Category Archives: Wildlife Watch

May 2017 – Wildlife Watch by Marian Harman

If you are trying to tread lightly on the earth, and reduce your carbon footprint, one of the most effective steps you can take is to eliminate palm oil from your life. Palm oil is cheap to produce and is shelf-stable, so is the oil of choice for many companies. But, palm oil production has resulted in the clearing of vast swaths of tropical forests. The Union of Concerned Scientists has been trying to get the word out that the clearing of tropical forests and the establishment of monoculture palm oil plantations destroys critical habitat for many endangered animals and birds. To produce palm oil for our processed foods and body care products, huge areas of forest are

Palm Warbler by Doug Pederson

cut down and the peat land swamps are drained. UCS states, “Destruction of these ecosystems devastates endangered species habitats and contributes to climate change by releasing global warming emissions into the atmosphere….Tropical deforestation…accounts for about ten percent of annual carbon dioxide emissions”. Not only is palm oil production bad for our climate and animal habitat, palm oil is bad for us. It is mostly saturated fat, a food we should avoid for heart health.

Indonesia and Malaysia produce about 85% of the world’s palm oil, which comprises about a third of all vegetable oil produced globally. Orangutans, tigers, rhinoceros, elephants and tropical birds native to these countries face extinction as their habit disappears in cleared areas. Sometimes the forests are seized from indigenous people and forced labor causes many human rights abuses. Widespread burning of tropical forests causes an unhealthy haze that is spreading throughout Southeast Asia, resulting in unhealthy impacts to the residents.

The public has begun to demand deforestation-free and peatland-free palm oil. Some companies have made commitments, at least on paper, to try to source their palm oil more responsibly. UCS wrote their first report on this problem in 2014. In 2015, they produced a scorecard, which rated forty companies on their commitment to responsibly sourcing their palm oil. As a result, some companies have already made the transition, and some others have begun to respond to consumer pressure, and have made commitments to transition to responsibly sourced palm oil by 2021.

The UCS scorecard shows that in the packaged food industry, Nestle, Dannon, Kellogg’s, ConAgra (Act 11 Popcorn, Marie Callender’s), Unilever (Ben and Jerry’s, Popsicle, Slimfast), Pepsico, and General Mills have made a strong commitment to responsibly source their palm oil. Kraft has made no commitment. In the Personal care industry, Colgate, Henkel (Dial, Right Guard), P&G, L’Oreal, and Reckitt Benckiser (Veet, Clearasil) have made a strong commitment, while Estee Lauder, Avon and Clorox, which makes Burt’s Bees, have made little or no commitment. In fast food companies, only Dunkin Donuts (including Baskin-Robbins) has made a strong commitment to protection. Among grocery store brands, only Safeway Organic, Safeway Select, and Safeway Care have made a strong commitment.

You can see the complete scorecard at www.ucsusa.com. I am going to try to read ingredients and avoid palm oil altogether, especially in processed food, since I don’t need the saturated fat. And I can be an informed consumer and only buy products produced by companies that have made a commitment to protect the environment. Consumer pressure does work. I guess that means I will have to find a substitute for Burt’s Bees products.

Many thanks to all flora and fauna reporters for the month of May. Please send reports by June 26 for inclusion in next month’s column. You can write me at 10 Chamberlain Rd., call me at 692-3907, or e-mail me at MarianCHarman@verizon.net.


Late April Reports:

Dot Mooney, Monadnock Dr. April 22, a bear paid a visit to my feeders overnight–no real damage, just made a mess. Two cute chipping sparrows on deck. April 23, under Parkhurst power lines: bright dandelions blooming, soft leaves of mullein emerging. Nearby, chickadees, blue jays, goldfinches, pine warbler, chipping sparrow, titmice, downy woodpecker, white-breasted nuthatch, two towhees. Near my door step, same birds as well as doves, phoebe, flicker, grackles, red-bellied woodpecker and one late junco. A turkey hen limping around on back lawn. April 28, Howard Rd. wetland water deeper now. A few turtles in high sunny spots, small muskrat swam quietly by, heard a Canada goose and first catbird this year. Watched several tree swallows dipping through the air low over the water, garlic mustard in bloom.

Debbie Prato, Hayrick Lane. April 30, two cottontail rabbits, Baltimore orioles, white-crowned sparrows, male rose-breasted grosbeak, catbirds.

Marian/Bill Harman, Chamberlain Rd. April 30, first oriole and first catbird, here–so early!

May Reports:

Ginger Dries, Sherwood Dr. May 1, the bear hit the feeders again, nothing since. May 5, first hummers. May 22, a lone deer on the hill. May 24, female turkey under feeders. Also, an American redstart in a shrub in the yard. We have had Baltimore orioles, rose-breasted grosbeaks, catbird nest in the rose bush, robin nest in the cherry, sparrows nesting in the rain spouts. The wren is singing everywhere. Two or three bunnies, lots of squirrels.

rose bush, robin nest in the cherry, house sparrows nesting in the rainspouts, three bunnies, lots of squirrels. May 24, American redstart in yard.

