A July Afternoon on the Lamprey River

Great Blue Heron

A beautiful summer afternoon. My favorite bird, the great blue heron, greeted me with a landing across the river just as I was launching my kayak at the Riverside Cemetery on Packers Falls Road in Newmarket, NH.

Dragonflies and damsesflies were abundant and the water was smooth and calm as I paddled downstream towards the maze of bends, coves and inlets that make this section of the Lamprey River such an enjoyable paddle.

I was surrounded by so much life and activity and many plants were in bloom; Yellow and white water lilies, pickerel weed and the lovely bright red cardinal flower, Lobelia cardinalis.

Yellow water lily, Nuphar lutea

White water lily, Nymphaea odorata

Pickerel weed, Pontederia cordata

Cardinal flower, Lobelia cardinalis

Insects have difficulty maneuvering the shape of the cardinal flower so it relies on the hummingbird for pollination. Unfortunately, I did not have the pleasure of  a visit from a hummingbird while I was enjoying this brilliant plant.

It was a hot day and I encountered several groups of children jumpining off of rope swings and swimming in the cooling waters of the river. A few anglers were trying their luck, and though I saw some jumping fish, they appeared to be on the small side, maybe sunfish.

I was pleased to come upon a piece of land protected by the Nature Conservancy. I pulled my kayak up on the shore and took a quick walk and looked around. I found… beauty.

I paddled along for over an hour and there was still much of the river I didn’t get to explore, but I thought it best to turn around and head back as the sun was strong and I didn’t want to get too much of a good thing. Enjoying the shade along the river’s edge, and meandering through overhanging branches I came across some very strange looking stuff. At first I thought it might be amphibian egg masses, but upon closer inspection I guessed that it was some kind of a gelatinous algae. I was wrong. A little bit of research when I got home and I learned that its not a of plant or egg mass, but a freshwater bryozoan, a colonial filter feeder. Many bryozoans are found in marine ecosystems; the one freshwater form is in a class called phylactolaemata.

A freshwater bryozoan. Class phylactolaemata, order plumatellida

Freshwater bryozoan, a gelatinous colony of filter feeders

Life on and in the Lamprey River is not all pretty flowers and dragonflies! I also came across this active wasp nest where I took a quick photo and quickly went on my way!

Paddling back toward the cemetery I thought how fortunate I am to have this beautiful river in my town. Previously, I have enjoyed the tidal portion of the river, below the McCallen Dam on Main Street and continuing right out to Great Bay. However, my childhood summers on Lake Winnipesaukee and my years as a limnologist have provided me with experiences that have given me an affection and a sense of wonder and respect for freshwater ecosystems. I look forward to my next visit with the Lamprey River and its flora and fauna, the good, the bad, and the ugly!


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Nature’s Spin Art

May 3, 2011

Early morning walks are one of the positive changes that have come into my life as a result of adopting a dog. I may not be feeling this way in the middle of January, but in the first week of May it’s pretty nice! Just as the sun was coming up in the horizon, Luna and I approached the river in awe. OK, maybe Luna didn’t notice the beauty of the sunrise, but she was happy. We sat and watched dawn’s light show (well, I sat and watched, Luna strolled and sniffed). The colors in the sky and on the water’s surface blended from orange to pink, yellow, blue, and purple in a quiet stillness that calmed me to my soul.

Living near a body of water provides a dynamic and ever-changing scenery, from the colorful tranquility that I experienced this morning, to a gray chaotic turmoil on a blustery day. Like people, rivers have moods that greatly affect those around them.  I am drawn to the peacefulness of the calm waters, just as I am drawn to gentle and calm people. I also know to keep a respectful distance from stormy waters until the frenzied energy is released and the serenity welcomes me back again.

I am looking forward to observing the changing moods of the river and the seasonal changes in the woods along the way as we move through spring into summer.

Luna on the Lamprey River at dawn

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Bidding Winter a Fond Farewell

These geese and mallards are from rugged stock! We had a frigid winter here in New Hampshire; sub zero overnight temps and single digits during the day, yet these birds, and about 50 others, lingered at the launch area in my town. A smaller stream provided constant open water and food as it flowed into the Lamprey River,  and the birds seem to find comfort by staying somewhat close, but not quite huddled, together. Nonetheless, I was always amazed as I walked by them bundled up in my wool and down. I suppose they were bundled up in their own down, but still, I marvel at their ability to linger here in the inhospitable winter rather than flying south to more friendly climes.

Often, when the chilly winds of January are howling outside my windows, I feel concern for the wild animals out there fending for themselves through blizzards, ice storms, and freezing temperatures. I fully understand that wildlife are well-suited to survive in the environment in which they live, but I can’t help but feel badly for them when the weather is bad. It really is a wonder of nature, how animals in the wild adapt so well to the changing seasons.

And, thankfully, the seasons change! Fallen leaves and acorns litter the ground in anticipation of the warmth of the spring sunshine, with promise of the mighty oak to come.

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My First Post

This is all new to me, so I am sort of floundering around, trying to figure out how this works.

My plan for this web log is to write about the sights, sounds and observations I encounter as I explore the natural areas in my town and beyond. Living near the sea, yet close enough to mountains, forest, and fields, gives me so many rich environments in which to immerse myself. I have always been a person who likes to stop and smell the roses, who enjoys the journey, and doesn’t really care too, too much if I don’t make it to the top of the mountain. In the spirit of Thoreau, who inspired the title of my blog, I am anticipating that giving my full attention to a single bird, flower, or tree will lead me to slow down and become more aware and mindful, in general.

The rain has stopped, the sky is clearing, inviting me to go out for a walk. Which brings me to another wonderful Thoreau quote, “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”

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