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Ravens are making a comeback

May 2016 Wildlife Watch

by Marian Harman

Image of raven feeding nestlings.
Raven feeding nestlings. Photo courtesy of Doug Pederson.
Ravens are making a comeback in eastern New England, specifically in Nashua, NH and Westford. This spring, and for the past few years, ravens have been nesting under an overhang at the Lowe’s store in Nashua, and in the Westford Highway Department’s salt storage shed. This is great news for a bird that had not been seen here since the early 1900’s. At one time, ravens were quite common in the northeast, and were even considered pests. But, with the clearing of forests and increased agriculture, they were extirpated here. There were none left here by the 1920’s. In the late 1990’s the first confirmed nesting of ravens in Massachusetts was reported from central Massachusetts. It seems that ravens are now expanding into eastern Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Just in the past few years, ravens have once again begun to nest in our area.
Continue reading Ravens are making a comeback

Trails at Lakeside Meadows

Shipley Swamp_Marian Harman Spring 16
Shipley Swamp – photo courtesy Marian Harman

by Marian Harman

Lakeside Meadows, a subdivision built in 1995, on an approximately one hundred acre hayfield, abuts Lake Nabnasset and Shipley Swamp. Because of the sensitivity of the land, so close to water, the subdivision was carefully planned to retain as much open space as possible. Lakeside Meadows includes sixty-eight acres of conservation land, administered jointly by the Town and the Westford Conservation Trust. Much of the open space serves as a buffer along the lake and swamp. A trail system connects various portions of open space. Several of the larger conservation areas of grassland are left unmowed during the summer, to encourage grass-nesting bird species. Numerous nesting boxes are maintained by the residents for nesting bluebirds and tree swallows.

Entering the subdivision by Lakeside Terrace off Depot St., one passes by several trailheads, marked by routed posts. These posts were carved and installed by boyscout Evan DeTolla. Just past Gooseneck Lane, on the right, is a short trail called the Nutting Trail. It leads from Lakeside Terrace on a steep climb up to Nutting Rd., through a white pine forest. A bit further along on the left, one passes by an approximately half mile trail called “Shipley Trail”, which leads uphill and ends at Depot St. This trail winds steeply between and behind houses, and through a small boulder-strewn forest. Continuing along Lakeside Terrace, one reaches the trailhead for the “Estuary Trail”. This is my favorite walk at Lakeside Meadows. It is a perfect, wide trail for families, introducing children to the wonders of nature, for people recovering from illness or surgery, or for anyone who wants a short walk in an idyllic setting.

The Estuary Trail is an approximately half mile trail that hugs the boundary of Shipley Swamp. It is mostly flat and easy walking, and it is one of the “birdiest” place in Westford, especially in May when this mixed deciduous woods abounds in many species of migrant birds: Baltimore orioles, warbling vireos, all the various warblers which pass through Westford, as well as representatives of most of our resident birds. Red-winged blackbirds nest in the cattails, loudly proclaiming their territories. Turning right on the trail, one can see a beaver house on the bank, and in the evening experience the slap of a beaver tail on the water or the evening sounds of spring peepers, green frogs and bullfrogs. Some of the trees have been fenced off to protect them from hungry beavers. Look for the constant presence of one or more great blue herons fishing in the swamp, as well as for the often seen green-backed heron. Dabbling ducks and geese are common here too. You can proceed on this trail to reach a lovely granite bench mid-way along, where you can sit, admire the water, meditate, and feel the peace of this place. Continue past the bench up a short hill, and around the second half of the swamp. At the end of the trail, you will see another trail leading to the right that will take you out to Lakeside Terrace. You can then turn right and take the sidewalk back to your car, or turn left, for a short distance, and look to your right and across the street for the Shipley Trail marker.

Turning left on the Estuary Trail, you can cross a bridge and reach the “Beach Path” which leads to the beach on Nabnasset Lake. Walking along the beach, you can follow the “Birchwood Trail” up to Birchwood Drive.  From Birchwood Drive, you can walk up to the old trolley line, and have a pleasant walk following it in either direction.

