Grand Re-Opening of Indian Brook Trail

The trail crew invites you to imagine cutting the ribbon

You’re invited to a Do-It-Yourself Grand Re-opening of the Indian Brook Trail reroute which was recently completed on a beautiful, gentle slope above the vernal pool. The change moves the trail out of wetland habitat – disruptive for wildlife, muddy and uncomfortable for visitors – to a terrific viewpoint of the Indian Brook marsh. To visit, take the right hand trail branch from the nature center main trail along the field and into the woods past the vernal pool boardwalk overlook. The new trail rises upward from there. Be on the lookout for wood ducks in the wetland below. This is a favorite spot for them on fall migration.

Wood duck

Terra Corps Service Member Bea Oliva managed the staff and volunteers who collectively worked more than 80 hours on this reroute. Big thanks to the volunteers from Appalachian Mountain Club, who put the finishing touches on this project. The result: it looks like it’s always been there and instead of watching your feet, you can enjoy the forest and wildlife.

AMC volunteers moving earth

Another beautiful option to explore was completed this summer and goes around the Mill Pond from Signpost 4 to Signpost 6. Most visitors cross the bridge, but for a new view of the sanctuary, give this different route a try.

Mill Pond
Mill Pond

More trail improvements will be continuing throughout the year. Many thanks to the generous donors who contributed more than $420,000 to make these improvements and created an endowment to ensure the trails will always be kept in top condition.

We hope to see you out on the new trail sections enjoying the results of our community’s hard work. Grab your sneakers and binoculars, and reserve your time to visit today!

Introducing…

Land stewardship coordinator, Bea Oliva, joined the MetroWest team at Broadmoor. She is a Terra Corps service member who will coordinate volunteers making trail reroutes and improvements, providing training workshops and mentoring to conservation land managers, and working with local communities on land stewardship projects. She will serve full time for the next eleven months in this national service program, part of AmeriCorps. Bea brings experience from her Peace Corps service in Jamaica, and holds a biology degree from Cornell. When you see her on the trails, please welcome her!

Bea rerouting Indian Brook Trail with volunteers

Her first hands-on job is rerouting the Indian Brook Trail near the vernal pool where part of the original trail has become wetland as a result of beaver activity and extreme rainfall. The new trail segment is higher and has great views of the Indian Brook wetland.

Water marigold

From the main bridge, water marigold can be seen blanketing the Indian Brook wetland. It’s in the beggar’s-tick family, Bidens. The seeds readily attach to socks, pantlegs, and animal fur for a free ride to a new habitat.

Winterberry holly – Ilex vertcillata

These fat ripe berries can be seen along the wetland edges. Winterberry holly is a native that loses its leaves in the winter. The tiny white flowers are rarely noticed in summer, but the berries are nutritious bird food. A flock of robins can pluck all the berries on a bush in a matter of minutes in Fall and Winter.

Come discover the nature of Fall. Last week a visiting couple shared their personal goal to visit all Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries this year and Broadmoor was first on their list!

Little Farm Pond and Waseeka

Summer is a great time to explore new places. Two beautiful nearby locations are Little Farm Pond, in Sherborn, part of Broadmoor, and Waseeka Wildlife Sanctuary in Hopkinton.

Little Farm Pond, Sherborn

Little Farm Pond is a 23 acre kettle hole pond formed as glacial ice melted millennia ago. Fragrant sweet pepperbush is in bloom along the pond edges. A one mile loop trail features a bench overlooking the water, a great place to spot ducks and herons. This property in Sherborn was donated to Mass Audubon in the 1960’s. Adjacent land in Natick, named Broadmoor by the owners and was added to the pond property to form Broadmoor/Little Pond Wildlife Sanctuary in 1968. There are only three parking spaces on Farm Road, so please return if the lot is full. This is the only place at Broadmoor where fishing is permitted as it is a great pond with access for fishing required by state law. Visitors are welcome to carry a boat in for the day. Please carry it out. as well.

