First Day of Spring!

Happy First Day of Spring!  There is still snow cover at the sanctuary and more on the way.

This hungry American robin has been feasting on fermenting crabapples hanging onto a tree in the parking lot.  There are few food options when grasses and seeds are covered with snow so fruits that remain from last Fall help keep the birds alive.

Flocks of up to three dozen cedar waxwings have been enjoying crabapples as well.

Come and enjoy the fresh snow and look for wood ducks, hooded mergansers and others just waiting for warmer weather.  Snowshoes, yaktraks or nordic skis may be a good idea.  Call Broadmoor in advance for conditions.

Sunday afternoon, March 25,  Broadmoor’s endowed Jean and Henry Stone Memorial lecture will be held at The Center for the Arts in Natick from 4 – 6 pm.  There are still spaces for this free performance by the Stand Up Economist.  Check out the link below for details.

Stone Lecture poster 2018

Winter Wildlife

Branching Out suggests a visit to nearby Waseeka Wildlife Sanctuary in Hopkinton where photographer Cheryl Rose captured these photos today.

Coyote walking across the pond

Paw prints show where the river otter pushed off; then slid on its belly across the pond.

Nature Nearby

You will be surprised at what you discover on a winter walk at Broadmoor.

Black-capped chickadee is our Massachusetts state bird.  Look closely at the subtle colors under this tiny bird’s wings.

Large frozen tracks the size of your hand are wild turkey.  On early mornings you may be greeted by flock in the field in front of the nature center.

Downy woodpeckers look similar to hairy woodpeckers, but notice the short black spots on the white outer tail feathers.  There are no bars on the hairy’s outer tail feathers.  Look at the length of the bill in comparison with the width of the head.  It is much smaller.  In hairy woodpeckers, the bill length is close to the same size as the head width.  This bird is braced with its stiff tail feathers against the tree trunk.  Red on the back of the head shows it is a male.

Red-bellied woodpeckers are active and visit feeders.

Greetings on the Winter Solstice!

This morning at 11:28 am marked the beginning of winter.  Days are getting longer and nights shorter, but temperatures should be colder for the next three months.

Greetings from your friends and neighbors at Broadmoor!  A feast of seasonal images is our offering to entice you here for a visit.

Fisher tracks on the main bridge show the large claws on this weasel family member.  It likes to hunt red squirrels and other small mammals.


White-breasted nuthatches climb head first down trees.  Look at the close-up of its claw to see how they do this.


Cedar waxwings are feasting on the last of the winterberry holly berries.


Giving Thanks

So far this year birds have found berries, seeds and even insects in abundance.  This American robin is thankful for the native American holly berries (Ilex verticillata) brightening the edges of wetlands.

The elegant cedar waxwing is enjoying, and eventually spreading the rosehip berries of the non-native and invasive multiflora rose.

The mallard wishes you a Happy Day of Giving Thanks!

And I thank photographer Stewart Ting Chong for use of his lovely photos.

Birds in Winter

Winter birding is all about looking carefully.  The number of types of birds is smaller than in spring and summer, but look at the “common” birds and you may learn something new.

Photographer Stewart Ting Chong joined a recent Fair Weather Birding walk at Broadmoor and caught this male northern cardinal wearing an aluminum band.  Cardinals can be found at feeders year round and this one was likely banded in 2015 at Broadmoor.  The oldest known cardinal survived 15 years in the wild.  The colors on these spectacular birds rival neo-tropical species of the rain forest.

Another winter visitor to feeders is the White-breasted nuthatch.

This one is carrying a seed to store in the bark of a nearby tree.

Nuthatches are known for walking down tree trunks searching the bark for stored seeds and insects.  This one is probably a male as its crown feathers are glossy black.  Females have grayish crowns.  Note the rusty color under the tail, only seen from the right angle.

Even the common “park duck”, the mallard is beautiful.  Notice the delicate claws and beautiful feather pattern on this male.

Try to look head on at the next duck you see.  The shape of its head may be a surprise.  In the next month, male mallards will be trying to attract females well in advance of the spring mating season so look for head bobbing and other displays.

One way to observe birds this time of year is to join the 118th Christmas Bird Count.  On Saturday, December 16, volunteers will be counting birds in a 15 mile diameter circle centered in Millis, MA and including Broadmoor and Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuaries.  To join birders in the field, or to count birds in your backyard or at your feeders, please contact and mention the Millis Count.


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.