Dot Mooney, Monadnock Dr. May 2, two male orioles in trees. May 3, one handsome male bluebird perched on railing, nesting nearby. Male rose-breasted grosbeak on suet, family of downies on deck, the three youngsters being fed bits of suet. May 4, at Howard Rd. wetland, heard a common yellowthroat, flicker, mallard and catbird making an amazing variety of calls. Also saw prairie warbler, towhee, robin, house wren, song sparrow and chestnut-sided warbler. May 5, cooper’s hawk swooped through front lawn area trying to catch a bird at feeder, had no luck. May 6, great blue heron landed on lawn along back woods, wandered around a bit. The nearby beaver pond has many heron nests. May 7, catbirds visiting suet feeder, two male rose-breasted grosbeaks on shelled sunflower together. May 12, a downy woodpecker on suet until he was nudged out by a hairy woodpecker. May 14, a male white-crowned sparrow under feeder. I don’t remember seeing one before–like a white-throated, without the white throat and with a bit of yellow over bill, probably on his way north. May 17, perky little house wren still calling all day. Broad-winged hawk circling over woods. May 19, baby robin at nest remained on edge a long time refusing to budge, until we went away. There was one unhatched blue egg in nest. May 20, under power lines on Parkhurst: catbird, flicker, house wren, prairie warbler, pine warbler, indigo bunting, blue-winged warbler, common yellowthroat. Heard a red-eyed vireo in back woods. May 22, chokeberry trees blooming out back and the large honeysuckle thicket by the woods is covered with blossoms. The great blue heron returned, walked along to my place and then turned around and flew off. May 23, out back I can hear the red-eyed vireo and a great- crested flycatcher. Early afternoon, the heron landed in the same place on the lawn, but this time three tom turkeys spotted him and promptly began to run across the grass toward him. He hurriedly took off. “It seemed to take a while but suddenly everything is green again and there are beautiful blossoms everywhere….no time is lovelier than May.”

Debbie Prato, Hayrick Lane. May 2, Canada geese, mallards, male ruby-throated hummingbird. May 11, tree swallows, mockingbird. May 15, garter snake, hummingbirds, cottontail rabbit, goldfinches, house finches, chickadees, tufted titmice. May 22, deer.

Marian/Bill Harman, Chamberlain Rd. May 2, whippoorwill heard across the street this evening-a first. May 4, yellow warbler, rose-breasted grosbeak and hummingbirds all here today. May 6, boy scout bird walk at

Emmet land: ovenbird, goldfinch, titmouse, chickadee, chipping sparrow, pine warbler heard, red-winged blackbirds, common yellowthroat, barred owl, robin, catbird, mallards, Canada geese, great blue heron, great egret (!), tree swallow, cardinal, blue jay, grackle, downy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, green frogs and salamander eggs in the vernal pool, red squirrel, starflower, Canada mayflower, wood anemone, blueberry all blooming. May 17, great-crested flycatcher arrived. May 24, oriole singing, wood thrush singing, catbirds, scarlet tanager singing, rose-breasted grosbeak singing.

Bob Price, Stratton Hill Rd. May 3, hummingbirds arrived. May 4, pair of grosbeaks at feeder.

Tom Ennis, Almeria Dr. May 6, only one bee on my apple tree blooms….it seems there are hardly any honey bees around and few bumble bees…”Is there a more important insect to the human race than a honey bee?”

Lisa Groves, Main St. May 6, turkey nesting right next to our garage at the top of a retaining wall. She’s alert and hisses when we come near, and we assume she’s already got eggs there…she’s laying in a patch of goldenrod/blue flag iris/peony.

Nancy Bissell, North Main St. May 7. A dead turkey on the hill, and I was shocked to see vultures at it.

Emily Teller, Texas Rd. May 10, phoebes are back. I love their mossy nests.

Mau Fernandes, at Miller School. May 18, we have started the bird feeder program from the Westford Conservation Trust. Today we saw cardinal, goldfinch, house sparrow and white-breasted nuthatch [Congratulations 2nd graders!-MH]

Len Palmer, Trust Bird Walk at Emmet Land. May 13, pine warbler, several ovenbirds, titmouse, chickadee, blue jay, robin, downy woodpecker, pileated woodpecker, several common yellowthroats, about four Baltimore orioles, pair of warbling vireos, red-winged blackbirds, cowbirds, grackles, Canada geese, spotted sandpiper, brown creeper, cardinal, goldfinches, starflower, wood anemone, marsh marigold, sarsaparilla all blooming.

Elana Schreiber, at Main St. May 21. I saw a bobcat crossing the street from the Tom Paul trail to Town Hall. It was wonderful to see. Also, gray fox crossed Graniteville Rd. into town vegetable garden area.

Cindy Franklin, Heywood Rd. May 23, black bear quite close to house, looked like a young adult. He had large yellow tags in both ears.

Rosemarie Koester, Providence Rd. May report: two pairs of blue jays, one pair of cardinals, red-winged blackbirds male and female, grackles, goldfinch, house finch, chickadees, titmouse, rose-breasted grosbeak male, robins, downy woodpecker, hummingbirds showed up first week in May, hawk circling overhead, group of turkeys, two males courting a few females, plus the partially white turkey, several rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks (less than last year), skunk cabbage by the brook.

Kirsten Collins, Hildreth St. May 24, a baby owl was rescued from the middle of Hildreth St. Two people picked it up and put it in the woods.

March 2017 – Wildlife Watch by Marian Harman

To eat a healthy diet, you need to eat organic. That is the message from the Cornucopia Institute (www://cornucopia.org). But the consumer needs to be careful, because not everything labeled “organic” is truly healthy or humane. The Cornucopia Institute is a non-profit, based in Wisconsin, which does research and investigation into agricultural and food issues. It provides information to family farmers and consumers. The website states, “We support economic justice for the family-scale farming community-partnered with consumers-backing ecologically produced local, organic and authentic food.”

