There are many reasons to visit Lowell. I just never thought of wildlife watching as one of them. When I moved to Lowell two months ago from a wilderness park in Southeast Alaska, I thought I was leaving nature behind. What I have discovered in my brief tenure at Lowell National Historical Park is that nature can be found everywhere. You might think of parks like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon as places to commune with the natural world. It may be true that city parks do not afford the same kind of natural quiet and tranquility as national parks like Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon. However, what Lowell lacks in wilderness it more than makes up for in wildness. You can witness the wonder of the more than human world everywhere, even in the city. You have only to open your heart, mind, and senses.
My time here may be just beginning, but already I have quite a growing list of wildlife sightings from this urban environment. Just this week, I witnessed a yellow warbler singing and fly catching in the visitor center parking lot in the heart of Lowell. Chimney swifts chatter, dive, and summersault through the air above the historic buildings. A resident red-tailed hawk can even be found perched on the compass that sits atop the clock tower at the Boott Cotton Mill Museum!
House sparrows (formerly weaver finch) are old world birds native to Europe and not entirely friendly to their native songbird neighbors. Yet, there is something I have to admire about any animal who is able to adapt and thrive in an area that is heavily populated and developed by people. It is a dog eat dog world out there, especially for our more than human neighbors. I often find the fragile bodies of baby birds whose tenure on this planet was far too brief. So, when I see birds thriving, I feel inspired to give a little cheer: “Go, little sparrows, go!”
I could hear peeping as I walked by this hidden nesting spot on Kirk Street!
Wherever we find ourselves in the world, we are never alone. It can be easy to walk around in a human bubble, unaware of the many critters who may also call the area home. I think one natural human instinct can be to lend a helping hand when this world presents itself to us. A couple of weeks ago, visitors walked up to the front desk at our Visitor Center and set a small, cardboard box on the counter. “Please don’t let there be kittens in there,” I thought to myself, knowing that I would likely take them home if there were. Not to worry, there was a critter of another variety inside–three baby mallard ducklings. It took the better part of the day to find a home for them.
Teachable moment here is that often critter parents have reasons for leaving their babes alone. Mama harbor seals leave their young in the intertidal zone when the tide goes out so baby is safe while mom hunts for the next meal. Concerned human citizens will gather up said baby seal and deliver it to the nearest humane society, leaving their human smell and often permanently severing ties with mom.
In this instance, what could I do but accept those babies and do my best to find a safe place for them. Adoption success happened a few hours later by an employee at a local restaurant who also happened to be a student of sustainable agriculture and food systems. Destiny takes a hand!
Can you find the dinosaur descendent in this photograph? This great blue heron is hanging out amid the woody debris and debris of a less “natural” origin at the Swamp Locks Gatehouse near the Visitor Center.
As you can sense, Lowell is teeming with life, and I intend to find it. I invite you to join me in an urban nature adventure by visiting this blog. Together, we can explore historic downtown Lowell, greenspace, industrial canyons and discover the more than human world of this industrial city!