Monday, August 31, 2009

August 31, 2009 - Through the Streets of Boston, Massachusetts

Back and forth I went, like a damn ping-pong ball. But I couldn't think of any other way.

I started at the Government Center Parking Garage, ready to pay a fortune for the privilege of fighting traffic into the city for an hour and being able to do it all again later in the day. I know, bitch, bitch, bitch.

From the garage, I headed for the North End, or the very edge of it, and a meeting at 251 Causeway Street. We talked about Minot's Light, and some upcoming projects I'll be wrapping myself into. From there, I walked back across town, back past the JFK Federal Building and City Hall Plaza, up Devonshire Street - past the Minot Building - to Winthrop Square. After another meeting there on a current book project, it was back up Devonshire for lunch with Michelle at Pizzeria Regina in Fanueil Hall.

I then headed back up Devnonshire, past a crowd gathering for a tour of Boston's American Revolution landmarks from the Old State House. I shook things up with a few twists, up Spring, past the Old South Meeting House, down Milk, up Arch. I found it hilarious that Water and Milk run next to each other.

I finished up at Twenty Winthrop Square and headed back down Devonshire, through Mayor Curley park and to the garage.

Phew. No wonder my feet hurt. Thatsallotta pavement.

Time: 63 minutes.

New species: None.

Stranger hellos: None.

What else is going on: finished reading The United States Coast Guard in World War II: A History of Domestic and Overseas Actions by Thomas P. Ostrom; nonprofit work.

August 30, 2009 - Wildcat Pond, Wompatuck State Park, Hingham, Massachusetts

Pond? Well, that's a stretch.

Of course, I didn't know that when I started walking from the main parking lot. All I knew was that the trail map showed a pond, and I wanted to see it. I started on the old roadway, then ducked into a wooded trail. I found one holly tree and soon found myself back on pavement, a corridor that ran alongside the old spur railroad track that once brought munitions into the old naval ammunition depot annex that preceded the park. Under a row of white pines, I found railroad ties that spoke of ancient echoes, of sounds that once rang, that ring no more. The tracks ran from the woods, across the roads and back into the woods.

The map is not a contour map. I did know that much, so I don't know why it surprised me when the trails started to undulate. They wound through outcroppings of bedrock and fields of glacial erratic boulders, past the site where a blue jay met its demise, through a collapsed and fading stone wall melting into the forest floor, past the continual sound of the most populous bird in the woods, strangely the eastern towhee.

I watched dragonflies dart about. I'd never realized how angular their flight patterns are. There is no smooth turn. Everything is a sharp shot in a new direction.

Then, I found it, the "pond." It's more of a puddle, backed by a deep freshwater marsh. Probably enough for a wildcat, not so for a moose. Guess that's why it got its name. There are stories of bobcats living in the park, occasional prints in the trails. I'd love to add that to my mammal list for the year.

Time: 61 minutes.

New species: (Mushrooms) gelatinous-pored polypore (36)

Stranger hellos: 1 (522).

What else is going on: finished up a long weekend of work on the house and on nonprofit tasks.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

August 29, 2009 - Eel River Woods, Hingham, Massachusetts

Long before I was involved with any type of conservation movement, I had a lesson in wildlife preserve management.

I can't even tell you the year, but it had to be a decade ago. My father had a landscaping customer named Mary Niles, and she had land to give. She and her husband had played a role in the creation of the World's End Reservation in Hingham, and while we were working for her - mostly, we plowed snow down her long driveway in winter, including that ridiculous April 1, 1997 storm that we had - she donated land to theHingham Land Conservation Trust for the creation of Eel River Woods.

She gave us that rare summer call. She had some work she wanted done, some trail creation and boardwalk building. I walked today in search of memories of those days, despite the arrival of Tropical Depression Danny.

I brought some back. I certainly remember knowing what skunk cabbage was. Upon reflection, that may have been the first wild plant I identified in the wild. I remembered the exposed roots on the trail, and why not? They were hard to forget. The last time I saw them, I was pushing a bouncing load of lumber over them in a wheelbarrow. I came to a small boardwalk. Was this one of ours? I couldn't tell.

One thing I did know was that the set of railroad tie steps up one of the rises in the trail was certainly not a Hingham Landscape Services creation. These steps had posts sunk aside the ties anchoring them to the ground. My dad would bury a tie and then use railroad spikes to fasten the one on top that would be the riser to the deeper one.

Nope, not ours. I drove too many of those spikes around the South Shore to not recognize our work today.

I have other memories of Mrs. Niles, as I called her then. Her house is for sale today, as she passed a few years ago. But I can tell you that there is a small koi pond on her property. On summer Sundays, it was my job to visit her house and make sure that the pump was working correctly, that the little waterfall was trickling, and that the five or six fish that lived with them were fat and happy. That wasn't anything to do with the business; that was just me wanting to help people I thought needed help. Besides, I couldn't think of anywhere more peaceful to be as the sun rose on those summer days.

Time: 30 minutes.

New species: None.

Stranger hellos: None.

What else is going on: Oh, bottles and cans, food shopping; turned the porch into the dining room and the dining room into my son's playroom; dinner with Michelle's parents.

August 28, 2009 - Briggs Cemetery, Pembroke, Massachusetts

Most of the time when I visit a place like this, it means that I've passed it in my car hundreds of times, knew where it was, but never stopped to investigate. This time, though, things were different.

As soon as I saw the faded, almost unreadable sign that said a cemetery was buried in the woods atop a small hill, I searched for the nearest available parking space. Doubling back on foot, I dove in with my mind wide open.

The Briggs name means one major thing on the South Shore: shipbuilding. Or, at least, it means the history of shipbuilding, for it was L. Vernon Briggs who wrote History of Shipbuilding on North River almost a century and a half ago. He lived in Hanover, but the Briggs name spread all around the South Shore. I did not expect to find him buried in this cemetery, and I did not.

But I did find somebody else of terrifically interesting historical value. Charles E. Briggs is one of a handful of Civil War veterans buried in the family plot. And yes, there are thousands of GAR men buried across the South Shore. But get this: he was the surgeon for the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Nothing? OK, here's more. The 54th was the all-black unit raised by Governor John Andrew and send off to fight under Colonel Robert Gould Shaw

Still nothing? Think the movie Glory!, Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman.