Wildlife Reports

Late March Reports:

Ron Gemma, Concord Rd. March 3, male cardinal singing on sugar maple.
March 9, “Saw my first pair of robins….a third robin showed up and after that two of the robins started facing off on the ground, then both flew up into the air facing each other, flapping their wings at each other. They kept this up until they reached about 10-15 ft. in the air and then descended to the ground.” March 11, crow at feeder. March 14, house finch pair. Red-tailed hawk caught dinner on the ground. March 17, myrtle and crocuses flowering. March 28, observed “a pair of mallard ducks “shooting” the class 1 rapids almost in unison along a narrow, rocky-bottom, s-curve section of Vine Brook. It was exciting to watch, they went by so fast, bobbing and twisting in the current”. March 31, coltsfoot blossoming near beaver dam at Burn’s Hill.

Diane Lauber, Tenney Rd., March 4, much whinnying of great horned owl, broad-winged hawk often heard during the day, and a barred owl heard at night.

Dot Mooney, Monadnock Dr. March 21, over three inches of snow already. Twenty juncos on deck for seed, with titmice, downies, and a hungry crow. Red-tailed hawk perched in tree at edge of lawn, puffed out against the weather. March 24, juncos still here, three blue jays around. March 26, pair of house finches around front porch. I had moved a small Christmas wreath under the porch temporarily. They have placed a single piece of dry grass on one side of it. March 27, more grasses on wreath, pretty obvious they are going to nest there. March 28, twenty goldfinches on feeder. March 29, three chickadees, one tom turkey here for seed. March 30, small flock of blackbirds around, two male cowbirds in yard. March 31, a few juncos still here. Male cardinals calling from nearby maple covered with red buds. Nine male and female cowbirds eat seed on the ground, nine doves in the yard. Lovely warm afternoon, but with strong winds.

Diane Duane, Howard Rd. March 26, great horned owl last night heard near the wetlands, 8:30 pm. Pair of bluebirds near our suet feeder, on a clothesline.

Tom/Carolyn Luminello, Chamberlain Rd. March 26, forty turkey vultures overhead.

Marian/Bill Harman, Camberlain Rd. March 27, first phoebe arrived in our yard, lots of breeding turkeys. March 30, doe and juvenile in pasture, garter snake. March 31, a walk at Lakeside Terrace, 60 degrees and windy. Phoebe, mockingbird, titmouse, goldfinches, chickadees, house finches, cardinal, cooper’s hawk overhead, robins, song sparrow, pair of mallards, red-winged blackbirds, blue jays, flicker, downy woodpecker, two pairs of Canada geese fighting over territory, chipmunks, painted turtles sunning, garter snake.

Alan Emmet, Concord Rd. March 28, bluebird pair visiting feeder constantly for the past few days, “Very exciting to me, never had them before”. They are also pecking at the corner of the windows, as if they wanted to make a nest up near the eaves.

April Reports:

Lynn Cina, Sought For Rd. April 1, pileated woodpeckers visiting suet feeder which is hanging on the deck [Lynn sent a photo to prove it-MH]

Debbie Prato, Hayrick Lane April 1, Canada geese, mallards, turkeys. April 4, during snow, downy, hairy and red-bellied woodpeckers, blue jays, starlings, goldfinches mockingbird, juncos, song sparrows, house finches, house sparrows, cardinals, bluebirds, red-winged blackbirds, robins, mourning doves, chickadees, grackles, titmice, crows, sharp-shinned hawk. April 17, sharp-shinned hawk killed a house finch, catbird collecting nesting material. April 18, two cottontails. April 19, woodchuck started showing up. No juncos today–I wonder if that’s it.

