Wildlife Watch by Marian Harman – April 2024


Ruby-throated Hummingbird by Doug Pederson

Early Birds

Its clear that spring has started early. Precipitation is seven inches above normal this year, and above average temperatures suggest that this will be a warm spring.  As I write this at the end of April, many trees are in full bloom, and are already opening their leaves, blueberry bushes are blooming, starflower plants are up, and many birds have arrived early.

As of April 17, I have heard a pine warbler, a yellow-rumped warbler, a hermit thrush and a house wren. The last Junco we had at the feeder was on April 10. Hummingbirds are moving  into Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. They seem to have arrived about two weeks early. Bird watchers are getting their hummingbird feeders ready to greet the exhausted and hungry first arrivals. You can go to hummingbird central.org to see an interactive map of hummingbird migration.

As you walk on Westford’s trails, or listen in your yard, try to identify the birds you are seeing and hearing. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology App called “Merlin Bird ID” is a great help in identifying the bird calls and songs you hear. We hope you’ll send a bird list to Westford Wildlife Watch.

Many thanks to all flora and fauna reporters for the month of April. Please send May reports by May 31 for inclusion in next month’s column. You can send reports to me at mariancharman@gmail.com.


April Reports:


Marian/Bill Harman, Old Colony Drive. April 2, 45 degrees and cloudy. Phoebe heard for first time this spring. Juncos still here at the feeder. April 3, 44 degrees, rainy, windy. A walk to the beaver dam: blueberry bushes are budding, brown creeper singing his beautiful song. I meet a happy pre-school group on the trail. April 4, 34 degrees, very windy, rain, sleet and then snow—April Fools! Two inches of snow by end of day. Saw three chickadees, three juncos, two male cardinals, five grackles, two red-winged blackbirds, one goldfinch, one song sparrow two mourning doves, a titmouse, a downy woodpecker. They shelter in the nearby andromeda bush and stage to the feeder from there. April 6, low 40’s, cloudy, windy. At feeder: three juncos, a downy woodpecker two goldfinches. A walk to the beaver dam: bird song is really ramping up. I hear chickadees, titmice, blue jays, cardinal, Carolina wren, fish crows, song sparrow and phoebe. On the pond I see seven ring-necked ducks, one male wood duck, mallards and geese heard. Red-winged blackbirds are beginning to set up territories in Snake Meadow Brook, grackles heard, three male mallards in the brook. April 8, 45-50, clear blue sky. We went to St. Johnsbury, VT. For the total eclipse of the sun—a once-in-a-lifetime thing for us! When we got home, peepers were singing loudly from the swamp (first time heard here this spring). April 9, 60 degrees. At feeder: juncos, tree sparrow, phoebe in yard, grackles, red-wings, goldfinches, cardinal, blue jay, three chickadees, mourning dove. April 10, phoebe heard. April 11, Texas Rd., saw a spotted turtle in the wetland.  April 12 at Stepinski Conservation Land: brown creeper, tufted titmouse, golden-crowned kinglet. April 13, 50’s, cloudy. At feeder: blackbirds galore. AOnly the red-bellied woodpecker dares to brave the mob. Downy woodpecker, goldfinch, female red-winged blackbird (first time seen here). A walk to the beaver dam: A strong Northwest Wind feels very cold. Great blue heron rose up from the shore of Keyes Pond. All the red maples in the swamps are in glorious bloom—a grey squirrel is eating some of them. A turkey vulture soaring low over Snake Meadow Brook, a wood duck and a pair of mallards took off from the brook. Many painted turtles, some quite large are basking on rocks and stumps.  Peepers are peeping in all the wetlands. April 15, a beautiful spring day, 64 degrees. In the yard are two male turkeys, goldfinches, titmice, grackles, red-winged blackbirds, a mourning dove. Merlin heard a winter wren (twice)! The juncos seem to have flown north. Many bees and wasps are pollinating the andromeda flowers. A hen turkey is feeding placidly under the feeder, while two tom turkeys are very alert, standing guard. April 17, to 60 degrees, a beautiful sunny calm day. The starflowers are up, the low-bush blueberry has flower buds, the Canadian mayflower plants are up. Birds seen/heard: goldfinch, red-winged blackbird, pine warbler (a first), yellow-rumped warbler (first), Carolina wren, titmouse, blue jay, cardinal, red-shouldered hawk, mourning dove, downy woodpecker, junco, several brown creepers, grackles, house wren, (a first), hermit thrush (a surprise). April 20, rainy 50 degrees—a barred owl heard. April 23, a red-tailed hawk heard. April 26, 50’s sunny, a walk to the beaver dam: I had minor surgery, resulting in much bruising and swelling of my face. I had stayed house-bound for three days, and really needed to get our today! I found that the blueberry bushes are blooming with little coral bells. Many bumblebees are around the andromeda bushes, painted turtles of all sizes are basking in the brook, at least one on every sunny root and rock. Birds heard: Ruby-crowned kinglet (first), white-throated sparrow (first), red-winged blackbirds, grackles, cardinal, chickadees, titmice, downy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, a flicker calling its long drawn-out calls, brown creeper, large female hairy woodpecker. Got my first black fly bite! April 29, toads are singing today (first), heard a raven in the back yard. Off Rt. 110: house sparrow, flicker, grackle, cardinal, mockingbird, Carolina wren, house finch, red-winged blackbird, common yellowthroat (first), song sparrow, robin, chipping sparrow (first). The mockingbird that I was watching, sang a blue jay call and a Eastern towhee call—Merlin was fooled!


