Wildlife Watch by Marian Harman – October 2018

Red-tailed hawk staying for the winter by Doug Pederson

The 2018 weather has been the most extreme many of us in the United States and even in Europe have ever experienced. In fact, instead of global warming, the climate change we are seeing is being called by scientists “global weirding”. It is thought that the extremes of cold and snow we experienced this winter and the extremes of heat we experienced this summer, are both caused by the warming of the globe.

Humans are emitting so much carbon dioxide that the earth is covered in a greenhouse blanket it doesn’t seem able to throw off. The hots are getting hotter, the colds are getting colder, storms are getting fiercer, fires and floods are more catastrophic. Weird things happen like much stronger and more frequent hurricanes, the unprecedented heat and humidity of the northeast summer, and the unprecedented heat and dry conditions in California that have been the cause of massive wildfires. Martin Finucane of the Boston Globe reports on work by Hans Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute. Schellnhuber states that giant airstreams called planetary waves that circle the planet are becoming distorted by global warming. “When they get trapped…they slow down so the weather in a given region gets stuck. Rains can grow into floods, sunny days into heat waves, and tinder-dry conditions into wildfires.”

Weird weather is causing animals to change their patterns. Many birds, such as red-tailed hawks and Carolina wrens that used to migrate south in the fall are opting to stay in the north all winter. Massachusetts Audubon calculates that the average temperature in Massachusetts has risen 2.8 degrees since 1895. Sea level has risen by 10 inches since 1922. The growing season has increased by 10 days since 1950. Strong storms have increased 71% since 1958. Temperatures are projected to rise 4 to 7 degrees more by mid-century. Our trees are also “moving north” and our New England forests are projected to become primarily oak and hickory rather than maple, beech, and birch. In a power point presentation called “Climate Change in Massachusetts”, Mass Audubon states, “By the end of the century, summers in Massachusetts will feel more like summers in the South.” In my opinion, this past summer was already as hot and humid as a Florida summer. By mid-August Boston had officially already experienced its hottest summer on record. As the Union of Concerned Scientists states in their recent report. “The Northeast is already experiencing rising temperatures, with dramatic warming expected later this century if our heat-trapping emissions continue to increase unabated. How high temperatures rise depends on the emissions choices we make next, in the Northeast and globally.”

What can we do? We can buy some insurance by trying to curb greenhouse emissions, and reduce our own carbon footprint. We can use renewable energy to power our homes and cars. Consider making your next car a hybrid or electric powered vehicle. To find out more about making the switch to renewable energy for your home, visit  massaudubon.org/MaketheSwitch. Or visit Nexamp.com. Nexamp is a solar power supplier in Massachusetts. Its solar farms supply power to homes and businesses that cannot or choose not to put up rooftop solar panels. To help our animals and plants adjust to changing conditions, we can support land conservation efforts. We can plant native plants to support our native pollinators.

Many thanks to all flora and fauna reporters for the month of October. Please send reports by November 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 September Reports:

Dot Mooney, Monadnock Drive. September 22, cooper’s hawk being harassed by blue jays. The hawk finally had enough and took off after a jay. These jays had better be careful–cooper’s are very good at killing birds. Group of nine or ten turkeys on lawn. “The only time I enjoy these birds is when they are in full sunlight, bringing out their feather colors–amazing”. September 28, finally the colors in back woods starting to change, especially the vines. September 30, sat on front steps awhile to watch feeder area–chickadees, titmice, house finches and three turkeys in and out. A few doves poking around and taking a sip from the birdbath. Chipmunks are really busy running over to feeders to stuff their cheeks with sunflower and racing back to wherever they store them.

Diane Duane, at Grey Fox Lane, September 29, monarch butterfly seen. One also seen at Laughtons. Later in the day four monarchs on our butterfly bush on Howard Rd. September 30, two monarchs in front yard again.

Rosemarie Koester, Providence Rd. September report: two pairs of cardinals, two pairs of blue jays, house finches, numerous goldfinches and chickadees at finch feeder, a few tufted titmice, doves, grackles. Twice saw a female rose-breasted grosbeak, male red-bellied woodpecker, downy woodpecker. September 10, two pileated woodpeckers apparently disputing territory in the yard next door. Hawk circling overhead, birds fussing. Turkeys occasionally stop by. Several bunnies in yard, numerous squirrels, many killed on the road recently. They are cutting little twigs off oak trees to get acorns, many chipmunks.

Marian Harman, at Nashoba Pond. September 29, water level very high, saw minnows, Canada geese, red-bellied woodpecker, blue jays, chickadees, titmouse, tiny white asters, pinks, goldenrod.

October Reports:

Debi Prato, Hayrick Lane. October 1, Canada geese, mallards. October 8, I moved a birdhouse that has always been occupied by sparrows a couple of feet. The next day, several birds, including a bluebird and a downy woodpecker battled over it for hours. October 16, first junco appeared. October 22, flicker in yard. October 25, robin in yard.