So that was fun. But there was more. A mockernut hickory dropped a fruit with a thud that made me wonder if a bird or even a squirrel was targeting me. I then noticed that Adeline Briggs, buried here with her husband, died on March 14, 1900. I don't know why it unnerved me so to see the day and month of my birth on a stone as the date of death of another, even 71 years earlier than the year I was born, but it did. I guess we're connected t o our birthdays in ways we don't understand. Most Americans can't tell you when Pearl Harbor Day was or even on what day the September 11 attacks took place, but they can tell you their birthday.
Cosmically, Adeline and I are connected. We each share 1/365th of the calendar. It would be really spooky if I died on her birthday.

Time: 31 minutes.

New species: (Birds) Wilson's phalarope (277).

Stranger hellos: None.

What else is happening: ran our typical 3 1/2 hour Friday Morning Bird Walk; some yard work; dinner with my mother and sister.

August 27, 2009 - Harry and Mary Todd Trail, WIllow Brook Farm Preserve, Pembroke, Massachusetts

At the end of World War II, the exuberance over the notion that soldiers who'd survived the conflict would be marching home again touched off a wave of joyous music writing that gave us tunes like "The V-J Stomp" and my personal favorite, by Spike Jones and his Orchestra, "Leave the Dishes in the Sink, Ma." That's how I felt today when getting out for a long walk in the woods. It's been three long months of rain and humidity, but this afternoon, that war ended, if temporarily. Without fear of mosquitos, mud or greenhead flies, I hit the trail.

It felt so good to wander without the need to consider sweating through clothes, wheezing in the thick air or inhaling pollen being blown on gusts of hot wind. I paused where I wanted to pause and took in sights, sounds and smells to my own satisfaction.

On the approach to the Todd trail, I surveyed the bees at work on a field of goldenrod. An eastern tailed blue butterfly spread its wings just long enough to give me a chance at a photograph. The red mound ants for which the preserve is famous had obviously been at work all summer, and were still scurrying about their hills as I passed.

On the trail, I stopped for a series of big shelf mushrooms, five of them in a row, and noted emerging blue mycenas and others. Water striders rode the current of the brook that gave the preserve its name. Red admiral butterflies dodged my camera in the recently mowed fields beyond the brook. Downed trees across the trail unsuccessfully attempted to make me reverse direction and retreat.

Seventy degrees, clear skies, no humidity, this was the recipe for one glorious walk in nature. But I did eventually have to leave. After all, I had a sink full of dishes waiting for me at home.

Time: 59 minutes.

New species: (Butterflies) eastern tailed blue (15); (Mushrooms) hen of the woods, tacky green russula, purple bloom russula (35); (Wildflowers in Bloom) sea lavender, Devil's walking stick (122).

Stranger hellos: None.

What else is going on: led my last free Duxbury Beach program for the year; full day at work; cancelled my weekend trip to the Isles of Shoals due to the approach of Tropical Storm Danny.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

August 26, 2009 - Oll Around Hull, Massachusetts

Yup, I was Oll over the place.

I came up with an idea last year for a new education program for kids in the region, one that we'll run through the North River Wildlife Sanctuary. It's partially pirated, there's no doubt about that. It involves a stuffed owl, a digital camera, and a lesson once a month.

The decision to land on an owl did not come easily. We wanted to find something that was representative of all habitats in the area, yet something that was alliterative. All except for Amy. No matter what we suggested, she wanted it to be the Pillsbury Doughboy.

But we ended up with Ollie the Auduon Owl. I think he's damn cute. My job today was to take Ollie for a tour of Hull and to take his photo in about ten places. Each photo will come with three clues. From those clues the kids will have to guess "Where in Hull is Ollie the Owl?" And from there we'll add a nature lesson or two about habitats and the critters that need them.

So I think I got some good shots today. So far, we'll be running the program in three towns, communities whose local cultural councils granted us money to do so. Sure, I looked like a fool today, running around town carrying a stuffed owl and taking pictures of it in various places, but hey, it's all for the kids.

Time: 47 minutes.

New species: None.

Stranger hellos: None.

What else is going on: led the new teachers orientation bus ride in Hull; worked the rest of the day; dinner with Michelle's family.

August 25, 2009 - Off-trail, North River Wildlife Sanctuary, Marshfield, Massachusetts

It should come as no surprise that there are areas of managed wildlife sanctuaries that are reserved solely for the staff of the organization taking care of them. But know this: there's nothing special about them at all. We're not hording the best wildlife, the rarest plants or the coolest mushrooms. No, they're just utilitarian, the places where we hide the equipment that makes our trails look so good.

From time to time, though, something odd does pop up. Take, for instance, this chicken mushroom at the North River sanctuary. It's been growing on our property for a few years now. It's off-trail, but it's right up my alley.

Oh, that was just wrong.

But true. When I was a kid, my father announced that we were going on a nasca hunt. Nasca, you say? That's what old Italian families likie ours called the chicken mushroom. And as you can guess, we ate it. DISCLAIMER: Don't take my word for it. Mushrooms can be very dangerous, and I don't want anybody making a misidentification and eating a posionous variety instead. Do not eat any mushrooms unless you are 100% certain of what it is and that it's not poisonous.

That said, we would hunt. The problem was that we were not the only family staking them out. We knew where many mushrooms grew - on oak trees, usually damaged by lightning - and we knew that if we took another family's mushroom, we would hear about it. So we searched.

There were days when my father cancelled work. Our landscaping company would simply shut down and we would head out with polesaws and baskets. We'd locate some nasca, add extensions to the polesaw, he would cut, and I would stand beneath the tree with the bucket and wait for the 'shroom to fall. Down it would come and if it was properly wet (we always searched after a rain in mid-September) it would bowl me right over. I would catch it, but would get a smashing blow to the chest in the process.

My dad would then take them home, cook them up, heat up a red sauce and tuck them into a sub roll, eating the nasca like a meatball sub, slobbering and moaning as he did so. This became a regular tradition for our family, and probably dates back a century or more with the Galluzzos.

And I don't even like the damn things.

Time: 33 minutes.

New species: (Wildflowers in Bloom) pearly everlasting (120); (Mushrooms) chicken mushroom (32).

Stranger hellos: None.

What else is happening: led a two-hour birding trip on Duxbury Beach worked a full day; dinner with Michelle's parents; hair cut.

August 24, 2009 - Walking the Shrublands, Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary, Marshfield, Massachusetts

It's an ongoing game, trying to manage a wildlife sanctuary. We've received a grant to help us fund some of that management at Daniel Webster. But before we get the money, and even before we do the work, we have some monitoring to do.

Shrublands, like grasslands, are fast disappearing from Massachusetts. It's only natural. Farms have disappeared, and their fields have regenerated into shrubs and forests. That's a lot of transformation in a short bit of time, and a lot for wildlife to adapt to. Yes, survival of the fittest is the way of the world. But we figure that we can help give some critters a fighting chance.

Today, I walked with my boss and four monitors who will be helping us to better understand which species of birds, and possibly some other animals, tend to use the shrublands at the Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary, an old farm. They'll be watching the test areas before and after we do some cutting to remove some small trees and keep the thickets as thickets. Of course, we picked the wrong moment to hit the trail.

As we walked from the parking lot, the skies grayed. As we hit the shrublands, they started to weep. By the time we ducked into the blind, they opened up in a torrential downpour.

We met two other people in the blind and took a few minutes to just enjoy the moment. A green heron flew across the wet panne and shook its wings. A lesser yellowlegs hunched its back and gave us a tough identification test. The only animals not affected by the rain were the ducks. I guess the old saying about it being their perfect weather is true.

I can't wait to get started with this project.

Tiome: 41 minutes.

New species: None.

Stranger hellos: 2 (521).

What else is happening: finished reading A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson; gave a lecture on gulls at the Duxbury Senior Center; led a familiarization trip in Cohasset and Hull for a Canadian writer; met with Captain Fred Herzberg, a friend from some of my nonprofit work with the Foundation for Coast Guard History; dinner with Michelle's parents.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

August 23, 2009 - Front Street, Scituate, Massachusetts

Donna and Les were up from New Jersey, and I hadn't seen them in at least five years. She's a lighthouse artist and it was a no-brainer for me to have her come up and do a show at Scituate Light when I worked as the executive director of the Scituate Historical Society. The three of us hit it off and became good friends. I stopped by the light to visit them today.

While in town, I decided to tackle a second project. I had just finished writing an article on Scituate for the Plymouth County Business Review and wanted to get some good imagery. So I walked the main business district and snapped away.

Front Street has gone through its third or fourth major revitalization. There once was a time, in the 1920s, when it was definable by its long row of beautiful American elm trees. And I know what you're thinking: Dutch elm disease, right? Nope. To widen Front Street, the town took them all down. Trees are now the last thing one looks for on Front Street.

The recent chjanges have involved vertical space. I joked in the article that if George Welch, the head of the ancient Welch Company, could travel through time to today, he'd swear that Front Street had gotten taller.

But it's doing well. The Inn at Scituate Harbor is under new management, and the Welch Company building, a great old landmark, is being refurbished. The new buildings on the street have come with cleaned-up alleyways to the public parking on Cole Parkway. Scituate Harbor has a major marketing issue, being tucked away from any main roads, but it's being born again.

Time: 37 minutes.

New species: None.

Stranger hellos: None.

What else is happening: worked on a PowerPoint program on gulls; dinner at Michelle's family's house.

August 22, 2009 - Back River Marshes, Weymouth, Massachusetts

Liz and I had a plan. She wants to be an osprey monitor in 2010, and I control the birds. Well, kind of.

As part of our ongoing osprey monitoring project with Mass Audubon's South Shore Sanctuaries, it's my job to dole out the poles. We have volunteers working from Quincy to Onset, each one taking a pole, or sometimes two, if that's what they desire. In the case of the Back River Marshes - one pole at Indian Point in Bare Cove Park in Hingham, one in Weymouth known as the Substation Pole - we have a monitor who's too busy to do the paperwork, which is just fine. He's great with the rest of the process, a real champion of the project.

So Liz and I were looking for a good vantage point today, one that wouldn't force her into long walks into the woods of either Bare Cove or Great Esker Park. We tried Commercial Street, which had a good view of the substation, but not so good of the pole at Indian Point. So we headed for Clinton Road, but the houses were so densely packed that there wasn't a good corridor for either pole. We tried accessing the old power plant on Wharf Street, but it's fenced off. Probably a good thing, as vandals have gotten at it.

Then, I had an epiphany. The best sightlines, from what I could see, would come from the platform of the East Weymouth train station. We bounded up the steps and looked. Yup, they were both perfectly within sight! Liz made a plan that involved free parking somewhere nearby, a lounge chair and gaps in train arrivals and departures. I snapped a picture and we left.

When I got home, I looked closely at the picture.


A third osprey nest is in the making, on a powerline near the Substation Pole. There were two birds in the area, building a nest for a future year. I had better call Liz.

Time: 36 minutes.

New species: None.

Stranger hellos: None.

What else is going on: lunch with Michelle's family; dinner with Michelle's family at a backyard barbecue.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

August 21, 2009 - Cumberland Farms Fields, Halifax, Massachusetts

Without fanfare, I can honestloy say this was the worst walk of the year, and probably will remain atop the list indefinitely.

Our humidity remains unabated. We've been habitually in the 90s every day for a week or so, with oppressingly heavy air. That doesn't bother me. Today, though, added to that mix a steady breeze and the release of billions upon billions of pollen spores. Then I added my allergy to pollen.

I'm surprised I lasted as long as I did. I even drugged up beforehand, knowing we'd be taking our Friday Morning Birders group to the fields to look for whatever was playing in the mud. Unfortunately, even my prescription meds did me no good. After the first gust of wind hit, my nose started to run. When the second hit, I started to sneeze.

I didn't keep an exact count, but I know that in the next thirty minutes or so, I sneezed approximately seventy times. A sneeze is the most violent action a body can do to itself. I stuck with the group for a little while, then annoucned that I was done, heading for the car. With my eyes watering, nose running and the heat and humidity causing me to sweat, I was a complete mess.

But I stopped. A butterfly caught my eye, a pearl crescent. I snapped its picture, then looked closely to see that its wings were frayed, and it wasn't long for the world. It probably wouldn't survive the next few days.

I paused another moment to enjoy it for the last time, jarringly sneezed three more times, and kept walking.

Time: 49 minutes.

New species: (Wildflowers in Bloom) common sunflower, seaside goldenrod, gray goldenrod (119).

Stranger hellos: 1 (519).

What else is happening: wrote an article for Northeast Boating; wrote an article for Plymouth County Business Review; some book research.

August 20, 2009 - Alden House Historic Site, Duxbury, Massachusetts

I was a little too late to witness the grand moment when the site finally got its due. It's now a National Historic Landmark (thanks Anthony).

Ready for my rant?

The process of naming a property on the National Register of Historic Places is a burdensome one. Reaching national landmark status, the pinnacle of historic American recognition, is doubly so. The National Park Service oversees the processes, and asks for a ridiculous amount of work to be done to prove worthiness for a site. And in most instances, that's a good thing. Not every "Washington slept here" inn or "Paul Revere drank here" tavern should be on the list. The list should have integrity. It should truly mean something significant to American history took place there.