A Poem, “After Surgery” (free verse)


After three days of house confinement, I need to walk.

Bundles up against a cool wind, I smile at the blueberry bushes.

Its only Aril 26, but they are flourishing their white coral bells to the bees.

A pair of mallards fly overhead; a flicker calls with insistence.

Spring bursts forth—how reassuring.


An April Haiku


Black Flies in my eyes

They bite the back of my neck

How I hate ‘em!


Lisa Groves, at the Peace Trail off Boston Rd. April 8, Lots of wildlife activity at the marsh off the Peace trail during the eclipse: many turtles hanging out on logs and rocks, a hooded merganser pair and wood ducks swimming and diving, Canada goose mates nesting midway out in the marsh. At one point the female left the nest to join her mate for an evening swim. One beaver swimming, bluebirds, red-winged blackbirds, woodpeckers, peepers got loud as the eclipse progressed and quieted down afterwards. Main St., On returning home, a coyote ran down the driveway into the woods.

Rosemarie Koester, Providence Rd. April report: blue jays, two pairs of cardinals, chickadees (they like the finch food), titmouse, many goldfinches, lots of grackles, red-winged blackbirds, (a few females), a pair of pileated woodpeckers, one robin frequently bathing and preening (mites?), hawk overhead, Canada geese overhead, several wild turkeys, dead baby turtle at neighbor’s yard– this is where turtles have laid eggs in the past. A deer nibbling my hostas at night, squirrels chasing each other, bumble bees around the periwinkle blooms, one small orange butterfly.  April 29, an oriole at our hummingbird feeder, trying to get a drink—very frustrated.

Tom Ennis, Almeria Drive, April 29. Garlic mustard everywhere!

Gerry DiBello, Court Rd. April 29, first hummingbird at our feeder.

Emily Teller, Texas Rd. April 29, a neighbor saw a rare melanistic (black) white-tailed deer in the neighborhood—posted online- beautiful!

Bill Duane, Howard Rd. April 30, first hummingbird at the feeder.


Marian Harman is a member of the Westford Conservation Trust, a non-profit conservation organization, whose purpose is the protection of Westford’s open spaces and trails. Check out the Trust’s website at westfordconservationtrust.org, and visit us on Facebook.