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Timber harvesting near Overlook Reservoir


Last summer people accustomed to hiking around the Crocker Conservation area in Fitchburg, Mass., were upset to discover the land had been extensively logged and huge piles of debris blocked the trails.

The North County Land Trust, which manages the property, promised things would be cleaned up by the end of the year. So, this afternoon I thought I’d take a walk out there to see how matters stood.

Access is still blocked.

Instead of brush piles, however, the area is ringed with Do No Enter signs. Going around the fringes, it’s obvious that even more logging has taken place. The landscape has been mauled by heavy equipment, making it look more like a construction zone than the selective timber harvesting program it’s supposed to be.

It’s difficult to tell from a distance, but many of the logs I could see piled up hardly looked like they were from diseased trees, one of the reasons given for the harvesting. They look like they could yield several hundred board feet of good lumber. So my question is, who will get the proceeds?


An injured Mourning Dove


I very nearly stepped on a bird the other day when I was out taking a walk, a pretty rare occurrence. Once, many years ago, a Ruffed Grouse flew up right in front of me, flapping its wings furiously just a foot or so away then dropping to the ground as if it had a broken wing.

Satisfied that I was suitably startled, it flew off. It was only later that I realized that it probably had young chicks nearby and the whole display was meant to distract me long enough for them to go hide. It worked.

No so this time.

This was a Mourning Dove, camouflaged almost perfectly among the fallen leaves. The bird was really injured. It was able to fly a little – just far enough to try to find another hiding place. I was able to find it fairly easily.

It didn’t have any obvious wounds. The wing injury seemed to be fairly minor, since it could fly somewhat, albeit severely limited.

The prospects of an injured bird surviving in the wild are pretty dim. I contemplated taking it home, where I might be able to let it recuperate in safety until the injury healed. Unfortunately I didn’t have any good way of getting it home without running the risk of stressing it out and causing more injury.

My quandary was solved when it flew off deeper into a tangle of brush. About the best I could do was hope it found a place safe enough to give it time to recover.

The small channel in the picture above caught my eye as I was hiking around Townsend State Forest this afternoon. It led out from one of a chain of small ponds and ran for about 10 yards before ending abruptly. The banks seemed a little too straight to be accidental, and at its mouth there were two rows of stones along the sides. The water level was unusually low, exposing features I’d never noticed before.

I puzzled about it for a while, and then realized these might be the remains of an old fish-weir, a kind of fish trap used both by Native Americans and early settlers. It’s a method of fishing that’s been used since at least the Bronze Age, by many different cultures.

A curious fish swims into the channel where sticks would be placed in such a way that the fish couldn’t get out again, and so it could easily be caught.

The 2,700-acre state forest, which extends from the NH border south to Rte. 119, is criss-crossed with a network of trails and old wagon roads. The area is dotted with old cellar-holes, including one I found less than 50 yards from this spot. So the time and place seem to fit.

I had my own experience with a fish trap some 40 years ago when I was in Finland. Friends of mine invited me to stay for awhile at their cabin on Kyyvesi, a lake in the southeastern part of the country. They had cut a channel almost exactly like this one and kept a school of minnows to lure larger fish in.

I would check it from time to time, and every so often there would be a pike or pickerel or some other good fish looking for a way out and all I had to do was scoop it up with a net. Not exactly sporting, but an easy way to get a fish dinner.

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