with the temperature hitting the 80's today, can there be any doubt that i'd be out naturing instead of working?
i had an early start: somebody from the cambridge community garden department called me this morning at 9am with word that there was an open plot for me. actually there was two: one, the owner is on sabbatical and i can garden there for a season provided that certain pre-existing perennials have to stay; the other plot (the one that i got), the woman described as "shady." i was hoping she meant it was of questionable taste or morality, but she probably meant it doesn't get a lot of sun (much like what i have now with my current backyard situation). it's underneath a mulberry tree so i can expect to collect a lot of mulberries. i have an appointment to go see the plot tomorrow morning (i'm beginning to think these garden folks are morning people). i think there's definitely a pecking order in terms of who gets the best plots and i'm willing to take an inferior plot this season with the hopes that once a choice plot becomes available, everyone will get to upgrade to the next better plot.
once that out of the way, i ate some breakfast (scrambled eggs with a few slices of orange) and headed out the door by 11am. i decided i'd go back to acton to continue my exploration of several new naturing spots.
adjacent to nagog hill, originally i planned on visiting this place last week but was just too exhausted to continue. like nagog hill (with nagog pond), grassy pond (as its name implies) also contains a body of water (although not as big as nagog pond). features a long stretch of boardwalk that cuts through a swamp (frogs splashing into the water as i unknowingly approached them scared the hell out of me) and another boardwalk that juts into grassy pond. it's a really nice place, a little quiet oasis with a pretty view. there wasn't much to see in terms of wildlife though: i saw a green metallic bee but wasn't able to get a photo; i did get photos of a leaf beetle however (please try to contain your excitement). there were a few early season dragonflies but none of them were close enough for me to get a good look. red-winged blackbirds staked out territories by the pond and there were some green frogs in the marsh. one frog in particular caught my attention; unlike its brethren, it wasn't skittish when i walked by and kept its ground, either some kind of frog machismo or maybe it was just retarded (you can't expect all frogs to be honor students). it did afford me the opportunity to get some telephoto macro practice. so picture me lying on my stomach on the boardwalk, i'm sweating because of the heat, slowly crawling towards the frog so as to not scare it away (which in hindsight was completely unnecessary, this frog just wasn't afraid), aiming this photographic "cannon" and trying to get close enough (2 feet is the magic telephoto macro distance) so it'd focus.
OMG! WTF? snapping turtle!:
leaving grassy pond i got caught behind an SUV stopped in the middle of the road with its blinkers on. the car coming down on the other end of the street paused as well. i thought maybe it was a wild turkey crossing the road, so i craned my neck trying to see it, but didn't catch anything. finally i had enough and decided to slowly go around the stopped cars. that's when i saw a large dark shape on the road. at first i thought maybe it was a particularly gruesome roadkill but once i got closer i realized it was a snapping turtle. i quickly pulled over by the side of the road (it's easy when you're on a motorcycle) and ran back to the turtle with my camera. the road was pretty busy but i was surprised everyone managed to avoid hitting the turtle. snapping turtles lead aquatic lives so the fact that this one was crawling around on land must meant it was just out laying some eggs; the mud covering the lower half of its shell is proof. there was also mysterious scratches on the carapace, i don't know whether they're from natural causes or from an animal. for those who've never seen a real snapping turtle before, it's surprising how big they can get. this was my third time spotting a snapping turtle. this seems to be the month when they lay their eggs: i saw an adult turtle 2 years ago (may) at habitat in belmont. later that same year (september) i saw hatchlings in sturbridge. i thought about helping this particular turtle across the road but every time i got close, it'd rotate quickly so its head would always be facing me. i decided i didn't want to get bit (and besides, that thing was sort of scary and ugly, i really didn't want to touch it).
this was the place that started it all: i saw it on my way to oxbow and did some research and discovered that acton had a bunch of conservation land. a lot of woods, some possible vernal pools, and tons of coiled fern heads getting ready to unfurl. i rolled a few logs but didn't find any salamanders.
walk a little bit further into the guggin brook conservation land, past a farming field, and you'll come to the jenks conservation land. i saw a late middle-aged woman doing some sort of yoga pose near the field with her eyes closed as her black poodle watched on. when she heard me she opened her eyes and her face was bright red from all the blood rushing to her head. i crossed a set of train tracks (the commuter rail) and continued onwards, walking the perimeter of an opened field where i could hear a lot of birds but just couldn't see them. as much as i love naturing, usually after about 4 hours of the great outdoors i feel exhausted and just want to go home and take a hot shower. so i retraced my steps back to guggin brook and out to the entrance. i got back to cambridge by 5pm. there was 3-car accident on route 2 going in the opposite direction; one of the car was completely crumpled and standing on its side.
most of the birds i saw were by the jenks land out in the clearing. tree swallows dived in the air (they seemed to be using the blue bird nesting boxes). i saw a brown-headed cowbird - these are nest parasites: the female lays her eggs in the nests of other birds who then unwittingly take care of the cowbird babies. i also spotted a brown thrasher - not really a bird to get excited about, but i've never seen one before. here and there i also spotted red-tailed hawks circling in the air but didn't bother to get any photos.
unfortunately it's still too early for the profusion of spring flowers. riding around town i noticed the lilacs have started to blossom. in a another week or so they should be at their peak (just in time for mother's day). right now seems to be the time for apple blossoms; cherry blossoms are already over, and plum blossoms (do we see much of that around here?) happened way back at the end of winter. the dogwoods are out too but they're just pretty to look at, i don't believe they're fragrant.
a shower was in order when i returned home. my neighbor's son and his gang of teenage friends were hanging out on the street corner enjoying the nice weather, tossing balls and playing around with a shopping cart. in the evening my parents came and we had dinner at my place.