Cornucopia provides the consumer with ratings of organic foods, ranging from dairy products and eggs, to protein bars and soy-based foods. I try to eat organic whenever possible, but I was surprised when I found that some of the organic products I buy are not recommended by Cornucopia.

Organic dairy products are given scores ranging from 0 to 5. Products receiving a 5-star “Outstanding” (or “5-Cow” rating) are local and organic. The only nearby local dairy on the list that has a 5-star rating, is New England Organic Creamery, the Shaw family farm in Dracut. Good for Warren Shaw! Four-cow ratings, “Excellent,” are earned by Organic Valley of Wisconsin and Stonyfield Farm, Vermont. These are widely available. BJ’s, Costco, and Wal-Mart store brands earned only a one-star rating (“Unknown” whether organic or humane). Zero-star ratings (“Ethically deficient”) were earned by Trader Joe’s, Hannaford’s Nature’s Place, Wild Harvest, Applegate Farms, Vermont Organics and Horizen .

Looking at the organic egg ratings, most of the 5-star and 4-star ratings (“5-egg and 4-egg” rating) “Truly pastured or Enhanced Outdoor Access”, are garnered by small local farms. None of these are in our immediate area. One farm with a three-star rating, “Very Good, complying with minimum USDA organic standards”, was Pete and Gerry’s of New Hampshire. Pete and Gerry’s eggs are available at Hannaford Market and elsewhere. Organic Valley has a 2-star rating “Fair, unknown or from confinement farmed hens”. Country Hen of Hubbardston, MA, Costco and Wal-mart eggs also have a 2-star rating. Surprisingly, 365 Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s organic eggs have only a one-star rating. And Wegman’s, Horizen and others garner a zero-star rating.

Cornucopia also rates soy-based foods such at veggie burgers, nuggets and protein bars. They put cautions on many of the foods rated, because the soy protein in them is extracted with hexane, which is a poisonous solvent. Some common brands that are not recommended because of hexane are Boca, Gardenburger, Morningstar Farms, and Trader Joe’s, and some of the Whole Foods products. I was shocked at this, because these are all products I have used.

Recommended safe soy meat alternatives are all Amy’s Kitchen products, Asherah’s Gourmet, Chez Marie, Field Roast, Helen’s Kitchen, Primm, Soy Deli, Tofu Shop, Tofurky and Wildwood products. The only ones of these that I have found locally are Amy’s Kitchen and Tofurky.

Safe protein bars are Alpsnack, Amazing Grass, Bear Fruit, Bumble bar, Garden of Life, Hammer, Larabar, Nutiva, Nature’s Path, Organic Food Bar, Potent Foods, Pure and Pure Bliss, Raw Revolution, Soy Joy, Vega, Wild Bar and Zen Organic Foods. I have found Nature’s Path, and Larabar    locally.

Shockingly, some of the most well-known and easily found energy bars, such as Balance Bar, Clif Bar, Luna Bar, Kind Plus, Odwalla, Power Bar, Pure Protein, Zone Perfect, Whole Foods 365, and others are all hexane-extracted.

Lately, I have been taking my Cornucopia list to the market when I shop.

Many thanks to all flora and fauna reporters for the month of March. Please send reports by April 26 for inclusion in next month’s article. You can call me at 692-3907, write me at 10 Chamberlain Rd., or e-mail me at mariancharman@verizon.net.

 


Late February Reports:

Dot Mooney, Monadnock Dr. February 18, spectacular sunrise. Saw two deer standing quietly at the edge of the woods, they blended in perfectly. I would never have seen them if one had not flicked an ear. February 19, hairy woodpecker on suet lately. One starling on deck, cowbirds around for awhile. The blackbird flocks are arriving. Two deer in yard for seed. February 23, heard two white-breasted nuthatches having a lively conversation in front woods. February 24, loud drilling of a woodpecker in back woods–a spring sound. Blue jay calling, lots of small bird chatter. Female hairy woodpecker on suet, little male downy waiting, four noisy crows in woods, goldfinch singing cheerfully in the sumacs. Five doves in back yard, two turkey vultures soaring. February 25, two red-tailed hawks cruising around over back woods, many years I have seen red-tailed pairs under power lines on Parkhurst Drive, sometimes sitting on a huge nest.

Tom Ennis, Almeria Dr. February 24, first woodcocks heard…”doing their darnedest to impress a gal”.

Marian/Bill Harman, Chamberlain Rd. February 28, woodcock displaying in our pasture. 52 degrees out.

Doug Pederson, Woodland Dr. February 28, pair of house finches in the yard.

 

March Reports :

Phil Day, Graniteville Rd. March 1, peepers heard near Nashoba Ski Area tonight.

