Wildlife Watch by Marian Harman – December 2019

Blue Jay by Doug Pederson

Happy New Year! Westford Wildlife Watch is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Wildlife Watch, which began in 1990, was inspired by Chuck Roth, then Education Coordinator at Mass Audubon. Roth had started asking people to send wildlife reports to him in his hometown of Littleton. When I asked Westford residents to send me their sightings in 1990, there were just eleven reporters (some are still reporting today) and 21 reports. In 2019, we had 48 different reporters, [add Dec.] some reporting only once, some reporting monthly. We have had years when there were more reporters, but those 48 people sent in a lot of reports–1148 reports of flora and fauna. Many reporters also send in wildlife and plant photos they take in Westford. These photos are put together into a slide show every year. You can see the slide shows at westfordconservationtrust.org.

Below are some highlights of 2019:

On January 21, we had our first real snowstorm–4-6″. During that month, bobcats were sighted on Texas Rd., on Heywood Rd., on Tadmuck Lane, and on Providence Rd. On February 2, an early flock of red-winged blackbirds arrived at Court Rd. On February 8, a female goldeneye was swimming at Forge Pond. On February 10, an adult bald eagle was perched in a tree on the shore of Keyes Pond. Bears were out of hibernation by March 12, and woodcocks were courting. On March 16, a turkey vulture had arrived and was seen on Hayrick Lane.  “Big Night”, when spotted salamanders and wood frogs come out of hibernation and cross roads to breeding ponds, occurred on March 30.

By April 1, a pair of wood ducks was nesting near Snake Meadow Brook. April 7, eight ring-necked ducks and a bald eagle were seen on Flushing Pond. April 19, otters were playing in Keyes Pond. Juncos were still here on April 23. On April 27, tree swallows arrived at Keyes Pond. In May, many other spring migrants arrived right on time, and were joyously greeted by Westford residents. Hummingbirds arrived on May 5. Barn swallows, ovenbirds, wood thrushes, chipping sparrows, warblers, vireos, catbirds, scarlet tanagers, Baltimore orioles and phoebes were all seen and heard the first week of May. On May 30, mother wood duck brought out her six fluffy ducklings to swim on Snake Meadow Brook. By mid-June, turtle moms were crossing our dangerous roads to find suitable nesting areas. Red-tailed hawks were fledging. In July young toads were everywhere. Bobcats were spotted in several areas of town. In August, black bears began to be more in evidence at bird feeders.

In September, a few monarch butterflies were reported, and by mid-September hawks were migrating south. At night, migrating nighthawks were seen overhead in large flocks of fifty or more. The first reported junco to arrive here for the winter was October 28 at Sherwood Dr. Robins gathered in large winter feeding flocks. In November, a pair of migrating bufflehead ducks, headed south were resting on Keyes Pond, and white-throated sparrows arrived here for the winter. Bears were active until late November. In December, chickadees were already singing their breeding songs. And so the cycle of the seasons keeps turning.

Many thanks to all flora and fauna reporters for the month of December. Please send reports by January 26 for inclusion in next month’s column. You can write me at 7A Old Colony Drive, call me at 692-3907, or e-mail me at mariancharman@gmail.com.

Late November Reports:

Rosemarie Koester, Providence Rd. November 14, saw my first junco. Happy to see him.

Sue Bonner, Plain Rd. November 20, a bear visited our bird feeders. Our two shepherd crooks were bent, the three feeders on the ground, emptied, suet holder opened and new cake gone.  November 24 and 26, seven turkeys arrived looking for food.

Marian/Bill Harman, Old Colony Drive. November 23, at 9 pm, we heard a great clanging of our squirrel baffles and looked out to see a large dark animal running down the deck stairs. It took the suet cake, leaving the  empty suet basket behind. Most likely a bear.


Marian/Bill Harman, Old Colony Drive. December 2, 30 degrees and snowing, 18 inches total. At the feeder: two chickadees, three titmice, two goldfinches, six juncos, three downy woodpeckers, one white-breasted nuthatch, two blue jays, two American tree sparrows (first arrival), a white-throated sparrow, pair of cardinals, one red-bellied woodpecker, one hairy woodpecker, four mourning doves. December 10, pileated woodpecker seen and heard near the Fletcher library, very talkative. December 13, 40 degrees, warm and quite foggy. The fog is beautiful over Keyes Pond. The partridgeberry leaves and berries are as brilliant as ever, peeking out through the snow. Snake Meadow Brook flowing fast over the beaver dam. On the walk I heard downy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, blue jays, chickadees, already singing their spring songs! Coyote tracks in the woods.

Gerry DiBello, Court Rd. December 17, healthy looking bobcat in the yard this morning. [Gerry sent a great photo-MH]

December 22, Sunny Killoran, Pine Ridge Rd. We have had a beautiful eight-point buck in the yard often. Sometimes it is following a doe, sometimes it is resting under a bush in the yard, seemingly completely unafraid of us.

Debbie Prato, Hayrick Lane. December 24, a tiny light grey bird in the tube feeder. One of my favorite geese has returned [looks like a hybrid goose. Debbie sent photos [MH].

          Marian Harman is a member of the Westford Conservation Trust, a non-profit conservation organization whose mission is the preservation of Westford’s open spaces and trails. The Trust welcomes new members and volunteers. Check out our website at westfordconservationtrust.org and visit us on Facebook.