Water Closet for May 15, 2015
[pullquote] ” After the three or four eggs hatch, the hungry, fast growing, noisy chicks, and food hustling parents will greatly add to the domestic sights and sounds.”[/pullquote]The Middleton Council on Aging/Conservation Commission Friday morning hikers walked over Second Pasture along Pond Meadow Brook last Friday en route to the “bleachers” to look out on the great blue heron rookery high in dead white pines. From a distance when the light is right, two score nurseries of sticks seem to levitate above the beaver made lake in the northern tip of town. Nineteen hikers, ages mid-fifties to early eighties, carefully crossed the shallow brook on stepping stones just below a beaver dam started in 1999. The swiftly running water, overflow from the 200-ft. long, 6-ft. high dam, was clear above a firm pebbly-sandy bottom; this despite little rain this past month. Ground water is still high. The blue of a fair weather sky was exaggerated by the water in the vast beaver-made
impoundment above the dam. The whole area is without recent signs of any consequence of man along a mile of lakefront or in the woods beyond. The mature forest of oak on the uplands to the south was delicately colored in mid-May with tiny week old leaves. A couple spring forest fires in the last two decades killed young thin-barked trees which opened up the woods; walking there is easy and views are wide. The sun partially filtered by the still thin canopy makes a very pleasant light in the air and on dappled leaf-covered ground. To the north on the Boxford State Forest side of the fifteen year old lake large pines and hemlocks dominate the surrounding upland. That fine forest including hardwoods with a thick understory of bushes and young trees provides the scene with an evergreen background that continues northeasterly to the slopes of Bald Hill, Boxford. From a glacier-deposited peninsula steeply descending to the water that we call the bleachers we view in the foreground a wash of blue, largely open water west to east in the foreground, then acres of still standing drowned gray tree trunks. There are fewer after each winter’s storms. Beyond the yearly thinner, inundated drowned forest, are distance-muted greens making another wash west to east from North Andover to Boxford. Above that beautiful horizon of tree tops the sky curled back up over us. A fair westerly breeze picked up as it swung around north. It perked us up, especially those dressed too lightly. We didn’t sit down as usual when on the bleachers. Despite the fine show by herons we spectators moved slowly on east. While retreating upslope in the theatre of hardwoods pruned by past fires we could look back and enjoy the coming and goings of the actors on their aerial stages. Other feathered players such as swallows flitted above the shallow lake adding to the scene.1
As seen from the surrounding wooded slopes descending to the flooded beaver meadow now full to the dam’s brim with water, the forty heron nests in the still-standing dead pines all seemed occupied. Some of the seven-pound, four-foot birds were settled in nests; others stood sentinel on nearby limbs. Not high enough to look down into the nests, and too weak to climb the 40 to 70 feet up to them, the old timers guessed all had eggs being incubated. Other herons, perhaps on food catching duty, gracefully flew in and out of their aerial village. The only time great blues are seen in close proximity is at their rookeries. The rest of the year, after departure, they are seen alone stalking fish, frogs and other prey along our streams, rivers, and other water bodies.
Words, even with good photographs, just won’t do. You must go out alone or with friends and family to experience our active heron rookeries in dead pines above beaver impoundments.2 After the three or four eggs hatch, the hungry, fast growing, noisy chicks, and food hustling parents will greatly add to the domestic sights and sounds. Some of us visit every week or so until the young, almost adult size, fledge in August when within a few days the rookery is abandoned until next spring. We are told couples return separately to the same nest. Do their young come back to the same rookery and start or steal a nest? The old timers who visit will not climb the trees this June or any time to attach radio tags.
1 The walking group was pleased to have Ipswich ornithologist Jim Berry along pointing out the sights and sounds of other birds. He recorded 32 species in two hours. He had expected more. His May 8th list will be sent you separately.
2 A 17 nest rookery above impoundment southwest of the west end of Middleton Pond – Hike gravel road around Middleton Pond from Boston Street or Lake Street entrances. This rookery is about six years old.
The 40 or so nest rookery described above can be visited from Boxford State Forest, Boxford and North Andover, or from North Liberty Street, Middleton.
A 6 or so nest rookery above impoundment can be practically driven under on Winter Street, North Andover.
There are a dozen or two nests in dead pines and living oaks just above Emerson Bog between Route 114 and Forest Street, Middleton. There may be more, many are hidden by vegetation. A few winters ago we counted 38 while walking below them on ice.
A 7 or 8 nest rookery in dead pines in Georgetown can be seen from I-95. Contact the Middleton Stream Team for further information.
_______________________________________________________________________________WATER RESOURCE AND CONSERVATION INFORMATION
OR MIDDLETON, BOXFORD AND TOPSFIELD
|Precipitation Data* for Month of:||Feb||March||April||May|
|30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches||3.25||4.65||4.53||4.06|
|2015 Central Watershed Actual||3.55||3.62||2.38||0.0 as of 5/11**|
Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For May 12, 2015 Normal . . . 69 CFS Current Rate . . . 32 CF
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru April.
**Middleton Stream Team is source of actual precipitation data for May.
Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.
THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584