December 13, 2011

Reassuring Signs

New ice


Last evening I put on my layers and tall rubber boots and headed out to Great Meadows' flooded trails to catch the sunset.  In the shadowy pools along the entry drive, starry ice formations were gathering around waterborn twigs.  



It was 4:05 pm and the sun was poised for its final descent, with perfect streaming clouds ready to catch the spray of color that would follow.  I headed out the Dike Trail, leaving behind other visitors who weren't dressed for high water.  The calf-deep flooding around the first footbridge gave way to drier ground where the views to the west opened up. 

It was completely calm and so silent an evening, that I slipped easily into my zone of perfect communion with the gathering dark and blushing sky and the wildlife's dusktime bustle. 

Hearing the softest sound behind me, I turned slowly around to find a young, solitary snow bunting feeding on spilled evening primrose seeds right at my feet.  We kept quiet company with each other for nearly five minutes, exchanging soulful glances in between its mouthfuls and my shutter clicks.  I've never seen a snow bunting up close and was truly stirred by its soft beauty and remarkably calm and engaging disposition.

Male snow bunting in winter plumage
As the dark gathered around us and coots and muskrats began to scurry across the trail, I reluctantly turned to go while I could still see to ford the flooding.  Just as I reached the kiosk and turned for one last look at the fading light and color, the nightly battalion of Canada geese, a couple hundred strong, came surging over the western horizon toward the marshes, their crescendo of honking breaking the stillness until all tumbled down and were quietly settled on the dark water.
Geese heading in for the night
I left, reassured by the signs, that winter indeed is upon us.


December 1, 2011

Monthly Great Meadows Walk - December

December Ice Dragon, 2010
Sunday, December 11, 2:30-4:30 pm

A continuing series of monthly walks exploring the landscape, plants and seasonal wonders of Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Concord 



As we approach the Winter Solstice, daylight wanes and opportunities multiply to meet beauty and wildlife on the threshold of darkness.  On this month's walk, we'll explore the landscape for details highlighted by the low hanging sun, the bustle of birds feeding and settling, the dusk-time activity of beaver, and revelations of resident owls.  We'll hope for a sunset finish to the afternoon's adventure.


Led by Cherrie Corey, local naturalist and photographer


No pre-registration required.  A $5/person voluntary donation will be gratefully accepted.

Co-sponsored by Musketaquid Arts and Environment and Friends of the Assabet River NWR

Meet at Great Meadows NWR in Concord, MA.  (Monsen Road, off Rte. 62, driveway on left where road curves right)


Email any questions to cherrie.corey@verizon.net

Exploring Seasonal Wonders in Concord - 2012

Table ice in the floodplain
Environmental Learning Program for Homeschoolers

Join Cherrie Corey for a series of monthly adventures exploring the mysteries and wonder of three of Concord's renowned natural areas -- Great Meadows NWR, the Estabrook Woods, and a thriving great blue heron rookery.  In this five-part monthly program, students will learn to form an attentive and personal connection with wild landscapes, to ask critical questions and seek answers about their observations and experiences, to recognize varied habitats and their plant and animal inhabitants, to compare notes with Henry David Thoreau, and to build an ongoing relationship with place through the rhythmic cycle of seasonal changes.

Dates and Locations:  Fridays, 10 am - 12:30 pm; January 13/Great Meadows, February 10/Great Meadows, March 9/Great Meadows, April 20/Estabrook Woods, and May 11/Heron Rookery

Fee:  $100/child ($103 with PayPal).  Limited to 10 children (ages 9-14).  If you register with your payment through PayPal/Credit Card below, please send your child's name and your address, phone(s), and email to cherrie.corey@verizon.net.  

If you prefer to pay by check, send an email to Cherrie with the above information and request additional mailing information.

Registration is encouraged by December 16 and will be confirmed when payment is received.








November 29, 2011

Great Meadows Calendar 2012


Photographer Larry Warfield created a beautiful wall calendar with images of memorable encounters at Great Meadows NWR in Concord. The calendar measures 8.5 x 11" (closed), is spiral bound, and is available for $15 while supplies last.  To see calendar images and arrange a purchase, go to http://www.greatmeadowsconcord.com/2011/11/great-meadows-calendar-2012.html

November 20, 2011

Ode to Milkweed


Nothing in the plant realm catches light and wind quite so magically as milkweed fluff.  As the autumn days shorten and shadows lengthen, I'm drawn to the light that radiates out from these beaky pods.  A slow release of gossamer strands warms chilling days with a soft glow and grace.