Marian Harman, Old Colony Drive. October 1, black bear raided several bird feeders along our street. Most of us are taking our feeders down at least at night. October 3, a walk on the trail by the pond and swamp: two pileated woodpeckers calling to each other, one drumming loudly on a hollow tree, cardinals, titmice, chickadees, two mallards, blue jay, lots of mushrooms all shapes and colors, white, pale pink, pale lavender, yellow and tan. October 20, three white-throated sparrows, first of the season. October 21, first junco of the season arrived here. October 25, red-breasted nuthatch at the feeder.

Dot Mooney, Monadnock Drive. October 4, the regulars are at the feeder, plus a male downy woodpecker. Feeder is really quite quiet. I think a lot of birds are enjoying the good things offered to them under the power lines this time of year. Colors coming out in back woods now, will probably really begin to pop any day. October 5, at last, a large flock of black birds in the woods, always restless, changing their minds. October 8, five tom turkeys in feeder area. These huge birds hardly make a sound when all are walking away though the woods. Noticed a group of high-flying hawks, probably migrating broad-wings. Two noisy ravens flew over, their wedge-shaped tails giving them away. October 9, the red foliage on sumacs out back is just spectacular, and beyond them the numerous vines draped over many trees are beautiful shades of yellow-green. October 10, driving up Monadnock, a young-looking great blue heron flew low over grass beside the car, all the way up the road to the crossroad where he finally landed on the grass. I wonder what the youngster was thinking? October 16, at 10:20 this morning, heard a turkey out back. Looked out and saw a healthy looking coyote on the lawn turning to see where the turkey went. Five minutes later I saw that the coyote was off to the far end of the grass, now closely followed by a second identical coyote, and then both vanished into the woods. I enjoy watching these predators from the window, with my cats watching beside me. “Another change of seasons. Living in New England is never boring.”

Doug Pederson, at Forge Pond. October 5, blackpoll warbler in winter plumage. Doug found out the identification through the “What Bird” forum. [Doug took some beautiful photos of this bird-MH]

Rosemarie Koester, at Patton Rd. October 9, Westford friend sent a photo of a large bird perched on a ladder in the yard. It looks like an immature bald eagle. At feeder, two pairs of cardinals, two pairs of blue jays, goldfinch, house finch, chickadee, tufted titmouse, nuthatch. Many grackles one day, less now, a few doves, hawk sitting in yard watching the feeders. Also at the feeder, male and female downy woodpecker, one at the house pecking away. A pileated woodpecker in the back yard and in the marsh. It chased another pileated away. The juvenile blue heron that was here in June and ate chipmunks retuned again last week. He was here nearly every day, standing patiently, waiting for a chipmunk meal. No chipmunks in sight. He then traveled next door where a resident hawk chased him away. October 24, first sign of white-throated sparrows, but no juncos. They usually come together. A few turkeys in the yard and neighborhood, coyotes heard, squirrels, chipmunks (until the heron arrived).

Sue Bonner, Plain Rd. October 16. We awoke to see our two shepherd crooks holding our bird feeders and suet cake pulled to the ground, empty and ripped apart…A bear had visited us during the night. Now we bring our feeders in each night, but continue to feed the birds during the day. Have seen a woodchuck several times in our yard. Our three turkeys, mom and two fully-grown chicks have visited our yard every day so far in October and come to feed under the bird feeders. We have five resident squirrels left from the nine or ten we saw each day during the summer. Mom turkey is constantly observant of what is going on around her as she feeds with her chicks. They visit one to four times a day. When we see them we take out extra mixed seed to put on the ground…they did not like the cracked corn we bought for them! They back away a few feet while we dump the food, and then hurry right in to eat as we step away. On October 20, we watched them eat and then they wandered into our side yard, settling into a large dirt/compost combination pile. All three scratched up the dirt to make a nest and settled in….rolled sideways in it, and with their feet pushed the dirt up into their feathers, taking a dust bath. We worry when we see them trying to cross Plain Road to the woods opposite us. One evening at dusk Bruce saw them at the edge of our property ready to cross. He stopped our car, went into the road and stopped traffic until all three made it safely into the woods for the night. [That’s true dedication!-MH]

Mary Brownlie, Parkhurst Drive. October 19, saw a jet black squirrel this week. I did google it and found it to be rather rare in this part of the country. It’s the huge bushy black tail that caught my eye.

Larry Willard, at Nabnasset Lake. October 19, mature bald eagle seen soaring.

Dave Ebitson, Sassafras Rd. Great blue heron in the yard has eaten all the chipmunks.

Bill Harman, at Stone Arch Bridge. October 19, raven seen.

Esther Donlon, Providence Rd. October 20, “I was wondering what was eating up all my hostas this fall, so I bought a wildlife camera. I found a bunny one night and then got these pictures [of a handsome white-tail buck]. I can’t wait to see what else is in my yard when I am not looking.”

Ginger Dries, Sherwood Drive. October 14 and 16, a bear got the feeders at night. Took feeders down for a week, but on October 24, the bear hit again. So now we take the feeders down at night. October 21, first junco arrived at feeders, tons of jays and cardinals and all the regulars.

Meyer Franklin, Heywood Rd. October 21, leucistic chickadee at the feeder for the past few weeks. [Meyer sent photos of this interesting, mostly white bird-MH]

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