June 22, 2015

Summer Solstice Refreshment at Great Meadows

Several monthly walkers and I stepped out onto a puddled trail last evening where lush June foliage hung heavy from some 2.25" of Solstice rain that had fallen throughout the day.  Silky dogwood buds were bursting open, bird chatter filled the humid air, and the heady fragrance of milkweed and white sweet clover blossoms permeated our senses.  A tattered bronze copper (Lycaena hyllus) butterfly tucked into the thick clover growth for the night.

Puddles lined the dike trail like runway lights, a rare sight during this drought stricken spring.  Still with all the dryness, we found abundant blooms of silky dogwood, winterberry, yarrow, milkweed, common St. Johnswort, milk parsley (just beginning), curly dock, yellow avens, and white sweet clover.   

An approaching cold front piled clouds along the western and northern horizons dramatically catching and deflecting the setting sunlight.

As darkness approached, green frogs began their low groan, great blue herons flew in for dusk-time feeding, and young wood ducklings appeared with their mom skittering among the rain-bejeweled lotus leaves feeding and exploring.  Toward the end of our walking, the male and female beaver from the eastern-most lodge swam up to us and circled close in the rosy water, without a tailslap.

Our evening ended with the twinkling light of fireflies filling the woodland borders of the parking lot...all a perfect beginning to summer days ahead.

June 3, 2015

Summer Evening Walks at Great Meadows

Monarch butterfly on buttonbush

 Part of a continuing series of walks led by Cherrie Corey, local naturalist, exploring the seasonal wonders and landscape of Great Meadows NWR in Concord, MA

Sunday, June 21, 6:30 pm   Monthly walk  Walk is on tonight!
Sunday, July 19, 6:30 pm   Monthly walk
 Sunday, August 16, 6:30 pm   Monthly walk

Wednesday, July 1, 6:45 pm   Full Moon walk 
Friday, July 31, 6:45 pm   Blue Moon walk

All walks run about 1.75 hours

Warm summer nights and full moon light...join me for a series of six evening walks to explore the refuge on the edge of a long summer's day.  Birds and beavers stir and settle, herons feed, and great egrets fly to their roosts.  Hawk moths come out to feed on evening primrose blossoms and lotuses glow in the moonlight.  The air is heavy with floral scents and rainbows may appear as storms pass along the horizon.  It's a magical time to be out together.  Donations will be gratefully accepted.

Open to all ages.  No pre-registration required. 

Co-sponsored with Friends of the Assabet River NWR

Please note:  Refuge headquarters waives the entrance fee for these walks.  However, I encourage everyone to consider purchasing a $12 annual pass to help support critical visitor service needs at Great Meadows - Concord.

Meet at the information kiosk at Great Meadows NWR in Concord.  Take Rte. 62 to Monsen Rd.  Follow Monsen Rd. and turn left into refuge driveway when road turns sharply right.  Follow refuge road to the parking lot at the end.

For questions or to be added to the emailing list for notice of these and impromptu evening walks, contact Cherrie at cherrie.corey@verizon.net or 978-760-1933.

March 29, 2015

Gardner Bohemians

While Gardner Bohemian may well describe how I felt growing up in this town in the 1960's, this winter it's being applied to a huge flock of rare Bohemian waxwings (some 180 strong) who flew into town in early March and have been gorging on crab apples ever since.  Yesterday while visiting my dad, I had the chance to visit the crabapple trees outside of Heywood Hospital where some 130 Bohemians were feeding in the wind-driven snow.

In a typical winter, dedicated birders will drive miles to see one or two reported Bohemians hanging out with a flock of our more common cedar waxwings.  Bohemians are a wandering lot, creating no permanent territory of their own.  They breed primarily in the taiga far in the northwestern reaches of Canada and Alaska, where cloudberries and insects are their delicacies, traveling from there into the northern edge of the U.S. in the winter in search of dried fruit.  With this winter's prolonged polar blast, snow cover, and abundant ornamental fruit supplies, an unusual number found their way into Massachusetts, mostly as individuals.  A long-term visit from a flock this size is phenomenal and gives observers a chance to experience a more natural range of Bohemian behaviors.

Remote as their breeding grounds are, wintering Bohemians are more likely found near civic buildings and golf courses in northern New England towns where crab apple trees are abundant.  The Gardner Bohemians have been found foraging outside of the town's hospital, Elks Lodge, courthouse, and Mount Wachusett Community College where fruit trees have provided abundant sundried apples, which they boldly swallow whole, their determined feeding reminding me of great blue herons trying to swallow fish.

