I park in the library parking lot at the corner of Geremonty Drive in Salem, NH under gray and heavy skies. All the kids are back in school and it is quiet as I step out of my car into the damp day. I hear the cheerful call of a chickadee from some nearby evergreens, but that is all. I wonder what I will see from this silent wetland as I step onto the grassy trail along the north side of the marsh.
The Geremonty marsh is an interesting habitat set right in the middle of this small town. On the eastern edge runs Geremonty Drive. At the northeast corner is the library and adjacent parking lot. Along the north side of the marsh a grassy trail runs east to west from the road to the school yard. In this area a small woodland lies just north of the marsh as a buffer between it and the homes and business to the north. On the south side of the marsh the lies the school parking lot. It is a unique setting with variety habitats in a small area which attracts a wide variety of birds. I set off down this trail walking slowly and searching for birds. I have errands to run in this town but for now I am enjoying a bit of peace and quiet, a nature break from life and all its encompassing activities.
Off to my left I scan the cattails and reeds looking and listening for birds, but all I see is a pool of water between the rushes.
A green heron looks at me and I look at it perched over the cattails and up in the tangle of utility wires and street lights which illuminate the school’s parking lot at night. How amazing it is that these wide creatures have adapted to our human habitats. But then, what choice do they have? It is adapt or die, like the Ivory-billed woodpecker lost to us long ago.
I step over the downed tree trunk and head towards the parking lot but am distracted by the flutter of some small birds. I look through my bins to see a pair of juvenile bluebirds in the company of a male house finch! For the next 45 minutes I watch them as they fly from ground to tree, to fence, to utility wires and back again. I saw the parent bluebirds fly off, but the house finch and the juvenile bluebirds stayed together for whatever reason. I am not sure if the bluebirds kept following the finch, or if the finch attended the bluebirds. I just know that they were always together and when one flew of, the others followed. I wish now I had paid more attention, but I am distracted by more birds.
The white shape of a great egret gets my immediate attention. But in order to get closer for pictures I must walk part-way down the flooded path. I wade through a few inches of water but stop before the next flooded area which is too deep for me to cross. So, I lean on the fence and photograph birds enjoying the late afternoon quiet.
In the flock of mallards I find one American black duck. Can you see it? It may be a hybrid but I am not sure. Its body is darker, its head lighter and the speculum, or colored area, on the wing is dark purplish blue without white borders. (Click to enlarge photo for a better look.)
A solitary sandpiper forages in the shallow water of this temporary pond. The birds and I are all enjoying the peacefulness when the school bell rings announcing the end of the school day. Suddenly students come pouring out of the building like frantic flocks of birds. They pour over the parking lot and down the trails sending birds flying. A few adolescent males pass me laughing and joking and throwing the big “F” word around in an effort to feel grown up. I ignore them and keep watching birds. The young men head down the path but are thwarted by the deep water covering it. As they debate with each other about trying to wade through or go “f-ing” around a young girl walks right past them, takes off her shoes, and wades through! Embarrassed the boys take off their shoes also and plod on through!
As they pass near by the little pond the ducks, egret and sandpiper take wing and move farther away from the fence, then settle down again. But then school track team pours onto the field and all the birds take flight, including a small flock of killdeer which I have been hearing but had not been able to find. I know now that my bird watching here is over, so I turn and start walking towards the parking lot to bird the south side of the marsh. High overhead an osprey flies and disappears beyond the southern horizon.
While school kids run the oval track the herring gulls and ring-billed gulls gather in the grassy middle unperturbed. A few wise gulls watch the mêlée from atop the stadium lights. I think they have the best seat in the house!
Moving through the brush at the edge of the marsh I find titmice, chickadees and song sparrows. Mourning doves perch on the overhead wires nervously watching me. A few forage on the ground at the edge of the asphalt picking at grass or bits of sand. I hear the raspy call of a gray catbird meowing from the dense foliage. I coax it out with some pishing but it soon disappears again.
I see a flash of black and look to find a bird hiding in the bushes. It peeks at me from behind pale leaves, then flies out and lands on a perch in full view where I can see the red epaulet of a male red-winged blackbird! Is he the only one left in the whole state of New Hampshire? I have not seen one at the bog in weeks. He is a pretty sight, even now as summer fades to fall.
I walk past bushes of ripening berries with leaves of scarlet and gold. It will officially turn autumn in a few more weeks, but the birds already know that it is time to find warmer pastures and bluer skies.
As I turn the corner to walk back to my car a lone turkey vulture takes wing and rocks on the wind. It is as if it is waving good-bye, but perhaps that is just wishful thinking on my part. My sweet reprise is over for now. I head for my car and the duties of life refreshed by the birds and this bright spot of nature.
Bird seen at the Geremonty Marsh 9-8-11:
- Mallard, 40
- American black duck, 1
- Osprey, 1
- Turkey vulture, 1
- Green heron, 2
- Great egret, 1
- Solitary sandpiper, 2
- Killdeer, 6
- Ring-billed gull, 6
- Herring gull, 15
- Mourning dove, 35
- Chimney Swift, 2
- Downy woodpecker, 1
- Blue Jay, 7
- American Crow, 5
- Black-capped chickadee, 8
- Tufted titmouse, 5
- Cedar Waxwing, 1
- American robin, 1
- Eastern bluebird, 4
- Gray Catbird, 2
- Song Sparrow, 6
- Common Crackle, 2
- Red-winged blackbird, 1
- House finch, 2
- American goldfinch, 3
Do you eBird?