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:


  1. Sounds like you had some nice walks!! I love the path with the dead tree.
    I love to walk along the beach. Your picture looks so inviting.
    I don't think I've ever heard of a nutria. I've just looked it up to see a picture of it. It kind of looks like a beaver to me without the big tail of course.
    Enjoy your day!!

  2. Hi Happy One - yep, it felt good to do something other than marathon training for a change! :) Even though a lot of our training goes through scenic places in an urban environment, it is always nice to be out for a walk about, taking one's time, enjoying nature. Even though those walks are short right now with the long dike trails closed off, there is a lot to see.

    Yep, a nutria is much like a beaver, or more closely like a very large muskrat because of the tail. They are maybe 3 times as big as a muskrat. I think that they are the third largest North American rodent.

    Do you think I should have posted the photo of the poor guy?

    Enjoy the day, too! Art

  3. I just love these pictures. I love being outdoors and it has been so cold here lately that it has not been possible to be out much! Thank you!

  4. Glad you enjoyed them, Nat! I can't wait for spring and would guess that the anticipation is even higher in Minnesota! Art