December 2016 – Wildlife Watch 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.

We love to get reports of common animals and plants to add to our database. These animals or plants might not have been common in the past (think wild turkeys), or may be becoming less common (think most migrating birds). Some reports are of somewhat uncommon animals and plants, or of animals engaged in uncommon behaviors.  Here are some interesting reports from each month.

In January, a bald eagle was reported at Forge Pond. A red-shouldered hawk was reported from Hildreth St. Red-polls were reported at Hayrick Lane. A bobcat was reported on Sherwood Dr. Grebes and a pair of greater scaup were on Beaver Brook. Ruddy ducks and three greater scaup were on Forge Pond. A bobcat was seen on Frances Hill Rd.

In February, a greater white-fronted goose, and pine siskins were at a feeder on Hayrick Lane. Pine A porcupine was seen at Monadnock Dr. and a bobcat was seen on Parkhurst Dr. Seventy robins collected at Sherwood Dr. A flicker was seen on Rush Rd. Wood ducks were on Beaver Brook. A bald eagle and a white-fronted/Canada goose hybrid were at Forge Pond. Cedar waxwings visited Stratton Hill Rd. A mink was seen on Concord Rd. Early woodcocks started displaying on Feb. 24 on Almeria Circle.

In March, turkey vultures arrived on March 6 at Monadnock Drive. March 10 was “Big Night” for salamanders and wood frogs–the earliest date for their mating migration that has been recorded here. Eight ravens were seen on Depot St. Phoebes arrived March 22.

In April, A sharp-shinned hawk was reported at Hayrick Lane. The migratory wave started on April 1, with pine warblers and hermit thrushes showing up. Orioles arrived on April 25. An otter was seen on Concord Rd. A bobcat was reported from Tadmuck Lane.

May 1, a woodcock was still displaying on Chamberlain Rd. Orioles, thrushes warblers, grosbeaks, vireos and thrushes were reported all over town on the second week of May. A survey done at O’Brien Farm on Vose Rd. counted forty-six species of birds and fifty plant species. On May 16, a bald eagle was photographed eating an opossum on a Drawbridge Rd. lawn.

In June, a black bear was reported on Sherwood Drive, and bobcats were reported on Dunstable Rd., Chamberlain Rd. and Tadmuck Lane. A spotted turtle was seen on Providence Rd. A broad-winged hawk was reported on Monadnock Drive. Wood ducks with young were seen on Forge Pond.

In July, one bat was seen on Monadnock Dr. (this was the only report for this rapidly declining animal this year).  A scarlet tanager and a wood thrush were seen at Rome Dr. Grassy Pond was completely dry after the long drought we have had. Some unusual plants were seen on the dry bottom: Virginia meadow beauty, and brown-fruited rush (Juncus pelocarpus). Their identity was confirmed by the New England Wildflower Society. These plants were last noted in this location by Emily Fletcher in 1911.

In August, a mockingbird at Grassy Pond was heard doing a long imitation of a Whippoorwill (as the Whippoorwill is a bird we don’t often see in Westford, where did he learn it?). A downy woodpecker was seen sharing a hummingbird feeder on Tenney Rd. A bald eagle was spotted at Lake Nabnasset.

In September, an alder flycatcher was seen on Howard Rd. A yellow-sac spider was identified on Howard Rd. The first returning dark-eyed junco was reported on October 16 at Monadnock drive. White-throated sparrows were seen on Monadnock Drive on October 19.

In October, purple finches were reported on Monadnock Drive. On October 28, a late Baltimore oriole was seen feeding with juncos on Monadnock Drive. A black bear was reported on Providence Rd.

In November, at Howard Rd. a spring peeper was calling on November 2. A sharp-shinned hawk was reported on Howard Rd. on November 2. A black bear was seen on Providence Rd., November 25.

A black bear took down feeders on Castle Rd. on December 4. The weather has been unusually warm. Two red foxes were caught on trail cam on Dunstable Rd.