Dot Mooney, Monadnock Dr. April 1, Len Palmer told me that those south winds of yesterday brought pine warblers and hermit thrushes up here-all singing. Eastern phoebe out front, singing and bobbing his tail. April 2, seeing and hearing pine warbler and phoebe already. Warbler is singing in the tall pines across the street quite frequently. One chipping sparrow on deck. April 3, wet snow and wind, a junco and tree sparrow together eating seed. April 4, one tree sparrow, at least eighteen juncos, many goldfinches, small flock of red-wings all frantic to find seed in the steady snowfall. April 5, a few robins around sumacs, one chipping sparrow on deck. April 6, juncos and a tree sparrow on deck, robin checking out small areas of exposed grass. April 7, male cardinal calling before any hint of light in morning sky, phoebe in woods. Small crabapple tree by walk covered by tiny bright green leaves, green leaves emerging in a honeysuckle thicket. April 8, seven male cowbirds around every day. Four females joined them at noon. Watched two red-tails in an aerial display over the woods. Heard another red-tail calling from woods behind. One chipping sparrow eating seed, cute little pair of chickadees on the deck together. Doves are pairing up now, and a pair of downy woodpeckers visiting suet at same time. April 9, pine warbler heard in front woods. April 10, male goldfinches so bright now. Female hairy woodpecker on suet. April 11, junco on deck, great blue heron overhead often. April 14, juncos here, female hairy on suet, three chipping sparrows on deck. April 15, under Hildreth Hills power lines, heard or saw two pine warblers, two tufted titmice, blue jay, flicker, chickadees, tom turkey, and a flock of at least twelve cedar waxwings hurrying somewhere. April 16, lovely red-bellied woodpecker on suet, juncos here. Pair of house sparrows mating on deck. April 17, pair of blue jays on deck for seed then hopped onto birdbath for a drink together. Listening to both a pine warbler and a chipping sparrow singing out front. Phoebe out front. Drove to wetland on Howard Rd. and stood there enjoying the cheerful sounds of spring peepers. One Canada goose drifted quietly across the water, a beaver swam silently by. April 18, white-breasted nuthatch calling in woods, goldfinches very chatty these days, female cardinal picking up some nesting materials, seven doves eating seed. April 9, at 4 a.m., listened to a robin singing a pleasant song from the woods. Last juncos I saw were on April 16. April 20, three blue jays in yard early, pair of chipping sparrows are regulars on deck. April 21, small crabapple out front is now showing dark pink buds. Two red-tails drifting easily, low over the big woods. Two male downies politely taking turns on suet. Woodpecker rapping deep in the woods. “We’ve waited so long for this splendid time of year, and now I can’t even remember what kind of winter we had. But I do know that this is a beautiful day”.

Ginger Dries, Sherwood Dr. April 2, male turkey under feeder. April 3, female turkey here most days without the male, wrens and chickadees checking out the houses, quite a few juncos still here. Three rabbits are in yard, and they fight with the squirrels, chasing them everywhere. April 25, a Baltimore oriole showed up. Cardinals, jays, many chickadees, house and goldfinches, brown-headed cowbirds, hairy, downy, red-bellied woodpeckers and flicker here.

Marian/Bill Harman, Chamberlain Rd. April 3, woodcock still displaying here, juncos still here. April 16, eight turkeys, three displaying. At N. Main St., pair of ravens on a nest in the highway garage salt storage shed. April 21, full moon, woodcock still displaying in our pasture. At Vose Rd. April 9 and 23, first two bird and plant inventory walks at O’Brien farm, with Charlie McColough, Len Palmer, Dot Mooney, Carol and Tom Gumbart. Birds found so far: red-bellied woodpecker, pileated woodpecker, downy woodpecker, northern flicker, black-capped chickadee, tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, nesting bluebirds, tree swallow, house sparrow, northern cardinal, American robin, American goldfinch, northern mockingbird, pine warbler, red-winged blackbird, brown-headed cowbird, mourning dove, blue jay, mallard pair, Canada goose, American crow, song sparrow, dark-eyed junco, eastern phoebe, great blue heron, house sparrow, chipping sparrow, brown creeper, wild turkey. April 24, a walk on Frances Hill Wildlife Sanctuary: song sparrow, blue jay, chickadees, titmice, cardinals, pine warbler or chipping sparrow heard, goldfinch, downy woodpecker, two hermit thrushes poking around in the wetlands, bluebird, black flies, bumble bee. A mourning cloak butterfly rose up from the sunny path as I walked towards it. Wood anemone blooming, Canada mayflower up, Indian pokeweed and skunk cabbage up, magnolia trees blooming, bugleweed and white violets blooming.

Diane Lauber, Tenney Rd. April 3, barred owl sat on utility wire outside of house during the day, snow that night. April 4, red fox went across yard. April 17, barred owl and great horned owl both heard nearby during day. April 15, phoebe started singing his incessant call for a mate. Red-backed salamander, lead phase (grey with spots) found in the garden. April 19, red-bellied woodpecker.

