It wasn't a great day for photography. I had slept in. In doing so I had missed most of the Canada Geese taking off. The sun was getting high so the light was "Eh". There was a bit of wind, so most of the animals were sheltered on the lee side of the reeds, generally far away from the trails. Finally, I just wasn't in that great photography zone.
All was not lost. I learned many things. The trails were all clear, dry, and frozen, except for the spillway into the upper impoundment. Here the stepping stones were starting to appear, but boots were still necessary. Even the US F&WS folks were able to circumnavigate the refuge in their truck.
The muskrats are starting to become active. You can see them swimming and foraging for food. I saw my first turtle of the turtle of the year, sunning itself on a rock. Unfortunately, it was deep in some brambles, preventing all attempts to photograph it. This Tufted Titmouse was momentarily seeking shelter from the breeze, while enjoying the sun.
The usual duck suspects were still around, though generally out of range. I did manage to get my first photo of the year of a Green-winged Teal. Several wood ducks saw me, before I saw them, taking flight and torturing me with their cry as they departed. The one exception to birds being difficult birds to photograph today was a pair of Mallards that were feeding next to the path, near one of the benches, totally unphased by the passers by.
I had a brief conversation with someone who emotionally shared that he was moving to California, and that today was his last visit to Great Meadows and that he was going to miss visiting this place. This further reinforced that GMNWR is a special place for many who visit.
On the way back to the parking lot, I noticed this tree that must be one of the tower beavers' favorite foods. The bark was eaten off for a good foot to eighteen inches all around the trunk. I also noticed that across the trail near the tree was an aquatic path that the beaver has worn into the reeds headed straight towards their lodge.