if the temperature today was going to hit the 70's, there was no way i wouldn't be out naturing somewhere. i could basically go anywhere, but the downside is because it's still early in the year, there wouldn't be a lot to see. at least it'd be mosquito free (but i brought bug spray just in case).
i decided to revisit the oxbow national wildlife refuge in harvard (the town, not the square), about an hour long ride towards central massachusetts. it's a basic straight shot, traveling west along route 2 (to acton) to route 111 (cutting across boxborough) and then 110. this was my 4th visit, the previous times being 5/2004, 4/2006, and 7/2007. i probably would've visited last summer were it not for my motorcycle accident. oxbow is a special place for me because i dropped my telephoto lens the last time i was here (had to sent it back to the canon factory for repairs, wasn't that bad).
the weather was fine, but still chilly enough at high speeds to cause my eyes to water (a wipe with my gloved hand left dark mascara streaks). usually the motorcycle ride to a nature spot is half the fun. i don't like riding fast because it feels dangerous and out of control. the best speed is 30-40 mph, with no cars in front or behind me. riding for me is almost like a form of meditation, except if i were to actually space out, i'd probably crash and die. it was surprisingly buggy for this time of the year, and i kept on hearing large flying insects hitting my helmet, and occasionally flying in my ear flaps (in which quick i have to quickly dig it out for fear of it being a stinging insect). there were some other riders out, i waved to them all but got few responses, a pretty unfriendly crowd today.
arriving at oxbow, there were a few cars in the parking lot but i didn't see any people. i wrapped my jacket on the backrest of the motorcycle and went to go use the public bathroom before venturing in the refuge.
just as i expected, there wasn't a lot to see. the most common wildlife were painted turtles sunning on logs and frogs. the turtles would drop into the water when they heard me approaching, and the frogs would jumping away before i could even see what they were, often times with a yelp before they disappeared. the frogs i did see were all green frogs, and none of them were particularly green, more murky brown.
i saw a green tiger beetle eating an ant on a graveling trail (i was disappointed i didn't see any at rocky woods earlier in the week). when i tried to get close enough to take some photos with my macro lens, it flew away, and that was the first and last time i saw a tiger beetle.
the oxbow national wildlife refuge is right next to fort devens military base, separated only by the nashua river diving the two properties. at no time was it more evident than today, where apparently the army was running munition exercises, and the noises of gunfire and explosion drowned out all other sounds. every now and then a drill sergeant could be heard muttering some undecipherable directions through a blowhorn. the racket was a little disconcerting, and i kept fearing i'd be hit by a stray bullet (even though i couldn't see the actual gunfire itself).
one advantage of the sparse early spring vegetation is it's a lot easier to spot birds hiding in the treetops. recently i've been dreaming about owning a 400mm telephoto lens, because even with my 300mm i'm still pushing it to try and resolve any bird details. the most interesting wild birds i saw today was a belted kingfisher (male) and an unidentifiable warbler.
i ended up walking down tank road then cut through the turnpike trail to the riverside path leading back to the parking lot. much of it was what i remembered, with the additional of new wooden footbridges. i remember when i first went there, it was just some wooden planks, and occasionally tree trunks. also missing: warning signs about sunning black snakes.
i got to oxbow around noon and left about 3:00. i didn't want to leave any later for fear of getting caught in some rush hour traffic (although i was traveling against traffic, so it wouldn't have made a big deal). i stopped by my parents' place where i had some peking raviolis for dinner, before returning to cambridge. in the evening i took a bath, but right afterwards showered as well because i don't think you can really get cleaned in a bathtub.