Dot Mooney, Monadnock Dr. March 2, cardinal pair on deck, obviously fond of each other. A few juncos around. March 4, today winter pushed its way back in, stopping everything from moving ahead. March 5, lots of mixed blackbirds in yard. One dove on deck, not at all affected by the noisy and nervous blackbird flock. March 6, two doves on deck. In back, eight turkeys, three crows, four juncos, two blue jays. March 10, five crows flew over from back woods in a sudden heavy snowfall. March 12, four crows, seven juncos, two blue jays and a few blackbirds in and out, two turkey vultures around woods. Two chickadees enjoying suet. One ladybug on rug beside me. Where has this little one been? March 15, the large amount of snow we just received is March at its worse for me. Placed handful of diced walnuts on railing, tree sparrows and juncos eating seed, but a nuthatch found the delicious walnuts, soon joined by a chickadee. Growing mixed blackbird flocks make life difficult for the local birds looking for a meal. Gray squirrels are here more often and longer. March 18, walking by woods out front, I listened to a chickadee singing “fee bee” in his best springtime voice. Midafternoon, various birds eating seed–three blue jays, three titmice, two nuthatches, two juncos. Later there were twelve juncos and a dove. March 20, lovely sunny morning–so much cheerful bird song perhaps celebrating because they know winter is nearing the end of its time.

Ron Gemma, Concord Rd. March 3, six to seven robins flipping oak leaves in back yard. March 11, northern flicker at suet feeder. March 12, coyote “direct register” tracks from woods in back yard to feeders. March 13, river otter traveling along bank of a feeder brook to Vine Brook. March 14, nor’easter and bird bonanza! Four or five grackles feeding along edges of brook, four mallards in brook, red-winged blackbird, northern flicker, two downy woodpeckers, one hairy woodpecker one red-bellied woodpecker and two nuthatches at suet feeder. Four tufted titmice and four chickadees at seed feeder, two cardinals and four juncos feeding on deck.  March 23, pileated woodpecker feeding on a dead tree in my swamp.

Diane/Bill Duane, Howard Rd. March 6, two hooting barred owls close to Wright lane. March 12, pair of bluebirds at back yard suet feeder. March 24, great blue heron in back yard.

Doug Pederson, at Forge Pond. March 8, about forty ducks on the pond way out–seem to be mergansers. March 17, ring-necked ducks and mergansers on pond. March 18, 30-40 geese, common and hooded mergansers, ring-necked ducks. Also, a raccoon wandering about. At Beaverbrook Rd. bridge, lots of red-winged blackbirds, great blue heron, hooded mergansers and ring-necked ducks about, red-tailed hawk.

Marian/Bill Harman, Chamberlain Rd. March 12, at least fifty robins on a lawn on Lowell Rd. March 14, at least fifty mixed blackbirds at feeders.

March 24, four turkeys here.

Len Natoli, Flushing Pond Rd. March 13, on Flushing Pond, twelve hooded mergansers, two blue-winged teals, two wood ducks, mallards, Canada geese. Also, pair of bluebirds at our feeder, red-bellied woodpecker, downy woodpecker, cardinals, nuthatches, house and gold finches, titmice, juncos, mourning doves, chickadees–a good day for bird watching!

Barbara Theriault, at Leland Rd. March 14, twenty-five turkeys on one side and five on the other. On Tadmuck Lane, March 21, a bear took down our bird feeders [Barbara sent photos of bear tracks–MH].

Gerry DiBello, Court Rd. March 17, two red-winged blackbirds every day this week. Grackles back as well, as many as thirty-four wild turkey at one time in our back yard.

Donna Cecere, Calista Terrace. March 22, sixteen robins, sixteen red-winged blackbirds, mourning doves, gray squirrels, juncos, chickadees, one very large turkey.

Debbie Prato, Hayrick Lane. March 23, skunk in yard. March 24, eight turkeys. March 25, Canada geese, mallards, white-throated sparrow, red fox, deer, red-winged blackbirds.

Rosemarie Koester, Providence Rd. March 24, bear took down bird feeder on Dana Drive. March 25, juncos still here, red-winged blackbirds have arrived, goldfinches starting to change colors. A few titmice, nuthatches, chickadees, sparrows, pair of cardinals, four blue jays, red-bellied, downy pair and one hairy woodpecker, one crow and one grackle, several doves, purple and house finches, male and female, bluebirds reported by neighbors, heard a barred and great horned owl. Gray squirrels running around. Deer eating euonymous bush in front, several turkeys, mostly male. Coyotes heard at night.

Bob Price, Stratton Hill Rd. March 25, bluebirds are back at our feeder.

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February 2017 – Wildlife Watch by Marian Harman

Hill Orchard by Marian Harman

Farmland is disappearing in Massachusetts. We are losing agricultural lands and farming opportunities at an alarming rate. To try to stem the tide of farmland loss, the Mass Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) established the Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) program in 1979. It was a first-in-the-nation model for many other states. The MDAR website states, “the primary purpose of the APR program is to preserve and protect agricultural land, including designated farmland soils, which are a finite natural resource, from being built upon for non-agricultural purposes or used for any activity detrimental to agriculture, and to maintain APR land values at a level that can be supported by the land’s agricultural uses and potential.”

The APR program works by paying farmers the difference between the full market value of their land and the agricultural value of the land. In that way, the landowner retains ownership of the land, but cannot sell the land for anything but agriculture. The program has worked well. It has protected 800 farms and 68,000 acres in Massachusetts.

Westford has followed the State trend. The 2006 Master Plan states, “From 1985 and 1999, Westford experienced the second greatest loss of agricultural land of any town in Massachusetts.” The recent 2006 Westford Reconnaissance Inventory (2006) completed through the Massachusetts Heritage Landscape Inventory Program cited the loss of active farming and the development of agricultural land as “one of Westford’s key planning issues.” In looking at our Open Space Plans, it is evident that since 1957 we have lost over 90% of our farmland. We have only three protected farms left, totaling 64 acres. These farms are protected by Agricultural Preservation Restrictions and conservation restrictions.