An abundance of both Common and Swamp milkweeds grow at Great Meadows NWR, getting ever more numerous thanks to the exuberant releases of seeds that many of us encourage.  As the twinkle of these travelers subsides, the season turns toward colder days and ice covered landscapes where light will again lure us in.



November 17, 2011

Dr. Lawrence Millman Presents Northern Fungi Talk

I ran into Dr. Millman this evening at the Concord Public Library and he passed along this invitation.
Fungus man - a drawing of a carving by Charles Edenshaw in the late 1800s 
depicting the Haida myth of the origin of women
Courtesy of the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago
"How to Banish Evil Spirits:
Uses of Fungi by Northern Peoples"

Friday, November 18, 8 pm
 (7 pm cash bar and social hour) 

Doubletree Guest Suites Hotel, Allston, MA
Hosted by the New England Chapter of the Explorer's Club
$10 donation requested

Explorer, author, and mycologist Lawrence Millman will talk about the various ways northern indigenous people use mushrooms - as fire starters, smudges, disinfectants, tobacco substitutes, but almost never as food.  The talk will include an introduction to ethnomycology (the cultural uses of mushrooms), a display of various mushrooms important in northern cultures, and a demonstration of how the Siberian Chukchi use polypores to rid their homes of evil spirits.

November 9, 2011

Monthly Great Meadows Walk - November


Saturday, November 12, 2-4 pm

A continuing series of monthly walks exploring the landscape, plants
and seasonal wonders of Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Concord 
We'll focus on the season's turning point, when luscious swaths of color and liveliness yield to muted tones and subtler stirrings.  It's time to shift perception, 
as we welcome in the November landscape.

Led by Cherrie Corey, local naturalist and photographer

No pre-registration required.  A $5/person voluntary donation
will be gratefully accepted.

Co-sponsored by Musketaquid Arts and Environment
and Friends of the Assabet River NWR

November 6, 2011

Witch Hazel - Symbol of Eternal Life

Witch hazel grove in October
In late autumn, when most of the landscape is having its last blush and preparing for a long winter's nap, golden groves of American witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana L.) quietly burst into bloom, festooning damp wooded hillsides with yellow, spidery blossoms.



This humble shrub has a rare multi-generational lifestyle.  Its delicate flowers share their zigzaggy branches with the ripened pods from the previous year and the dried empty seed capsules from the year before that.  On warm sunny days, while the fragrant blossoms are attracting bees and various other insects, the ripened pods pop open and fire their seeds across the forest floor making a soft rhythm on fallen leaves.

It's a long road through the next twelve months to grow and ripen those pods.  I recently learned from Charley Eiseman's latest post on his BugTracks blog, http://bugtracks.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/late-bloomer/, that fertilization of these late bloomers doesn't take place within the flowers until the following May, after several months of dormancy in the cold months. Eiseman also details the many pollinators that are now known to visit witch hazel blossoms.

Witch hazel's overwintering calyx and leaf bud

October 31, 2011

Syncopated Seasons!

Strange juxtaposition - catalpa leaves in snow

On the 20th anniversary of "the perfect storm", the infamous 1991 n'oreaster, the northeast gets walloped by a huge blizzard while still waiting for the oaks to turn.  Concord was spared much of the rath, but its fields lay flooded and frozen and its vistas are hauntingly disheveled and beautiful.

Unharvested corn stalks marooned in frozen, muddy field
East Quarter back yard "resorts"
October wearing December's costume
Frosty Gowing's Swamp

October 17, 2011

Protecting Paradise: Gowing's Swamp and Thoreau's Bog

 
A slide presentation and talk by Cherrie Corey
Wednesday, October 26, 7 pm
Visitors Center – Assabet River NWR
680 Hudson Road, Sudbury, MA  
Offered free of charge by the Friends of the Assabet River NWR      
The program will include my photographs, historic materials, recent research, and stories that recount the natural and social history and unique ecology that make Concord's Gowing's Swamp and Thoreau's Bog such an intimate and magical landscape, one that has inspired more than a century and a half of study, reflection, and protective response.  Also, learn about recent citizen efforts to defend this fragile wetland complex from the potential impact of proposed development and to seek permanent preservation of its waters and surrounding shorelines.

