January 1, 2014

Sliding into the New Year

Otter tracks at the Concord River on New Year's Da

Not until winter do we take possession of the whole of our territory.
Thoreau, Journal, 2/13/1859

My step over this New Year's threshold was a slippery one. The sub-freezing temperatures of the last two weeks, punctuated by snowfall and an intervening deluge, sealed Concord's wetlands under glassy smooth sheets of white ice framed by snow encrusted shorelines.  On New Year's eve and day, I donned my  layers, Sorel's, and ice creepers and set out to walk across these beckoning expanses at Moore's Swamp and Great Meadows - an adventure that only winter can offer.

Moore's Swamp stretches out some 20 acres to the north and east of Concord's historic Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.  Now brimming from rising beaver activity and clogged drainage culverts, the swamp basin gleams with winter ice that's darkened by silhouettes of red maple tip-ups and a tangle of prostrate tree trunks and wetland shrubs.  Some 34 empty great blue heron nests tower overhead and underfoot rare turtle and amphibian residents sleep winter away in the mud.  As I slid along the open expanses in the waning light of New Year's eve, I wondered what fate 2014 will hold for the swamp and it's rarer inhabitants, see Historic Moore's Swamp in the Crosshairs.

A frozen allée...the flooded remnant of an historic trail through Moore's Swamp
Out the other end, a spot of orange (lower left) in the monochrome swampscape
A cinnabar-red polypore mushroom (Pycnoporus cinnabarinus), common but rarely seen

It has rained hard, converting into a very thin liquid the snow which had fallen on the old ice, and this, having frozen, has made a perfectly smooth but white snow ice.  It is white like polished marble (I call it “marble ice”), and the trees and hill are reflected in it... Thoreau, Journal, 1/31/1860

Ice doilies
Some of the 34 great blue heron nests high above the swamp basin
New Year's Day brought crisp, clear light to Concord's Great Meadows and it's vast frozen marshland and floodplain forest, giving a new meaning to "glare ice."

Buttonbush tangle in the floodplain forest
Encrusted twigs
Two coyotes
Winter river
"Glare" ice

Not only the earth but the heavens are made our footstool.  That is what the phenomenon of ice means.  The earth is annually inverted and we walk upon the sky...  Thoreau, Journal, 2/12/1860


  1. Beautiful images! Visited there this week, and ironically the great blue heron nests are all full of babies where I live down in Florida. Plus caught a glimpse of the beaver looking relaxed as well!