33 miles at 55 degrees and who knows what the wind speed was except it was pretty blustery. it took about a hour to ride out to harvard (not the university but the town) in central massachusetts to revisit the oxbow national wildlife refuge. i had 4 layers on and that was barely enough to keep me warm. my eyes teared up from the wind in my face and my nose was runny. whenever possible i put one of my hands in front of my crotch to act as a wind barrier (i could feel myself freezing downstairs). although bits of blue sky were peeking out through the low cloud covering, the sun's warming rays were lacking. i welcomed traffic lights because in those brief periods when i was completely stopped were the only times i felt warm for a change. i should've been out yesterday when it was 77 degrees instead of today. approaching oxbow, i saw a flock of wild turkeys; i parked the bike to get some photos (it's actually turkey hunting season right now). when i finally arrived my head was still bobbling from the prolonged buffeting by the winds.
the last time i spent spring in new england was 2 years ago and i visited oxbow for the very first time. i remembered the flood-plain forests but what struck me most was how cold and wet and miserable it was, and in spite of that there were also plenty of hungry mosquitoes. i wasn't alone at the refuge - there were about a dozen other people there as well. one group in particular was especially memorable, an elderly couple with either a teenage son or grandson. when i saw them arrive at the parking lot i knew the boy was mentally challenged. he wouldn't stop laughing loudy and walked with a palsy gait. i let them pass me on the trail. later, when i couldn't see them anymore, i heard the boy screaming non-stop. this lasted for a good 30 minutes, which made today's nature outing especially disturbing and any animals i would've seen would definitely be scared away at that point.
the effects of a dry spring season thus far was evident: forest floors which were flooded the last time i was here were now just plains of dried leaves. rain or not, soon the place will be teeming with growth: fern heads were poking out of the ground, as well as lily-of-the-valleys. come back in may and this place will be a lush fern forest perfumed by spring flowers. for now there isn't too much to see. the puddles i did come across i checked for salamander activities but the only thing i saw were the occasional splash of small frogs jumping away. there were things in the water that might've been eggs or might've just been pond scum. i did see a spring azure butterfly flying around and managed to get a quick snapshot before it flew away. other than that and a few non-descript tiny flying bugs, there wasn't a lot of insect activity.
as for birds, i saw a good share of robins but not as much as at mt.auburn cemetery. at one point i saw a great blue heron flying away in the distance (not too hard to miss). i think i also spotted a warbler, all yellow with olive wings, but i can't be sure (it definitely wasn't a goldfinch though) and i wasn't able to get a photo (i tracked it for 10 minutes but it was hiding in some thickets).
the most beautiful place in oxbow was on an "island" (just an elevated forest floor surrounded by water) where a wooden photo blind cabin had been built. about that time the sun also came out in full force illuminating a landscape of trees and water and sky and clouds. sometimes i go out and i see something so magical i just want to call up everyone i know and let them know about it. this was one of those times.
the one animal that oxbow has a lot of but i didn't really see except evidence of their presence are the beavers. everywhere i turned there were trees with deep characteristic gouge marks on its trunks, or trees that've already been toppled. beavers also strip the bark off of branches to eat the soft wood inside (at least i think that's what they're doing). and once in a while i'd see a beaver lodge, a huge mound of sticks and logs sitting out in the open water. just so happens late last night (around 3am), before i went to bed, i was watching a documentary on animal planet about beavers ("leave it to the real beavers"). beavers are only second to humans (a distant second, but second none the less) in destructive capability. the fact that oxbow is a flood plain forest is primarily due to beaver activities. when i was leaving the refuge, i thought saw a beaver: i thought maybe it was a black duck swimming around, but then i noticed the duck didn't have a head, so i figured it might've been the head of a swimming beaver or maybe a muskrat.
i wasn't looking forward to the ride back but with the late afternoon sun out, it was a little bit warmer than before. i retraced my route - 110 to 111 to 2A - and to my parents' place in belmont. i didn't even really seriously think to check myself for ticks until i looked down on and saw a tick crawling on my t-shirt. i lifted up my shirt and found one already attached, another one crawling on my stomach. when i went to go take a shower, a 4th tick fell out of my hair. after dinner i returned to cambridge.