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Nature Weekend

This weekend so far has consisted of going out and experiencing a lot of Nature.

Yesterday (the guaranteed-nicer and hotter of the two days), I got out on the first kayaking trip of the season, going upstream on the Charles from the Newton boathouse/rental. The weather *felt* very high-summer, but looking at all the plant-life near the river, it was clear that it was actually still spring.

For a while there, I thought that in terms of wildlife, it was going to be All Red-Winged Blackbirds, All the Time. There were more of them than I've ever seen out, and a real dearth of nearly anything else -- unlike other times, I didn't see any blue herons, and no turtles. There were grackles sometimes, and later in the paddle I got a night-heron going over head. And at one point I got mobbed by one of the red-winged blackbirds, when I stopped to check my map, and the kayak started drifting too close to the bank, presumably where its nest was.

I saw lots of Canada geese too (*yawn*), although the big group I saw only had one fluffy baby, which seemed odd. And I found out that there are *two* pairs of swans. I thought there was just one pair, and they were down by the boathouse when I left. Then coming back downstream, I saw a pair much farther up, and they had two fluffy cygnets with them. (I very studiously paddled to the opposite bank and informed the parent birds that I was staying over THERE and they should not try to fuck me up. Which I know they would do, if I got too close to their babies.) But when I got back to the boathouse, the original pair were still there, sans cygnets. So there must be two pair now.

I also saw a mammal of some kind. I know that sounds vague, but what I actually saw was a big tuft of green plantlife moving speedily out from the bank, and I had just started thinking that the wind couldn't possibly be blowing it that fast, when it dove. I saw a bit of brown back. Later evidence would suggest that it was a musk-rat, maybe. At the time I couldn't tell, because I hadn't really seen its head, and it went by right under my paddle, but the water was too dark to make out more than its general shape.

I really like the upstream paddle in that section of the Charles, although when you go in the springtime, the water is usually very high, and it's a work-out. Not impossible, but you really feel the last .6 of a mile up to the Wellesley dam. The reward for the exertion is getting to turn around and then float speedily back for a good mile without having to make any effort at all, just some steering strokes.

Today it was much cooler, so I went to the Broadmoor Audubon sanctuary to walk around. There were still paths I hadn't yet walked on there, plus my plan was to drive to a midway access point and go and set up my folding chair and enjoy the sunlit meadow above the pond for a while. And that is what I did.

I would like the record to show: I do not like mosquitoes. I know, who does, right? (Besides perhaps aeshna_uk. But I really, really loathe them. I loathe their high-pitched buzzing and I loathe how they make me feel all paranoid, and I of course loathe being bitten. I used insect-repellent, and only got 2 bites, but they sure did buzz around my ears a lot today. *shudder*

There was a point where the trail I was walking along went across a creek right above some falls, and it had a part of it where the stepping stones kind of gave out (or else were under water), and you had to wade. Which I did, because I was wearing my Crocs flip-flops, which are great for that. But as I was standing there in the middle of the stream getting ready to wade, I looked over and saw a tuft of green plantlife moving speedily in my direction. And as I just stood there, by golly, a musk-rat calmly swam right up to me, and right past me, and went over the falls (very small falls) and on its merry way. And it was the right size and shape, generally, of what I saw go under me yesterday. Huh.

Then I got dive-bombed by a swallow. Yeah, I had never experienced swallows being aggressive before, either. I'm not sure if it was dive-bombing me inadvertantly because it was focused on getting juicy bugs; or because I was standing a little too close to its little nesting hut.

Other wildlife notes: got to see a very cute little red squirrel from very close (I surprised it, and then it didn't run away, so I stood there for a while looking at it). I was close enough to see its little white underbelly and its black stripe running between that and the red. And of course, there were chipmunks. But the wildlife jackpot of the day was surprising a whitetail doe browsing by the side of one of the paths. Mostly I had a good view of her dashing away through the forest. Then she paused, a bit far away but where I could still see her, and then it was more of her white tail and butt bounding away. So that was neat.

Final encounter for the spotter's checklist: a wild turkey crossing the little back road I was on, right in front of the car, to peck at the verge. So I stopped right next to it and stared for a while. It didn't seem alarmed. Am pretty sure it was a female.

So that was gorgeous weather, and a whole variety of nature, and lots of physical exercise. A very good holiday weekend.

Tomorrow: Pirates!


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 28th, 2007 06:03 am (UTC)
oh sounds awesome! I love kayaking. It's my absolute favorite.
May. 29th, 2007 02:10 pm (UTC)
We should definitely organize a group paddle on the Charles!

(I've heard from my_tallest that there's some promise to take ultralilac out kayaking, down at the rental place near Harvard. But we should do a Waltham group outing at the Newton place, definitely.)
May. 29th, 2007 06:00 pm (UTC)
Yes! Please! :D
May. 28th, 2007 06:36 am (UTC)
What fun! Maybe not the kayaking for me (me and water that's taller than me don't particularly get on *g*) - I'd need to row instead. In a larger, more stable kind of boat *g*. But the walk sounds fabulous :-)
May. 29th, 2007 02:16 pm (UTC)
The funny thing is, one of the reasons I like kayaking so much is the low, low center of gravity. Canoes and other small boats like rowboats always feel to me like I'm in *much* more danger of tipping or falling, because they sit so high on the water, and I'm so high above it. Once you're sitting down in a kayak, so long as you're not in really heavy water (which I'm not; I don't go whitewater kayaking, I'm just on calm rivers and bays), I feel almost like I *can't* tip over, unless I really, really tried to do so. (Which of course I don't. ;-)
May. 28th, 2007 11:26 am (UTC)
definitely sounds like a muskrat. they carry so much stuff in their mouths they look as if they're a piece of swamp broken free and drifting. i love that one swam by you so busy with gathering that it hardly blinked. and yay for swans! and for the way deers bounce as they move like that.

also, you're right about the red winged blackbirds. i've never seen so many of them as well as the orioles. night herons are so cool.

sounds like a wonderful weekend. i thought of you as lage_nom_ai and i went for the fast walk into mansquito laden woods you've ever seen. heh. i forgot the bug stuff.

{{{hugs}}} and sending you good thoughts.
May. 29th, 2007 02:19 pm (UTC)
What I discovered at Broadmoor was that the two trails I hadn't done before (Quacking Frog Trail and Blueberry Swamp Trail) were, as their names suggest, the wetland trails, which means, the Especially Mosquito-y Ones. I started out the walk on the higher, more open Old Orchard Trail, where the combo of the breeze and the dragonflies and swallows really cut down on the mosquitoes. Bleah!
May. 29th, 2007 09:21 pm (UTC)
yikes. and yay for swallows. and "green ban" which works very very well.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )