This Thing Called Courage

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Great Meadows Wildlife Refuge




INVITATION TODAY from my dear friend Clay, an avid birder and Nature Boy DeLuxe, to knock off work early and meet him out at the Great Meadows Wildlife Refuge in Concord. "Lots of birds are coming back," he said. Well, that, and temperatures flirting with the 70 degree mark, were all the coaxing I needed-- it isn't spring until three things happen-- I hear the first peepers; hear or see the first Red Winged Blackbird (a much more accurate harbinger of spring than the robin) and I see the salamanders 'congress' in their vernal pools (see 'Big Night,' an entry from about a year ago, late March of 2006 I believe). It seemd odd to be thinking of spring when it was 3 degreees last Friday morning, and miserably cold all last week, and the week before, and the week before, etc. But out we went. We met in Concord Center and then drove up separately from there. Clay had his little three year old boy with him, Finn (not to be confused with Fionn the Dog, who was with me). Within seconds of parking the cars, we spotted the magnificent Great Blue Heron flying overhead (left photo). He passed directly over us, his magnificent wing span fully engaged, maybe twenty feet over our heads. And before we even took another step, we heard the well-known cry of the Red Winged Blackbird-- there must have been hundreds of them at the refuge, as well as another recent returnee from warmer climes, the Grackle. I suppose we walked three or four miles all told, and saw lots of muskrat dens, a few beaver, a killdeer, a male Downy Woodpecker, a male Hairy Woodpecker, a few marsh sparrows, lots of Canadian Geese and Mallards, a pair of our beautiful native Mute Swans, and an absoultely beautiful Marsh Hawk, previously known as the Northern Harrier (right picture.) We also heard (or Clay heard) a red bellied woodpecker, and an American woodcock. Not bad for a 90 minute walk! So the first triumphirate of spring has been recorded-- now I'm just waiting for my first peepers, and then Big Night for Salamanders. They call it that because all the male salamanders come out from the logs and rocks they've been hibernating under all winter, scurry down to the nearest vernal pool, then roll around in the water fiercely, rubbing their bodies against each other in a swirling mass until their sperm pellets eject from their bodies. Hue Holley, the salamander expert non pareil with the Friends of the Middlesex Fells, tells me that Big Night won't happen until the 22nd of the month at the earliest. He goes out and checks on it nightly, then emails everyone on his list to let them know that Big Night is almost upon us. It's nice to mark the changing of the seasons with these things, and it still amazes me that, with all we've done to Mother Earth, eggs still hatch, birds still migrate thousands of miles to sing the promise of spring, and salamanders still wiggle and swirl the way they have for millions of years. It's nice to have this to fall back on.

My sister called early this morning to express her outrage. Gonzales was on TV and was defending himself, repeating the mantra that he takes orders only from the Commander in Chief and will only resign if Chimpy tells him so-- and here I thought he worked for the American People. So here we are approaching the fourth anniversary of the Iraq War. We'll be out in the streets again-- probably a dozen of us-- wondering where the thousands are, and the millions.

Oh, I just want this nightmare of an administration to go away.

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