|A visit to the Beaver Marsh Preserve, the hidden jewel behind an old shopping center in Durham, NC, is like a visit to an exotic wilderness in some other part of the world. Click on this image or any other one in the blog to see a larger version.|
It is that time of year again. The time when I emerge from the dark and cold of Winter and feel life again in the way I like it best. The cycle is reliable and consistent. I know what to expect. This year I have been spending much more time at the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association's Beaver Marsh Preserve. It is a lush green oasis nestled behind a run down shopping center in a part of Durham that could use some attention. The marsh itself is something like a secret public jewel. It is a secret kept by many, most of whom talk freely about the jewel at the slightest prodding. I am one of those secret keepers who tells everybody he meets. "Do you know about the beaver marsh behind Big Lots and Compare Foods?"
There is so much to tell about the marsh. Anything from the politics of urban nature conservation to an accounting of all the various plant and animal sightings would make for a good story. Then there are the people who frequent the place from the dedicated and scholarly birdwatchers to the homeless bike rider who makes sure baby turtles don't get stranded in the street. Of course there are also the litterbugs, trash dumpers, and the many volunteers who pick up after them to keep the place as pristine as possible. But these are not stories for this time.
This time it is about Spring and the reality of new life at the marsh. I wander all over the marsh going from the easily accessible observation fence to the thickly wooded and swampy areas on the other side where most people don't bother to go. This Spring, though, I have been really taken by how much there is to see in the most public of places right at the edge of the preserve. All the signs of new life are there. Spring is speaking loudly as Summer approaches and all of that new life matures through its inevitable cycles.
|A Young Black Racer with New Skin|
New life was emerging everywhere. For the few weeks before I had been watching a pair of Canada geese nesting right on the side of the beaver lodge in the center of the marsh. It struck me as being too much in the open and unprotected. Not the most secure place for a nest. A pair of crows seemed to take an interest in the nest too. They would perch on top of the lodge facing the nest and make a racket clearly intended to disturb the geese. I don't know if they were after eggs or goslings but I do know they kept a vigil, I even imagined I heard one of the say something like "Nevermore." Okay, not really, but you get the picture. It did not look good for the goslings.
|Four of Seven Wait for the Others|
It came in the form of a nesting painted turtle. The ground was soft following a long overnight rain; just right for making a nest. Like most turtles who are well into the nesting task, this one was not disturbed by my presence. It is almost as if they go into a trance. They spend hours carefully digging the nest, laying the eggs, and covering them up in a way the makes the site almost invisible. When she is done she leaves and doesn't look back. In a few weeks, half a dozen tiny hatchlings will poke their way out of the shells, dig out of the nest, and scramble through the brush to the relative safety of the water. No parenting for these little ones. They are on their own..
|Slider Finishing a Nest|
|The Finished Nest|
All is well at the marsh. The snakes have shiny new skins. The goslings are following their parents around like the little "ducks on wheels" toys they inspired. Dozens of embryonic turtles are starting to develop in their eggs, nestled away in warm underground nests. Dragon flies are flitting about and there is more green stuff coming up than one can imagine. The bullfrogs are calling as are their cousins the tree frogs, green frogs, toads, and who knows what else. It is Spring and all is well. I can almost hear Disney music . . . Listen.
Okay, cue the sound of the needle scratching across the grooves of a vinyl record! (I am hoping this still counts as a signifier, regardless of age) Maybe this idyllic place is not so idyllic after all. I went back the very next day mainly to see if the overnight showers had further camouflaged the turtle nests. The first one was altogether invisible. Nobody would ever know a nest was there. I only knew where it was because I had made note of some small stones on the ground nearby.
|The Next Day: Predation|
|Still More Predation|
|Bullfrog at the Beaver Marsh|
Of course I had to check on my little goose family. After a few minutes of looking around, I found them again. This time there wasn't much to celebrate. The parade was much shorter.
|The Last Parade|