Wildlife Watch by Marian Harman – July 2022


Goldenrod and Joe Pye Weed by Marian Harman

Heat waves! Westford is experiencing a heat waves this summer, and so is much of the country, Europe, and other parts of the world. Some of us are fortunate in that we can turn on an air conditioner if we want to; not everyone is so lucky. But this ability to cool ourselves is putting us in a feed-back loop. With global warming, we are experiencing more and longer heat waves. Turning on an air conditioner that is powered by fossil fuels, is exacerbating global warming. What to do?

If you do use an air conditioner, one first step can be to raise the thermostat to 76 or 78 degrees, so that the air conditioner doesn’t come on as frequently. At night, you can turn off the air conditioner, open the windows, and use a fan in your bedrooms. You can turn off the air conditioner entirely any time you will be away from home for an extended period of time. National Grid tells us that the power used to get your house cooled when you return, is far less than the power that would be used if you keep the air conditioner on,   even for several hours, while you are away.

An even better idea is to do your best to power that air conditioner sustainably, with green energy such as solar and wind. If you cannot put solar panels on your roof, as a Westford resident you can opt for the Town’s Power Options Program, or POP at levels up to 100%. This program promises that you will be using electricity from sustainable sources. Another good supplier is Nexamp, headquartered in Boston, which obtains your electricity from solar farms in Massachusetts. Nexamp promises you 100% solar-generated electricity, at a 12-15% reduction in the price you would normally pay National Grid. This is the supplier we use, because as condo dwellers, we cannot put solar panels on our roof. All suppliers will bill you through National Grid.

But what if your HVAC system is old and needs replacement? In that case, you may want to install a heat pump that provides heat and air conditioning in one system. The new heat pumps work well, even in New England’s cold winters, and won’t be using fossil fuels for energy. The Westford residents we know who are using heat pumps, swear by them. Mass Save is now offering rebates on the cost of heat pumps of  $10,000 to $15,000. Mass Save can also give you advice on weather proofing your home, and suggest qualified heat pump installers. For more information, visit the Westford Climate Action website at westfordclimateaction.org. Here you can find a link to a video of an excellent Zoom seminar that WCA held in 2022. The video features two Westford residents talking about their heat pump systems. Stay cool!

Many thanks to the flora and fauna reporters for the month of July. Please send reports by August 31 to be included in next month’s column. You can call me at 692-3907, write me at 7A Old Colony Drive, or e-mail me at mariancharman@gmail.com.


Late June Reports:

Rosemarie Koester, Providence Rd. At the feeder: too many grackles scare the others away. Also, cardinals, goldfinch, purple finch, house finch, blue jays, red-winged blackbirds (males, female, juvenile), mourning doves, robins (must have a nest nearby. They always fuss when I am working in the yard). Chickadees are anxious to get to the feeder when I am putting them out in the morning, tufted titmouse, red-bellied woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, rose-breasted grosbeak (so pretty and comes daily). The female joins him at our finch feeder. Hawk seen overhead. I think I heard a pileated woodpecker in the woods. A few turkeys almost daily, bunnies, chipmunks, gray squirrels. One squirrel seemed to have a sore back/shoulder–looked raw. It came for a few days and not lately. Bees on bee balm and milkweed, mosquitos!


July Reports:

Rick and Carol Hurdt, Graniteville Rd. A quick hawk chronology:

March-Noticed the hawk in the trees out front. There were no leaves so we could see her clearly and she could see us! Early there appeared to be a male Cooper Hawk we think, but he disappeared early on.


April 4–We noticed the mother Cooper Hawk on the nest and flying back and forth, probably with food for herself.


April 20-Noticed her spending more and more time on the nest. Figured there must be eggs there.


Early June–Started to see little heads bobbing in the nest. Mom would be gone; returned with food. Appeared to be two babies.


June 21 or 22–Fledglings appeared flapping wings, but confined to the nest. Mom still bringing food.


June 30–The babies started leaving the nest for short trips.


July 6–Heard noises on the roof. When I went outside to investigate, found two hawk babies sitting on the larger roof.  When mom returned, they flew back to the nest.


July 7–One hawk seen on the railing on the deck in back, just taking it all in. Also saw one perched on the fence by the garage. Also noticed later two of them behind the fence making a racket.


July 8–One of our boys arrived and found both on the front stairs. They then took off.


We have enjoyed watching the hawks grow, along with the deer and their babies (Rick and Carol sent some wonderful photos of the juvenile hawks on their roof-MH)


Gerry DiBello, Court Rd. July 4, Mr. Bear has finally returned to our neighborhood.

