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…..
Farmland is disappearing in Massachusetts. In response to open space loss, about ten years ago, the Mass Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, developed a continually updated document titled the Smart Growth Tool Kit. The Tool Kit website states, “We are losing agricultural lands and farming opportunities at an alarming rate….over 16,000 acres of open space is developed and lost in Massachusetts each year.” 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. read more
To answer that question, the North American Bird Conservation Initiative, a consortium of forty conservation organizations and government agencies has just published an important new document titled “The State of North America’s Birds”. More than 350 species of our migratory birds, such as the gray catbird, Baltimore oriole, and the wood thrush pass between Canada, the United States, and Mexico. The report combined citizen science bird data, collected on platforms such as e-Bird, to come up with the 2016 status report on the birds of all three countries, a total of 1,154 species.
The reports’ findings are alarming. It placed 37% of North American birds on a Watch List for Species in Urgent Need of Conservation. For some habitats birds are even more imperiled. For instance, 57% of ocean birds are on the Watch List. Birds of tropical forests, coasts, arid lands and grasslands are also in steep decline. For these habitats, up to 56% of bird species are in decline. In other habitats, such as temperate forests, tundra, wetlands, and boreal forests, up to 27% of bird species are on the Watch List. Westford is a temperate forest habitat, but our migratory birds spend the winter in the tropical forest. read more….
Grassy Pond is interesting right now because the water level is so low, and it really is “grassy”.
The low water level is probably caused by all the sunny days with little rain in recent weeks. It is said that Grassy Pond becomes entirely without water about once every 10 years.
By the way, Grassy Pond develops a chorus of frogs on summer evenings, particularly when it’s rainy. Here’s a recording I made on such a night, focusing on a barred owl. The owl is interesting, but the background of tree frogs, green frogs, and loud bull frogs is interesting too.
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.
Our 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.