That said, some places should be automatically listed: famous battle sites, grand engineering landmarks, homesteads of historically important men and women, etc., much like Wayne Gretzky shouldn't have to wait five years to get into the hocky hall of fame. Instead, a place like the Alden House has to go through the process while, stupidly, a place like the visitors center at the Cape Cod National Seashore - a VISTORS CENTER! - is granted automatic National Register status the moment it hits the requisite age. How the National Park Service can sleep at night with regulations like that is beyond me.


So the Alden House, the famous home of John and Priscilla, with its ancient sturdy sills, its good morning staircase and its annual gathering of Alden descendants, has finally been given its due. That's damn good work on the part of the people who maintain it, and who make it available to teach us that not all of American history is about bureaucracy and unfairness for all.

Time: 36 minutes.

New species: None.

Stranger hellos: None.

What else is going on: joined Regina Porter, local historian, on Duxbury Beach for her talk in the character of Elizabeth Stockbridge Winslow White, 1870; worked the rest of the day; dinner with Michelle's family; wrote one short article for Northeast Boating.

August 19, 2009 - Powder Point, Duxbury, Massachusetts

You gotta be quite a man to earn the nickname "King Caesar." It's tough enough earning just half of it.

But Ezra Weston did so. He was an entrepreneur, a self-made man, whatever the appropriate term was for a mid-nineteenth century businessman who created his own road to riches, that's what he was. He built his own ships, outfitted them with his own homespun rigging, then sent them on their journeys around the world. Most men dealt with only one of the three components (throw in sailmaking and anchor and chain forging as fourth and fifth), but Weston had his own little vertical integration game going. He increased his profits by not paying overhead for anybody else's work.

That's not to say that he didn't have his detractors. Any businessman that has risen to those heights has stepped on somebody along the way. One famous letter, in the possession of the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society, includes a rant that Weston had once spelled coffee "kauphy," misspelling the word without using a single letter that's actually in it. But if the best people could do was attack his spelling, Weston had little to worry about.

King Caesar's home is a feature of Powder Point, the place where his empire once reigned. Today, it's a beatuiful walk alongside marshes to the bridge at the point. Its roads are busier in summer than winter, but the locals have learned to live with the trade-off of seasonal traffic for year-round neighborliness with Duxbury Bay and the Bluefish River.

But there's one thing that most of the travelers miss, that perhaps the residents know. Sure the King Caesar House, lovingly maintained and interpreted by the historical society, is conspicuous in its bright yellow outerwear. But down the street, there's a marker. Not the one about the Powder Point Academy, the one behind it. It's for a horse.

It's for a horse that turned a turnstile in Ezra Weston's ropewalk for years, slowly walking in a tight circle for most of its existence. When it died, King Caesar built this small gravemarker, for he knew that his kingdom was nothing, if not for a horse.

Time: 46 minutes.

New species: None.

Stranger hellos: 3 (518).

What else is happening: finished Wreck & Rescue Journal and sent it to the printer; conducted several interviews for magazine articles; worked some more on the Attleboro question.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

August 18, 2009 - Summer Street, Boston, Massachusetts

Yup, it's quite a life I'm leading. I woke up this morning and prepared myself for two hours on Duxbury Beach. For most, that's a towel, chair, water, food, umbrella, sandals and a bathing suit. For me, it was binoculars, scope, Sibley's, sandals, shades and sunblock. But that was yet a portion of my day.

I ended up back in the city again, experiencing the interesting dilemma of trying to find a parking space convenient to my destination on a 95-degree day during the middle of the afternoon. My favorite garage was full, so I improvised.

But that just meant I had to do some exploration in order to find my way back to my meeting place. As it was, I got the chance to walk by one of the buildings I'll be writing about later this year, 125 Summer Street. In fact, I was going to interview one of the directors of the multimillion dollar real estate firm that revitalized the building.

Now that I've seen it up close, not to mention the before and during pictures of the rehab, I'm certainly impressed. And that's not me shilling for the company. It's a very interesting arrangement. Old-style, Mansard-roofed facades mimic the buildings that stood there before, built just after the 1872 Great Boston Fire, while just 25 feet behind those facades a 23-story, 300-foot tall modern tower reaches for the sky.

I've come to realize how little I know about the history of the city I call my hometown when people ask from far away. I have so much to learn.

Time: 31 minutes.

New species: None.

Stranger hellos: None.

What else is going on: interviewed two people for magazine articles; ran my regular Duxbury Beach program; book research; nonprofit work.

Monday, August 17, 2009

August 17, 2009 - South Weymouth T Station, South Weymouth, Massachusetts

I got there early, so I had some time to kill. I'd had a busy day as it was, and decided I just needed to kill some time at my own pace. Michelle would be there in just about thirty minutes, if the train was on time. Perfect.

I started to meander here and there. I knew what I'd find. The Coast Guard has a storage facility nearby, where their ATON (aids to navigation) teams keep buoys that have been pulled from the water to be worked on. There's a small restaurant where I had breakfast the day of my wedding with my brother Nick and my best man, my friend Dave. And there's the Papa Gino's that recently screwed up my order and felt so bad that they gave me a little coupon for two free slices. It's in my wallet, awaiting my next ridiculously busy day.

And, of course, there's the base. I didn't try to access it today, as I'd rather not get nabbed for trespassing, but the base - the old South Weymouth Naval Air Station - was once home to a fleet of lighter-than-air craft, what we would call blimps. So how coincidental was it that a blimp decided to hit the skies over the base just as the train started to roll in?

I only had a few seconds. I chased it down to a break in the trees and marveled at the historical irony. And I wondered if the pilots had any clue what they were seeing below them. I hope they did. There can't be that many blimp pilots in the world today. You'd think that if anything in the landscape below them would be interesting, it would be an old blimp landing pad.

Ah, I'd better not get my hopes up.

Time: 30 minutes.

New species: None.

Stranger hellos: None.

What else is happening: breakfast at North 26 in Boston; spent several hours doing research in the city for a book project; conducted an interview for a magazine article; dinner with Michelle's parents.

August 16, 2009 - The Dragon's Lair, Duxbury Beach, Duxbury, Massachusetts

OK, so there's no such place, but there's a story behind the name I made up. I took a friend and coworker out birding on Duxbury Beach today, as she had never been there before. We bumped into some of my associates out there, and more strangers.

We had a good day of birding. It was a sad thing to watch, though, as the shorebirds trickled down the coast. Although we did well list-wise, we did terribly quantity-wise. There was a disastrous breeding season to our north, and many of the birds we saw today were all that were left from their colonies - no youngsters, no next generation.

