All posts by Diane

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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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…

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.

Westford Conservation Trust Chosen for Charitable Donation Program

WORCESTER, Mass., Jan. 10, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — The Westford Conservation Trust has been selected as the first beneficiary of the new Coghlin Companies Caring Corporate Citizen (“5C”) program. The program was formally launched in 2016 to further demonstrate Coghlin Companies’ commitment toward encouraging volunteerism and providing financial support to community service and philanthropic organizations that are important to its loyal team of Caring Associates  read more……

December 2016 – Westford Wildlife 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.  Read more…..