A Crane Marsh

SandhillCranePairAtFirstLightNM2018marAt Nahant Marsh, another year is passing. The lingering winter gave way to spring’s rush of bird travelers and a speedy return to green. The heat of summer arrived before summer itself. The marsh is once again full of a new generation of wetland creatures. Wood duck babies are out of the nest, as are hooded mergansers, canada geese and many others. The fecundity of the marsh is very encouraging.

SandhillCrane&Reflection4NM2018marAnother very encouraging thing is that a pair of sandhill cranes have returned to Nahant Marsh each season now since at least 2011. They return reliably and can be seen regularly. And so Nahant Marsh regains its status as a crane marsh. I assume that at one time this place must have harbored cranes—they are such ancient creatures, present long before any people arrived to perturb the balance. There were no cranes here when I first came to this marsh. I don’t know how long the marsh had been bereft of cranes, but Aldo Leopold thought perhaps he was witnessing the last of them when he wrote the Marshland Elegy in 1937.

SandhillCraneWalksAcrossTheBeaverPondNM2018marNahant Marsh was empty of cranes when it opened as a nature preserve and education center in 2000. Prior to this, it was an EPA Superfund Cleanup site due to heavy lead contamination from decades as a shooting range. Dead geese were found here, but no cranes. It may be that no cranes have been in this marsh since they were nearly extirpated from this area a century ago.

SandhillCraneLiftsOffThePondNM2018marNahant Marsh is not a remote wilderness. It is a relatively small parcel surrounded by city. The shooting club that inadvertently poisoned the land also prevented the expanding city from building there, thus preserving an island of habitat. The urban environment is quite close, present, and noisy. And yet Nahant offers enough to bring and keep a pair of sandhill cranes. The resiliency this illustrates is encouraging.


Cranes have returned to take up residence, and seem not at all put off by the nearby city. It now seems likely that they will stay. As time goes on, it becomes clear that with a little care and a little leaving it alone, creatures once threatened can make it through the eye of the needle. They can come back and thrive. Sandhill cranes could not have survived the incredible sweep of millennia without being resilient and adaptable. It is wonderful that they are still here, and are going about their business, and can continue to mark the tick of that geological clock with the clangor of their annual return.

I continue to visit Nahant Marsh often, and to photograph the transient images of beauty that pass by. Occasionally I will post a few—but with a day job, extra projects, and incursions into far-off Edens as well as my close-to-home Eden, posting takes a back seat. Front and center is simply to be present on the planet, here and now, in in this place of peculiar distinction—a crane marsh.


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Time Flies On By

YoungWoodDuckStretches2017sepTime flies on always, and life at Nahant Marsh has flowed on by as it always does. The summer has long passed, and the winter solstice is just days away. All the wood duck babies—those that survived anyway—have grown and gone on their way. The fall migration has mostly flown through, and so another  year is nearly gone.


Turtles&WoodDucksAtTheBeaverPond2017sepThe summer full of baby wood ducks gave way to a rich, warm and golden autumn full of many birds and wetland creatures. As ever, Nahant Marsh provided food and home for many, and the surprising variety of life changed against a colorfully changing backdrop of natural beauty. The marsh always changes, and is always beautiful. It is a close-to-home paradise on earth.

OldeUteTrail2jul2017But, although I watched the seasons ease by and the critters grow up, I never took the time to post the photos I took this season ’round. I wandered off a few times over this remarkable year, to visit other, different outdoor paradises. Walking the Old Ute trail across the Rocky Mountains at 12,000 feet was a long way and a completely different environment from the marsh.

Totality2017I also took time to position myself within the path of totality for the Great American eclipse. When the sun switched off, becoming a ring of brilliant silver fire, it was truly a completely different experience than anything I’ve ever done. I didn’t waste my 2 minutes 30 seconds in the shadow taking photos. A good eclipse photo is notoriously hard to make. I painted what it looked like instead.

Trumpeter swan at Nahant MarshBut, that is part of what keeps it surprising. I will keep going to my close-to-home outdoor paradise, beautiful and ever changing, Eden right outside the door. I’ll post the best of the photos to share  what was seen therewith anyone curious. All of them are of exactly what was in front of me in that moment. From time to time, though, I am likely to wander off. It seems pretty clear that Eden can be found all over this good planet if you go outdoors and take a close look around.

Mallards and green-winged teals at Nahant Marsh

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