But one good sign was that there were some red knots. Although they're close to the edge, they're not extinct yet.

Onto the dragon. On the back side of High Pines, visible from the car, there's a snag, a snapped off, dead tree. Viewed from just the right angle, it looks like a dragon, what looks to me to be like something from Chinese culture. In fact, it looks like the Mortal Kombat dragon. That's what I get for working in video arcades for a decade as a kid.

I stopped the van so that I could get out and snap a photo before another car pushed us away down the narrow dirt road. Sure enough, a car came upon us quickly, so I snapped one quick pic. When I chimped and saw what I had taken, I realized that a northern cardinal had landed right on the snout, ruining, or making, the shot, depending on your point of view.

Ah well, I'll get another chance at it, I'm sure.

Time: 176 minutes.

New species: (Birds) red knot (276).

Stranger hellos: 11 (515).

What else is happening: visited with my friend George, one of my life's inspirations; visited with my mom, sister, and nieces Ava and Caroline; finished reading Stonehenge: A Complete History and Archaeology of the World's Most Enigmatic Stone Circle by Aubrey Burl.

August 15, 2009 - Downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Not where I planned to be, but I'm not complaining. Portsmouth is my favorite little big city. I've spent considerable time up here over the past few years, visiting with one of my publishers and researching the history of the Isles of Shoals for a book project with friends. The Portsmouth Athenaeum was a secoind home for about a year.

Today I was able to show off the city to Michelle. We took the long way up, Route 1A, so that we could pass by Wentworth-by-the-Sea and the Rye coast. We snuck into the city through Strawberry Banke, parked and hit the shops.

Portsmouth is known as the city of open doors, and it's so unlike Boston that it's scary. Several store owners had bowls of water out for dogs, a nice touch on a scorching hot day. Even the shops themselves have such a feeling of independence, fitting for the live free or die state. They're quirky, eclectic, just different.

There's also that feeling of classic old New England, church spires, brick sidewalks, historic homes tucked into business districts. We wandered, we shopped, we spent too much money on our son, and we eventually slunk back to our car for the long ride home.

Time: 113 minutes.

New species: None.

Stranger hellos: None.

What else is happening: attended a wedding in Hampton Beach; dinner at The Clambox on Wollaston Beach in Quincy.

Friday, August 14, 2009

August 14, 2009 - The Spit, Scituate, Massachusetts

The seasons, they are a-changin'. Earlier this week I spotted a common loon on Duxbury Bay, a Bonaparte's gull near that, and a northern harrier rising out of the marsh grasses. All birds are harbingers of the end of summer, signs that fall migration is underway.

The story today on "the Spit," the sandy neck of land jutting off Scituate's Third Cliff to the south, was somewhat more of the same. Shorebirds are back, but have been coming back for more than a month. That wasn't such a surprise.

The tree swallows weren't necessarily a surprise either, as we saw them here last month staging for migration south. On Thursday, on Duxbury Beach, that migration was in full fervor, with a never-ending line of birds flying low over the dune grasses, all heading south. But the swallows were certainly another sign that the seasons are in fact running into each other again.

We feel we've been cheated up here in New England this year. June rained. End of story. July was mostly rainy. August has had its share of sunshine, but that is now about half over. With the economy as bad as it is, business woes have been compounded along the coast by the weather - no beach-goers mean fewer sales at beachfront stores and restaurants.

As the last of the swallows moved through today and the shorebirds pecked anbd probed for worms - and one piping plover tapped the wet sands with its feet to scare little living creatures that would soon be food to the surface - all I could think is that we have to just write this summer off and move forward.

We had a hard winter and a nonexistent summer, but fall in New England can be spectacular. I guess I'll just keep walking.

Time: 107 minutes.

New species: None.

Stranger hellos: 2 (504).

What else is happening: posted the other blog; half day at work; finished Wreck & Rescue Journal!; other magazine, nonprofit and book work.

August 13, 2009 - Civic Center National Historic District, Weymouth, Massachusetts

I think I picked the wrong place to park today. Had I parked at the Town Hall, walked off to Legion Memorial Field and back again, I would have only seen it once. But I parked by the old tennis courts - where years ago I tore a calf muscle in half (yes, it was my own) - walked past the field to the town's war memorials, then back past the field.

What a disaster. It's the final nail in the coffin for Weymouth and me.

What a source of pride this field must have been in its day. Of course, American culture has changed dramatically since the 1930s, '40s and '50s. We've fragmented, separated and scattered. It used to be that a big high school football game brought out the rooters from all the homes in town. There was nothing like a cross-town rivalry being contested on the gridiron, or the battle for supremacy with the next town over. But now we tuck our ear buds in, Google up our favorite TV shows and step into alternate realities through our computer screens. We don't care so much for the old traditions, the pride-inspiring touchdowns that somehow proved the superiority of one sports fan over another.

Legion Field looks like hell, from a field standpoint. If I was a butterfly, a Canada goose or a meadow vole, I might not feel that way. Graffiti covers the stands. Where once there was grass, now there are weeds that reach above shoulder height. The brick and iron fence that surrounds one end of the field is spalling and rusting. And the town has left a sign on the gate, now locked indefinitely, that says that trespassing is forbidden, as the field's just been seeded.

Ironically, nearby, the town's war memorials are kept in fine shape, even if with the passing of time they've become hard to read. There's even a soldiers and sailors monument with a sword mounted on a cross, atop a small knoll. Impressive. I'm not originally from Weymouth, but I respect what each and every name represents. I never knew these men and women, but I know what they did, and what they sacrificed. And I love and thank them all for it.

And that's what angers me so much about the way that Weymouth is handling its parks. Back in 1930, the Scituate parks department placed a new lantern room atop Scituate Light, which the community had purchased at auction from the federal government. Their reasoning, even during the Depression, was that a town's respect for its residents is reflected in the way they take care of their public places.

Well Weymouth? Is the condition of House Rock Park, Cavern Rock Park, Gagnon Park and others reflective of what you think of us, your taxpayers? More than that, is the condition of Legion Field really what you want to say about your respect for the Weymouth men who died on the battlefields of Europe in World War I?

Time: 36 minutes.

New species: None.

Stranger hellos: None.

What else is happening: Led a trip down Duxbury Beach during a full day at work; hard work on Wreck & Rescue Journal.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

August 12, 2009 - Solomon Burial Ground, Attleboro, Massachusetts

In my summerlong quest to learn more about what will be our newest Mass Audubon sanctuary, I spent yet another day in the Attleboro area. But this time, I had a secret weapon.

