As I look out my home office window it seems like I setting in two different seasons. Out the north and east side there is still a coating of snow. I guess maybe four or five inches of crusty snow with some week old or more turkey tracks. Looking west and south far less snow with some bare spots under the white pines and other spots. Teetering on spring maybe. But I know we will be in for a number of false springs over the next six or eight weeks. I'm not going to be fooled by what my eyes see. Now if I hear the spring call of a chick-a-dee, well then, I'll declare spring at hand. No matter how deep the snow is. Won't we all be searching for that glimmer of spring. And boy don't we all need that this year.
Yesterday I took a drive up to Eastman Falls in Franklin. How the Pemigewasset River has lost it's intensity of the raging waters from just ten days ago. I have lived nearly all of my life within the Merrimack River watershed except for a few months in 1973 when I worked in the Upper Valley and lived in Wilmot Flat. So I have witnessed many changes to the rivers over nearly six decades.
The Merrimack River is formed by the joining of the Pemigewasset and the Winnipesaukee Rivers. The Merrimack River is about 120 miles long with around 45 percent in Massachusetts and 55 percent in New Hampshire. Over 3,000 square miles of habitat. Although three of state's largest cities are found along the river I have come to know much of the wildlife habitat that abounds as well. And hasn't the river and its tributaries been cleaned up over the last several decades. As a teen growing up in Londonderry just south of Manchester I recall a river of sewer water. Yes all the cities dumped their untreated swage straight into the river. There is a huge, I'd say eight feet across pipe right near the Fishercat's stadium that flowed full of sewage into the river all through my teens years and into my twenties in the early 1970's. In fact as I worked my way through college at construction in the early 1970's I actually worked on installing the pipes that would be used to pipe the sewage to the treatment plant. The Clean Water Act provided much of the funding for cities to build the treatment plants. And what a dramatic clean-up occurred with all the cities helping to remove the sewage.
Now I did duck hunt the Merrimack River beginning in the 1960's. By the 1980 my family and I were enjoying the very now clean river all summer long with trips to swim, fish and camp out on the river in the Concord area. I have been very fortunate to make lasting memories with my family and friends fishing, hunting, boating, kayaking and camping along the river. And it's not just the Merrimack River that has been cleaned up but the tributaries like the Suncook River which I now have lived for nearly 42 years overlooking the river. Funny how in the 1980's and 90's you'd hardly ever see another person on the river. And now the river has been transformed into a people place. So lots more are discovering our wonderful local rivers.
I have not seen a real freeze up of the Suncook River this winter. We had about a week of what I'd call snow-ice from the mid December heavy snow. Just sections of the river were covered and even the Merrimack River had a few sheets of this ice for about a week. That all went with the Christmas rains and snow melt. In yesterday's drive I saw the Pemmi. the Winni, the Tooky, the Soucook, the Merrimack and the Suncook Rivers totally bare of ice. It has me wondering if this will be the first time in 60 years of watching these rivers that we will have an iceless winter. Just watching and wondering.
I was just recently reading a report by the EPA showing how over 600,000 people NOW use the water from the river for drinking. Another expected quarter million more usurers are expected in the near future. But this study points out that we have not done nearly enough to protect the river by securing the lands that surround the river and the tributaries. Yes we have spent the money needed to clean the rivers up and lots more folks are depending on it as a water source and many, many more are recreating on it now. It is the time to protect this clean water any way we can and that really means stepping up our efforts to protect more of the habitat within the watershed. The one thing this pandemic has sure shown us is the open space and protected lands are good medicine for the pandemic. Never before have we witnessed so many folks recreating in New Hampshire's outdoors. Now is the time to be preparing for the next pandemic by securing more protected lands by state, towns and local conservation groups such as land trusts. I think our goal should be to nearly double the land protected by the state, towns, conservation organizations and land trusts during this decade. Lets get to it!
My turkeys have abandoned me here. I haven't seen one nearby in days. A glance at the framers manure piles locally still shows the turkeys using them some days. Kind of sporadically now. When we had almost all bare ground they abandoned the manure piles for a few days too. My dozen blue jays have not abandoned me nor the titmice, chick-a-dees, nuthatches and cardinals. My juncos vanished a week or more ago.
I think so far so good for our wildlife. The deep fluffy snow lasted about a week. I think most wildlife is moving about and feeding this winter. If the turkeys are a good barometer on how things are surviving, well, they seem to be doing pretty well and are not coming by here for any handouts. Yes I know this is New England and things could change quickly. But I can see that sun just a little higher in the sky by day now. There actually is quit a bit of bare spots that just soak in the warmth making the snow all the harder to stay. And as of right now there is no big snow storm in sight. Temperatures have actually been running above average. Not a bad winter so far for our wildlife.