Many thanks to all flora and fauna reporters for the month of December. I encourage more of you to report! Please send reports by January 26 for inclusion in next month’s column. You can write me at 10 Chamberlain Rd., call me at 978-692-3907, or e-mail me at

Late November Reports:

Joy Calla, Tyngsboro Rd. November 6, a bobcat walked through yard. November 30, video cam movies showed a black bear walking through the yard in the driving rain.

Dot Mooney, Monadnock Dr. November 24, four downies in and out for suet. November 25, small flock of goldfinches on shelled sunflower feeder. November 27, chickadees and nuthatches after suet, titmice pop in now and then. Two titmice vigorously bathing in bird bath. November 29, two chickadees bathing with lots of enthusiasm quite late in evening.

Doug Pederson, at Beaver Brook. November 27, saw three swans, one a nearly grown juvenile, mallards, and a pair of hooded mergansers.

December Reports:

Dot Mooney, Monadnock Dr. December 2, three blue jays at feeder. Late morning, a little sharp-shinned hawk perched in tree–beautiful bird. December 12, five deer in back woods, one small, watching me. They must remember they will find seed thrown on the ground in bad weather. December 13, blue jays downies and a few juncos on deck looking for seed and suet. Handsome male cardinal at shelled sunflower feeder, later joined by a female. December 14, five Canada geese low over back woods, one goldfinch on feeder. One nuthatch spent time pecking at suet; downy scooped up pieces he left on deck. December 16, pair of house finches and a goldfinch on feeders this bitter cold day, eventually joined by titmice, nuthatches, chickadees and blue jays. December 20, three puffed out nuthatches on feeder and three titmice. A straight line of small tracks in the snow out front, probably left by a fox headed for woods and power lines. These power lines are the main highway for wildlife on the move. December 21, watching another stunning sunrise beyond the big woods. Flock of juncos and a few doves perched in sumacs enjoying the early sun.” Winter solstice is here, longest night of the year. The words form thoughts of cold and deep snow and bitter winds. But now that we have this, we can look forward to the next celebration, the vernal equinox when everything feels soft again. Always something to look forward to.”

Scott and Angela Harkness, Castle Rd. December 4, a bear took down the feeders.

Doug Pederson, at Forge Pond. December 3, a kingfisher chased ring-billed gulls. December 16, temperature was 1.5 degrees F, with wind. Six inches of new snow. Took photos of three swans and two chilly ring-billed gulls at Forge Pond.

Bob Oliphant, Robinson Rd. December 9, in the morning, a bobcat walked around the house, across the road, and into the back yard of a Flagg Rd. house.

Marian/Bill Harman, Chamberlain Rd. December 17, cold and snowing. Very hungry birds at the feeder: twelve mourning doves, a pair of downy woodpeckers, pair of hairy woodpeckers, pair of red-bellied woodpeckers, two blue jays, two chickadees, two tufted titmice, a white-breasted nuthatch, a pair of Carolina wrens. Two pairs of cardinals, a song sparrow, a white-throated sparrow, six juncos, four house finches, a goldfinch, about thirty house sparrows, four gray squirrels. The two Carolina wrens came onto the screen porch and hopped all around checking under tables and chairs and into corners, finding spider eggs to eat. Then they left through the open door from which they had entered. Clever little birds. December 24, doe and two juveniles trotted across back yard and leapt over stone wall. December 26, little adult sharp-shinned hawk landed on our front porch railing, looking around for a few minutes.

John Piekos, Dunstable Rd. December 27, two red foxes seen by trail camera crossing over stonewall in yard.

Crisafulli School, Robinson Rd. December report, number of birds seen at any one time: Four chickadees, seven blue jays, one cowbird, three cardinals, twenty-six juncos, five downy woodpeckers, one goldfinch, one house finch, one house sparrow, three wrens, eleven mourning doves, two nuthatches, one red-winged blackbird, two song sparrows, one white-throated sparrow, two gray squirrels.