Larry grew up next door to the property. He and I walked the trails to find the old foundations, the old well, the pond, and more. We made our way through the brush, across the fields, past the trash that has been dumped for years. We fought the bugs, got bit by a few, but killed many more. And we jogged his memory, as he had not seen many of these places for many, many years.

But he had something else he thought I should see. The site we've taken on has a bizarre, meandering history, from farmland to sanitarium to seminary to shrine to sanctuary. At one point a young doctor named James M. Solomon built a huge sanitarium on this land, hoping to find cures for cancer, among other maladies. He was not the first James, nor the first doctor in fhis family.

Those mantles belonged - as far as I know - to at least one ancestor of his. James M. lived through the beginning of the twentieth century, but another James died much earlier. Down Solomon Street there's a historic marker that is all that can be seen of an ancient family burial ground, that of James M. Solomon's ancestors. We pushed our way through some bamboo to find it. It's the kind of place that the world has forgotten, as generations have passed.

Perhaps this is not the end of this story for me.

Time: 182 minutes.

New species: None.

Stranger hellos: 1 (502).

What else is going on: Red Cross CPR class in Quincy at night; nonprofit work; magazine work.

August 11, 2009 - Civilian Conservation Corps Camp Memorial, Blue Hills State Reservation, Milton, Massachusetts

Today was one of those days where I just stepped out of the car and said "Legs, do your stuff." I had no idea where I would end up, no idea what I would see. At this point in the year, although there are subtle differences in terrain - a brook bending beautifully away here, a boulder tilted interestingly there - the woods in southeastern Massachusetts have a staid feeling about them.

That said, I'm still not bored, more than 200 days into this little experiment. I'm still finding new places to walk, spots I've never visited and should have long ago. There's history to this land. Even when I've seen every wildflower, butterfly and bird within miles, the land still talks to me through its past.


The sign had three letters and a word: "CCC Camp." In down economic times, how cool is it that I stumbled onto a remnant of the Great Depression? Back during the Roosevelt administration - FDR, not TR - "economic stimulus" came via a strong dose of alphabet soup for all, CCC, WPA, PWA, TVA, etc. The CCC - Civilian Conservation Corps - put young men to work to do great things for America, strengthening our infrastructure, solidifying our roads, tightening up our bridges. We can cry all we want about bad finances these days, but until we start shipping our youngsters off to camps because we can't feed them any more, we've got nothing on the generation who lived through the Depression.

Stumbled upon is apparently the wrong word for what I did today, for the site was quite a long way away from the first sign I found. Eventually, though, as I turned a sharp corner I found a small pond. Beyond that was a sign pointing up a hill, and a path that has not been walked much recently. Atop that hill was a pair of what looked like small foundations, but could have been walls. A granite marker and another sign placed by the Metropolitan District Commission - now defunct and part of the Department of Conservation and Recreation - told the story: one of 28 camps, 100,000 young men employed from 1933-37, trees planted, forest fires fought, insects controlled.

Man, I wish they left that last secret behind.

Time: 61 minutes.

New species: (Wildflowers in Bloom) sweet pepperbush (116); (Birds) stilt sandpiper (275).

Stranger hellos: None.

What else is happening: full day at work, including leading a trip to Gurnet Lighthouse and getting our enewsletter out.

August 10, 2009 - Howe's Lane, Whitney/Thayer Woods, Cohasset, Massachusetts

OK, so timing is everything. I'll give in to that one.

Last week, for the first time ever, I planned a walk ahead of time. I had to. The Patriot Ledger is doing an article on bloggers on the South Shore of Boston this Thursday, and I've been chosen for some pics. I arranged a walk with the photographer, Gary, and we met at the trailhead. Usually, I gauge the weather and other factors and make my decision on the spur of the moment.

It was ninety degrees and humid today, and we were heading into the woods. Hello, mosquitoes.

We did some establishing stuff out in the parking lot, but he and I had the same thought, that we should visit one of the many glacial erratics that the sanctuary in known for. Pausing to hold still for him to line up a shot was not as easy as it will look in the paper Thursday. We were being eaten alive. But we got the shots we needed - as far as I know.

We waved goodbye, him heading back to the parking lot, me opting for masochism. I pushed deeper into the forest.

I figured that while I was here I might as well get to my other favorites. I left the Bigelow Boulder behind and walked off towards Rooster Rock and Ode's Den. The glacial erratics here have colorful names, and in some cases, stories. Ode's Den is named for a young man named Theodore who lived underneath it one winter in the 1830s, or at least part of a winter before he froze to death.

To leave the park I walked back along Henry Howe's way, the doctor and local historian whose family still owns a home within the grounds of what is now a Trustees of Reservations property. Mushrooms are rampant here at the moment. But they have nothing on the mosquitoes.

Ah, the price of fame.

Time: 63 minutes.

New species: (Wildflowers in Bloom) pale touch-me-not (115); (Mushrooms) scrambled-egg slime, hemlock varnish shelf, panther (31)

Stranger hellos: None.

What else is happening: meeting in Boston to do some research for a book; magazine and book work all night.

August 9, 2009 - Myles Standish Homestead Site, Duxbury, Massachusetts

In the 1630s, once the Plimoth settlement was well established, the military leader of the colony decided to move on. Myles Standish picked out a good piece of land, overlooking Kingston Bay, with an unfailing spring down a short slope from the home site. He would help found the town of Duxbury, named for his ancestral family home.

The outline of the house is still there, although the structure is now gone. Long gone. There's a big rock with engraved words telling of the site's past. But as much as the site has changed, much has remained the same.

The view from the front door must have been spectacular. He would have kept the bluff in front of the house cleared of trees, which would have given him and his family a stunning view out to Manomet, into the harbor, with the sandy point of Plymouth Beach in the foreground. His wife Rose didn't survive the first winter, but he married a woman named Barbara who arrived in 1623 on the Anne, and together they had seven children.

That view, of course is still there. Nearly four hundred years have gone by since his arrival on this little piece of salt-encrusted, oceanside earth. Out on the mudflats, the same flats he overlooked, today were hundreds of shorebirds. They're such creatures of habit, following the same migratory patterns taught to them by their parents, who learned them from their parents. Is it possible that some of the short-billed dowitchers we saw today are themselves descendants of the same birds that he saw all those years ago?

The Mayflower Descendants have done some amazing things with genealogy, but I'd like to see them figure that one out.

Time: 33 minutes.

New species: None.

Stranger hellos: 3 (501).

What else is happening: led "Pilgrims, Plovers and Pancakes" for Mass Audubon; received my copy of the September issue of Northeast Boating, with my article on ospreys in it; dinner with Michelle's parents.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

August 8, 2009 - Cornhill Lane, Marshfield, Massachusetts

It's a dead end, and I knew that. But that doesn't mean one's mind can't wander beyond the end of the cul-de-sac.

