Sunday, April 29, 2012

A lovely place to get lost

Ever since I can remember, I have needed to sneak away and have time to myself. I was going to say to have time to think, but really, it is time to unthink. I can't even really call it time for myself; it's more like time to escape myself. Somehow when I am immersed in nature, my mind is buzzing and alive, yet crystalline and still. It is the ultimate way to be alone but not lonely: there are the rocks and tree roots, the branches creaking in the wind, a flock of White-throated Sparrows hopping through the undergrowth, a Tufted Titmouse who alights on a branch and fixes you with an inquisitive look.

Tufted Titmouse,  Pond View Preserve, Easton
I felt the call this afternoon, and I needed to go somewhere gentle, somewhere soul soothing. I remembered a map that I had printed of a place that sounded like something out of a fairy tale, with trails that lace around a chain of ponds -- Boulder Island Pond, Deer Trace Pond, Cattail Pond, Sunken Pool, Shadow Pond, Heron Pond, Fawn Pond -- until you reach Moss Hollow. The names evoked such beautiful scenes that reading the map was almost as good as reading a story. And it really was beautiful when I got there.

I took the map but soon got lost. I can get lost driving to do the grocery shopping, so that's nothing new. But this time, I think some part of me took over and got me lost on purpose. When I started out, I was ticking off the ponds -- I saw the boulder, I imagined the deer drinking at the water's edge, watched the cattails waving in the wind. And then without realizing, I had put the map in my pocket and was following the calls of birds instead. I was wending and weaving through corridors of trees, circling my way around ponds glittering in the sunlight. Time became irrelevant.

It was a revelation to discover that this place I had never thought to go birding in before -- Pond View Preserve, in Easton -- is a wonderland of birds. A Merlin shot overhead at an awe-inspiring speed, like a stealth bomber. Two Red-shouldered Hawks wheeled up high, screaming. Barn Swallows swooped above the treetops, chittering away. The warblers were back: Palm Warblers, Black-and-White Warblers, Yellow-rumps. There was the occasional flash of a Goldfinch. American Crows were lurking. A gang of Red-bellied Woodpeckers had colonized the whole place. There were flocks of Chipping Sparrows and White-throated Sparrows. The Robins were laughing; and the Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, and White-breasted Nuthatches were calling. A flash of a bright scarlet male Northern Cardinal flying across my path was followed by the muted tones of a female. There was the grumpy gee-gee sound of the Ruby-crowed Kinglet. And finally, my last bird before I managed to unlose myself and find the parking lot, the bird that made me smile the most: my first Catbird of the season, giving its gravelly mewing call from a tangled thicket. Welcome back, friend!

Red-bellied Woodpecker, Pond View Preserve
The buds of Spring, Pond View Preserve
Day-moon over Pond View Preserve

Pond View Preserve is part of the 127.8-acre Paine Open Space, and you can get to it from Maple Street, Easton. If you can't make it there for a visit, reading the map and drifting away to Moss Hollow in your mind is pretty good for the soul, too.  


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  2. Nice shots of the woods in spring - I especially like the image of the Red bellied Woodpecker sitting calmly at the top of the broken limb and the image below it of the budding tree. I publish a natural history website called New England Nature Notes, which may be of interest to you. You can check it out at

    I'm looking to trade links and I'm also looking for other nature writers to do interviews with. if you're interested drop me a line at

    Daniel E. Levenson
    New England Nature Notes