Sunday, February 1, 2009

February 1, 2009 - Pond Meadow, Braintree, Massachusetts


It all started as flood control. The pond at the heart of Pond Meadow would not be here were it not for a dam installed in the 1970s to keep Weymouth Landing from periodic overflows of the Monatiquot/Fore Rivers. The Monatiquot and Fore are of the same flow; where the tidal activity of the Fore ends, that's where the Monatiquot begins.


I've certainly been in more wild and natural places, and this park, unfortunately, is saddled with carrying the noises and fumes of Route 3 South. But it's all a matter of perspective. One woman, walking her dog today, is overjoyed with the existence of the open space. "I love it, we're so blessed," she said. "Come back in spring, come back in summer and come back in fall." I probably will.


But there was plenty to see on this winter's day. Deer are here, and their tracks follow the trails. Coyotes have also ambled through in the past day or two. The main trail passes directly past the dam and rims the pond. The Blue Trail cuts away at the north end of the pond. Here, where the highway is at its most distant, the sound of the cars finally fades away. Two yellow birches stand embarrassingly alone along the edge of a creek. In a forest of thousands of trees, they stand out like Yankees fans at Fenway Park during a Blue Jays game. I refrained from booing them.


Farther along the trail I found what felt like an old orchard, and, sure enough, it was humming with small bird activity. Chickadees, titmice and juncos worked the viney thickets. Two white-breasted nuthatches dueted, one directly above my head and another in the distance. One downy woodpecker and one hairy darted back and forth across the trail, but a flash of red drew my eye deep into the woods. I saw a bird that looked like a house finch, but carried much more red on its body, and was considerably bigger than any house finch I had ever seen. It had a bright red patch on its back as well, and when it turned while eating a berry, I noticed the heavy whiteness on its wings. Pine grosbeak! This was a bird I had only seen in photographs. In all, there were five. Something told them to move, and they lifted off as a flock.


Around the meadow section of Pond Meadow, the noises of the highway returned. A red-tailed hawk rode a thermal into the distant sky, and a fish crow nasally cah-ed overhead. By the time I finished my walk it was nearly 50 degrees, and my parka was rendered overkill. Oh well, a little sweat never hurt anybody.


Time: 100 minutes.

New species: pine grosbeak (105, life bird).

Stranger hellos: 40! (84)

The rest of the day: cleaned the house; caught the Celtics, Bruins and the Super Bowl while doing my nonprofit work.

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