After The Flood

Thunderstorms were intense and frequent during late spring and early summer, and the great river gathered the water together, rising steadily. The Mississippi River is inexorable when it swells, and nothing can be done but stand aside or go under.  As it always does in times of flood, the river poured into Nahant Marsh.

Nahant Marsh is a safety valve of sorts, allowing a place for a huge amount of flood water to be held for a while, waiting for the river level to go back down in its own good time. The road to the marsh is under water during a major flood. The Education Center is sandbagged and the dock tied down before access is lost.

Nahant Marsh itself and the creatures who live there take no such flood preparations. But the marsh is resilient and fluctuating water levels are, in fact, part of the reason that wetlands are as productive as they are. As the flood passed, the high water mark illustrated clearly just how great the volume of water was.

After the flood, the broad, brown strip of once-under-water looks drear and dead. The leaves and greenery have been replaced by drying mud and slime. No doubt some did not survive the flood and were drowned. For those whose nests were not built above the crest of the water it was a cruel  time with little chance of escape.

Still, the flood tolerant plants are already greening out, and all that water allowed water creatures to be very productive while it lasted. A great number of frogs and crawfish were born and thrived. After the flood hundreds of egrets came to the feast, joined by herons and rafts of pelicans scooping up fish.

The Mississippi river is back in its banks, and access is once again open for people to visit Nahant Marsh. As ever, no two years, no two seasons, no two days are ever alike, so be sure to pay attention. Whether in flood or in drought, there is always something beautiful and remarkable going on in this wetland environment.

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Summer on the Marsh

Spring at Nahant Marsh brought frequent rains this year and heavy thunderstorms. As summer solstice arrived, the Mississippi, fed by intense, drenching storms up river, was once again in flood and pouring river water into the marsh. As ever, this is good for some, not so good for others.

Water loving creatures have little trouble with flooding. There are more places to swim to when there’s more water, and the wood ducks do seem to enjoy being in flooded woods and meadows. The babies forage for themselves, keeping in a loose sort of group, knowing just what to do.

Their mother stays nearby, watching for danger as they forage. They are nearly half her size already and have lost most of their “duckling down”. They haven’t any wing feathers yet, so if mom does sound an alarm call, run and hide will have to do. I counted ten baby wood ducks following one of the hens. Nahant Marsh is good wood duck habitat.

Nahant Marsh provides room and board and serves as incubator for many species in addition to the wood ducks that are born here every year. Many birds call this place home, and many are raising youngsters. Because they are not too easy to spot, it may seem that there are not as many as there actually are.

The thick, humid greenery conceals a great deal of the goings-on of its residents. It is buzzing, thrumming and singing with life whether you notice it or not. More often than not, I hear far more action than I ever see in the dense woods and meadows. It is summer in the marsh, the flowers are blooming and the next generation of creatures are growing up. Don’t miss it.

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