Thursday, February 19, 2009

My Local Training Route

This season for my marathon training, I find myself doing a particular little route more and more often, because part of it goes through some woods and it feels a bit like a hike (other than it is usually pitch dark when I am training). But the other day, I got in some rare daylight training and took a bunch of pictures, especially of the little wooded section.

You can read about it and see the photos here.

This morning, I started before 5AM and it was so dark that I had to slow down on the trail part. But when there is a moon shining, there is plenty of light to pick my way along the trail with pretty good vision. As spring gets nearer, I know I will hear birds, frogs, and toads on this part of the route, and even see a rabbit run across the path in the predawn darkness, so it will feel even more like a mini-hike!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Two Short Winter Coastal Hikes

I was back to the coast for the weekend. Saturday, the weather was so nice that I couldn't resist a short hike, even though I had run and walked 9+ miles that morning for Team in Training.

The Back Bay refuge dike trails are closed until April 1 to protect wintering waterfowl. So other than walking on the beach, one can only hike a few miles. It was nearly spring-like Saturday afternoon and we had a nice hike. Out in the bay, we could see hundreds of tundra swans - very pretty. We also saw a nice group of mallards in a pond. The sun striking the green heads of the drakes was striking. Here are a few of the sights:

Small fresh water pond. In warm weather, I often see bitterns and large turtles here.

Back Bay

Dead tree along the path through the marsh. There is a huge "widow maker" hanging from the top of the tree.

Dunes and the Atlantic Ocean

On Sunday, I returned to hike a few miles more, although the weather was at least 20 degrees colder, with a breeze. The large flocks of swans were not in evidence, although I did see some of these majestic birds. I hiked to a large blind overlooking the marsh, and there was a flock of several hundred Canada geese to be seen in the distance.

One unusual find was a dead nutria, nearly submerged but partially visible above the water in an impoundment. These large rodents are an exotic species, and like many exotics, are destructive to marsh habitats in North America. I found a branch and fished him out of the water - until then I couldn't tell if it were an animal of a big ball of vegetation. He was close to three feet long from the nose to the end of his tail. I was wondering if he could have been shot by refuge personnel, as he looked in good health (prior to death, of course) and clearly would not have drowned, being aquatic. Nothing had been feeding on him, so he had not been killed by a bobcat or a coyote. He had large bright yellow incisors. I did take some photos, but decided not to post them because maybe someone would find them too morbid.

Much prettier than a dead nutria were these tundra swans and the start of a sunset over Back Bay:


I am pretty sure that my post that I called Snow Geese should have been called Tundra Swans. I got a good look, in good light with binoculars, at big flocks of similar sounding white birds, and they were clearly swans, not geese.

When I asked a refuge manager about it, he said that the swans there are tundra swans. In a few months, they will be migrating a couple of thousand miles to the Northern Canadian tundra. He told me that anecdotes from the 1950's say that the flocks of swans coming into Back Bay were so huge that they darkened the skies. That certainly tells some grim tales about wetland habitat loss.