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Birding Program at Miller School

Westford Conservation Trust founding member and Honorary Director Marian Harman recently presented her Feeder Watch birding program to all second graders at the Rita Miller Elementary School! Trust Directors Emily Edwards and Diane Duane were also present to donate three binoculars along with birding guides, bird feeder and feeding supplies. The observations will be recorded and sent to Marian for her Wildlife Watch column.

A huge thank you to Marian Harman for all her hard work and enthusiasm to help these budding citizen scientists!

Marian Harman presenting to Miller School 2nd graders

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 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

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:// 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


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.


Boston Rd Drew Parcel APR 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.”     read more…