salt marsh memories

7th Grade Class Trip
Mansfield Middle School (1969-70)
Barn Island Wildlife Management Area

Salt marshes have a long memory. Humans have a short one. Like sponges, salt marshes hold onto things. But for us, it’s out of sight, out of mind.
~ Tim Traver
(Sippewissett: Or, Life on a Salt Marsh)

4.12.23 ~ Barn Island Wildlife Management Area

Many years ago, my 7th grade class traveled for an hour-long ride to a field trip (48 miles away) on Barn Island on the Connecticut shoreline. Little did I know I would one day move down here to live in a neighboring town. It wasn’t until February of 2019, though, when my friend Janet suggested we take a winter walk here, that I got around to visiting it again. See: winter in the marsh. I took Tim there during the pandemic in December of 2020 when we were looking for isolated places to walk: See: reflections. So we decided to visit one last time before the big move. There is a very long path that crosses the marsh.

It was low tide and the water level in the tidal creeks was lower than it was on my other visits. I noticed a lot of clams and mussels in the exposed mud and clinging to the creek banks. The only waterbird we saw was a mallard but we encountered a lot of people and dogs, which was surprising mid-week. The woods beckoned from the other end of the path. Then we retraced our steps.

Barn Island is the largest and single most ecologically diverse coastal Wildlife Management Area in Connecticut. With over 60 years of continuous wetland research at this site, Barn Island provides a rare window into long-term marsh development both before and after restoration efforts. Its 1,024 acres are marked by centuries of cultural and biological history, once a vital resource for early colonial settlers and Native Americans and now for scientists and outdoorsmen. Its diverse habitats support rare plants and animals which add to its rich ecological resource base. Barn Island’s sprawling landscape sustains a wide variety of ecosystems and recreational activities; it consists of salt and brackish marshes, one of the state’s largest coastal forests, hilly uplands, intertidal flats, sandy beach, and a rare sea-level fen.
~ Long Island Sound Study website

looking north from the path
mussels in the mud
one mallard in the marsh

The marsh is a microcosm of the world. With its peat meadows, meandering tidal creeks, microbes and mud, at the living, breathing edge of continent and ocean, it seems that life must have started here. Every microcomponent contributes to the whole. Discovering how this system works was a biogeochemical pursuit that took years and is ongoing.
~ Tim Traver
(Sippewissett: Or, Life on a Salt Marsh)

mussels and clams clinging to the tidal creek bank

In the above picture, looking south from the path, dock pilings can be seen in the distance. There is a boat landing there, on Little Narragansett Bay. We decided to drive down there and get a picture of the salt marsh from the dock. A solitary herring gull was quietly sunning himself on the dock when we arrived. He stayed put the whole time I was there.

The next picture is looking north to the salt marsh (between the woodlands) from the dock on Little Narragansett Bay. There are some people walking along the path that crosses the marsh, where we had taken our walk and had taken pictures. I zoomed in on them in the second picture, as much as possible.

On the way home we spotted two ospreys above a much smaller marsh near Paffard Woods, a preserve of the Avalonia Land Conservancy. We pulled over on the very busy road and tried my luck with the zoom lens. Unfortunately it was a very windy day and the car was shaking a lot.

osprey at home
having a fish dinner
stretching the wings
sharing a meal

We stopped again on the way home to pick up a cod loin for dinner and wondered what kind of fish we will find plentiful in North Carolina. Also, living by the sea it is breezy and windy here more often than it is calm. I started wondering what the wind will be like in our new inland home. And then we got back to our sorting and packing…

23 thoughts on “salt marsh memories”

  1. Your mempries are wonderful. Thanks for sharing them. It definitely is hard to relocate when you are older. I hope you new home with new adventures and new memories enriches your lives.

    1. Thank you, Peggy. Having lived in this area for 47+ years the prospect of moving over 600 miles away seems pretty daunting at times but it will be worth it for those new adventures and memories.

    1. Sometimes I scroll through old blog post memories the same way I flip through old photo albums of pictures of my kids when they were small. 🙂

  2. Very interesting story line, Barbara! I’ve only seen one salt March when I was on my mid-twenties. The mussels and clams clinging to the tidal creek bank also quite interesting to me. And of course, I’m glad that you didn’t overlook the solo seagull. The ospreys home is a fun sight to watch them making their way through life.

    I understand your thoughts about wind. I was looking out my window yesterday first thinking that I couldn’t see wind. Then I corrected my thought as I could see the trees movements which was a way to see wind. And I could see things moving on the ground and locked gates swinging back and forth. I’m confident that there will be similar winds in your new home environment (and fish too)!

    1. I won’t be seeing any more salt marshes in the foreseeable future, but there are so many things I’ve never seen in my life, like a desert or a prairie. The earth is too big and beautiful to ever see enough of it! One thing I am glad of though, is that when we moved to Greece in my teens my parents took us there in a ship, crossing the Atlantic. Seeing nothing but ocean surrounding us day after day made a big impression on me and changed my perspective about the world.

      I grew up inland about 50 miles north of here. It was not as windy as it is down here on the shoreline!!! I can’t remember noticing much wind in NC when visiting my daughter in the past. One thing I do remember is the rolling thunder I’d often hear in the middle of the night, it seemed to go on forever. Up here we get a lot of clap thunder and the storms move through very quickly.

      I suppose we can get fresh fish flown in down there but I will miss sitting outside overlooking the water and having fresh local fish and chips in the summer!

