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.