Photos by Judy Schnieder
Photos by Judy Schnieder
Photos by Judy Schnieder
Middleton Stream Team’s Vernal Pool Hike was recently held on a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon. (scroll down for slide show)The group of almost sixty was excited and laden down with nets. In age, the attendees ranged from toddlers in carriers to octogenarians. We hiked in from Old Hundred Lane, soon venturing off the trail to a large vernal pool, previously scouted by stream team members. Because physical factors such as sunlight, water temperature, acidity, and the duration of the flooding all affect vernal pool life, it is never truly guaranteed that we will find what we had found the week before. However, on this day, groups of children and adults enthusiastically netted, scooped, observed, and eventually found out they had fairy shrimp, predaceous diving beetles, and a variety of beetle larvae. The Stream Team naturalists were concerned about not finding any frog or salamander eggs, worried that the winter thaw could have affected their survival. We will be following up on this to find some answers. A favored critter was the garter snake that Briana Grieco caught and showed all the hikers.
Vernal pools are critical habitats for many species. Through outdoor exploration of these pools, this large group of people learned that much life depends on protecting these ephemeral wetlands. We all had a beautiful day in the outdoors with great exercise and much learning. A “wonder” of a day!
Water Closet for December 30, 2016
Ice is back as it should be in December. On Friday, 16 December, the early morning temperature was 0° F; the flags on a fair northwest wind in front of St. Agnes Church, the old Closeteer’s wind gauge, were straight out.
“Even those of us who are very familiar with ice have gone through. Don’t go testing ice alone. “
Some Stream Teamers, who have never given snow birding to Florida a thought, think such weather is not only cold but “cool.” The water molecules are “chilling” as they lose their kinetic energy. At 32 F their dance is so slow they cling to one another and become a vast solid of called ice. As the air above becomes ever colder the heat in the still unfrozen water below the new ice on the surface loses heat. Remember from your high school physics and chemistry that heat flows from higher to lower temperatures? If you don’t, step outside for a moment and feel what happens.
One of the reasons that Stream Teamers, lovers of water bodies, like cold and the resulting ice is the access it gives to beaver impoundments, lakes, ponds, and other water bodies not to be explored on foot. A week of day long freezing air allows us out on Emerson Bog, Aunt Betts Pond and surrounds, the beaver impoundments under the Pond Meadow Pond Rookery, the southwest Middleton Pond Rookery, the upper Cudhea Crick impoundment, and a dozen other places under water in Middleton. If foolhardy some might after long cold snaps venture out on the Ipswich River. The winter of 2014-2015 was infamous to DPWs and wonderful for us ice walkers who ventured out on the tricky ice of Nichols Brook’s broad floodplain between Topsfield and Middleton. DON’T TAKE ANY CHANCES. Even those of us who are very familiar with ice have gone through. Don’t go testing ice alone.
En route on safe ice we look for places with black ice. Black ice, not black at all, is transparent. Muddy bottoms absorb light and don’t reflect much back. White and gray ice full of tiny bubbles does. Upon encountering patches of transparent ice lie down and peer into the liquid water below. You may be surprised at the activity you see in 32 F water. We’ll not explain further. Go look. Black ice is often seen around the inundated bases of tree trunks where the water is last to freeze. The sunlight absorbed by the trunk keeps the water next to it warmer. Even after intense periods of cold you might find halos of liquid water around trunks.
Most all substances upon cooling become steadily denser. Water is an exception. At 39 F, as bonds between the molecules form, it becomes less dense until at 32 F when it follows the usual pattern again of increasing density as the temperature continues to drop. However, since less dense than liquid water ice floats. If it was denser you’d need SCUBA gear and a good wet suit to skate on the frozen bottom.
Why is ice less dense? Let’s imagine the water molecules dancing individually as their surroundings cool. They slow and get closer, attracted by each other and at 39 F start to form bonds. The tired dancers are going from a frenetic jitterbug to a waltz. By 32 F even if shy they cling to one another but in a formal way arms extended. Another way looking at this might be to envision a rugby scrum at 39 F when the players are ordered out of the scrum into formation, one arm forward to another’s shoulder the other sideways to another. By 32 F all are so bonded with spaces now between them so the solid formed in less dense. The extended arms represent chemical bonds. H-O-H — H-O-H — H-O-H — etc. where the –s represents bonds between the H2O molecules. The vast crystalline solid formed is called ice. The energy lost in the freezing process is about 80 cal/g or about that energy in baby’s bite of toast. This amount of energy is called the heat of fusion. A gram of ice has about 1/18 x 6.023 x 1023 molecules. If you want to see that number written out with all its zeros write .33 followed by 23 zeros. Now of course you want know how this enormous number was determined. Go on line and look up Avogadro’s number. The explanation is extremely elegant.
Let’s leave that research for another day and go check the ice. BE CAREFUL. The temperature as of this writing has been below freezing for the last few days. 40 F is predicted for tomorrow. The ice receiving the right amount of heat will melt to free
WATER RESOURCE AND CONSERVATION INFORMATION
FOR MIDDLETON, BOXFORD AND TOPSFIELD
|Precipitation Data* for Month of:||Sep||Oct||Nov||Dec|
|30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches||3.77||4.40||4.55||4.12|
|2016 Central Watershed Actual||1.85||6.81||4.1**||2.6**as of Dec 23|
Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For Dec 23, 2016 Normal . . . 60 CFS Current Rate . . .35 CFS
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru Oct.
** Middleton Stream Team is the source of actual precipitation data for Nov and Dec.
Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.
Letterboxing is an active way to have fun outside for all ages. Enjoy the beauty of nature while taking on an awesome treasure hunt! Two Cadette Girl Scouts have hidden 17 letterboxes on 4 of Middleton’s scenic nature trails.
How many can YOU find? Come take a hike, enjoy the scenery, and have some fun following our clues while exploring Middleton’s wonderful trails! Each hike is different, ranging from less than half a mile to 3.5 miles. We challenge you to find all 17 of our letterboxes!
A group of 25 hikers, led by Pike Messenger, explored the hilly and forested terrain West of North Liberty Street. The group viewed historic stone foundations remaining from early settlers in the region as well as large peat bogs, and many stone walls marking old boundaries. The last portion of the hike took the group along Boston Brook. Here we saw a large beaver dam, and the remains of an old mill.
Although the warm weather negated the plan to have an “ice hike” the group was still able to easily get to places that are not usually as accessible in the winter months.
Invitation to the 2016
MIDDLETON STREAM TEAM WINTER HIKE
Sunday, January 31, 1pm
All are invited to join Middleton Stream Team’s cool Annual Winter Hike in the wintery wilds of northern Middleton. We will visit the impoundments which are home to the beavers, birds and wildlife and walk on ice where safe; places “you can’t get to from here” nearly all year.
Meet at 12:50 PM, Sunday, January 31st, on the unpaved section of North Liberty Street, about a mile north of Prichard’s Pond; or about 2 miles north (total) from Maple Street (Route 62). From Maple Street, take Liberty Street (which becomes North Liberty Street). From Sharpener’s Pond Road go south and look for a group of parked cars. The hike will end at the starting point before 4 PM.
Wear warm clothing, warm non-slip foot gear, and bring a hiking stick if you have one. Anticipate some rough spots and ice.
Please check our web site www.middletonstreamteam.org the morning of the hike in case of possible changes due to snow or ice conditions. Email MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com or call (978) 777-4584 if you have any questions.
PS – This is a good opportunity to take photos for the 2016 MST Photo Contest, so bring your camera.