Cornhill Lane ends not because a roadway designer ran out of money for asphalt. It ends because it reaches the North River, in one of its most glorious vistas. And it ends here because someone, more than two hundred years ago, figured this was a good place to build ships.

Not just any type of ship, either. Here was built an unique vessel of the more than one thousand launched from the banks of the North River, a snow (pronounced "snoo") brig. Believe it or not, there is one of these rare vessels still sailing the seas - or, at least, the Lakes. The Niagara, a replica of the War of 1812 Navy ship and the flagship of the Erie Maritime Museum, sails regularly as an ambassador for the museum and the state of Pennsylvania throughout the Great Lakes.

The snow brig Pacific Trader was launched in July 1796 from this spot. Its bicentennial has passed, and no one noticed at all.

Kayakers slipped past, a whole family of them. The Queen Anne's lace blew in the breeze, swaying with the marsh grasses. A stonewall in the heart of the marsh delinated an ancient property squabble, or at least a common understanding of who owned what and where. In most places on the river, they dug ditches. Here, they went through the process of heaving the heavy stones into place. I guess that's what horses and oxen were for.

One day I'll have to duck into the Cornhill Woodlands, but I think I'll wait until fall. The soft evil buzz coming from within made me realize that the mosquitoes were trying to lure me. Not this time, you little bastards.

Not this time.

Time: 38 minutes.

New species: None.

Stranger hellos: None.

What else is happening: mowed the lawn, cleaned the pool, weeded the front bed, pruned everything that could be pruned; worked on Wreck & Rescue Journal; book research.

Friday, August 7, 2009

August 7, 2009 - Vinebrook Road, Plymouth, Massachusetts

Back when we were working the family landscaping business, my father had a saying: "Sometimes, you write your plans on an ice cube." The meteorologists would tell us one thing, and the great outdoors would tell us another. We'd get to a work site, and the skies would open up. We'd have to quickly rethink our day.

The ice cube melted, erasing the plans we had written on it.

The same happens today with my work with Mass Audubon. David and I had made up our Friday plans for the past few days. We'd take our gang to Cumberland Farms Fields in Bridgewater to look for shorebirds. We thought we might even add a new bird or two for the year for our regular Friday Morning Birding list. Then I checked my email, and the ice cube began to melt.

Within twenty minutes of beginning our program, we were in Plymouth staring at distant trees. A white-winged dove, a bird that mostly lives in Texas and has only visited Massachusetts on six recorded occasions, was in those trees. We paced, waited, walked around and waited some more for the bird to arrive.

It never showed. We had to track it down in those distant trees. By car, we swung ourselves underneath those trees, and there it was, sitting on a wire.

New bird for the year? How about new bird for the twenty-three years of Friday Morning Birders? Yup, it's that rare in Massachusetts.

Time: 31 minutes.

New species: (Birds) white-winged dove, solitary sandpiper (274).

Stranger hellos: 2 (498).

What else is going on: magazine, book and nonprofit work; received my copy of the Hull Times with my article on the history of Q Street in it (more interesting than it sounds, trust me!).

August 6, 2009 - Strawberry Hill, Hull, Massachusetts

Time to wax poetic.

When I was a kid, there were three landmarks in the town of Hull that could be seen by a six-year-old from the back seat of a station wagon. Not the way back or back back, just the back seat: the steamboat, the Paragon Park roller coaster and the Strawberry Hill water tower.

In 1979, my father and I were leaving town for an early morning hockey game at the Rockland rink when we came across the fire that destroyed the steamboat, a real grounded steamboat that had been used as a nightclub for fifty years. Six years later, we watched as Paragon Park closed, and was dismantled piece by piece. The steamboat meant we were in Hull; the roller coaster meant we were almost home.

The final landmark was a green, metallic water tower, the shadow of which loomed over our house. When we saw that, we knew we were home.

And now that is being torn down as well.

It's been there since the 1930s, but only in recent years was it painted white and emblazoned with the name of the town of Hull. It's on the site of a spring from which Henry David Thoreau once drank. It's lost its usefulness in the world of business and as such, there's no reason for the Aquarion Water Company to keep up with its upkeep. Instead, in the long run, it's cheaper to take it down.

This is not a plea to save it. That movement should have started long ago if there was to be one. And yes, seventy years is but a blip on the timeline of the planet.

But it was my blip.

Time: 33 minutes.

New species: None.

Stranger hellos: 6 (496).

What else is going on: Full day at work, including giving a talk at Duxbury Beach on ospreys; surprised Michelle with dinner.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

August 5, 2009 - Beacon Hill, Boston, Massachusetts

Damn this humidity. Damn it to hell.

I had big plans today. I had a meeting in the city that put me within walking distance of Beacon Hill and its many nearby attractions. I had two full hours to kill before the meeting. But Mother Nature had it in for me.

Damn her, too. At least for this morning.

I emerged onto Tremont Street by way of Bromfield, faced directly by the gateway to the Granary Burying Ground. I can't ever remember walking there. So I strode in. I found the great names of early American history: Paul Revere, John Hancock, James Otis and more. There's a pub across the street, and a friend of mine once said to his son, "Wow, that's probably the only place in Boston where you can have a cold Sam Adams while looking across the street at a cold Sam Adams." (Thanks for that one, Lance Worthington. R.I.P., pal).

The trees were nice, for the few moments of shade they offered. But it was a cool breeze that was needed.

I entered Boston Common and headed for the Frog Pond and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. The heat built as Japanese tourists snapped away with their cameras, and one man did his tai chi, as his wife impatiently paced nearby. An escaped bird, a completely white parakeet, waddled around looking for seeds.

On the crest of the hill I stood in awe of the memorial to the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, made famous by the movie Glory! It directly faces the State House, and a statue of Daniel Webster looks right back at it. The golden dome glinted in the sun, which by that time was building in strength. Sweat dripped off the end of my nose as a school group walked towards the steps of the House.

Up and over Beacon Street I walked, to the Boston Athenaeum, where I stopped to examine their research policy - got work to do there some time soon - and then back around to Tremont. A group of Spanish students walked by, meaning students from Spain, not kids in America studying the language. I turned and sauntered slowly down Bromfield, headed for Winthrop Square.

Good thing I brought a spare shirt.

Time: 74 minutes.

New species: None.

Stranger hellos: None.

What else is going on: had my meeting; did some research at the Dyer Library in Abington; was interviewed by the Quincy Patriot Ledger for an article about...the blog!