In 1999, the purchase for $525,000 by the Town of an APR on the Drew Parcel on Boston Rd. was completed. Here is what is written in the 1999 Town Report regarding the purchase: “This will assure the preservation of a critical part of the landscape important for maintaining the character of the Town which has been identified by the citizens of the Town as a high priority during the Master Plan update process.” The 2010 Open Space Plan states, “Westford residents place great value on retaining the town’s farming heritage in addition to protecting open space, and the town has successfully preserved several working farms and orchards through agricultural preservation restrictions and municipal purchase.”

Now, a citizens’ petition to be voted on at our March 25 Annual Town Meeting, asks that we give the Selectmen the authority to negotiate with a developer to build a large restaurant, parking lot and septic system on one of our protected agricultural parcels. Such a development would clearly violate the terms of the perpetual protection for that agricultural land. I urge you to attend Town Meeting at Abbot School on March 25 and vote “no” on Article 19. We must stay vigilant in our determination to protect Westford’s farmland. Its the only farmland we will ever have.

Many thanks to all flora and fauna reporters for the month of February. Please send reports by March 26 for inclusion in next month’s column. You can write me at 10 Chamberlain Rd., call me at 692-3907, or e-mail me at mariancharman@verizon.net.


Flora/Fauna Reports for February 2017

Late January Reports:

Dot Mooney, Monadnock Dr. January 25. Just noticed a fawn coming in from the woods. January 26, thirty doves in yard. Two crows around a lot today. January 27, downies happy on their suet holder, titmice and chickadees eating sunflower, juncos in and out. Eventually a pair of house finches, then three blue jays, a house sparrow, a white-breast nuthatch and two tree sparrows. January 28, eastern sky hinting at coming sunrise. One bunny checking out something of interest in snow, then dashing into nearby shrub. A few doves eating seed on ground. Small flock of house finches on deck. Some of the males so brightly colored. Females very distinctive. January 29, one female cowbird, which seemed a bit early for those birds. Later, eight female cowbirds arrived, did not stay long. Early afternoon, hairy woodpecker arrived looking for suet.

February Reports:

Dot Mooney, Monadnock Dr. February 1, six blue jays in and out. A dove just hit glass on porch door, fell over railing and landed with his head literally buried in the soft snow, legs slightly moving. I brought out an empty basket out to place him in until he could clear his head. But, just as I reached for him, he saw me and suddenly burst out of the snow and flew away over the woods. Immediately there was a small coopers’s hawk in hot pursuit, chasing him far over the woods. This hawk was probably the reason he flew into the door, tying to escape…. One of them probably had a good day. February 5, hairy woodpecker on suet, downy waiting his turn. February 7, a tree sparrow on deck, looking for seed in the falling snow. Snow also brought twelve juncos. At 2 p.m., five titmice arrived, and a pair of cardinals bringing their bright color to the white background. One junco visiting a hanging feeder, which I don’t often see. February 8, birds are singing their spring songs, very cheerful tunes. February 14, barely dawn, sun touching treetops on a cold winter morning. Birds arrive early for seed, needing some quick energy to deal with the cold. Several fresh deer tracks leading to seed in yard. February 15, a flock of female cowbirds, and eventually the males, busy on deck. Now and then I see a red-tailed hawk cruising over the woods or power lines. “Watching bird activity around here helps me pass the long winter. Feeding them helps me think I’m doing some good–works for me!”

Bill Harman, Chamberlain Rd. February 6, three deer in the woods. They saw me but didn’t run away. “I told them not to worry”.  February 11, red-winged blackbirds arrived at our feeder.

Ginger Dries, Sherwood Drive. The birds were singing their spring songs while we all shoveled snow. February 8, it had been snowing and fifteen gray squirrels were on all the feeders. Also, red squirrels on feeders and drinking from the water. February 11, twenty-five or more juncos, and some sparrows and doves on ground. Two pairs of cardinals. February 24, three deer on the hill. One is dragging its right back leg–sad. Occasional red-bellied woodpecker and Carolina wren here along with the other woodpeckers. The chickadees are always waiting in the late afternoon for me to fill the feeders.

Doug Pederson, at Forge Pond. February 10, two pairs of hooded mergansers.

February 23, river otter seen at the beach on ice eating a fish, then would go back down to find some more [Doug sent some great photos-MH]. February 24, first red-winged blackbird seen today. Red-tailed hawk and otter back today.

Margaret Wheeler, Depot St. February 14, groups of turkeys visit yard. One group has three members, another has five. Four deer waded out of the snow-filled woods today and walked up the driveway. One was a doe we have seen for years who has an issue with her left foreleg. It slows her down when she walks but she is able to bound ahead of the others when she wants to. They stopped to look at me up on the deck.

Bob Price, Stratton Hill Rd. February 18, bluebirds at the feeder for the past three days.

Mau and Thuy Fernandes, Vineyard Rd. three deer in front of house. I am glad they have appeared again.

Carol Gumbart, at East Boston Camps. February 21, heard two red-winged blackbirds calling “conk-la-ree”.

Debbie Prato, Hayrick Lane. February 22, Canada geese, bluebirds, one red-winged blackbird, one grackle, red-bellied woodpeckers.

