July 17, 2017
After ten years of monthly walks, I hosted my last regular monthly walk at Great Meadows on June 9, 2017. I am so grateful for the enthusiastic turnout and gracious words of farewell. We enjoyed a warm and picture-perfect evening with a beautiful sunset. Gnaty plumes mystically pulsed above the silver maple on the dike trail. Bullfrogs croaked underfoot as we watched them from the observation deck, and tree frogs filled floodplain with their trilling chorus. And we watched herons flying in the fading light before the moon rose brightly above the tree tops.
I will continue to work on and share my extensive photographic archive of Concord's wild and historic landscape and to further develop this web page as an interpretive resource for the town. I hope to offer occasional walks, field programs, presentations, and hopefully exhibitions in the future. As we reconnect with our old Vermont roots, I'm hoping to discover and weave in new threads of connection between the places that I call home ground. Please stay tuned and keep in touch.
To share your observations or questions or to be added to my e-list for future impromptu walks in Concord or in wondrous areas of Southern Vermont, contact email@example.com or 978-760-1933.
May 13, 2017
|Early morning birdwatching on the Minuteman National Historic |
Park's trail, not far from Meriam Corner.
Our highlights included a scarlet tanager (Ball's Hill); an indigo bunting, numerous blue-winged warblers, Baltimore orioles, a great-crested flycatcher, and lots of yellow warblers along the Minuteman Park trail; and the spectacular opportunity to witness "jump day" for a family of wood duck babies at Great Meadows. The morning was completed by a delicious potluck breakfast at the home of Peggy Brace and a dizzying array of beautiful birds at her bird bath and feeders.
|A rare opportunity to see an indigo bunting singing right next to the trail, |
in concert with Baltimore orioles, a great-crested flycatcher,
and numerous other songbirds feeding high in the oak-flowered canopy.
|Blue-winged and yellow warblers were singing |
along the wetter, brushier trail edges.
|Male blue-winged warbler sings his buzzy song|
The highlight and, for many of us a life event, was the surprise witnessing of "Jump Day" at Great Meadows, when young wood ducklings leap from their duck nesting boxes to the water many feet below. Truly a somewhat harrowing and hilarious sight to behold and one I'd been hoping to see for many years.
Above, Mama wood duck circles below her nest box (left) waiting for her last baby to take the leap. If you enlarge the image, you can see his head poking out of the hole. "Jump day for wood ducks" has become an internet meme over the last few years and Googling the phrase will pull up some wonderful videos of the event.
After two hours in the field, we adjourned to Peggy Brace's home for breakfast. Peggy is also caretaker of several bluebird houses on her property and one of the busiest bird feeders in town. This year's cold and rainy spring was sadly lethal for the bluebird hatchlings, so we missed the annual delight of her introductions to these tiny ones.
|Peter Alden (center) is longtime coordinator of the|
April 18, 2017
|Cold front moving in|
With only ten hours notice, twenty eager saunterers joined me to close out Marathon Monday and Patriot's Day with a slow, savoring walk across the refuge. What a spectacular evening it was. Opening with a dramatic frontline of clouds and theatrical light across the marsh-scape, we first encountered a swirling kettle of carp at the footbridge and a fly fisherman with his gleaming box of colorful, hand-tied flies.
|Long-time Great Meadows volunteer, Alan Bragg, and his wife Ruth |
share thoughts and experiences with our fisher-friend.
The sounds of dusk swelled with the calls of redwings, leopard frogs, spring peepers, chorus frogs along the river, and Canada geese announcing their arrival for the night. We passed by leafing out crab apples, blooming sweet gale shrubs, geese settling on their nests, and great bird clamor in the canopies.
|Female sweet gale flowers|
|Red-winged blackbird in a silver maple|
The great gift of the evening came on the wings of 38 glossy ibis, who flew in formation over the marsh, circling and apparently landing in the upper impoundment. Their dark silhouettes against the rosy sunset sky was breathtaking. For the past week, I'd been longing to see glossy ibis on their migration through Concord one more time...wish granted!
|38 migrating glossy ibis fly in at sunset|
The cloud panoramas washed in pastel hues and rosy glow of the brimming river were so sublime. Truly this was one of our more exceptional evening walks in these last ten years!
April 1, 2017
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|
|Electa Tritsch, producer and intrepid videographer|
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|
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
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
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)