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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Blue jays and a hawk

Photographer Cheryl Rose recorded this sequence of photos at Mass Audubon’s Waseeka Wildlife Sanctuary.  Six blue jays looked tasty to this Sharp-shinned hawk who did aerial acrobatics to try to catch one.  This time the jays escaped.

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Sharp-shinned hawks are the smallest accipter in the neighborhood.  They are about the size of the blue jays.  Their bigger cousin, Cooper’s hawk is crow-sized, and, very rarely, their much larger relative, Goshawk, can  be seen.

 

Subtle Signs of Fall

Maple leaves have fall(en) but there is a lookalike shrub with pinkish lavender leaves to look for.  Mapleleaf viburnum looks a lot like a maple sapling during the summer, but is subtley different in fall.

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In summer, the green stems of blackberry blend into the other field plants, but in fall the deep burgundy leaves stand out.  In the background, the bright yellow asparagus fronds are reminders that vegetables were farmed on this field in the past.

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Tupelos, also called black-gum trees show small colorful leaves at the edge of the marsh and the along the Charles River.

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Try walking Indian Brook Trail to look for something you’ve never noticed before.

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Where is the Best Place to See Fall Colors?

Waseeka Wildlife Sanctuary in Holliston/Hopkinton is a riot of color.  Photographer Cheryl Rose captured these images this week.

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Waseeka is a delight for photographers and birders.  Visit http://www.massaudubon.org/get-outdoors/wildlife-sanctuaries/waseeka for directions and a trail map.

The Colors of Fall

Small wonders can be seen almost anywhere.  This small grasshopper perched on top of trail signpost number 15.  The little insect is not nailed to the post as it appears, but warming up in the sun.

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Wood ducks, though colorful are cryptic and blend right into the fall colors of the marsh.

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Sugar maples lining the entry to Broadmoor are beginning to turn colors.

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New England asters are planted in our native plants garden and are found wild in the fields.

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A Feast of Fish!

Broadmoor and much of Metrowest have not had significant rain for more than three months.  Water levels in the Indian Brook wetlands are two to three feet below normal in several places.  The result?  Concentrations of fish and turtles in the limited areas of water.

This otter family has been seen from the main bridge, in the Wildlife Pond and the Charles River.  Their sleek look is wet fur.  Look closely to see the unfortunate fish, lunch for one of member of the family.

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Green herons are smaller than great blue herons, but have the same patient fishing technique, watching carefully for motion; then darting quickly to capture a fish with their sharp bills.  Yes, this is a green heron, although reddish-blue might better describe its colors.

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Fair Weather Birders watched great blue herons and a belted kingfisher this morning and heard two pileated woodpeckers near the mill sites.

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This belted kingfisher and the pileated woodpeckers were photographed at Waseeka Wildlife Sanctuary in Hopkinton.