American chestnut sprouts at Waseeka

At Waseeka Wildlife Sanctuary in Hopkinton, walk the man trail to a dike on Chicken Brook forming a pond where wood ducks and osprey can be found. The Sassafras Trail is a longer loop through forest where you can discover the effects of fire. The forest cover thins, bracken ferns and huckleberry dominate the forest floor and you can see American chestnut sprouts everywhere. About 40 acres accidentally burned in 2013 . The charred stumps are visible, but the surprise is the number of chestnut sprouts throughout the burned area. American chestnut has long thin toothed leaves. It was a dominant tree in the Eastern US until the 20th century when chestnut blight was introduced. The roots and stumps remain and sprout, especially in disturbed areas, but the small trees eventually die back. see if you can identify the chestnuts along the Sassafras Tail.

Great News!

Great News! We’re so excited to share that Broadmoor’s trails are now open via an online Entry & Parking Reservation system. This means: all visitors will need to reserve a time to visit prior to arriving (you cannot reserve a spot in person). This will help us limit the number of people on the trails at any given time, helping to ensure the safety of our visitors and staff. Get more details and find out how to reserve your time.

https://www.massaudubon.org/get-outdoors/wildlife-sanctuaries/trails/timed-ticket-reservations

Two of our first visitors demonstrate their protective masks .

Swamp white azalea and arrow-wood viburnum are in bloom. Goslings and ducklings are on the ponds and great blue herons are frequently seen.

We welcome you to (re)discover the beauty and wonders of nature at Broadmoor.

May: It’s All About Birds

Mass Audubon’s Birdathon May 15-16 was a grand success by any measure.  Broadmoor’s team – more than 80 people in 32 groups – stayed close to home, minimized our carbon footprint, involved lots of new families and individuals, and got everyone outside on a beautiful day to focus on nature.

Bald Eagle

Bald eagles were seen by 6 teams.  The total list for the sanctuary was 186 species.  To date, $9,491 have been donated to support Broadmoor’s Team, a phenomenal record and much appreciated this year in particular. 

A quote from one team summed it up:   As you can see we rose to the challenge of birding locally and on foot and had the best time doing it together.

Plans are in progress to reopen trails to visitors and we can’t wait to welcome you.  Meanwhile, the box nesting birds have been busy.  Of the 55 nest boxes 45 have been occupied.  One brood of Eastern bluebirds hatched and left the nest.  The parents are already on a second clutch.

Eastern bluebird nestlings about to fledge and trying to be invisible

These Eastern bluebird nestlings are almost fully feathered and about to fledge.  The nearest one couldn’t resist a peek to see who was opening the nestbox.

Nestboxes are visited only once a week to record data as part of long term monitoring spanning more than 30 years.

So far this year, 165 eggs have been laid by tree swallows, Eastern bluebirds and house wrens. 

All of us at Broadmoor wish you good health and lots of time exploring nature.  Please visit our website for updates on trail reopening.

Nature in Your Neighborhood: Really Close to Home

On a trip in southern Mexico many years ago, I bought a life-sized hollow jaguar head. carved from wood.  Today it’s mounted on a wall of our front porch.  A few weeks ago I noticed some pieces of grass sticking out of the mouth.  Looking more closely, it was obviously stuffed full of dried plant material.  Then I caught a brief glimpse of a wren perched on one of the ears.  Two days ago, the bird appeared again with food in its bill.

What would the jaguar think of this?
Incoming food delivery

Carolina wrens were once found only in southeastern US but have moved north and are seen year round in Massachusetts.  Their loud “teakettle, teakettle, teakettle” song carries long distances although the birds can be secretive.  They are well-known for nesting near people.  Mailboxes, hanging planters, and door wreaths are popular locations.

Last November I brought a hanging plant into the garage from our porch when frost was predicted overnight.  When I put the planter on the floor, two wrens shot out.  They had been sleeping in the planter and  quickly exited when the garage door was opened.

Nature in Your Neighborhood: Early flowering native

One of my favorite early flowering plants is the Shadbush, a native that grows as a shrub or even a small tree in the oak-pine woods of eastern Massachusetts.  When you see a flash of white, looking like stationery snowflakes in the woods in April and early May, it’s likely Amelanchier canadensis.

Shadbush blooming on the edge of a wetland

Shadbush goes by many names:  Juneberry (although, it blooms more commonly in April-May here, the berries ripen in June; Serviceberry and  Shadblow are just a few.