Ron Gemma, at Burn’s Hill, April 3, approximately fifteen great blue heron nests, ten occupied. Concord Rd., red-winged blackbirds and bluebirds at feeders. April 4, tracks of a river otter showing slides in the snow. April 12, female cardinal collecting sticks. April 13, phoebe in trees, bee taking pollen from myrtle blossoms, robin taking bath in an eddy of Vine Brook. April 17, cabbage white and spring azure butterflies in garden, cardinal nest in yew bush. April 18, white-throated sparrows in bushes, pear trees blossoming, two hen turkeys in yard. April 19, blue jay.

Donna Cecere, Calista Terrace. April 4, northern flicker at the suet-pretty big bird, first time I’ve seen one. April 5, yellow finches, blue jays, woodpeckers, mourning doves, robins, tufted titmouse, cardinals.

Denali Delmar, Dunstable Rd. April 6, set up several birdfeeders…It’s been such a delight to watch the goldfinches turn daffodil yellow and to see a bluebird make repeated visits to the suet. “The suet feeder hangs from a shepherd’s crook. A nuthatch was clinging to the side of the feeder, eating away, when a male cardinal landed atop the crook. The nuthatch spread its winds, stared threateningly (?) at the intruder, and rocked back in forth in place.” Some crows in the yard, and today some brown-headed cowbirds. April 9, bluebirds seem to be nesting nearby; a pair in the yard, at the suet and seed feeders. “What a delight.”

Doug Pederson, at Forge Pond. April 7, thirty tree swallows skimming the water.
April 10, a few mallards and a couple of swans at Forge pond. Bald eagle and a red-tailed hawk seen. Red-winged blackbirds seen frequently now. April 27, two red-tailed hawk in an aerial battle or courting display [Doug captured some great photos of this-MH]

Kate Phaneuf, Drawbridge Rd. April 12, red-winged blackbirds swooped in to check for seed under the tree.

Carol Gumbart, at Greystone Pond. April 19, ruby-crowned and golden-crowned kinglets. April 23, woodcock displaying behind town hall.

Cori Ryan, Stony Brook Rd. April 23, red-bellied woodpecker and male cardinal at feeder.

Diane Duane, Howard Rd. April 23, saw a male Baltimore oriole on the ground under my feeder. I thought it was way too early for them.

Mike Woessner, April 26, at Blanchard Rd. Several devil’s walking stick trees growing beside road at Blanchard farms.

Michael Berry, Rush Rd. April 26, otter in yard adjacent to Beaver Brook. Sharp-shinned hawk, pileated woodpecker, yellow-rumped warbler, palm warbler, ruby crowned kinglet, white-throated sparrow, swamp sparrow, golden-crowned kinglet, towhee. The pine warbler comes to the seed cake feeder regularly. Phoebe nesting, two sets of wood ducks nesting, bluebirds nesting.

Rosemarie Koester, Providence Rd. April report: chickadees, titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, doves, grackles, red-bellied and downy woodpeckers, pair of cardinals, pairs of goldfinches, pairs of house finches, up to four cowbirds, one robin, two blue jays, white-throated sparrows, red-winged blackbirds, several turkeys. Red-tailed hawk over Tadmuck Rd. Also, skunk cabbage along brook, forsythia about to bloom, pussy willows bloomed a month ago, red squirrel, four gray squirrels, geese heard.

Annual Meeting on November 5, 2015

Note: This meeting has already taken place.

Westford Conservation Trust’s Annual Meeting

When: Thursday, November 5, 2015 at 7pm

Where: Parish Center for the Arts

Guest Speaker: Rick Roth, The Creature Teacher

RothRick Roth, a conservationist and teacher, runs The Creature Teachers, a family owned environmental and animal education company. His goal is to educate the public about the wonders and diversity of the animals that share our planet. Continue reading Annual Meeting on November 5, 2015

New WCT Website

The site you are seeing here is a brand new WCT website. The new website runs on a content management system that will make it easier and more efficient to publish updated content, event information and newsletter archives. It also features a new database of information about Westford conservation lands, making the new site much easier to manage and ensuring that you see the same information no matter how you choose to view the conservation land content.

New WebsiteOur main goals with the new website were:

  • Easier to update for better communications with you
  • Mobile-device friendly (smartphones and tablets)
  • Leverage the hard work that went into the existing site and all our content

We hope you find the new site useful and easy to use. If you encounter any problems, have questions or think something else should be here that isn’t yet, please let us know with the contact form by choosing “website” from the dropdown list of topics.