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Branching Out!

Looking for new places to visit? Mass Audubon’s Waseeka Wildlife Sanctuary is only 15 minutes from Broadmoor in Hopkinton. Last week the resident Osprey was bringing branches to the nest at the pond.

Osprey with stickFishing was good too.

Osprey with fishCheck out the website for directions to Waseeka.

Ospreys aren’t the only animals branching out.  Beavers at Broadmoor and Waseeka have been busy since the ice thawed. Look for tooth marks on the logs where beavers have chewed the tasty layer just inside the bark. Some logs are moved into place to repair dams.  Beavers make dams to raise the water level of ponds and streams so the underwater entrance to their lodges are protected from predators.

IMG_9901-Beaver activity  SSALooking a little like a submarine, this beaver is cruising for tasty shrubs, trees, and building materials.

Beaver April 1 marked a major arrival of tree swallows. Each nest box in the Broadmoor fields is a prize for these birds that compete for nests in natural cavities like old woodpecker holes.  Sometime there are visible battles for a box.

IMG_0271-The Fight   SSAAnother resident of the nest box colony is the Eastern bluebird. Nests are already being constructed by these colorful birds.

IMG_9450-Bluebird  SSASome of our common birds are worth a second look. The male mallard in bright, fresh feathers can look iridescent green or blue depending on the light.  The curl at the top of the tail makes this bird unmistakable.

IMG_9154-Mallard Close up  SSAThis is a great week to visit and see for yourself.

Ready for Spring!

Resident birds are “wearing” their finest plumage. getting ready for spring.

Male mallards have spent the winter in any open pools of water, but now they are sporting fresh new feathers.  Is the female interested?

IMG_9152-Mallards  SSA

Male cardinals are calling constantly.  They are often the last bird of the day to visit feeders.

IMG_9191-Cardinal  SSA

Until our migrant birds return in their brilliant spring plumage, visit the hall of children’s art at Broadmoor to see the colorful, imaginative work of third grade students at Pine Hill School in Sherborn.

2015 March-April Pine Hill grade 3 realistic bird sculptures and imagination bird pastels (1)

2015 March-April Pine Hill grade 3 realistic bird sculptures and imagination bird pastels (2)

2015 March-April Pine Hill grade 3 realistic bird sculptures and imagination bird pastels (7)

2015 March-April Pine Hill grade 3 realistic bird sculptures and imagination bird pastels (8)2015 March-April Pine Hill grade 3 realistic bird sculptures and imagination bird pastels (12)2015 March-April Pine Hill grade 3 realistic bird sculptures and imagination bird pastels (11)

The show will be on display through April 28.

Hints of Spring

It’s feeling warmer on sunny days, snow banks are slowly receding and red maple buds look a little redder.  The spring equinox is just a week away.There are still several feet of snow on the trails and boardwalk so snowshoeing is a great way to explore.

IMG_4167-Marsh 3 11 15 SSA

Along the edges of the marsh, snow is receding and the waterfalls at mill dams are beginning to flow again.

IMG_4175-Marsh and Sky  SSA

What a difference a week makes!  The 128 photovoltaic panels on the nature center are finally snow free and began producing electricity again yesterday after a month of no production while they were buried under snow.

PVs without snow


A Month to Remember!



February is not quite over but winter weather continues to make Broadmoor beautiful with scenic landscapes, snowshoeing and skiing.  As long as you’re dressed for the conditions it is a wonderful outing.  What are the conditions?  Call our friendly visitor services staffer at 508 655-2296 for an update.  Follow yellow blazes on the trees to bring you back to the nature center.

main trail


The marsh boardwalk is about two feet under the snow.  The marsh is a great place to look for animal tracks and hunting hawks soaring overhead.

boardwalk w snow

Believe it or not, there are 128 photovoltaic panels on the nature center roof.  When sunlight can reach them they produce 12 KW of electricity per year.  Right now, the panels are under snow and Broadmoor’s electricity is being drawn from the grid.  Fortunately, snow has tumbled off the sunspace on the right in the photo below and our “solar furnace” heats up to over 80 degrees, a direct source of heat for the building.

PVs under snow

Want to know more about the weather?  Join WCVB-TV chief meteorologist Harvey Leonard for a talk, videos, questions and answers at The Center for the Arts in Natick.  Broadmoor is sponsoring the annual Jean and Henry Stone Memorial lecture Sunday, March 29, 4 – 6 pm.  The event is free and open to the public.

Studies in Black and White

Winter days are studies in contrast.  Winter sunsets can be glorious colors or dramatic studies in black and white.

dim sun

A little sun following a light snowfall reveals a story below the surface.  A  meadow vole tunneled just under the snow from one side of the trail to the next.  Protection from foxes and hawks?

vole track in the snow

Light, fluffy snow is perfect for animal tracking.  These white-tailed deer prints show not only their cloven hoofs,  but small pointed marks made by an appendage called a dew claw.deer prints with dew claw

Visit right after the next snowfall to see what you can find.


