“The birds are two weeks early this year!” said the woman at the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary in Topsfield when we paid our $4 entrance fee. Since the sanctuary is run by the Mass Audubon Society, we feigned the requisite enthusiasm, though we are decidedly not birders. (I grew up next to John James Audubon’s first home in America but I can’t tell a sparrow from a thrush. And Mr. Pinault gets pitifully excited whenever he sees a robin, which are unknown in Europe.) Indeed, New England is awash in early spring; I’ve given up all hope of more snow and it’s not even May yet.
The sanctuary teemed with wildlife, owing to the abundant water source (the river) to hydrate the meadows, swamps, and woodlands. Not 5 minutes into our walk, we came across this huge-ass toad hanging out near a vernal pond. Actually, I suspect this is just a normal frog, but given its size and its wartiness, I’ll try to sound authoritative and call it a toad.
Nearby was a comely turtle. Again, I’m no expert in reptilian identification, but I remember hearing that yellow and red stripes mean it is a painted turtle. This guy was preparing to abscond into the pond because the photographer was getting too close.
And… snakes alive! To get this picture of a garter snake, Mr. Pinault had me tip-toe into the woods to try and flush out the snake towards the camera. As I got closer and closer to the snake, it refused to move. “Um, why aren’t you fleeing?” I demanded as its tongue flailed out rapidly. Later, we saw a black snake swimming in a pond, which gave me a new fear.
Of course, a ton of birds flocked to the area, but they proved harder to photograph. By the time Mr.Pinault would locate the bird in his lens and manual focus the camera, the bird would be gone. I never realized how skittish birds are, especially the beautiful big ones.
After a late lunch in downtown Ipswich, we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon at nearby Crane’s Beach, which was surprisingly well-attended with beach-goers for late April. We arrived at low-tide and walked along the shoreline. Mr. Pinault practiced his Impressionism photography…
While I practiced my imperfect Crane pose (it being Crane’s beach and all). In this picture, my knees aren’t nearly as high up on my arms as they should be, so it’s actually Crow pose. That’s okay though, because that means Mr.Pinault finally got a picture of a big bird.