  3. Wait. I know I’m way behind, so I’ve just read your last six posts (very cute) and marveled at your photos. The marsh! The osprey! The photo from when you were in middle school!!! Wowee. But then at the end, the line about moving. To North Carolina? I really missed some great posts. Sorry. Best of luck with your packing. Why NC??

    1. Thank you, Pam! We’re moving to North Carolina to be near our grandchildren. Traveling back and forth has been so daunting and difficult and Tim’s desire to be close to our family has recently grown stronger than his dislike of the sub-tropical climate down there. Though I will miss my beloved New England terribly I’m looking forward to seeing the little ones much more frequently!!!

        1. Thanks for rekindling the wonderful vision of living near the grandchildren! 💙 It’s easy to forget the reason for the move when bogged down in the logistics of making it happen.

  4. I’m happy that you’re taking us along on your last visits to these beloved spots. I like Traver’s idea that: “Every microcomponent contributes to the whole.” In some ways that translates to the reasoning behind blogging. Every post allows you to create a journey that is all of you.

    1. How true, Ally. Every post is a small contribution to the whole world of the blogger, as each blog is an offering to the blogosphere, which in turn is an atom in the vast universe of human connection. So many things to share and explore on that journey.

  5. I am glad you are making the most of your visits to your favorite stomping grounds Barbara – it will keep the memories fresh for you after you are transplanted to a different state, with a different landscape and climate. I like your field trip pic here – who was waving? I like your seagull just relaxing and your up-close Mallard as well. The mussels were interesting looking and looked perfect for the beachy post. I like this venue and I went back to your earlier posts – the last one I had seen and commented on and the other (earlier) one, before we followed one another, I was unable to leave a comment – odd, but I liked the wintry pics and the Heron standing absolutely still like a statue with its foot up and I liked the Loon with its Winter plumage. That Loon’s plumage meant, without the identifiable head and body low down in the water, I might not have identified it. I have never seen a Loon, just pics of it and remember its calls years ago when my parents rented a cottage in northern Michigan. The Loons drove us crazy as did the Bull Moose calling one another in the darkness, but it was still nice being inside but having that “out-in-the-wilderness” feel.

    1. I’m pretty sure that was my middle school best friend waving. 🙂 That is odd that you couldn’t leave a comment on the older post, I hope it was a temporary bug. I think that wintery walk there was my favorite, even though we were freezing. There is something about the stark beauty of winter that tugs at my heart, even though the cold has been getting harder and harder for me to cope with each passing year. I’ve never been to Barn Island in the summer because I’ve read that the mosquitoes are unbearable, even with repellent. But I do wonder what birds could be seen at that time of year. I wonder what a bull moose call sounds like! We have coyotes here howling at night and sometimes we see one in the road. On the news recently, here in Connecticut, a 74-year-old woman was bitten by a bear in broad daylight when she was out walking her dog. The bear situation here is out of control!

      1. I don’t know why I couldn’t do a comment and I was not on your actual site where that happens sometimes. My friend Ann Marie said she could no longer comment when she gets her post by e-mail. So now I send her the link to the post so she can read and comment like before. I have gone to Heritage Park in the Winter – the red schoolhouse and the red metal heart in the Gardens against the white snow is beautiful. I had two issues going out in Winter and had low tire pressure monitor light come on. I have to learn how to fill my tires – I bought a machine, but need to learn how to use it. I kept going to the tire store to ask them to fill it – I hate having to do that. I didn’t realize you would have bears that close – wow, that is scary. We are getting more and more coyote. I have a photo of one running past a children’s park about a mile from my house. We have a tick infestation already and will get worse this Summer. Mosquitoes are worrisome too … have to wear long sleeves and pants to try to stay safe.

        1. Yeah, I heard on the news that our winter was so mild that most of the ticks survived it and are out in full force now. Sigh. Apparently they are especially harmful to deer fawns, weakening them and blinding them and leading to a lot of mortality. So much is off balance and we only have ourselves to blame.

          1. Oh how awful with the deer fawns that you and I both enjoy seeing so much. I saw a quote I’m going to use in next week’s post about the environment and mankind – it’s not very flattering.

          2. It’s sad that we have to come to terms with all that we’ve done to this beautiful planet. I’m curious to see which quote you’ve found.

          3. I agree with you Barbara. I went into my draft post and got the quote … I will have two weeks of posts in a row assocciated with Earth Day and I think I have to use it for the post on May 8th as the beginning of the month is the new calendar page and has its own quote. I think this quote was from Dave’s Garden. A friend of mine posted it on Facebook and she follows that gardening site, but it’s a little harsh, so that’s why I am wavering on it:

            “When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.”
            —Alanis Obomsawin

          4. It may be harsh but sadly, it rings true. 🙁 Sometimes it feels like it is already too late, yet some encouraging things are happening. We’ll have to see how it plays out…

  6. What a beautiful post, filled with so many memories! So glad you’re doing some last visits inbetween the pack/sorting. It is such a wonderful stress release to visit nature as you so know, I’ve been doing a lot of it myself lately. Oh, got to say, just love those Osprey shots, well done!

    1. Thank you so much, Donna! It was so exciting to see the osprey pair at their nest and enjoying their fish dinner together. I just wish there was a safer place to stop and spend some time photographing them. It would be fun to catch a chick peering over the edge of the nest — one can always dream. 🙂

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