Rosemarie Koester, Providence Rd. February report: four blue jays, one pair of cardinals, purple and house finches, house sparrows, chipping sparrows, American tree sparrows, white-throated sparrows, doves, chickadees, tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, juncos, red-bellied, downy, and hairy woodpeckers. A hawk sits in the sun in the morning, close to the marsh and watches. Great horned owl heard late at night. First red-winged blackbird seen week of February 19. Neighbors report blue jays. Also have seen gray squirrels, one rabbit, a deer eating bush in front of house.

 

Marian Harman is a member of the Westford Conservation Trust, a non-profit conservation organization whose purpose is the preservation of Westford’s open spaces and trails. Check out the Trust’s website at westfordconservationtrust.org. The Trust welcomes new members and volunteers.

December 2016 – Wildlife Watch by Marian Harman

Tufted Titmouse by Doug Pederson

Happy New Year!

At this time of year I like to review the reports to Westford Wildlife Watch from the past year. In 2016, fifty-three residents and one elementary school from all over town sent in flora and fauna reports, some monthly, and others only once or twice. Altogether, there were 2123 different reports. That’s a lot of reports from a few dedicated reporters! We now have data going back to 1996, and there have been many changes in that twenty-year time frame. I enter all your data on Excel spreadsheets each month; the reporter’s name, where the animal was seen, how many animals were seen, category of animal (bird, mammal, amphibian, etc.) and whether the animal was an adult or a juvenile. At the end of each year, the data is analyzed and graphed by Westford residents Mau and Maurilio Fernandes, a labor of love for which I am very grateful. It allows us to see population changes for each species over time.

We love to get reports of common animals and plants to add to our database. These animals or plants might not have been common in the past (think wild turkeys), or may be becoming less common (think most migrating birds). Some reports are of somewhat uncommon animals and plants, or of animals engaged in uncommon behaviors.  Here are some interesting reports from each month.

In January, a bald eagle was reported at Forge Pond. A red-shouldered hawk was reported from Hildreth St. Red-polls were reported at Hayrick Lane. A bobcat was reported on Sherwood Dr. Grebes and a pair of greater scaup were on Beaver Brook. Ruddy ducks and three greater scaup were on Forge Pond. A bobcat was seen on Frances Hill Rd.

In February, a greater white-fronted goose, and pine siskins were at a feeder on Hayrick Lane. Pine A porcupine was seen at Monadnock Dr. and a bobcat was seen on Parkhurst Dr. Seventy robins collected at Sherwood Dr. A flicker was seen on Rush Rd. Wood ducks were on Beaver Brook. A bald eagle and a white-fronted/Canada goose hybrid were at Forge Pond. Cedar waxwings visited Stratton Hill Rd. A mink was seen on Concord Rd. Early woodcocks started displaying on Feb. 24 on Almeria Circle.

In March, turkey vultures arrived on March 6 at Monadnock Drive. March 10 was “Big Night” for salamanders and wood frogs–the earliest date for their mating migration that has been recorded here. Eight ravens were seen on Depot St. Phoebes arrived March 22.

In April, A sharp-shinned hawk was reported at Hayrick Lane. The migratory wave started on April 1, with pine warblers and hermit thrushes showing up. Orioles arrived on April 25. An otter was seen on Concord Rd. A bobcat was reported from Tadmuck Lane.

May 1, a woodcock was still displaying on Chamberlain Rd. Orioles, thrushes warblers, grosbeaks, vireos and thrushes were reported all over town on the second week of May. A survey done at O’Brien Farm on Vose Rd. counted forty-six species of birds and fifty plant species. On May 16, a bald eagle was photographed eating an opossum on a Drawbridge Rd. lawn.

In June, a black bear was reported on Sherwood Drive, and bobcats were reported on Dunstable Rd., Chamberlain Rd. and Tadmuck Lane. A spotted turtle was seen on Providence Rd. A broad-winged hawk was reported on Monadnock Drive. Wood ducks with young were seen on Forge Pond.

In July, one bat was seen on Monadnock Dr. (this was the only report for this rapidly declining animal this year).  A scarlet tanager and a wood thrush were seen at Rome Dr. Grassy Pond was completely dry after the long drought we have had. Some unusual plants were seen on the dry bottom: Virginia meadow beauty, and brown-fruited rush (Juncus pelocarpus). Their identity was confirmed by the New England Wildflower Society. These plants were last noted in this location by Emily Fletcher in 1911.

In August, a mockingbird at Grassy Pond was heard doing a long imitation of a Whippoorwill (as the Whippoorwill is a bird we don’t often see in Westford, where did he learn it?). A downy woodpecker was seen sharing a hummingbird feeder on Tenney Rd. A bald eagle was spotted at Lake Nabnasset.

In September, an alder flycatcher was seen on Howard Rd. A yellow-sac spider was identified on Howard Rd. The first returning dark-eyed junco was reported on October 16 at Monadnock drive. White-throated sparrows were seen on Monadnock Drive on October 19.

In October, purple finches were reported on Monadnock Drive. On October 28, a late Baltimore oriole was seen feeding with juncos on Monadnock Drive. A black bear was reported on Providence Rd.

In November, at Howard Rd. a spring peeper was calling on November 2. A sharp-shinned hawk was reported on Howard Rd. on November 2. A black bear was seen on Providence Rd., November 25.

A black bear took down feeders on Castle Rd. on December 4. The weather has been unusually warm. Two red foxes were caught on trail cam on Dunstable Rd.