Their favorite trees are still strung in holiday lights and thick with fruit. Photographing the feeding frenzy is challenging.  The birds sit motionless, chatting, and digesting at the top of a nearby 50' sugar maple tree.  Then they begin to stir and the whole flock lifts up, swirls in overhead, and descends like a cloud of smoke into a single tree, feeding wildly for less than 10 seconds, then grabbing extra fruit, they swirl up again and back to their resting tree.  They are very sensitive to noise and nearby movement while feeding, but became comfortable enough with my unmoving presence that they finally came in to feed right next to me.  I loved seeing these wild denizens of the north so boldly and gregariously eating amidst the trappings of civilization, so I chose to leave these details in my portraits of them.

Two huge wind turbines flank the field near the Bohemians resting tree providing a somewhat jarring visual counterpoint to the whole scene, though the sound did not seem to bother the birds.  On my previous day's visit, the birds left their roost and flew like a large black cloud down the middle of Green St. to the community college beyond.  I followed them to see where they were choosing to feed and found them dispersed on either side of the road in front of the college, taking turns joining a gathering of blackbirds and robins who were feeding on some fruit laden staghorn sumacs near the road.  Good to know we also have acceptable wild fruits to sustain them on their long journey north.

As always, happy to see wildness prevail in my hometown.

March 15, 2015

Deep in Record Snowfall

At 7 pm, the US National Weather Service announced that this evening's snowfall (measured at Logan Airport) brought our 2014-15 winter to a record breaking 108.6," an inch above the 1995-96 record, and this winter it never melted!

(Sculpture - Eve Celebrant, Marie Pineda, 1991 at deCordova Sculpture Park; photo © Cherrie A. Corey 2015)

March 14, 2015

Boston Blooming - Spring Flower Show

It may be fifteen years since I last indulged in Boston's March flower fest, then and for more than a century known as the New England Spring Flower Show, hosted by the venerable Massachusetts Horticultural Society (History of the Flower Show in Boston).  Once again on historic Commonwealth Pier, now gussied up as the Seaport World Trade Center, the Boston Flower and Garden Show bears but a wisp of resemblance to the skillfully and extravagantly wrought displays of yore.  Still, the company of a dear friend from Maine and this week's beautiful, more springlike weather made the whole experience feel like a familiar and welcome seasonal right of passage.

My friend, Susan, admires the whimsical floral design competition displaying this year's theme of Wizard's Hats and Staffs.

For me, this hat's magic was concentrated in unusual bundlings of potent plants - small luscious orchids, polypody ferns, selaginella, and mushrooms.

It was the miniature horsetails (lower right) that drew me to this bonsai container garden.  A "windswept" Juniper horizontalis grows from the top of this porous rock fountain with mosses, baby's tears, and the dwarf horsetails below.

Tiny Equisetum hyemala 'Nana'
Ocean Spray created a very appealing diorama of a cranberry bog surrounded by the accoutrement used in the harvest.

In addition, we were pleased to see the Mass. Dept. of Agricultural Resources' particularly informative display on the Asian longhorned beetle and Emerald ash borer and learn about the Massachusetts Master Gardener Assn., a non-profit that formed to carry forward this in-depth training and service program that was discontinued by the state due to budget cuts.  (VT, NH, and ME still fund their own excellent programs at the state level.)  We also sat in on the wonderfully informative presentation given by the Rose Kennedy Greenway horticultural staff, who I met two summers ago on an inspiring tour of the Greenway with them and my Concord friend Paul Kelly (chief horticulturist for Boston's Federal Reserve Bank).  A blog post on that expedition is forthcoming.

With its Suburu sponsor featured prominently within the main exhibition area, the marketplace occupying two-thirds of the entire hall, and commercial businesses producing most of the installations, the flower show has a decidedly more commercial atmosphere than in decades past.  Still, the familiar scents of bark mulch and mingling floral fragrances still evoked my long distant memories of the sheer exhilaration of my first flower show experience in 1978, both as a visitor and one of the privileged few who helped to produce an exhibition.  Having spent my early years with grandparents who were both florists and horticulturists, as well as gardeners, my personal sense of place has deep roots in beautifully arranged and lovingly tended green and flowering environments - and the flower show has always felt a bit like home.

In my Easter finery in front of my grandmother's flower shop in Newtown, CT (1960)
I recently discovered slides that I made of the spectacular 1978 New England Spring Flower show and hope to scan and post those soon.

January 19, 2015

Frozen in Time - Walden on Ice

A brief January thaw came through on Sunday bringing mid-40s temps, rain, and strong winds...all making contact with Concord's icy ponds and wetlands.  Such changing winter conditions mixed with the intense angled light of the season are a clarion call for my photographer's heart.  I set off again for Walden, encountering an unexpected and wondrous spectacle of form, reflection, and the history of the pond's winter experience revealed in every icy inch of its surface and shoreline.

Along the shallow stretches along the northern shoreline, where the sun radiates throughout these short days, the once firm ice has thinned and opened in some spots and caught pools of fresh rains in others, creating intergalactic visions of light and dark and jagged yet fluid terrain. 

