May at the Marsh

A mild and showery afternoon discouraged human visitors at our local wetland preserve but, if anything, seemed to increase the activity of its natural residents. Cricket frogs chirped from the shallows, painted turtles lounged on half-submerged logs and green-backed herons moved about the marsh, searching for good fishing spots. A bluebird struggled with a large caterpillar on the graveled pathway, eastern kingbirds chased one another across the wet meadows and great crested flycatchers called from the woodland border.

Settled in for the summer, tree swallows guarded their nest boxes or strafed the seasonal lake, feasting on insects. A great blue heron stalked the shallows, indigo buntings flashed among the thickets and a quintet of turkey vultures soared overhead. But the highlight of today's visit was a mass exodus of tiny tree frogs, making their way from their wetland hatcheries to moist recesses of the surrounding woods; thousands were crossing the graveled trail, potential victims of unwary hikers or opportunistic birds and snakes.

Regardless of the season, wetlands never fail to provide plenty of entertainment for the naturalist. And for those of us who appreciate solitude, foul conditions can make the visit even more enjoyable.