I recently made what has become an annual conservation photography trip to Plymouth County, Massachusetts, for the Wildlands Trust, a very active land trust currently based in Duxbury.
Once a year they have me spend a day or two visiting some of the land they have helped to conserve over the years, and I am never disappointed to see what they have accomplished in this beautiful, but growing part of the state. On my recent visit, I photographed a diverse group of habitats – open fields, tidal marshes, hardwood forests, and woodland ponds.
What I like about local land trusts like Wildlands Trust is that they successfully conserve open space in primarily non-confrontational ways. Most local land trust projects involve conserving land from willing landowners who either sell their land outright, or sell conservation easements that allow them to retain title to their land, while preventing future development. These projects are often accomplished in conjunction with local governments that want to see open space protected in their communities.
In populous states like Massachusetts, land trust projects usually involve relatively small parcels of land – a few hundred acres at most – but they are nonetheless very important as they often protect critical wildlife habitat and almost always conserve open space that has a positive effect on the quality of life for the local community. Though individual projects are small, over time they can result in contiguous blocks of conservation land that is large enough to provide habitat for healthy and viable wildlife and plant communities.
The Wildland Trust’s Scott MacFaden and I were surprised to see this American Chestnut in their O.W. Stewart Preserve. While these trees were wiped out in the 20th century by chestnut blight, saplings still manage to sprout and live for a few years. This one was the biggest I’ve ever seen in the woods, topping out at about 20 feet tall.
Spring was in full swing on this trip, and I encountered much more wildlife than usual in a day trip like this one. I was able to photograph three species of butterflies in a span of twenty minutes in a field in Marshfield. We also held up traffic to let a snapping turtle cross the road, and watched what could have been an episode of Wild Kingdom, as a red fox hunted down a cottontail rabbit right before our eyes. The one encounter I didn’t get to photograph happened in Brockton in the forest pictured above. What you don’t see hiding in those ferns is a white-tail deer fawn, which I didn’t see either until I almost stepped on it before it leaped up squealing and running for mom. By the time I got my heart out of my throat and my camera to my eye, it was long gone.