Midway along the northern shore and following all the way to Thoreau's Cove, a tenting of the ice  occurs nearly annually.  I've seen this same phenomenon along the Concord River during winter's that follow frigid, high water autumns.  Along shorelines, water freezes early and quickly beginning the ice sheets that eventually cover the waterbody.  As water levels drop, the ice sheet collapses toward the center of the water body breaking the ice sheets along the shoreline, creating tented structures, fractures, and inverted broken edges that reveal a myriad of fascinating freeze-thaw phenomena both within and under these ice structures. 

Along ocean shorelines, but less often at the edges of inland ponds, frozen wave forms can be found, where the wind whips up briefly fluid surfaces that then flash freeze in near zero temperatures...as happened this weekend.

More stories in the ice...here beautiful shadowy impressions made by some of the coarser glacial till along Walden's shore.

Here a frozen moment in time captures sinking leaves and their bubble trails chronicling a passing cold front and the ponds wind-whipped surface as temperatures quickly plunged.

Thousands of tiny bubbles encasing this floating oak leaf are frozen into the pond's icier expanse catching the sunlight and glowing like a silver treasure.

In sunny Thoreau's Cove, the ice's melting surface and captured pools of the previous days rain mirror impressions of shoreline trees.

An ice fisherman threads his way across the mostly frozen but partially thawing pond ice to drill a new hole.  I love the blinding backlight of the winter sun that silhouette's his movements that sets the whole pond and shoreline shimmering.

Shiner or bait...dual identities

To the casual passer-by, this long view gives no hint of the icy wonders that gleam in the backlight or metamorphose along the shore.

View from western shore with the sun at my back
Along Walden's southern edge, the ice's surface, patterns, and encapsulations suggest calmer waters and fewer abrupt changes.

Circling back to my starting point on the eastern shore, near the public boat launch, a final patch of turbulent ice reveals a rarely frozen area along the shore where spring seepage brings in warmer water.  In this frigid winter, the surface water whips up in the icy wind and repeatedly flash freezes, a final reminder of Walden's many winter guises.

January 17, 2015

Walden...Winter's Waterdrum Calls

On Saturday, the sunny, brisk, and windless afternoon calls me toward Walden's frozen basin.  Usually I avoid visiting our hallowed pond on weekends when visitors are at their peak.  But today it all feels convivial sharing the bracing air and ice together.  It is 3 pm and the sun's low angle casts strong a warm spotlight on all of the activity....fisherman in their favorite places, skaters gliding end to end, families skittering together, a puppy slip-sliding through his first ice walk, elderly couples arm in arm for steadiness, the ever-present wave of Chinese visitors making their pilgrimage and posing for selfies against the gleaming pondscape, another pilgrim above me talking on about the life-changing impact reading Walden had on her life while seemingly inattentive to her own experience here in this moment.

Chung-gachun-wump-wung...the deep pond begins to sing under my feet, its sounds echoing off the hills, amazing and startling some of its explorers.  As the sun lowers and the air cools, the ice expands and becomes more taught across its surface.  The ice's cracking and movements send sound waves through the air pockets and deep water below creating a beautiful, haunting resonance.  This 61-acre water drum calls visitors from near and far to join in shared communion.

Fisherman, beautifully silhouetted in the late afternoon light bring a wilder presence to this otherwise civilized weekend gathering.  Those out at mid-pond have simple effects yet, by their movements, convey a deeper wisdom about the winter elements and this pond's particular nature through their selective movement and enterprise.  While noting this, I am reminded of Thoreau's reflective comment about the fisherman at Walden, "His life itself passes deeper in nature than the studies of the naturalist penetrate; himself a subject for the naturalist."

But I also come here today to find inspiration in the ice.  It is glaringly beautiful and yields a record of this winter's stormy sequences that have stirred, frozen, thawed, and patterned the pondscape.  A hunt for puzzles and treasure through the disciplined focus of the lens, for me, promises a very fulfilling afternoon.

Black ice, drifted snow, and irregular refrozen shapes create abstract patterns that hold stories of the interplay of wind and temperature over the early weeks of winter.

This week, another local photographer and Thoreauvian posted a similar photo of the ice patterns below , in part prompting my expedition today.  They cover about a 10x20 foot area near the point rounding into Thoreau's Cove on the northern shore.  These circles appear to be remnants of a creative endeavor, seemingly embossed into softened ice.  Apparent thawing and refreezing make their origin hard to decipher, but I wonder if they might have been inspired by the current Walden, revisted exhibition at the deCordova Museum.

Mysterious impressions
As the sun sinks behind the southwestern corner of the shoreline, the water drum rhythms quicken, and I enjoy watching how the remaining visitors respond to this sonorous moment in winter wildness. 

Walking back at last toward the eastern shore, some curved lines in the ice catch my eye, so I turn to view them in the sun's backlight and an angel appears.  Another moment of grace on the ice.

And as only the skaters' blades can still be heard, the sun disappears leaving a blush on both sky and ice.