Hairy Caterpillars

When you take a walk are you seeing shredded leaves on the ground and small hairy caterpillars raining down on you?  Or is your car covered with droppings and leaves?  That’s called frass and it is produced by gypsy moth caterpillars.  Last fall the adult moths laid eggs on tree trunks like these in Hopkinton.

This spring they hatched into hairy caterpillars.  Hairy caterpillars are not the favorite food of many birds, but there are a few, notably the cuckoos, who find them tasty.  The result is many birders have seen and heard cuckoos this year especially where caterpillars are thick.  This yellow-billed cuckoo was seen at Waseeka sanctuary in Hopkinton.  They have also been seen and heard at Broadmoor.

These two images show the yellow bill, eye mask and striped tail.  Thanks to Cheryl Rose for sharing.

 

Tree Swallows and Bluebirds!

33 out of 55 nest boxes at Broadmoor have either eggs or young.

Two Eastern bluebird pairs lost 9 young during cold, wet weather a few weeks ago.  Bluebirds depend on a supply of insects to feed their young.  The good news is the pairs re-nested and there are new eggs in the boxes.  The male is brilliant blue while the female is paler, but both have orange breast feathers.

Tree swallows are blue as well and nest later than bluebirds, but their breast feathers are white.  This year, they nested especially late, which was an advantage.  By the time their eggs hatched, there was abundant insect food.  The lack of insects earlier in the season may have delayed the formation and laying of eggs, possibly an adaptation to weather extremes.

Look for the white board in the welcome center showing what is in the nest boxes.  Each box is numbered so you can watch them by borrowing binoculars at the desk and observing from the trails.

Waseeka

Mass Audubon’s Waseeka Wildlife Sanctuary in Hopkinton is a gem.  Wildflowers including Gaywings and starflower are blooming on the forest floor.  Blueberry and sassafras are mid-level under white pines and oaks.

Fair Weather birders visited today and saw Osprey on the nest.

A green heron posed near the dike.

A red-bellied woodpecker delivered food to young in the nest.  The stiff tail feathers are used to brace its tail against the tree.

Eastern wood-peewee, rose-breasted grosbeak, Eastern kingbird and Baltimore oriole are just a few of the 25 species seen in a short 1 mile walk.

Go to  http://www.massaudubon.org/get-outdoors/wildlife-sanctuaries/waseeka for directions and a trail map.

Birds and Bikes

Last weekend Broadmoor fielded birding teams all over the state as part of Mass Audubon’s annual FUN(D)raiser starting Friday night at 6 pm and continuing until Saturday night at 6 pm.  One of the highlights was seeing piping plovers at Revere Beach blending into the sand, looking cute, and, well, making more piping plovers.

Thanks to Emily Sczcypek for sharing her great photos.

Broadmoor teams saw a total of 169 species of birds and raised more than $3,500 to support our conservation and education work.  Thanks to everyone who participated!

Bikes have become a common way for visitors to get to the sanctuary.  As part of our new nature play and picnic areas, we are installing a bike rack at the trail entrance.  Our property staff, Shane Parsons and Stephen Rull, supervised as Wellesley College volunteers Genae Matthews and Isabelle Herde dug the holes, poured the cement.  Next week the bike rack will be attached.

Fair Weather Birding hit a mini-migration yesterday with American redstarts everywhere.  Thanks to Ian Schmidt for his photos.

This American redstart male has colors similar to the Orchard Oriole.

But the Eastern kingbird is an unmistakable flycatcher with the white band at the tip of its tail.

Birds, Birds Birds

Last Sunday Broadmoor hosted the 40th annual Birds and Breakfast – hour and a half birding walks followed by a pancake breakfast.  Volunteers including Jonathan Davis flipped pancakes and kept the coffee going.  Pancakes were served with real maple syrup from Natick Community Organic Farm.

A highlight of the morning was a new species added to the list:  Great Egret seen by dozens of birders right off the main bridge.  One youngster dubbed it  The Great Regret.  In the 40 years the program has run on each second Sunday of May, 129 species have been seen.

Birding guide Tom Warren brought his family, now three generations of birders.

Young birder, young bird.  This young one got a look at our resident immature red-tailed hawk perched hopefully on a nest box.

Next weekend is Birdathon so look for posts of Broadmoor’s teams in action.  Or join us in the field at Broadmoor Friday evening.  Register online by 5pm Friday or call our Visitor Services staff at 508-655-2296 by 5pm Friday.

