Water Closet for January 1, 2016
[pullquote]”Man’s activities have long swirled all around this Eden for wildlife.”[/pullquote]The phrase man-made wildlife habitat may seem an oxymoron to purists. There are of course millions of these habitats around the world. While taking off and landing at noisy Logan in winter, folks have seen snowy owls hunting between the runways. Here in Middleton the lush floodplain of Boston Brook on both sides of the Essex Railway is one of our favorites. The railway was built across the wetlands in 1848. Another is the area of many gravel pits mined mid last century in the southeast part of town near the river. The residual gravel, although devoid of topsoil, is now covered with plants providing shelter and food for many animals.
This past Friday the Middleton Council on Aging/Conservation Commission hikers explored another large man-affected area fifteen minutes south on the Wakefield-Lynnfield and Middlesex-Essex County line. To get there, drive from Walnut Street, Lynnfield, west on Audubon Road parallel to Route 128 for 1 ½ miles until the public road ends at a cyclone fence. A sign marks the trail’s entrance to a diamond shaped, half-mile long, fifth-mile wide gravel pit that was mined for fill to build sections of Route 128 (I-95) in the 1940s. The excavators removed a peninsula that projected out into wetland; they left a berm around its edges to separate it from the water of vast Reedy Meadow, once called the Lynnfield Marsh. It reminds one old Closeteer of a Pacific atoll with a lagoon surrounded by reefs. The once oak-covered upland has been replaced by a pit filled with water. High bush blueberries, red maples and swamp azaleas grace the rim’s wet edges. Red oak, a few birches and pines shade the top of the surrounding rim. Signs of beaver activity are almost everywhere. On a recent trip three duck hunters in full regalia were heard quacking with calls for prey. We saw no ducks but the open patches of water are perfect places for them and other waterfowl. The marsh’s and upland borders’ rich wildlife habitats are permeated by the continuous drone of 128 traffic just to the south.
Some time ago by the looks of faded signs, Boy Scout Troop 701 of Wakefield opened a rough up and down trail on the circling gravel pit’s berm. Outward from it, east, west and north, stretch a thousand or so acres of pure cattails. This is said to be the largest fresh water cattail marsh in our state. Massachusetts Audubon lists Reedy Meadow as one of its premiere sites for birds. The December hikers saw few birds but found deer tracks and scat. Flowing slowly southeasterly down through the marsh, well hidden by cattails as are most its animal inhabitants, is the slow moving Saugus River fed from the west and north by Lake Quannapowitt, Beaver Brook and Pillings Pond.
Man’s activities have long swirled all around this Eden for wildlife. A large new shopping center spreads out to the southeast, industrial and business parks and Route 128 cover land to the south, and houses are side by side to the east, west and north. In Colonial times this floodplain of the Saugus River was probably drained bottomland for late hay, pasture, and some cultivation; however, we found no history of this in Lynnfield’s library. Our Emerson Bog and wet Ipswich River bottoms in Middleton have known agricultural histories. In mid 1800s the Boston & Maine Railroad built a line across the Lynnfield Marsh. A century later trains ceased to run. The rail bed, still supporting rusty rails on rotting ties, has grown over and subsided some. This old line is another good but somewhat overgrown access to the marsh. Park at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Summer Street, Lynnfield, and follow the rails south. A third entrance is a short trail in from Main Street marked with a sign near Partridge Road. We recommend you visit in small numbers via all three access portals at dawn and dusk for views of its inhabitants. The Friday walkers look forward to returning in April as buds swell and red winged blackbirds and marsh wrens are courting. The walkers’ courting days are largely over but they like the bittersweet memories and the songs.
WATER RESOURCE AND CONSERVATION INFORMATION
FOR MIDDLETON, BOXFORD AND TOPSFIELD`
|Precipitation Data* for Month of:||Sept||Oct||Nov||Dec|
|30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches||3.77||4.40||4.55||4.12|
|2015 Central Watershed Actual||3.97||3.11||2.49||3.9 as of Dec 28|
Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For Dec 28, 2015 Normal . . . 50 CFS Current Rate . . . 0.02 CFS
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru Nov..
**Middleton Stream Team is source of actual precipitation data for Dec.
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