Where the Wood Duck Live

A flash of wing and eye is visible as a wood duck drake glides bySpring flooded Nahant Marsh with tangled, thick green vegetation as May and now June filled it with light and heat. The prairie is bright with flowers—the season has already begun its succession of blooms. This dense growth covers the lively creatures that live there. All those leaves, stems and petals obscures them from easy view.

Wood duck drake at Nahant MarshI imagine those lively creatures are comfortable with nice thick cover. The less they can be seen, the better they may like it. To look out over the intensely green marsh as summer arrives, is to wonder what may be living unseen there. As every year, wood ducks are part of the wetland community thriving in this place. Nahant Marsh is where they live.

Pair of wood duck drakes at Nahant MarshThe drakes are boldly marked, with bright spots of brilliant and iridescent color. Yet as striking as they appear, wood ducks are easy to miss. They are shy and quick to take wing. The thick green of the woods and marsh covers them well. They do not wish to be seen, nor to get too close to dangerous people. But they do live there. If I wait quietly by the water I see them fairly regularly.

Wood duck mom at Nahant Marsh says keep away from my babiesDrakes and hens and ducklings that grow with breathtaking speed, I see them all from time to time—if I am still. The hens, more subtle, are patterned in lovely browns. They have patches of iridescence hidden on their wings, and always there is a white teardrop shape encircling each eye.

Wood duck hen appears to laugh while sitting on a log at Nahant MarshThe ladies had seemed to disappear for a while, and for a time I saw mostly drakes. No doubt the hens were sitting on eggs. But now the baby wood ducks have rained down unseen from their nests, and are out on the water. It seems to take only a day or two before they are the size of their dainty parents. It does take a little longer than that, of course, but the youngsters do grow amazingly fast.

As every year, Nahant Marsh is producing more wood ducks. Wood ducks live there. They find food, shelter and a place to raise the next batch of wood ducks in relative safety. You may see them or you may not, but without a doubt, they are there, living out the season comfortably in the dense summer green at the marsh.

Morning light catches on the iridescent patches of a wood duck drake


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Once Again Spring

HoodedMerganserPair2016aprOnce again spring comes to Nahant Marsh. Winter is only a fading memory as the rush of green rises. The creatures of this remarkable place return and proceed with their springtime rituals—at once as ageless as time uncountable,  yet as new as this very day. The spring migration carries on as it does each year, winter forgotten as the sun lasts longer, warming the world.

Beaver2016aprThe beavers of Nahant Marsh did not use all of their large stash of winter food after all. Now, with their ponds free of the ice, they are nibbling at freshly growing trees with their tender new bark, instead of relying on the waterlogged pile of branches set aside at the beginning of winter. It seems, and was, so long ago.

GarterSnake2016aprThe welcome warmth has drawn forth all of the marsh’s creatures. Even the cold blooded ones have resurfaced to go about their business as though the harsh time of cold never was. The frogs are calling, the turtles are out and about, and  snakes in their elegant coats of sequin-like scales, are on the hunt. So begins another season of warmth.

SpringBurn2016aprSections of meadow, thick with tall, winter browned vegetation, have been burned by Nahant Marsh staff. These blackened areas will green up even faster that the non burned areas. Native plants have evolved to tolerate burns. Their strength lies below the surface—now cleared with the sun warming the black ground. They will spring up renewed. Alien, invasive species do not survive a burn as well as the natives do.

The prairies will be full of flowers in almost no time at all. Already the wetland is full of birds. Many have passed on by on their way to their northern homes. Many others have arrived to stay for the season. Some are already incubating this years clutch of babies. Come spend some time outdoors if you can, let the sun warm you and listen to the spring songs of the birds. Before you know it is will be past. This is because time does fly, with or without you.


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