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.

Otter2016apr

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Ice, Water and the Mink Patrol

Winter sunrise on ice and water at Nahant MarshWinter has advanced then retreated a number of times at Nahant Marsh this season. Times of bitter cold, freezing water and earth, as well as balmy, spring like days thawing a muddy surface layer on the otherwise winter-hard soil. Ice and water have danced back and forth over the line between freeze and thaw. No unrelenting winter of ice and snow this year.

Tracks in the snow covering thin ice on Nahant MarshInstead, a winter of bits and pieces of hard cold. Cold enough to thicken the ice. Then warm enough to eat it away again, nibbling it ever thinner and not at all evenly. And not many snowfalls so far this winter, although what snow fell for Nahant’s creatures to write on was thoroughly tracked. Clearly there’s a lot going on in the winter wetland.

Ice and open water by the beaver dam at Nahant MarshThe makers of the tracks are not often seen, but the footprints record exactly where they were when you weren’t looking. They were there only a moment, but have written the story—especially clearly—in snow on flat ice. And so you can read critter tales long after they’ve moved on, or  at least until the warmer days move freeze back to thaw.

Mink at Nahant Marsh pauses to stare at me...Sometimes, if you are still—and lucky, you do see some of the marsh’s less frequently seen inhabitants. Nahant Marsh is mink habitat, and this one was apparently on patrol. I was treated to the appearance of this fierce little hunter a couple times as it went by from one direction then the other, sometimes by water, sometimes by ice. It heard the sound of the shutter and stopped to stare a moment.

And so, a mink portrait captured. After a brief pause, the mink headed on its way, apparently in a hurry. The occasional times I’ve seen them they do always seem to be hurrying somewhere as if they’re on their way to work. And maybe they are.

...and the mink hurries on its way

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