Many thanks to all flora and fauna reporters for the month of December. I encourage more of you to report! Please send reports by January 26 for inclusion in next month’s column. You can write me at 10 Chamberlain Rd., call me at 978-692-3907, or e-mail me at MarianCHarman@verizon.net


Late November Reports:

Joy Calla, Tyngsboro Rd. November 6, a bobcat walked through yard. November 30, video cam movies showed a black bear walking through the yard in the driving rain.

Dot Mooney, Monadnock Dr. November 24, four downies in and out for suet. November 25, small flock of goldfinches on shelled sunflower feeder. November 27, chickadees and nuthatches after suet, titmice pop in now and then. Two titmice vigorously bathing in bird bath. November 29, two chickadees bathing with lots of enthusiasm quite late in evening.

Doug Pederson, at Beaver Brook. November 27, saw three swans, one a nearly grown juvenile, mallards, and a pair of hooded mergansers.

December Reports:

Dot Mooney, Monadnock Dr. December 2, three blue jays at feeder. Late morning, a little sharp-shinned hawk perched in tree–beautiful bird. December 12, five deer in back woods, one small, watching me. They must remember they will find seed thrown on the ground in bad weather. December 13, blue jays downies and a few juncos on deck looking for seed and suet. Handsome male cardinal at shelled sunflower feeder, later joined by a female. December 14, five Canada geese low over back woods, one goldfinch on feeder. One nuthatch spent time pecking at suet; downy scooped up pieces he left on deck. December 16, pair of house finches and a goldfinch on feeders this bitter cold day, eventually joined by titmice, nuthatches, chickadees and blue jays. December 20, three puffed out nuthatches on feeder and three titmice. A straight line of small tracks in the snow out front, probably left by a fox headed for woods and power lines. These power lines are the main highway for wildlife on the move. December 21, watching another stunning sunrise beyond the big woods. Flock of juncos and a few doves perched in sumacs enjoying the early sun.” Winter solstice is here, longest night of the year. The words form thoughts of cold and deep snow and bitter winds. But now that we have this, we can look forward to the next celebration, the vernal equinox when everything feels soft again. Always something to look forward to.”

Scott and Angela Harkness, Castle Rd. December 4, a bear took down the feeders.

Doug Pederson, at Forge Pond. December 3, a kingfisher chased ring-billed gulls. December 16, temperature was 1.5 degrees F, with wind. Six inches of new snow. Took photos of three swans and two chilly ring-billed gulls at Forge Pond.

Bob Oliphant, Robinson Rd. December 9, in the morning, a bobcat walked around the house, across the road, and into the back yard of a Flagg Rd. house.

Marian/Bill Harman, Chamberlain Rd. December 17, cold and snowing. Very hungry birds at the feeder: twelve mourning doves, a pair of downy woodpeckers, pair of hairy woodpeckers, pair of red-bellied woodpeckers, two blue jays, two chickadees, two tufted titmice, a white-breasted nuthatch, a pair of Carolina wrens. Two pairs of cardinals, a song sparrow, a white-throated sparrow, six juncos, four house finches, a goldfinch, about thirty house sparrows, four gray squirrels. The two Carolina wrens came onto the screen porch and hopped all around checking under tables and chairs and into corners, finding spider eggs to eat. Then they left through the open door from which they had entered. Clever little birds. December 24, doe and two juveniles trotted across back yard and leapt over stone wall. December 26, little adult sharp-shinned hawk landed on our front porch railing, looking around for a few minutes.

John Piekos, Dunstable Rd. December 27, two red foxes seen by trail camera crossing over stonewall in yard.

Crisafulli School, Robinson Rd. December report, number of birds seen at any one time: Four chickadees, seven blue jays, one cowbird, three cardinals, twenty-six juncos, five downy woodpeckers, one goldfinch, one house finch, one house sparrow, three wrens, eleven mourning doves, two nuthatches, one red-winged blackbird, two song sparrows, one white-throated sparrow, two gray squirrels.

November 2016 – Wildlife Watch by Marian Harman

At this season, our native trees are on full display. We notice some are still lovely in their fall foliage, especially the oaks which tend to hold on to their leaves long into winter. Other deciduous trees are now bare and displaying beautiful branching patterns we may not notice when they are covered in leaves. And of course, our evergreens now emerge as the primary green we see in the forest and along the roadsides. If you are interested in trees as many of us are, you may enjoy reading a recently published book titled, The Hidden Life of Trees, written by Peter Wohlleben, a German forester. The subtitle of the book is, “What they Feel, How they Communicate”. This contention that trees can feel and communicate is certainly controversial, but Wholleben makes a good case.

Wohlleben states that trees communicate within their own different parts and between each other. They are aware if an insect nibbles on their leaves, and are able to protect themselves by sending distasteful chemicals from their roots to their leaves, which will discourage the nibbling insects. Trees may also take care of their own offspring, such as when beech trees in a grove send nutrients by way of root connections to failing trees within the grove. Fungi are often the messengers that connect different trees and plants within a forest. Their mycorrhizal hyphae, long root-like strands, connect plants in an intricate system of nutrient dispersal. When we do patch cutting or even selective cutting within a forest, this dispersal system is disrupted, and affected trees may die. Wohlleben contends that most managed forests are not functioning forests, but monocultures. The forest needs to be seen as a whole community, which has its own ways of communicating and thriving if left alone by us. Forests manage their own habitat and climate requirements in intricate ways if left undisturbed. They keep the forest floor cool and damp, which encourages new growth of their own and other species.

