Monday, January 26, 2009

January 26, 2009 - Morton Park, Plymouth, Massachusetts

It's the stuff of early American legend. I get the sense that I might have liked Francis Billington, a Mayflower passenger who arrived on the Plymouth shore in 1620. According to the earliest records we have of the area, Billington climbed to the top of a tree to scout the landscape, and claimed to see a large body of water several miles to the west, which he mistook for an ocean. He pushed three miles or so through the ancient forest and discovered two ponds, one larger than the other: Billington Sea and Little Pond.

I just took a right off of Summer Street onto Morton Park Road. Never even thought of climbing a tree.

Ice fishermen, staked out across Little Pond, were hard at work, which meant that the lines were in the water and that they were sitting back and waiting. My guess is that it was a good day for it, without a hint of wind out there. Sure, it was below freezing, but as someone told me recently, there are no bad temperatures, just clothing shortages.

Walking on the road that rimmed the pond was not an option. It was so compacted with snow that it was slick, like walking on teflon. Off the road, it was crunchy, but safe underfoot. Over hills and into vales I walked until I found a wide open vista of frozen Billington Sea. When the sound of my own boots vanished, I could hear a fish crow calling from the trees on Seymour Island. My first bird of the year was a gull, and my 100th was a crow? Timing is everything.

The forest here is mostly composed of pines, oaks and beeches. While many of the young beeches here retain their 2008 leaves, holding onto them as natural fertilizer for the spring, others have shed them all. Those trees that have done os have already produced their 2009 leaves, but have them tighly wrapped at the ends of their long thin branches, holding onto their heat until the seasonal calendar tells them it's okay to unravel. About that time, we'll unwrap ourselves and bask in the sun, too.
As I walked along the edge of the sea, I could see that there were stairs that lead up onto Seymour Island, and that many of the tracks that led across the ice headed directly for them. As I pondered whether or not I should cross the pond and investigate, my left leg suddely went cold. Not today.
Instead, I completed the loop of the pond, finding chattery mixed flocks of chickadees, titmice, nuthatches and woodpeckers along the way. One ice fisherman, at least, was successful today. He had a grill going on a picnic table. There's no missing the smell of frying fish.
Time: 75 minutes.
New species: fish crow, eastern bluebird (101).
Stranger hellos: 4 (39).
And the rest of the day: Haircut; bank; post office; printer; worked for three hours; finished a grant application; got interviewed by the Norwell Mariner; prepared a talk for Tuesday night; more writing; finished reading Beavertail Light Station by Varoujan Karentz.

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