And checkout Yankee magazine’s Editor’s Choice Award for Best Birdwatching Spot 2017:  Broadmoor!

Best of Massachusetts | 2017 Editors’ Choice Awards

Understanding Climate Change

Mass Audubon’s Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary hosted Dr. Eric Chivian presenting the Eighth Jean and Henry Stone Memorial lecture on March 26 at The Center for the Arts in Natick. 

The failure of humanity to grasp what we are doing to global physical, chemical, and biological systems is the greatest problem in the history of our species on this small planet.

Dr. Chivian discussed why it is so difficult for many people to recognize global environmental changes, and to grasp the significance of these changes for human life.  Our brains are wired to see what is happening right in front of us right now—we do not do very well with seeing things that are not obvious, that happen incrementally, or that occur over large areas or in other parts of the world.

Dr. Chivian talked about how a medical model can help people understand the implications of our altering the global environment, by translating the abstract, technical science of these changes into the concrete, personal, everyday language of human health. He described some of the barriers to grasping global environmental changes, and gave examples of the medical consequences of losing organisms like polar bears and ecosystems like coral reefs, and discussed the role of the “precautionary principle” in medicine.  Using a medical model of a severe bacterial infection in a child and the need to take action if there is a risk of death, he made the case that the greater the risk, the less evidence is needed to act.  He made a persuasive case that there is sufficient evidence of global environmental changes influenced by human activities that immediate action is required to prevent catastrophic consequences within this century.

Dr. Chivian’s book, Sustaining Life, How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity describes the subject in greater detail.

Dr. Chivian, is a physician and Nobel laureate, Director of the Program on Preserving the Natural World and Founder and Former Director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard Medical School.

March Extremes

Unusual birds often blow in with March winds, but this brown pelican was seen by your blogger on a Mass Audubon tour in the Galapagos last month.  The white sand background might be a giveaway.

March in New England can bring rain, snow, heat and cold.  Last week a rainstorm cleared to reveal these beautiful rainbows at Broadmoor.

This one over Indian Brook surprised a pair of hooded mergansers.

Male red-winged blackbirds returned the third week of February a sure sign of spring even if snow returns.

Every day can bring a surprise this month.  Come see what you can find.

The Lean Season

Our resident juvenile red-tailed hawk can often be seen perching on a nest box in the field in front of the nature center.  No, it isn’t hunting the tree swallows or bluebirds that will nest there in a few months.  The nest box is a perfect place to scan the field for tasty meadow voles and other small animals.  When there is snow, the small mammals burrow underneath, making hunting harder.  Sometimes the hawk swoops down to the bird feeder behind the nature center where voles, squirrels and small birds can be easy prey.

 

Another bird that hunts bird feeders, especially this time of year is the Cooper’s hawk.  This one is also an immature like the red-tailed.

Plants are either fruiting or getting ready for spring flowering.  These bittersweet nightshade berries are still visible.  In the tomato family, perhaps they are not the favorite food of songbirds.

Catbrier berries cling to the claw-like stems, giving the plant its name.

Alder has both catkins and cones.

The old foundation of the sawmill forms waterfalls.  The foam below is natural, the result of organic acids from the water being oxygenated as it falls, forming foam.

Year’s End and New Beginnings

Solstice sunset marks the official start of winter and the beginning of longer days and shorter nights.  Broadmoor staff and volunteers invite you to explore the sanctuary this winter on foot, or if there is snow, on snowshoes or skis.

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There are always surprises to discover.  Cheryl Rose found this adult Bald Eagle at our Waseeka Wildlife Sanctuary.  What will you find?

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All of us at Broadmoor send wishes for the upcoming year with lots of adventures in nature.

What Is It? December

What is it?  Soaring away from the photographer through the trees on South Street is a hawk, but what kind?

Look closely to see a band of dark feathers across the chest.

It’s a red-tailed hawk.

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Loaves of bread?  These giant puffballs are mushrooms.  The oldest looks like crusty bread, smooth mushrooms are younger and velvety mounds have lost their covering and are showing spores.  Mushrooms reproduce by spores which will be carried on the wind.

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These beautiful yellow leaves are none other than the remains of – poison ivy.  Leaves of three are clearly visible on at the top of the vine.  And yes, you can get poison ivy from touching the plant any time of the year.

 

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