November 2016 – Wildlife Watch by Marian Harman

At this season, our native trees are on full display. We notice some are still lovely in their fall foliage, especially the oaks which tend to hold on to their leaves long into winter. Other deciduous trees are now bare and displaying beautiful branching patterns we may not notice when they are covered in leaves. And of course, our evergreens now emerge as the primary green we see in the forest and along the roadsides. If you are interested in trees as many of us are, you may enjoy reading a recently published book titled, The Hidden Life of Trees, written by Peter Wohlleben, a German forester. The subtitle of the book is, “What they Feel, How they Communicate”. This contention that trees can feel and communicate is certainly controversial, but Wholleben makes a good case.

Wohlleben states that trees communicate within their own different parts and between each other. They are aware if an insect nibbles on their leaves, and are able to protect themselves by sending distasteful chemicals from their roots to their leaves, which will discourage the nibbling insects. Trees may also take care of their own offspring, such as when beech trees in a grove send nutrients by way of root connections to failing trees within the grove. Fungi are often the messengers that connect different trees and plants within a forest. Their mycorrhizal hyphae, long root-like strands, connect plants in an intricate system of nutrient dispersal. When we do patch cutting or even selective cutting within a forest, this dispersal system is disrupted, and affected trees may die. Wohlleben contends that most managed forests are not functioning forests, but monocultures. The forest needs to be seen as a whole community, which has its own ways of communicating and thriving if left alone by us. Forests manage their own habitat and climate requirements in intricate ways if left undisturbed. They keep the forest floor cool and damp, which encourages new growth of their own and other species.

At this particular time in our country’s political life, I find myself more and more drawn to the natural forest behind my house. Here I can sit on a log, breath in the cool damp air, gaze meditatively into the branches and feel at peace. When I sit very still for a time, birds, deer, foxes and others venture out to go about their feeding, and I am blessed. A few lines from Wendell Berry’s beautiful poem entitled “The Peace of Wild Things” come to mind. “I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water….I come into the peace of wild things….For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”

Many thanks to all flora and fauna reporters for the month of November. Please send reports by December 24 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

Late October Reports:

Dot Mooney, Monadnock Dr. October 25, three downies sharing suet. Titmice and chickadees taking baths just as the sun goes down. October 26, three blue jays joining numerous little birds at feeder. Around noon a surprise, a male oriole made many vistis to the suet. October 28, a male oriole here many times for suet, yesterday and today. “It does not seem right to look on the deck and see a junco and an oriole a few inches apart. ” October 30, oriole is gone, finally headed south, I guess.

November Reports:

Rosemarie Koester, Providence Rd. November 1, first junco. At Hildreth St. A bluebird nest box with four bluebirds in the same house. “What a treat!” November 25, chickadees, tufted titmouse, nuthatch, four blue jays, pair of cardinals, several juncos, white-throated sparrow, with a touch of yellow on the head, downy woodpecker, goldfinches, house finch, purple finches. Turkeys come around in small groups. A bear has been reported by neighbors in the last few weeks. Bird feeders have been removed and/or destroyed. We found a suet feeder in our back yard–not ours. Heard a coyote close in our back yard, others calling to each other in the woods. We have not heard many coyotes in the past years. We see four to six grey squirrels at a time, rabbit seen.

Debbie Prato, Hayrick Lane. November 1, Canada geese. November 5, crow playing with goose feather for 15 minutes. November 21, eleven turkeys. November 23, bluebirds checking out the birdhouses, which the sparrows always get away from them. “Are they looking for winter homes?” [Yes, bluebirds are known to pile together in birdhouses on cold winter nights-MH]

Dot Mooney, Monadnock Dr. November 2, saw a few mallards and two blue jays at Beaver Brook. Water much higher now. At Howard Rd. wetland, a few chickadees. Under power lines in Hildreth Hills the winterberries are beautiful. November 4, sumac fruits deep red, two chickadees, two downies and a junco checking them out. Two red-tailed hawks over back woods. Birds still splash about in birdbath even on chilly evenings. Leaves so beautiful and most still on trees, but some gusts of wind today are tugging at these holdouts and sending them sailing away. November 6, one downy and one hairy taking turns on suet. Three chickadees bathing and drinking together. November 7, chickadees and a white-throated sparrow in my shrub. November 9, at the Howard Rd. wetland, a spring peeper made a few fall peeps. Two quiet crows nearby in a dead tree. November 11, a few tom turkeys poking around. The trees were bent over in the wind, waves of fallen leaves being driven across the road. November 18, by Beaver Brook three bright swans, one probably the single baby that survived. Many Canada geese and a few mallards. At Howard Rd. wetland, the usual blue jays and chatty chickadees, distant crows. A wood duck called from far side of water. The cattails fluffing out. The autumn air smells so good. Sat on front step to watch birds visiting feeder and suddenly a sharp-shinned hawk zipped through, scattering birds, but did not catch a meal. He perched on nearby tree awhile, giving me a nice long look at this very small, scary predator. November 19, under Parkhurst dr. power lines hard blue jays, chickadees, and white breasted nuthatches. Late afternoon, chickadees still bathe in bird bath quite late, even when the air is cool. November 20, early morning, at least fourteen doves under feeder, cleaning up. Ten juncos scattered around looking for seed. November 21, a light dusting of snow on a cold, windy day is teasing us, reminding us to get ready, the hard weather is on its way–bundle up!”

Marilyn Day, Graniteville Rd. November 3, a pair of flickers  come to the suet. November 5, first juncos arrived.

Doug Pederson, at Beaver Brook bridge, otter photographed. [Doug also sent a beautiful photo of the “Super Moon”-MH]

Marian/Bill Harman, Chamberlain Rd. November 4, pileated woodpecker seen off Groton Rd. November 5, six very large hen turkeys under feeder and on bird bath. November 18, first white-throated sparrow heard in yard. November 19, eight mourning doves, a downy woodpecker, a red-bellied woodpecker, three blue jays, two chickadees, one titmouse, one white-breasted nuthatch, a pair of cardinals, one white-throated sparrow, one junco, five house finches, two goldfinches, ten house sparrows, two grey squirrels. November 20, first snow tonight–yesterday it was 60 degrees!

Bob Price, Stratton Hill Rd. November 11, black fungus on all the maple leaves around the house.

Donna Cecere, Calista Terrace. November 20, pileated woodpecker flew up into an oak tree–such an amazing bird, lots of loud calls. All summer we have had a family of six turkeys in yard. Lots of nuthatches. I love watching the birds drinking from the birdbath and bathing. A birdhouse attracted a wren. Four birdhouses all had nests which delighted me every day. “Thanks for your writings in the Eagle” [Thank you, Donna-MH]

Ginger Dries, Sherwood Dr. November 21, there is snow on the ground, so all the feeders are very busy–too many jays! Lots of sparrows in the evenings. My squirrels are jumping from the ground over my baffle. Two to three pairs of cardinals and all the regulars are here.