Winter solstice marks the end of the year and beginning of longer days. It has been a spectacular year at Broadmoor celebrated with nature’s own fireworks on December 13 when astronomer Ed Jameson presided over a viewing of the Geminid meteor shower.  66 shooting stars were seen in less than two hours!

Seasonal signs include preparation for winter by our local beavers.  Lots of activity is visible from the boardwalk.


IMG_8147-Second chew  SSA

Some of the chewed trunks will be moved to shore up dams and to repair lodges.  Beavers eat the cambium just under the surface of the bark, so look for tooth marks like corn on the cob.

IMG_8145-Beaver chew  1 SSA

When the water freezes beavers stop work and stay cozy in their lodges.


IMG_8195-Robin with berries   SSA

Berries like winterberry holly are still abundant and birds including robins feast on them during early winter.


Cooper's hawk Greg Dysart 12-20-2014 Natick, MA

Broadmoor is on the outside edge of the Millis Christmas Bird Count circle.  This hemisphere wide annual bird count celebrated its 115th year and the Millis count circle its 43rd.  On Saturday, December 20, more than 8,000 individual birds of 68 species were counted by 35 observers within the 15-mile diameter circle.

Cooper’s Hawk is one of the species that has been increasing in recent years.  You may see one hunting for small birds near your bird feeders.  Thanks to Natick birder and photographer Greg Dysart for this photo from the count.

Broadmoor staff and volunteers wish you a wonderful new year with lots time in the natural world.


One Year Later…

A year ago, the Saltonstall Nature Center  reopened following major renovations and additions including the Esther Parker pavilion.  Thanks to volunteers from Thoughtforms Corporation we are celebrating with some finishing touches.

Pavers and benches were added to the pavilion as part of the annual Service Day.paver pass - Copy



The lone raker cleared leaves and twigs from the all person’s accessible trail


the lone raker - Copy



The crew moved a new bench down to the boardwalk.

bench carry - Copy

And took a well deserved rest trying out their bench.


trying out bench - Copy


The native plants garden got a fall clean-up


garden - CopyCome and celebrate our one year re-opening and enjoy the great work contributed by Thoughtforms.


Picture Perfect

The most beautiful season has begun.

IMG_6434-Marsh 9 24 14 SSA


Maples and birches are turning color and reflections in the Mill Pond look like watercolor paintings.

Bridge with foliage

Last Saturday’s Birding by Canoe on the Charles was picture perfect.

Birding on the Charles

Eastern phoebe, belted kingfisher, great blue heron, red-tailed hawk, spotted sandpiper, and common yellowthroat are just some of the 27 species seen.

Eastern phoebe

Check out upcoming programs including fall foliage canoes on our website at

Colors of Fall

Yellow is the first color of fall.  Fields of goldenrods in flower are among the first.  Goldenrod sometimes gets a bad reputation for causing allergies, but the flowers are bee pollinated, so the pollen gets a ride on an insect, not the wind.

goldenrod with bee 2

The real culprit for those with allergies is Ragweed.  It’s many little green bell-like flowers are full of golden pollen, distributed by every breath of wind.  Try shaking the stalks of flowers and you can see for yourself.  Aachoo!

ragweed (2)

Along Indian Brook Trail a large patch of tansy also has yellow flowers, but very different shape from goldenrods.  Can you figure out how these are pollinated?


Mowing the fields at Broadmoor begins in September.  Clumps of native grasses are left unmowed to provide seeds.  Someday there may be whole fields of native grasses at the sanctuary.  What insects and birds will we see then?

native grasses (2)

The Heart of Summer

Baby birds are everywhere.  Listen for plaintive calls and watch parent birds with bills full of food deliver it to babies as large as they are.  How can you tell?  Baby birds look like the don’t know what to do yet and often have fuzzy feathers with smudged looking markings.  This young Gray catbird was spotted on this week’s Fair Weather Birding walk perched on a branch, looking  into the distance, perhaps hoping for a food delivery soon.

Gray catbird (2)

Another sign of the season is mushrooms.  Boletus mushrooms have thick, fleshy caps with pores on the underside instead of gills or teeth like other mushrooms.  Chipmunks especially enjoy nibbling the caps and leave tooth marks like these.

Boletus (2)On the forest floor Striped wintergreen has a waxy white flower and shares the space with another native plant, Virginia creeper.  The creeper has five leaflets and often grows where poison ivy grows, but poison ivy has only three leaflets.  Virginia creeper’s name in Latin, Parthenocissus quinqifolia means five-leaved.

Striped wintergreen

In the fields, Queen Anne’s Lace is in bloom.  It was introduced long ago from Europe and one story says that Queen Anne was sewing lace and pricked her finger.  A drop of blood fell into the center of the lace so there is one purple-red flower in the center of the flower.

Queen Anne's Lace