the promise of sunshine and 80's degree temperature seemed like a lie: when bruce and i headed out to do some naturing this morning the temperature was in the 60's at best and the sky was a grey overcast that seemed to be threatening a possible rain shower. the night before i'd decided we'd visit the sudbury memorial forest as we headed out to route 2. i'd been there twice before, once on purpose, once by accident. along the way it actually started drizzling a little bit, but stopped by the time we arrived at hop brook marsh.
it didn't take us long to discover the place was teeming with hungry mosquitoes. the females were impatient for their drink of blood before they can lay their eggs and to them we were probably a walking source of food. fortunately i had the foresight to bring my bug spray, the less toxic cutter advanced outdoorsman with picaridin instead of DEET. i got a few bottles when i went to china but didn't really have any opportunities to use it until now. by the time we arrived at duck pond i'd already received a few mosquito bites and began to spray my hands and head. it worked at first, keeping the mosquitoes at bay (although they kept on circling, like tiny insect vultures), but later i got a bite on my hand anyway, either because the picaridin wore off, or it was a particularly gutsy mosquito. not sure how much more effective picaridin is over DEET, i'll have to field test it some more (but i'm definitely bringing DEET as a backup next time). bruce refused to spray down, which was either very foolish or brave, but he wasn't the one stopping repeatedly to take photos (which instantly made me a target for feeding).
sudbury memorial forest was particularly sparse in wildlife, which may just have to do with the bad weather as well as being still a bit early in the season. we did see a lot of pink ladyslipper leaves, which in a week or so will be covering the forest floor in pink orchids. at duck pond bruce spotted a large black snake; by the time i got a chance to look it had already splashed away (if i had to guess, a northern water snake). out in the pond there were a pair of noisy canada geese as well as a great blue heron.
the first thing we came across was a good-sized vernal pool. unfortunately it was pretty devoid of life, unless you count all the mosquitoes. at the western bridged end of duck pond i collected some duckweed in a jar, to raise at home. from there we walked down to the abandoned train tracks. crossing the scary wooden bridge we arrived at the large sand pit. from the southeastern edge of the desert loop we saw a spotted sandpiper down below on hop brook.
in lieu of substantial wildlife we did come across some very fragrant spring blooming flowers. there was one particular kind of flower that seemed to be highbush blueberries that were extremely fragrant with a touch of spicy clove. elsewhere (near the scary railroad bridge) we came across some pleasant smelling pink and yellow honeysuckle-type scrubbery.
down heron spur we followed the trail southeast to the other parking lot on dutton road. along the way we walked by a marsh that had a surprising number of warblers. we saw both yellow-rumped as well as the yellowthroat (aka the masked warbler). instead of backtracking our way through the mosquito-infested forest, we decided to walk on the road back to where we parked the car.
wouldn't you know it, as soon as we left the forest, the weather cleared up and the temperature started to get warmer. coming back, we briefly drove through what looked to be maynard center, admiring its large renovated mill complex. when i got back home i quickly took a shower and checked myself for ticks.