "ice chimes," pond music more often heard during spring "ice out" time when thinning edges of the ice are fractured by wind-whipped waves and the gleaming shards wash into one another and over still solid ice nearby.


Listen carefully for the soft tinkling of the ice, between wind gusts...



As I'm now reading my way through Walden Pond:  A History, by Barksdale Maynard, today's circumambulation reaffirms that in so many ways Walden Pond, in its now re-forested basin may, in some ways, offer an "experience of wildness" closer to that in the precolonial era than in almost any time since....thanks to preservation efforts over the last forty years.  But at the same time, my New England sensibilities warn me that this January's vistas of open water and no snow cover are not normal.   Subtler and more irrevocable forces of change are underway with warming seasons, greater extremes in weather, invading floral and faunal species, and the pressures of our ever increasing population.  Now more than ever, we need to be constantly vigilant about local, state, and federal policies and our own personal choices that can impact this planet's environmental integrity and all that truly sustains us and this very special place.


January 10, 2017

A Crystalizing Dawn


There are moments of beauty and wonder that utterly humble, inspire, and transform us. My walk today along the Old Calf Pasture to Concord's confluence of rivers at Egg Rock was just such a time. Following a welcome early morning coffee hour with conservation colleagues, just down the road, I took the cue of the dawn's sub-zero temperature to go look for frost flowers along the river after we adjourned.  The crystalline harvest was astonishing.  From the Lowell Road bridge, hundreds of bright white clusters were visible, flocking the icy edging along the river's open water.


The humid air hanging low like a scrim across the shoreline and pasture behind, hinted at what might be found there.


Well known today for its bounty of rare Britton's violets in spring, the Old Calf Pasture's wet meadow conditions and proximity to the rivers make it a perfect winter location for such a rare abundance of frost flowers.  These crystalline beauties would have been in full bloom during my early morning meeting but were now loosing some of their leafy definition under the warming sun.




From the pasture, I stepped under the canopy into a glittering wonderland, perfectly described by Thoreau in one of his earliest Journal entries:

Every leaf and twig this morning was covered with a sparkling ice armor; even the grasses in exposed fields were hung with innumerable diamond pendants... It was literally the wreck of jewels and crash of gems - it was as though some superincumbent stratum of the earth had been removed during the night, exposing to light a bed of untarnished crystals.  The scene changed at every step or as the head was inclined to the right or the left.  There were the opal and sapphire and emerald and jasper and beryl and topaz and ruby.  Such is beauty ever, neither here nor there, now nor then, neither in Rome nor in Athens, but wherever there is a soul to admire.  If I seek her elsewhere because I do not find her at home, my search will prove a fruitless one.  (January 21,1838)






At the shoreline, Egg Rock was framed by the adorned branches of river birches,  and the confluence of the Sudbury and Assabet Rivers merged their dark waters and icy blooms to send the wintery Concord River on its way.




As I marveled at the beauty, the ancient history of this sacred place, and my memories of walking, paddling, and ceremony here - it began to snow, the lightest fairy dust of shimmering crystals twirling in the windless air and bright sunlight.  Spontaneously generated, only on that prominence where I stood, by the confluence of humidity with the frigid dry air...this snow globe phenomenon, or precipitation, is called "diamond dust."




Diamond dust lighting a mouse's path to the river.




...I look back for the era of this creation, not into the night but to a dawn for which no man ever rose early enough.  A morning which carries us back beyond the Mosaic creation, where crystallizations are fresh and unmelted.  It is the poet's hour.  (Thoreau - January 26, 1853)

November 13, 2016

November and Super-duper Moon Walk at Great Meadows NWR


November Supermoon Walk 
Great Meadows NWR - Concord

Sunday, November 13, 2:30 - moonrise (4:45-ish)

Join me and other kindred spirits today for a reviving walk through late autumn splendor concluding with a colorful November sunset and the rising of a giant supermoon, the largest appearing and closest passing full moon most of us will see in our lifetimes.

This month's "gossamer" moon also marks the seasonal movement of hundreds gees and ducks through Great Meadows and the wondrous twinkling of gossamer strands draped across the landscape as baby spiders hatch, let out their silken threads and balloon their way to new horizons.  The moon will appear with the height of sunset color, soon after 4:30.  Dress warmly.  All ages welcome.

Co-sponsored by Friends of the Assabet River NWR

Led by Cherrie Corey, local naturalist/photographer

Donations gratefully accepted

Take Rte. 62/Bedford St. in Concord to Monsen Road.  Turn left into the GMNWR driveway after #177.  We'll meet at the kiosk just off the parking lot.


November 10, 2016

Be Here, Now


In response to so many grieving, frightened, and angry posts I've read in the past two days, I offer this visual moment of deep peace, loveliness, and bountiful color that I experienced on the eve of the election joined with Wendell Berry's poem, which also appears to be trending today:

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief.  I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light.  For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
- Wendell Berry

(Photo © 2016 Cherrie Corey.  Taken below Thoreau's cabin site, looking SE across Walden Pond)



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.

I begin this morning's circumambulation of Walden's shore with these milestones in mind and eyes open.

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

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.