Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary,Topsfield MA.

The Ipswich River rises from diminished streams in the overbuilt and clobbered suburbs of Burlington and Wilmington with gathered tribute from Reading and Lynnfield as it passes along the southern edge of North Reading flowing east before a few step-wise meanders through Middleton to Topsfield where the Massachusetts Audubon Society maintains a crown jewel sanctuary known to me since I was a toddler.

From there it heads northeast to meet the sea at Ipswich

The Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary was acquired by Mass Audubon in 1951 from Thomas Procter. It was first converted to property in the 1640s on behalf of Simon Bradstreet after being a popular spot for eons with the Agawam people who left clam midden traces along the river and a path to the hilltop. 

This drumlin is the epicenter of the place where cars are parked, fees covered and the farmhouse and outbuildings rest.

The drumlin slopes are draped with Mr. Procter's work with a carriage trail as the first concentric ring. He was inspired by the English garden approach with adaptations shaped by Frederick Law Olmsted.

The Drumlin trail covers the introductions and experiments of the day. Osange Oranges are among the surprises in the arboretum. 

The Rockery is the most prominent feature and took more than five years to build. It overlooks a pond and the top is one of the best observation spots in the sanctuary.

The outer ring runs to increasingly lighter human touches until the wetland river edge are as they have been since before the heavy euro hand fell on it all. The North and South Esker trails overlook a substantial riparian panorama.  

Post Procter innovations owe more to Aldo Leopold and Art Flick. A substantial density of wood duck boxes dot the ponds. Astonishing skill and insight have been applied over the decades to maximize the potential habitat capacity and an intricate tapestry of ecotones bedeck the acreage. 

This effort makes it one of the best places ever to find nearly every bird likely to roost or pass through the region across the annual run of months. There is never a bad time to be there from the bare tree minimal mists of November to the neotropical mass convergence in May.
Hand feeding Chickadees is favorite past time in the wintry season. Stand near a spot where field meets thicket with reasonably serene stillness, a hand outstretched and a small pile of sunflower seeds, preferably hulled, and you'll soon have a regular Paridae chow line going on.

The mammal contingent includes fox and eastern coyote, beaver, fairly tame deer, otter, and all the others generally found in the area. 

Deer at Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary from Carl Thien on Vimeo.

And through it all, the river.