Red maples are turning and leaves are beginning to fall.  The recent lack of rainfall and drying winds from storm remnants like Hurricane Jose are causing some leaves to just turn brown and drop off prematurely.  One of the first trees to turn color is to the left of the main bridge.

From the main bridge, the marsh is dotted with the yellow flowers of water-marigold, in the beggar-tick family.  That family has seeds with little barbs.  The seeds attached to animals, the legs of your pants and shoes.  That’s why they are called beggar ticks.

In the forest mushrooms are popping out of the ground.  These are the fruiting parts of vast underground networks of fine threadlike filaments called mycelium.

Rarities sometime appear at Broadmoor.  This northern bobwhite quail was one of two photographed by Bennett Green early one morning.  Staff and visitors have searched in the weeks since then but found no trace.  Are they wild?  Were they raised and released in the neighborhood?  It’s hard to know.  If you see them, please enter your sighting in the log at the Visitor Desk.  We digitize  these notes to keep as part of a long term record of sightings at Broadmoor.  Over time they can help track changes.

Last Day of Summer Camp

It has been a great summer for being outside and more than 126 families sent campers to Broadmoor. The last day of camp was a time to show off projects to other campers and staff.

Discoverers could tell camp was almost over as the sundial, made with a compass and a pencil was pointing to 3.

Explorers called their Nature Bot Wild Joe.  He is made out of recycled cups that catch the wind and move the bot.  A paper towel roll in the center is for lunch scraps that compost to make gases, another form of fuel, and the bot rolls along on recycled plastic bottle tops.

Dwayne, the weather rock was popular with campers all summer.  Here’s how the rock tells what the weather is.  If the rock is wet, it’s raining.  If it’s snowing, the rock is white.  If it’s windy, the rock sways like a pendulum.

Thanks to campers and staff for a memorable summer exploring nature at Broadmoor!


Mushrooms , the fruiting parts of fungi, are everywhere thanks to the moist summer.  Many are beautiful above-ground parts of the extensive network of mycelia underground.

A favorite is Amanita muscaria, sometimes called fly agaric. They are found in association with pine roots. There are many stories about this mushroom.  My favorite is its use as an insecticide in animal barns, powdered or ground up into a dish of milk, it is said to attract and kill flies.

Another common sight on the forest floor is a cluster of Indian pipes.  While they lack chlorophyll, these are not fungi, but flowering plants.  They are called saprophytes.

One trunk of this split tree is dead.  Woodpeckers have excavated in search of insects like carpenter ants.  The holes they leave may be occupied by birds that nest in cavities like tree swallows, black-capped chickadees,and house wrens.  This one is a “multi-unit apartment”.


This week, gypsy moths were common in some parts of the sanctuary.  The female on the left hatches from a pupa but doesn’t fly.  She sends out pheromones which the male on the right detects using his feathery antennae.  They mate and die after the female lays up to 600 eggs on a tree trunk.  An excellent article in Mass Wildlife describes the life history and current outbreak of gypsy moths:   Gypsy Moth Outbreak 2016

On some trees, these dead caterpillars hanging head down were likely attacked by the fungus that will eventually help keep the populations down.

Buttonbush is a beautiful native plant in flower on the edges of wetlands.

Special July Fourth Edition

Natick July Fourth Parade organizers invited Broadmoor to join the fun this year.  The theme was Young At Heart.

Summer camp staff and campers volunteered to march with the Mass Audubon banner.  They were greeted with cheers and “Go Broadmoor!.”

The team carried a giant cutout Black-capped Chickadee, chanted and told jokes as they marched.

Camp staffer, camp name Monarch enjoyed a well earned donut in patriotic colors after the march.

Little Free Library

Thanks to Librarian, Meena Jain, of Natick’s Bacon Free Library, Broadmoor has installed a Little Free Library.  Look for it on the left of the entry driveway.

What is a Little Free Library?  It is a place where you can take a book and return a book.  Books on nature are especially welcome.

Thanks to a grant from The Mathworks, Broadmoor’s will be one of a chain of Little Free Libraries long Route 16.  Look for an announcement for the Fall opening of all of them.

Natick High School artists decorated the one on the left for Mass Horticultural Society’s Elm Bank and the one on the right for Broadmoor.

The whimsical little fox is inviting visitors to check it out.

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.


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!