August 4, 2009 - North of the Bridge, Duxbury, Massachusetts

Call them what you will - ugly, scary, undigestible - there's one thing they aren't: stupid. Horseshoe crabs know what's going on.

Sure, they're not doing math equations in their heads like we do (well, some of us) and they're not composing concertos. But there's a reason they've been around for millions of years and will be for millions more, unless we screw it up. And we're well on the way to doing that.

Once a year, I recruit Dr. Sara Grady of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association to lead a walk on Duxbury Beach for our free program series, and each year she astounds me with her knowledge of this critter. We talk about food sources (they dig worms, ha ha), the fact that they're captured and bled for medical purposes and the eel and conch fisheries of the mid-Atlantic states. Horsehoe crabs down there are harvested by the boatload as bait, so egregiously that the population is crashing, meaning that red knots, migratory birds that need teh horseshoe crab's eggs to survive the long flights north each spring, are vanishing with them.

And Sara never fails us. She always finds her way into the water and produces a live crab for discussion and visual dissection. She cradles it in her palm, continually reaches down to splash some water on it so it won't dry out, and eventually places it in the water to scuttle away. When it flips in the currents, she reaches in and rights it.

Horseshoe crabs have been a part of my life since I was turning over stones on the shore of the bay in Hull as a kid. It's just weird to think of a world without them. Here's to hoping it never comes to that.

Time: 58 minutes.

New species: None.

Stranger hellos: None.

What else is going on: full day at work; prepared a mailing for a nonprofit; magazine and book work; was interviewd for an article on Minot's Lighthouse for the Scituate Mariner.

August 3, 2009 - Oak Knoll Wildlife Sanctuary, Attleboro, Massachusetts

Mass Audubon has more than 40 wildlife sanctuaries open to the public across the state, and many more that are not open, for various reasons: protection of the habitats, lack of means of access, etc. I've walked a whole mess of them. I had to, for my book Images of America: Mass Audubon.

OK, I didn't have to. I wanted to. But I had never walked the Oak Knoll Wildlife Sanctuary until today.

In a way, I'm glad I waited. The first set of trails, while nice, would not have been nearly as inspiring as the walk I took today. Since my first visit to the building for a training session a few years ago, more land has been added, including Lake Talaquega.

And that's where my walk took me today. Circling the lake was a walk through geologic time (up and over one of the Attleboro eskers), history (Lake Talaquega was part of an old-style casino) and nature (where do I start?). The "lake," definitely more pond-sized than lake-sized, is thickly matted with lily pads, making one feel like one could almost walk across it without getting wet. But the day I walk on water...well, that'll be the start of another blog altogether.

A volunteer crew was working themselves sweaty, delivering wood chips to wet spots on the trail. The humidity has been unbearable for about two weeks now. I don't envy them. For I, too, am a sweater.

Hmm, that sentence doesn't look the same in print as it does in my head.

Time: 46 minutes.

New species: None.

Stranger hellos: 8 (490).

What else is going on: worked for several hours on book, magazine and nonprofit projects.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

August 2, 2009 - Wessagussett, Weymouth, Massachusetts

I have never typed the word ramshackle before today. And I've seen my share of rundown buildings. But I found a doozy today.

But that's all I have to say about that.

I was surprised, positively and slightly negatively, by this ancient neighborhood of Weymouth. It has so much history, such deep roots, that I think I was looking for inspiration. What force of history made Plimoth Plantation one of the largest attractions in the northeast, when a place equally as historic like Wessagusset is simply a suburban neighborhood?

The beach here, along the Fore River, is short and rocky, definitely a river beach and not an ocean one. There is a wrack line, there are gulls, and there are lots of boats of varying sizes. There's even a small replica of the statue of liberty standing atop of house on the shore.

Fishermen and ex-fishermen live here, if it can be termed that way. I think, after walking these streets today, that fishermen live on the water and only come ashore to crash once in a while. More than one house had an old boat in the yard, completely overgrown by weeds and in danger of rotting away to dust.

There's plenty of open space here, a marsh, some woods that were nevr built upon. You'd be amazed at how much the "teakettle, teakettle, teakettle" of a Carolina wren sounds like "cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger" an hour after you've taken your thyroid pill and are starting to feel the hunger that's been building all night. I swear they were chasing me from street to street.

Pleasantly surprisingly, I found a park I didn't know existed. Small, wood-chipped trails wound through a small section of woods, where several markers commemorated the early days of European settlement here. It wasn't smooth , by any means. Natives died and settlers died. Myles Standish even beheaded three Native Americans in a show of force. The guilt and pain has lingered through the centuries, coaxing someone to place a stone with the following quote:

"On October 21, 2001, these puddingstone memorials were dedicated as symbols of hope that the souls of the first inhabitants of Wessagussett, the Massachusetts Indians, and the first settlers of Weymouth, the Weston colonists, have reconcliled their differences and found peace."


Time: 33 minutes.

New species: (Wildflowers in Bloom) Asiatic dayflower (114).

Stranger hellos: None.

What else is happening: lunch with my mother, sister, Michelle and Anthony; work, work, work; finished reading A Tale of Two Cities: The 2004 Yankees-Red Sox Rivalry and the War for the Pennant.

August 1, 2009 - North River: From Source to Mouth, Pembroke, Hanover, Marshfield, Norwell and Scituate, Massachusetts

Once a year, I do things by the book. My book.

A few years back I wrote The North River: Scenic Waterway of the South Shore, a guidebook, of sorts, to the open spaces along the banks of the river. My notion was to discuss who lived, worked and loved the land before the conservation organizations came along. And I wanted to share what I learned with anyone interested to know.

The cool thing is that working for Mass Audubon I have the potential to turn my books into programs. So, once a year, we take the trip from the source of the river - just inside the Hanover Canoe Launch - to the mouth, between Scituate's Third and Fourth Cliffs.

In truth, we start before the source, at Luddam's Ford in Hanover and Pembroke. Then we hit the car-accessible viewing spots: the North River Bridge, the Pembroke Canoe Launch on Brick Kiln Lane, Riverside Circle, Little's Bridge, Corn Hill Lane, Damon's Point and more. We drove some, we walked some, we drove some more, we walked some more.

We talked about saltmarsh haying, the North River Boat Club, the Rocky Reach, archaeology, history and nature. We discussed famous sailing ships, toll bridges and marsh wrens.

And we found one llama. He had absolutely no interest in anything I had to say.

Time: 70 minutes.

New species: None.

Stranger hellos: 6 (482).

What else is going on: work, work, work, work work.