i was supposed to go birdwatching with jesse this morning at the crack of dawn. at 5:45am my phone rang. jesse told me she couldn't make it because her car wouldn't start. when she checked her engine, she discovered somebody had stolen her spark plugs. that's probably one of the weirdest instances of urban theft i've ever heard. so we rainchecked and i went back to bed. unable to fall back asleep right away, i watched some MSNBC biography on john mccain. i used to like mccain, before he started pandering to the conservative right. after learning more about his life story though, i have renewed admiration for the man. just too bad he's letting politics overshadow the things that make him so much better than all the other republican candidates. with that i finally went to bed.

i woke up around noon and checked me e-mail. there was a message from jesse, suggesting maybe we could try great meadows in concord (provided i get access to a car). so we decided to meet up at 2pm while i went to borrow the car from my father at the cafe. while i was there i also got some lunch before returning home.

i showed up at jesse's place in somerville at the appointed time. she popped the hood of her honda civic and showed me what was missing. besides the spark plugs, i noticed there was something else missing (the controller? i admit, i don't know much about car engines), and that at least one wire had been cut in order to remove everything. what's weird is they didn't steal anything else, and there was plenty of other stuff to take inside the car. it was very surgical, a professional job. ironically, i noticed there was a neighbor crime watch sign hanging above us.

there was so many people at great meadows that the parking lot was full and cars were parking along the pathway into the reserve. we managed to find parking inside though, just when somebody was leaving. there were some serious birdwatchers and we saw a group armed with spotting scopes on top of heavy metal tripods. one of them was making a call, i think he was trying to draw out a wood duck. when i came here with bruce more than 2 weeks ago, the place was flooded. now the water level was back to normal and trails were once again walkable. however, the marshes still seemed a bit flooded and there was hardly any wetland area for wading birds.

early on we saw a long black snake swimming through the duckweed. it was about 2 feet long and even though it was hard to see its characteristic colors and patterns, from the shape of the head i could tell it was a water snake (their jaws sort of bisect their heads exactly in half, unlike most other snakes where the lower jaw is always smaller).

besides the snake, we saw many painted turtles. i like to have a moratorium on painted turtle sightings; they're just too common. in the future, i will only report on other turtles. we also saw frogs, all bull frogs and their large tadpoles.

although our original primary objective was to look for birds, they were far and few in between - unless you count all the red-winged blackbirds and grackles. there was also half a dozen swan but they're common enough that i didn't even bat an eyelash or try to get a photo. coming in we saw an oriole flying overhead and located its hanging nest. there were cormorants, and canada geese, and some mallards, even a great blue heron - the usual. we did see a pair of wood ducks though, appearing out of the blue and drifting towards some reeds. they're very shy and it's hard to get close enough to get good photos. back at the parking lot, below the observation tower, a mildly retarded man (maybe he was just loud) pointed to a nest of canada geese eggs underneath the metal staircase. the nest looked abandoned because at least one of the eggs was cracked. standing within just inches to the nest, our helpful friend observed the eggs with his binoculars.

i'm always happy to find insects: there were some tiny damselflies (turns out they were eastern forktails) and a large green darner (no photo) passed through the marsh. a large yellow butterfly came through as well: the tiger swallowtail.

jesse and i made a loop around the water. at the outflow end where the marsh drains into the concord river, there were some dead fish. most striking was a large carp, about 18" long. there were also some other smaller unidentifiable fish.

all and all, we saw a good amount of nature taking into consideration the time of year it is. here in new england spring goes by pretty fast and already the landscape seems more like summer with most trees showing their leaves already.

before i drove jesse home we stopped by porter square to get some expensive ice cream. sitting outside healthworks, we watched the parade of women getting out of their yoga class. the small ice cream store quickly filled up with customers. although it was a sunny day, it was also very windy, and whenever the cold wind blew, it made us reconsider our ice cream purchase.

afterwards i went to belmont to return the car and to have dinner with my family. while my parents were busy cooking, i was in the backyard weeding the hundreds of dandelions that have taken root on the neglected lawn. i must've pulled out 200 (with probably a thousand more to go) and suffered some blisters on my hand for my efforts.