Rosemarie Koester, Providence Rd. July 4, We were sitting in the family room ten feet way, when a bear wrecked the finch feeder. Usually the feeders are in at night, but we had guests and forgot. Happy fourth! July 9, two barred owls calling to each other–love hearing them! At the feeder: cardinals– male feeding female. One juvenile cardinal. Lots of goldfinches, house and purple finches at the finch feeder. Four to six blue jays daily, indcluding one or two juveniles, chickadees, tufted titmouse, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers. One red-bellied WP tried to get a drink from the hummer feeder. Daily hummingbird visits, frequently during the vey hot days, also drinking from the bird bath which we clean and refresh every day.  Hummingbird seen on the deck and also on the flower stalk of a hosta. Normally we see many bees on the bee balm and other plants, but not this year. We do see them on the white clover. A few turkeys in the yard almost daily. Doves, grackles on feeder. Hawk seen overhead–birds fussing. Bunnies in front yard, gray squirrels, chipmunks, deer startled and then snorted at my husband in the woods behind our house.

Marian/Bill Harman, Old Colony Drive. July 4, low 80’s, breezy, sunny. A walk to the beaver dam: swamp honeysuckle blooming along Snake Meadow Brook, very fragrant even from a distance, snowy white. The blueberries are ripening–delicious! I wore my bug net over my hat; the jays didn’t like it. The brook is very low–drought. A mallard took off, red-winged blackbirds in the cattails, a catbird talking in the swamp by the pond. July 9, a new oriole is singing one phrase this morning–very bubbly, flute-like and sounds like “I am so happ–y”. The Merlin app identified a broad-winged hawk here. I thought it was a blue jay that made the call to scare a woodpecker off the suet. In either case, the woodpecker took off. Pickerel weed blooming  its beautiful purple flowers in Snake Meadow Brook, white and yellow (bull) water lilies blooming in brook and in Pond. Green frogs twanging in Brook. Amazingly fragrant swamp honeysuckle blooming along banks of Keyes Pond. July 11, 80 degrees, sunny, breezy. Three hummingbirds at the feeder–looks like male, female and juvenile. A broad-winged hawk calling and soaring overhead. Young chickadees and a few grackles at the feeder. July 13, three bats seen at dusk over Old Colony Drive–they are a welcome sight. July 22, temps in the 90’s. This is the fourth day of a heat wave. The poor hummingbirds are so thirsty–coming frequently to the feeder, which we have to fill daily. July 25, the heat wave lasted 6 days–very hot and very humid. Today, it is 88 degrees, cloudy and humid. A juvenile flicker is searching for bugs on the lawn. At the feeder: goldfinches, grackles, titmice, chickadees, one jay, red-winged blackbirds. July 26, the heat and humidity have broken. It is low 80’s, and much lower humidity. At the feeder, hummingbirds, red-winged blackbirds, grackles, male cardinal, red-bellied woodpecker, downy and hairy woodpeckers. July 31, a walk on the beaver dam trail. High summer, 80’s sunny, breezy–very pleasant, especially because the deer flies are no longer around. High bush blueberry bushes are loaded with ripe and yummy blueberries. Purple loosetrife is blooming in the pond and brook, but also swamp loosetrife is blooming in both places too. Joe-pye-weed is blooming near the dam. I think of this as a fall or late summer plant. The cinnamon fern, that loves wet areas, is already turning bronze-colored, perhaps because of the severe drought we are in. Saw a new (to me) plant blooming along Snake Meadow Brook: Square-stemmed Monkey Plant. Beautiful purple and yellow flowers. Birds seen or heard: catbird, goldfinches, chickadees, titmice, mourning doves, blue jays, Carolina wren, pee-wee. The green frogs are active and “twanging” in the brook. They really are smart. When I go near the water and watch them, they are nowhere to be seen or heard. The second I turn my back to leave, they tune up again. A dark turtle sunning itself on a branch in the brook– yellow stripes on head, black shell, that seemed to be covered with mud. I think it was a painted turtle that emerged from the muddy bottom to bask for awhile. At the feeder: Six goldfinches. The goldfinches are paired up now, staying close to their mates, preparing to nest in August. Two female hummingbirds at the feeder. The  dominant one chases the other off, but not very aggressively. I think they may be a mother and daughter. We see the male infrequently now.

The blow-down area of the woods is recovering very nicely. After three summers, lots of young deciduous trees and shrubs are growing vigorously: red maple, oak, birch, etc. I didn’t see any invasive plants. Mother nature knows how to heal herself. If we had clear-cut this area, it would be full of invasives, but it seems the downed trees have sheltered and nurtured the desirable new growth.

Marilyn Day, Graniteville Rd. July 8, a deer got hit near 16 Graniteville Rd. this afternoon.

Diane and Bill Duane, at Stony Brook. July 31, pulling water chestnut on the brook, with kayaks. Bill saw a small black turtle basking on a branch that was overhanging the brook! No other marking noted on the turtle possibly a Musk turtle. [Many thanks to you both for all your work to prevent Stony Brook from getting clogged with invasive water chestnut-MH].

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