October 4, 2011

Monthly Great Meadows Walk - October


Sunday, October 23, 9:30-11:30 am

A continuing series of monthly walks exploring the landscape, plants
and seasonal wonders of Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Concord

The warm glow of October's oaken hillsides can be felt as much as seen.  Grasses have turned to gold, cattails hold their cottony seeds aloft, mushrooms burst from rotting wood in the floodplain, and waves of blackbirds ripple across clear skies.  Join us for a walk in beauty throughout the refuge.

Led by Cherrie Corey, local naturalist and photographer

No pre-registration required.  A $5/person voluntary donation
will be gratefully accepted.

Co-sponsored by Musketaquid Arts and Environment
and Friends of the Assabet River NWR

September 29, 2011

Mushrooms Galore!

Lactarius indigo in damp mixed oak/pine woods, 9/22/11
Armillaria mellea on oak roots, 9/15/11
Mushrooms have been popping up all over Concord, creating magical scenes wherever they mysteriously appear.  There's been such a buzz about the prevalence of mushrooms this year that NPR's Ira Flatow decided to do a fungi feature on his Science Friday this month.  Regular intervals of precipitation and warmth throughout this summer and fall, along with the occasional hurricane deluge, likely account for this year's magnificent displays.  And perhaps, this year's fruiting bodies are making up for time lost during last year's extreme drought when relatively few mushrooms appeared.

Here are a few of the fungi that have caught my attention along the trails around Concord's East Quarter and the Estabrook Woods.  Far from expert in this area, I've made my best guess at many identifications.  Experienced readers, please use the comment window to advise or correct me!

In a shady niche of old pine log, 9/15/11
Macrolepiota procera (?), hiding in ferns, 9/13/11

The inconspicuous:

Old Man of the Woods (Strobilomyces floccopus), 9/17/11

Horn of Plenty (Craterellus cornucopioides), 9/20/11
Trametes body suits:

Trametes sp. on dying birch, 9/20/11
Turkey-tail (Trametes versicolor) on hardwood roots 9/13/11

Big and Small:
Soccer-ball sized Giant Puffballs (Calvatia gigantea), 8/20/11
Thousands of Marasmius capillaris dot the leaf litter, 9/29/11
The mushrooms are even eating other mushrooms:
Asterophora lycoperdoides eating decayed Russula brevipes (my educated guess), 9/13/11
To learn more about mushrooms and identify your discoveries, visit these sites:
The Mushroom Expert, Roger's Mushrooms, and Tom Volk's Fungi.

September 18, 2011

Great Meadows Mystery Insect

Dogwood Sawfly larva (Macremphytus testaceus), final instar

On today's Great Meadows walk we encountered a swamp dogwood shrub crawling with caterpillar-like larvae - powdery white above, yellow below, with a black head.  Having first met these creatures last fall, memory failed me yesterday when trying to recall their identity.  The larvae will seek rotting wood or debris within which they can make their cocoons to overwinter.  The emerge in the spring as adult sawflies who will seek out fresh dogwood shrubs on which to lay their eggs.

Sawflies are related to bees and wasps, but their larvae look remarkably like caterpillars, with some physical and behavioral differences.  Sawfly larvae always have more than six pair of prolegs (soft, unsegmented legs) along their abdomens, while caterpillars never have more than five pair.  Sawfly larvae often appear in large numbers on a single tree or shrub and seem prone to congregate together in interesting justapositions and poses (eg., above).


September 12, 2011

Monthly Great Meadows Walk - September

American lotus pod
Saturday, September 17, 9-11 am

A continuing series of monthly walks exploring the landscape, plants
and seasonal wonders of Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Concord

From the crescendo of bloom in August to the symphony of colors in October, September's landscape provides a bridge of subtler vistas and silky-seeded appointments.  Walk the dike trail and river edges in search of these transitory impressions of summer's merging into fall and become familiar with the seed capsules, late bloomers, glistening seed fluff, and mushrooms along the way.

Led by Cherrie Corey, local naturalist and photographer

No pre-registration required.  A $5/person voluntary donation
will be gratefully accepted.

