I usually visit the south side of the Little River, but on May 2nd I decided to go along the north. Actually I was just riding around, not sure where I wanted to go, and thought of taking another look at the old channel of the Little River behind the ruins of the nightclub Faces, on Rt. 2. I never got there.
On the north side of the Little River, near the Alewife T stop, between the Rt. 2 offramp and Acorn Park Drive, is a patch of ground that reminds me of a Natalie Angier piece about looking for migrating birds:
” . . . you know the saying, ‘This place is for the birds,’ as in ‘What a dump’? We spent the day whizzing past dappled lakes and lush grasses in the refuge here in Smyrna, Del., stopping instead at the bleakest, barest, beige-brownest scratchpads of land we could find. As Dr. Greenberg had predicted, it was around drying mudholes and plowed-up sod farms that we would see a rich variety of migratory shorebirds.” (New York Times, 9/18/07)
This particular piece of the Alewife Reservation isn’t quite as bare as that, but it is one of those beige, nondescript places at first glance, and it was full of birds. There are temporary “ponds” on it that will dry up in a few weeks, and the vegetation is starting to grow, as best it can while being eaten by geese. I ran across a pair of geese with 7 goslings and was hissed at a little bit, protectively, by the parents, but mostly ignored.
In real life, the goslings were about as unobtrusive as they are in the photo. They blend in well on patchy new grass.
I ended up walking down the trail along the north side of the river, which ends at Little Pond. I haven’t been in most of that area since last September, and the plant life is very different now, thinner and easier to navigate. The trail is mostly easy to pick up ; it has been used, but not heavily. Someone has put boards or pallets or logs across various muddy channels that cross the trail, with signs naming them “Bog Bridge #2” etc., up to #5. There are some weathered markers along the trail, bamboo garden stakes with grayish pieces of tape at the top, and some pink and dark blue plastic streamers tied to branches for, I would guess, a variety of reasons. The dark blue seemed to be marking the trail as well.
The water was high, not surprisingly because we just had a good rain.
I sometimes wonder if it’s misleading to make pictorialist photos like this, vague imitations of Dutch landscape painting. There are many beautiful views on the Little River, without a doubt, but it’s often impossible to get the context into the same picture: the chain link fence that’s a few yards to the right of this spot, the black mud underfoot, the tangled vines and branches that get in the way of reaching the spot where there is a view at all. If pictures like this one encourage the idea of a “pure” nature, they contradict what I’m about here. I don’t want to convey that there’s a tragic binary division between nature and us; what I’m looking at is coexistence. Maybe a picture like this is needed once in a while:
In any case, the geese, like the swan nesting at Little Pond, seem to be coexisting with us very nicely, thank you. This one, in the middle of the river,
turned out to be patrolling the area, guarding the goose on her nest on the far bank:
You might have to click on the photo, then zoom in, to see her near the left edge of the picture.
A short way upstream another pair has made a nest on the north side.
Farther upstream I found out where the water from the old channel of the Little River (subject of a previous post) ends up. After crossing under Acorn Park Drive in a culvert, it flows west along the side of the road for maybe a hundred yards, then into a marsh full of reeds, where another goose is nesting. Doves and redwing blackbirds seem to like the area a lot, too. Dead reeds have blown down so thickly that I was able to walk out on them, basically walking over water (and worrying about falling through). This is the channel where the water leaves that marsh and finds its way into the (new) Little River:
Further along the trail, I saw a fox — or coyote? — in the distance. It saw me, too, and trotted off. It made me wonder if the plastic animals at Hill Estates are supposed to be coyotes. Definitely the threat those scare-geese are supposed to convey is real; no doubt that fox, or coyote, would love to eat some goose eggs, or goslings. Perhaps it succeeds from time to time; maybe snapping turtles get some of them, too. But plenty grow up all around us.
One more photo: a tree in bloom on the shore of Perch Pond. Through the trees across the pond, Hill Estates in the background.
All we have to do is leave a little room and nature will fill in the gap. One would not think that this would be too difficult.