Afternoon at Daniel Webster

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Leaving Hull I hopped back on RT 3 to head down a couple of exits to RT 139, Marshfield. When I pulled into the small dirt lot at the Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary there were 3 other cars there already so I knew I was going to have company. I didn’t have my hiking boots since this was an unplanned visit but you really don’t need them. It’s easy walking. I just like them because of the support they provide my weak left ankle. But I did have my walking pole. As I was putting my stuff together a big delivery truck pulled in. The driver got out and asked me what I’d seen today. I told him I had just arrived. He said he’d seen osprey hunting over Webster Pond. He said he hadn’t seen osprey here in years and never this early in the season.

I told him that Riverquest on the Connecticut River had sent me an email about Osprey Watching Trips but he just dismissed my comment. Later, when I reviewed the Audubon literature I picked up in the entry building I noticed that it addressed the question of Osprey in the sanctuary.

The osprey pole at the sanctuary has been occupied since 1990 and was one of the first successful nests on the South Shore after a dramatic decrease in the osprey population during the 1950’s and 60’s.”

I wish I had known that when he was telling me about it.

Anyway, I was ready to start walking. The network of trails amount to 2.2 miles. The main trail is a straight shot right through a field and up a little hill to the Foxhill Observation platform. That was my ultimate destination today but I wasn’t going to take the direct route. I took the right fork past the Purple Martin Colony. I could see that the Audubon Society had been busy. The hanging gourds that will serve the birds as a home had been hung. They hadn’t been put out when I was here a few weeks ago.

I spotted a red winged blackbird in the reeds by Webster Pond. The Canadian geese were everywhere as usual while a mute swan swam tranquilly on the far side of the pond. There were some smaller ducks but they were too far away for me to identify.

I stuck my head in the observation blind but there was nothing on the wet panne so I didn’t linger. As is my usual habit I took the next right again through the Red Maple Swamp on the Secret Trail. This leads into the meadow where I saw a deer the first time I visited the sanctuary. Today the meadow was empty.

I took a turn around the loop trail. When I got back on the main trail I met one of the other visitors heading in the opposite direction and really bookin’ it. He slowed long enough to say “ nice day” and then he was gone. I continued on at a more leisurely and considerable quieter pace. I was pretty sure any chance of seeing any animals was out of the question now but I headed up to the observation platform anyway.

Along the way I experimented with silhouettes using trees , poles and fences posts as subjects.

Once at the observation platform I saw a hawk that I didn’t recognize. I watched it for close to 20 minutes but it never came close enough for me to get an ID on it. Even with my camera at 200mm it just wasn’t clear enough for me. Another large bird flew an erratic path close to the ground. I’m guessing another hawk because of it’s size but it was also too far away for a picture or ID and I didn’t recognize that flying pattern. I can’t wait till I get that big lens!


I checked the sun and it was still pretty high in the sky even though it was past 5 pm. I headed over to the Green Harbor River or as it shows on the sanctuary maps, River Walk. Something moved near the woods just as I started down the trail. As I was standing there trying to make it out I met another of the visitors. This one was also “out for a brisk walk”. When I turned back to look again whatever I had seen was gone. I followed Mr. “Brisk Walk” back out to the main trail. He was way ahead of me. I slowed down to let him get even farther ahead in hopes that his commotion would fade and whatever animals might be around might come back out.

I had now reached the other observation blind. I peeked in there and saw that some ducks had landed in the panne but they were on the other side near the first blind. I decided to walk the loop again so I started around again.

The swan, geese and red winged black birds were still at Webster Pond. I didn’t see any osprey but some black birds scolded me as I walked past. I went into the blind again but the ducks were in heavy shadow so I still couldn’t get an ID. I think they might have been mallards but can’t be sure. With dusk approaching I didn’t linger because I wanted to get back up to the Foxhill observation platform. I made my right turn into the Red Maple Swamp and then I saw them. Through the bare tree branches I could see the little meadow and it was filled with deer. It wasn’t just one this time. I could see 6-8 as I peaked through the trees. I moved as slowly and quietly as I could, stopping every time I saw a head pop up.

Eventually I made my way to the edge of the meadow. That was when some of them spooked, white tails flying but at least 4 stayed behind and just stared at me. Pretty soon the ones that had run came back out. I hardly dared to breathe. I tried to work my way a little closer so I could get a decent picture in the dimming light and they did let me cover quite a bit of ground but it was still too dim for a decent picture.

Eventually they trotted off into the woods and I headed on up to the observation platform. I stopped briefly on the boardwalk and spotted them traveling parallel to me through the woods.

Back out in the main field the sun was starting to set and putting on an amazing display. Even if the deer pictures were a disappointment, the sunset was not. At Foxhill I spotted more deer but here they, like the hawks earlier were too far away for photos, but I was surrounded by them . There were 3 deer in front of me, another group of 5 off to my right and a small bunch of 3 or 4 almost behind me. They were the closest but they also had some rocks and brush between us so no photo op there.Well, I got my wish. I saw some deer. I got some pictures and it was time to head home. I love this place !

The wind had come up and it was getting cold as well as dark so I started hoofing it back to the parking area. For a day that looked like it was going to be a total loss, it turned into pretty good day.

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