Co-sponsored by Musketaquid Arts and Environment
and Friends of the Assabet River NWR


Meet at Great Meadows NWR in Concord, MA
(Monsen Road, off Rte. 62, driveway on left where road curves right)

For questions, email cherrie.corey@verizon.net or call 978-760-1933; for additional information and photo links, go to http://sense-of-place-concord.blogspot.com

August 8, 2011

Monthly Great Meadows Walk - August

Blue vervain spires
Saturday, August 20
9-11 am
 
Led by Cherrie Corey, local naturalist
and photographer

The progression of blossoms up flowering spires, sounds of crickets and cicadas, the busying swirl 
of dragonflies and butterflies, and gathering flocks of blackbirds all signal the waning days of summer.   Join us for a taste of this beautiful and 
bountiful summer landscape.


Cardinal flower reflections




Meet at GMNWR in Concord, MA


No pre-registration required.  A $5/person voluntary donation will be gratefully accepted.
Co-sponsored by Musketaquid Arts and Environment Program and Friends of the Assabet River NWR 
For questions, email cherrie.corey@verizon.net.

August 6, 2011

Cardinal Flowers Ablaze


Cardinal flowers along the Concord River, opposite GMNWR

"The cardinals in the ditch make a splendid show now, though they would have been much fresher and finer a week ago...They look like slender plumes of soldiers advancing in a dense troop...That is the most splendid show of cardinal-flowers I ever saw."  - Thoreau, Journal, August 27, 1856
Cardinal flowers are coming into bloom on-time this year and, echoing Thoreau's 1856 observation, it is the most splendid show many of us have ever seen.


July 11, 2011

Caterpillars of Great Meadows - July Workshop

Sunday, July 24, 10:30 am - 2:30 pm
Re-scheduled to Sunday due to heat
Co-sponsored with Friends of the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge
Participants study a four-horned sphinx caterpillar
Enjoy a summer day exploring and studying these beautiful, transformative, and secretive creatures at Great Meadows NWR with Sam Jaffe, one of the area's leading authorities on eastern Massachusetts caterpillars and local naturalist/photographer Cherrie Corey.

The program begins in the refuge's maintenance shed with an up-close look and discussion of live, collected caterpillars on their food plants, including a review of their lifecycles and natural history in Massachusetts.  Following a lunch break, participants will return to the parking lot for the field portion of the program.  (Transportation to and from the maintenance shed will be provided.)  The remaining half of the workshop will be spent exploring the trail and parking area edges for caterpillars, highlighting the various visual and habitat clues that lead to productive discoveries.  Along the way, both Sam and Cherrie will also help ID the butterflies, moths, and food plants and flowers that are encountered.  All discoveries will be helping to build the species lists for the refuge!

Program fee: $45   Limited to 20 participants, ages 9-adult

Meet in the parking lot at Great Meadows NWR, off Monsen Road, Concord, MA

Pre-payment and registration is required and will assure any last minute logistical communications.  You can register and pay securly by credit card or through PayPal using the link below.  For registration details by mail, please email Cherrie Corey at cherrie.corey@verizon.net or call her at 978-369-4289 (and leave your name and phone number in voice mail box #1).



July 3, 2011

Monthly Walk at Great Meadows - July

Saturday, July 9, 8-10:30 am
Downy swamp milkweed
A continuing series of monthly walks exploring the landscape, plants, and seasonal wonders of Great Meadows NWR in Concord

Flowers are featured in July as the early weeks of summer roll out a breathtaking carpet of bloom.  We'll roam the Dike Trail enjoying a profusion of showy tick-trefoil, swamp milkweed, white sweet clover, blue vervain, and meadowsweet blossoms.  Beautiful insects, too numerous to mention, will dazzle us along the way.  Remember your sun protection.  Cameras and binoculars are welcome.

  
No pre-registration required.  A $5/person voluntary donation will be gratefully accepted.

Led by Cherrie Corey, local naturalist and photographer

Co-sponsored by Musketaquid Arts and Environment Program
and Friends of the Assabet river NWR

Meet at Great Meadows NWR in Concord, MA
(Monson Road, off Rte. 62, driveway on left where road cureves right)

For questions email cherrie.corey@verizon.net or call 978-760-1933/cell

June 26, 2011

Wet!

Lotus heart
 While the wildlands and most of us have had our fill of cloudy, rainy days, the damp and moody atmosphere of the past week was a delight for this photographer and her new macro lens.  I moved slowly through the mists, looking closely to see how the water flows, festoons, and drenches as it moves through the landscape in my favorite places.