Every year is different at Nahant Marsh. This year brought an autumn that stretched out long and balmy, day after golden day. The bright fall colors were underpainted with rich browns almost from their onset, but the colors were brilliant all the same, and remained, lingering, fading with exquisite slowness into tawny autumn brown and gray.
With great precision the sunrises came later and the sunsets earlier with each passing day. Yet unlike most years, hard freezes did not come until November was well underway. A few cold nights during the slow motion autumn kissed the meadows lightly with frost, but flowers still bloomed in the warmth of the shortening days.
A wet year kept the marsh lush and brimming full this year. Water was abundant, and included an uncommon autumn flood. As the high water dropped back to a more ordinary level, groups of pelicans stopped by to fill up on fish. For days many pelicans could be seen at Nahant, fishing, cruising, napping or fussing with their feathers.
The marsh is a common stopover for the pelicans. When they do decide to visit, it can be for days at a time. Watching them glide on autumn colored water never gets old, either. If you watch for a while you will eventually see one or more of them scoop up a meal. If you watch the autumn colored water of the marsh long enough, you will see many, many birds of all kinds.
The variety of birds that visit during their journey along the Mississippi flyway is a delight. All the long balmy autumn I carefully glassed the marsh with each visit to see which birds might be stopping by that day. Some seemed like old friends, I would see them so frequently. Some days the marsh was filled with “the usual crowd” in huge numbers.
Other times I caught glimpses of more rarely seen birds, or those that, although not uncommon, usually prefer the deeper river nearby. A common goldeneye visited the marsh a few times while I watched the autumn bird show. The otter family did, too. In the warm, shortening autumn days the creatures are taking care of their autumn business.
The long lasting balmy days are past, though, and winter snow waits just over the horizon. Killing frosts have finally stopped the flowers, and skims of ice have formed for the ducks to walk on. Late autumn is here, and winter will be soon.