At this particular time in our country’s political life, I find myself more and more drawn to the natural forest behind my house. Here I can sit on a log, breath in the cool damp air, gaze meditatively into the branches and feel at peace. When I sit very still for a time, birds, deer, foxes and others venture out to go about their feeding, and I am blessed. A few lines from Wendell Berry’s beautiful poem entitled “The Peace of Wild Things” come to mind. “I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water….I come into the peace of wild things….For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”

Many thanks to all flora and fauna reporters for the month of November. Please send reports by December 24 for inclusion in next month’s column. You can write me at 10 Chamberlain Rd., call me at 692-3907 or e-mail me at MarianCHarman@verizon.net.


Late October Reports:

Dot Mooney, Monadnock Dr. October 25, three downies sharing suet. Titmice and chickadees taking baths just as the sun goes down. October 26, three blue jays joining numerous little birds at feeder. Around noon a surprise, a male oriole made many vistis to the suet. October 28, a male oriole here many times for suet, yesterday and today. “It does not seem right to look on the deck and see a junco and an oriole a few inches apart. ” October 30, oriole is gone, finally headed south, I guess.

November Reports:

Rosemarie Koester, Providence Rd. November 1, first junco. At Hildreth St. A bluebird nest box with four bluebirds in the same house. “What a treat!” November 25, chickadees, tufted titmouse, nuthatch, four blue jays, pair of cardinals, several juncos, white-throated sparrow, with a touch of yellow on the head, downy woodpecker, goldfinches, house finch, purple finches. Turkeys come around in small groups. A bear has been reported by neighbors in the last few weeks. Bird feeders have been removed and/or destroyed. We found a suet feeder in our back yard–not ours. Heard a coyote close in our back yard, others calling to each other in the woods. We have not heard many coyotes in the past years. We see four to six grey squirrels at a time, rabbit seen.

Debbie Prato, Hayrick Lane. November 1, Canada geese. November 5, crow playing with goose feather for 15 minutes. November 21, eleven turkeys. November 23, bluebirds checking out the birdhouses, which the sparrows always get away from them. “Are they looking for winter homes?” [Yes, bluebirds are known to pile together in birdhouses on cold winter nights-MH]

Dot Mooney, Monadnock Dr. November 2, saw a few mallards and two blue jays at Beaver Brook. Water much higher now. At Howard Rd. wetland, a few chickadees. Under power lines in Hildreth Hills the winterberries are beautiful. November 4, sumac fruits deep red, two chickadees, two downies and a junco checking them out. Two red-tailed hawks over back woods. Birds still splash about in birdbath even on chilly evenings. Leaves so beautiful and most still on trees, but some gusts of wind today are tugging at these holdouts and sending them sailing away. November 6, one downy and one hairy taking turns on suet. Three chickadees bathing and drinking together. November 7, chickadees and a white-throated sparrow in my shrub. November 9, at the Howard Rd. wetland, a spring peeper made a few fall peeps. Two quiet crows nearby in a dead tree. November 11, a few tom turkeys poking around. The trees were bent over in the wind, waves of fallen leaves being driven across the road. November 18, by Beaver Brook three bright swans, one probably the single baby that survived. Many Canada geese and a few mallards. At Howard Rd. wetland, the usual blue jays and chatty chickadees, distant crows. A wood duck called from far side of water. The cattails fluffing out. The autumn air smells so good. Sat on front step to watch birds visiting feeder and suddenly a sharp-shinned hawk zipped through, scattering birds, but did not catch a meal. He perched on nearby tree awhile, giving me a nice long look at this very small, scary predator. November 19, under Parkhurst dr. power lines hard blue jays, chickadees, and white breasted nuthatches. Late afternoon, chickadees still bathe in bird bath quite late, even when the air is cool. November 20, early morning, at least fourteen doves under feeder, cleaning up. Ten juncos scattered around looking for seed. November 21, a light dusting of snow on a cold, windy day is teasing us, reminding us to get ready, the hard weather is on its way–bundle up!”

Marilyn Day, Graniteville Rd. November 3, a pair of flickers  come to the suet. November 5, first juncos arrived.

Doug Pederson, at Beaver Brook bridge, otter photographed. [Doug also sent a beautiful photo of the “Super Moon”-MH]

Marian/Bill Harman, Chamberlain Rd. November 4, pileated woodpecker seen off Groton Rd. November 5, six very large hen turkeys under feeder and on bird bath. November 18, first white-throated sparrow heard in yard. November 19, eight mourning doves, a downy woodpecker, a red-bellied woodpecker, three blue jays, two chickadees, one titmouse, one white-breasted nuthatch, a pair of cardinals, one white-throated sparrow, one junco, five house finches, two goldfinches, ten house sparrows, two grey squirrels. November 20, first snow tonight–yesterday it was 60 degrees!

Bob Price, Stratton Hill Rd. November 11, black fungus on all the maple leaves around the house.

Donna Cecere, Calista Terrace. November 20, pileated woodpecker flew up into an oak tree–such an amazing bird, lots of loud calls. All summer we have had a family of six turkeys in yard. Lots of nuthatches. I love watching the birds drinking from the birdbath and bathing. A birdhouse attracted a wren. Four birdhouses all had nests which delighted me every day. “Thanks for your writings in the Eagle” [Thank you, Donna-MH]

Ginger Dries, Sherwood Dr. November 21, there is snow on the ground, so all the feeders are very busy–too many jays! Lots of sparrows in the evenings. My squirrels are jumping from the ground over my baffle. Two to three pairs of cardinals and all the regulars are here.