It’s a native that produces beautiful flowers for early pollinating insects and, later, berries edible by birds, and, if you beat them to it, people.  They taste a little like blueberries.

On some of the Lake Champlain Islands and in northern New England, they grow into good sized trees.

In Fall, the leaves turn a beautiful rust color.  Looking for an attractive native to plant in your garden?  Consider the shadbush.  Why the name?  It blooms when the shad run up  the Charles River here in Eastern Massachusetts.

Next time you’re out walking in woodland, see if you can spot a shadbush.

Nature in Your Neighborhood

A  neighbor shared this action shot taken by his sister, Meg Smith, in his backyard.   What a spectacular photo of a male American robin in flight!

American robins are nesting.  See if you can tell male from female.  The darker head and dark orange breast of the male is a contrast to the paler orange and lighter head color of the female.  This photo shows the bright white patch under the tail.

Look for robins carrying beaks full of mud to plaster their mud and grass nests firmly onto trees where branches join or on a sheltered ledge of your house or barn.  Nests are often at eye height so you can get a peek at the young as they grow.  In contrast to the adults, the young have spotted breasts.

Birding your backyard is a great way to tune up for our Bird-at-Home-athon May 15 – 16.  This year will be by foot or by bike making it the perfect carbon-emission-free event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.  Donations to Broadmoor’s Birdathon will be especially appreciated during this year of financial constraints.  Details will be on Broadmoor’s webpage, Facebook page and in future editions of Branching Out at Broadmoor.

Nature in your Neighborhood – The Sequel

The original post below was mentioned on Broadmoor’s Facebook page and started to attract folks to see the ground nesting bees.   Next time I visited the bees, there was caution tape surrounding their area

A sign has attracted the curiosity and interest of the many people walking and biking the trail.  There are lots of small wonders to be found and shared as we stay closer to home.

Spring is a time of amazing change day to day and hour to hour.  I took some time to explore my neighborhood and found some surprising activity.  On a heavily used dirt and gravel trail there were little mounds of soil with holes in the center.  As many as a hundred of them.  Flying insects were racing around, entering the holes, and some poked their heads out.  It was not easy to get a good look.  Finally, I got a photo of one of the insects – it was a small bee. 

Since I didn’t know the kind of bee, I shared the photo on an app called I-Naturalist – where experts will help identify plants and animals.  Twenty-four hours later I received a reply from an assistant professor at the University of Singapore.  He identified the bee as Unequal Cellophane Bee Colletes Inaequalis, native to North America.

The holes lead to chambers lined with a polyester-like material, where the bees deposit pollen and nectar to feed the young, and an egg.  The hole is then closed over.  When the egg hatches, there is food for the young bee.

There are many ways to explore your neighborhood.  Make drawings of what you see, write about your observations in a journal, write a poem. 

Visit the Broadmoor Facebook page and website to stay connected and let us know what you see. 

Many thanks to Sean Kent of Mass Audubon’s Museum of American Bird Art for sharing his beautiful images of the bees.

Celebrating Longer Days

A few more minutes of light are added to each day, starting the changes in nature we think of as Spring. Chipmunks are out and about, on warm days a turtle or two has been basking on hummocks in the marsh, and buds of shadbush and red maple are swelling. See if you can find the very earliest flower of the beaked hazelnut on small shrubs along the woodland trails. It’s very tiny.

Beaked hazelnut flower

Red-winged blackbirds and common grackles are visiting the bird feeders and northern cardinals are singing loudly. While the temperatures may still be cold, there are new signs of activity in nature every day.

Red-winged blackbird, male

Trail Improvement Volunteer days have started Saturday mornings and more volunteers are welcome. Join us Saturday, March 7 from 2 – 4 pm to Meet the Trail Crew, see what has been done and talk about plans upcoming. we’ll have refreshments, photos, and take a walk to see some of the projects. If you plan to join us, email: broadmoortrails@massaudubon.org or just come by. To receive emails about upcoming workdays, use the same email address.

Main trail bridge approach improved by volunteers, staff and contractors last Fall

Want to learn more about how to assess, design and manage trails? Join one of our trail workshops. The first one is scheduled for Thursday, March 19, 9 am – 3 pm.

Or just visit on your own to enjoy the trail improvements and first signs of Spring.