December 11, 2015

Embracing December Fog

Each year, I look forward to December, with its frosty mornings, the glazing over of rivers and marshes, the return of winter water birds, and expectations of first snowflakes.  But with El NiƱo blowing his warm breath our way, we've been feeling the heat more than not this month.  This morning we rose to a thick blanket of fog shrouding the landscape.  Off to Great Meadows I went, to savor the view where the fog hung heaviest over the marsh and river, arriving just in time for daily departures of geese to nearby fields.

The spiderlings have been working overtime these last few weeks, weaving and feasting while the days are calm and comfortable.  Overnight they festooned trailside flowery remains with gossamer, now bejeweled by the fog's misty touch.

Milk parsley (Peucedanum palustre) drapery
Festooned goldenrod
Bejeweled love grass
Down by the river, all is still.  The refuge's newest beaver lodge stands sentry where Buttrick's and Ball's Hills converge at the water's edge.  A mud-packed dome, well fortified, has clear views upstream and down.  The meticulous line of freshly cut branches, carefully rooted in the mud below, extends some ten feet beyond the lodge, an ample larder for the iced over months ahead.

Peace and promise.

December 8, 2015

December Walk at Great Meadows

Sunday, December 13, 2:30-4:30 pm

Great Meadows NWR - Concord (off Rte. 62 and Monsen Road)
Donations gratefully accepted

Take time to stretch your legs and breathe in the season this Sunday with a pre-winter, sunset walk through the refuge.  Eagles have been daily visitors these last few weeks.  Coot, pintail and wood ducks, and hundreds of geese fill the marsh on the shoulders of each day.  Inspired by the unusually warm days, spiders are still ballooning and leaving their glistening gossamer trails.  Beaver are stockpiling fresh cuttings for their winter food supplies.  Juncos, white-throated and swamp sparrows, bluebirds, titmice, goldfinches, chickadees, and woodpeckers are busy gleaning the trail edges.  With the low-angled light of the season, the entire landscape is revealed in more dramatic ways and sunsets can be most sublime.

The forecast promises an unusually warm and delicious afternoon which should stir-up additional surprises.  I hope you'll join me!

For some photo highlights from this month, see

December 7, 2015

Cherished Neighbors

Up early today to chase the dawn light and frosty fog at Great Meadows, but a series of mishaps with my camera and poor early light prompted me to abandon my initial plan.  As the sky brightened, I decided instead to visit some of my favorite neighbors.  These highlanders graze the rocky fields around the old Brooks Tavern, a beautiful hilltop acreage that now belongs to Minuteman National Historic National Park.  These slow, lumbering beauties always seem intent on chewing and sleeping, but their soulful gaze reveal the distinct spark inside of each of them.  I've yet to be formally introduced, though we've had several portrait sessions together.  Usually, it's nearly impossible to capture their richly textured light and dark coats and all the details of eyes, noses, and mouths within them.  But today's low mid-morning light, softened by sheer clouds, offered a rare opportunity to capture their essence.  And who couldn't love these soft faces.

Browsing the brambles
A conical cow-pruned tree, as Thoreau wonderfully describes in his essay Wild Apples