Are you a birder? If so, are you a contributor to eBird? This interactive birding website was developed by Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and launched in 2002. Anyone can join free of charge. The website describes the program this way: “eBird transforms a global birding community’s passion for birds into critical data for research, conservation, and education…..eBird gathers unprecedented volumes of information on where and when birds occur in the world. Half a billion bird observations have been contributed so far.”
Log on to eBird.org and you can explore the whole world or your own community. You can watch a real-time display of birders entering data. When I log on to Massachusetts, I see that 498 bird species were seen in the past year and 734,648 checklists were submitted. There were 8691 Massachusetts birders submitting these checklists. Top counties represented were Barnstable and Essex, with Middlesex County coming in seventh out of ten. Top birding hotspots were Plum Island and Salisbury Beach. read more….
Now that May has arrived and our spring trees, shrubs and wildflowers are blooming, we should give some thought to bees, our most important pollinators. Without them, we would have very few plants. Or as a recent USDA report states, “The world as we know it would not exist if there were no bees to pollinate the earth’s 250,000 flowering plant species.”
You have probably read about the dire plight of the honeybee, a species introduced here from Europe in colonial times. Honeybees are succumbing in large numbers to a mysterious complex of ills called “Colony Collapse Disorder”. But perhaps you have not given much thought to our native bees that may be even more essential for most of our pollination needs.
The United States Department of Agriculture reports that there are approximately 4,000 species of bees native to North America. These bees do a much better job at pollinating some plants than do honeybees. Native bees are especially effective at pollinating tomatoes, eggplants, pumpkins and other squashes, cherries, blueberries and cranberries. They also pollinate 80% of our flowering plants, trees, shrubs and wildflowers. Azaleas, for instance cannot be pollinated by honeybees, because of their long calyx. Native bumblebees pollinate azaleas by using an ingenious method called buzz pollination. They clasp the blossom and vibrate their abdomen to shake loose the pollen. Bees also use buzz pollination on tomato and blueberry flowers. Bees eat both pollen and nectar.
Our native bees may either be colonial nesters (bumblebees) or solitary nesters (most other types) read more….
Who’s top bird at your feeder? An interesting thing to observe while you are identifying birds is who is displacing whom at the bird feeder. This displacement behavior in birds is called a “dominance hierarchy”. For instance, we think of doves as peaceful and jays as aggressive. Cornell Lab of Ornithology set out to study displacement behavior at feeders, to see who comes out on top in bird interactions. Project Feeder Watch participants have been gathering the displacement data.
Eliot Miller at Cornell Lab correlated 7,685 observations sent in by Feeder Watchers. In general, he found what one would expect, bigger is better. Blue Jays displace mourning doves and downy woodpeckers displace tufted titmice. But there were also some surprises.
The Project Feeder Watch Blog of October 9, 2017 reports on Miller’s study of 136 species of birds observed interacting at Feeder Watch sites in North America. Miller ranked each species based on how often it displaced other species, and how often it got displaced. Then he arranged all those species in their order of dominance. The highest- ranking species, the toughest bird, was the Wild Turkey. At the bottom of the list was the Eurasian Tree Sparrow. Eurasian Tree Sparrows, an introduced species which lives in parts of the mid-west, is closely related to our much more aggressive House Sparrows. read more…
Important Land Conservation CPC funding requests at Annual Town Meeting
Abbot Elementary School Gym
Saturday, March 24th, 2018 starting at 10 am
A request to fund the conservation of two historic, beautifully diverse and undeveloped properties are on the warrant at this Saturday’s Town Meeting.
CPA Funds are being requested to:
Secure a permanent Conservation Restriction for 45 acres of the existing Salt Box Farm property at 1 Wright Lane along Hildreth Street.
Purchase of the Adams property, approximately 50 acres of open space property between the Cider Mill Conservation Land and Laughton Farm open space off Lowell Rd which would connect with approximately 56 acres of already conserved property. This is an important addition to the protection of part of the Stony Brook watershed which can impact our groundwater aquifers (used for our drinking water wells)
The trust urges you to support the preservation of these very important properties, which will contribute to maintaining open space critical to the natural character of Westford. Please attend Town Meeting and vote to support the protection of these two properties as part of the CPA funding request on Article 13.
The Board of Directors for the Trust has voted unanimously to support both these CPA funding requests.
Westford Conservation Trust
The Community Preservation Committee (CPC) funded stone wall restoration project at Pageant Field on Hildreth Street is underway. Dave Tibbetts, of New England Landscape Design, is a stone mason who is doing the work. Dave is on the left in the picture. For this WCT project, several hundred feet of the wall is scheduled to be repaired and rebuilt to look as it did historically at the time of the Westford 200th Anniversary Pageant there in 1929. The trust mission to preserve and protect open space and natural resources also includes historic sites.
The photos are an example of what has been accomplished so far this year. A double treatment for poison ivy control and brush trimming was necessary last fall before the actual wall restoration effort could start.