After the early bitter cold, warmer temperatures came to Nahant Marsh, bringing fog and rain, melting the snow and softening the ice. Nearly all of December passed overcast and gray, with almost no sunshine to cheer the sodden gloom, although the cloudy skies did seem to keep the temperatures warmer.
Nahant Marsh’s beaver family used the warmer weather to dredge mud from the bottom of their pond to do a little extra tuck-pointing on their home. Their dwelling looks very much like an untidy pile of branches, and their stash of winter food looks like a pile of cut saplings tossed in the pond.
But the industrious beavers do a remarkable job using available materials. The main house has been refurbished and reused for many seasons. The mud will freeze hard and they always leave a few gaps in the top for ventilation. The beavers are ready for winter.
The creatures inside the permanent, artificial summer of Nahant Marsh’s Education Center are oblivious to the winter outdoors. Unlike their wild cousins waiting out the cold in dormancy deep in the mud, or in crevices of sheltering spots they’ve found for themselves, the reptiles and amphibians kept indoors are bright eyed and awake.
The Education Center has a number of creatures, both common and rare, that can been seen when outdoors is bleak and gray, with little to see except cloudy skies, soggy winter killed plants, and cold mud. The seemingly endless days of drizzling rain and occasional flakes of snow do seem to have ended, however. The skies have cleared—with another blast of arctic cold. Winter, with the passing of the solstice, is here.
It has been a gray December, muddy and sullen. Even the Education Center has been a bit of an untidy mess as the in-full-swing construction of the new expansion has torn up the grounds. Do take care and “pardon their dust” if you come to see those creatures for which winter never arrived. And as the cold hardens the water and earth, remember their wild cousins and the beavers who endure and embrace the winter as best they can.