In 2003, Bill Sargent bought a big pink house in Ipswich, Massachusetts. His home sits on what is known as the Great Marsh, a fascinating patch of wetland shared by Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Sargent received a grant to study some of the rare and endangered ground-nesting birds that inhabit the public land adjacent to his property.
Organized by the seasons of the year, The House on Ipswich Marsh features Sargent’s trademark interplay of information about the natural world, ecology, and politics. In “Spring,” the reader learns about the geological history of the Marsh; the migration patterns of bobolinks; the courtship flights of woodcocks; ticks and Lyme disease; the mating of horseshoe crabs and the underwater arrival of zooplankton, fish eggs, and moon jellyfish. “Summer” introduces plate tectonics and glaciers; sea level rise and glacial rebound; diving at night among lobsters and stone crabs; a day on Crane’s Beach; and a bike trip on Argilla Road. “Autumn” illuminates fishing; the natural and cultural history of Hog Island; harvest time on Appelton Farm; and a Native American Thanksgiving. “Winter” describes the formation of dunes and sandbars; the mating behavior of seals; coyote hunting deer at night; and a late-winter blizzard in which Sargent spies a red-tailed hawk, waiting, like the author, for the return of spring.