On New Year's afternoon, I return to the fractured, icy floodplain, near the Timber Trail on the eastern end of Great Meadows. The tall pines along the shoreline and mature silver maples in the flood zone lend a haunting feel to this icy corner. Great horned owls often roost in these woods, their calls deepening the mood here.
At 3 pm the sun is low, illuminating the old trees and casting their reflections onto their silvery ice collars and the black ice below. I bushwack toward the mirrored expanse, drawn by a darker, more monochromatic pallette of color than I encountered the day before. Two refuge visitors appear to be following and watching me at a distance, for so long that I begin to wonder about their curiosity.
As the sun dips below the horizon and I'm in the last stretch of the walk back to my car, another car pulls up to me and visitors ask if I was looking at owls in the flooded woods on the eastern end of the refuge - they were the ones following me! I happily share that I was photographing ice and its reflections but they look a bit puzzled. After encouraging them to tune into that winter spectacle on their next visit, I reassure them that we also often hear great horned owls calling from the pine woods around dusk at this time of year and that screech owls have occasionally been spotted in tree hollows near there.
As I approach my car, another visitor calls out a familiar question, "See anything interesting?"...oh where would I begin!