Scavenger Hunt – The Power of Nature

There are two white pine trees that “died” of natural causes in the past two months.  You can see both of them from the trails.  See if you can find them.  Can you figure out what happened?

This tree is on the Old Orchard Trail.

This tree is between Signpost 3 and Signpost 12.

Hint:  Insects played a part in both these events.

Happy Holiday! and see if you can solve these mysteries.

Seasonal Scavenger Hunt

Flying away to new homes, these milkweed seeds catch the wind for trips to new parts of the field.

Those that sprout and grow will be found next summer by Monarch butterflies to lay their eggs. The new plants will feed the caterpillars that hatch until they are ready to form a chrysalis; then hatch into the next generation of butterflies.

Wooly bears are caterpillars of the Isabela moth, often seen navigating the Broadmoor trails this time of year.  Some have patterns of black and rust.  This one is almost completely black.  Many folks think the width of the colored bands can predict whether winters will be harsh or mild.  There is no scientific evidence to support this idea, but it focuses attention on these little creatures.

A dead and rotting trunk was probably a perch for birds.  Poison ivy vines sprouted from berries they deposited and have formed a wild sculpture.

Beech are among the last trees to lose their leaves.  Some keep them most of the winter.

When you find pink survey tape on trees and shrubs and marked stakes in the ground, please leave them where you find them.  They are wetland markers required for permits to improve our trails.  Stay tuned for more about trail improvements and follow our progress on this blog in the coming year.

And now for a little winter teaser…..  Between the time this post was started and publication, a wall of snow dropped four inches of snow at Broadmoor.


Ruby-crowned kinglets were photographed at Waseeka Wildlife Sanctuary in Hopkinton by Cheryl Rose.

These diminutive little birds move non-stop, flitting from branch to branch picking out small insects, berries and spiders.

Ruby-crowned kinglets were also seen at Broadmoor this week and our All Person’s Trail is a great place to look for them.  Two benches have been added to the meadow outlook spur.  They are the same locust wood used for the outlook platform and will weather to the same color over time.  Come and see our new addition.

And don’t forget to order birdseed from Broadmoor for pickup November 10.  You’ll be helping the sanctuary and your local birds.

Signs of the Season

Fair Weather Birders joined me last week to explore field edges near the Nature Center and at Little Farm Pond.  Raptors were on display.  This red-tailed hawk glided in to perch overlooking Indian Brook field.  The brown feathers on the belly form a “band” that is unmistakable for identifying red-tails.

Below the bird feeder, white-throated sparrows scratched for seeds.  Look for stripes on the head and yellow lores between beak and eye

At Little Farm Pond a large shape glided silently in and perched, watching us.  Barred owls are often active during the day.  These owls have no ear tufts and dark eyes.  When they call, some hear “Who Cooks for You?”

Pollinators are still active especially in the fields and native plants garden.  New England Asters and goldenrods are favorites of bees, Monarchs, and other butterflies.

Citizen scientists monitoring our 55 nest boxes intended for birds noted a large paper wasp nest in July.  That nest continued to grow and now almost completely covers box number 26.

Come and see what seasonal signs you can find!

Many thanks to Acima Cherian for sharing  photos she took while Fair Weather Birding.


The Awesome Power of Nature

Yesterday afternoon a powerful thunderstorm moved across Broadmoor featuring a temperature drop of nearly 30 degrees in an hour and frequent lightning.

A lone white pine in the middle of the Old Orchard Trail was struck by lightning.

Nearly every year one of the tall white pines is hit by lightning, but this tree was unusual.  It had a hollowed out branch that visitors always thought should be an owl residence.  No one ever saw an owl use it.  It also had a hollow side branch that served as a chimney when the tree caught fire.  In the picture above, the smoke on the right is coming from that branch.

Natick and Sherborn firefighters responded and tried hard to douse the fire.

The tree was completely hollow where carpenter ants had colonized the trunk.

A hole at the very bottom served as a little fire box to keep feeding the flames.

In the end, cutting the tree was the only way to extinguish the fire.

Many of us loved that tree, but its stump will remain testimony to the awesome power of nature.

Special thanks to the Natick and Sherborn firefighters, who even salvaged the kestrel nestbox from the tree trunk.

Native Plants and Nature Play Area

The garden of native plants in and around our nature play area is in full bloom.

Children including our summer campers are enjoying jumping on rocks, climbing on logs and watching pollinators like bees and butterflies drinking nectar from the flowers.

Rudbeckia, with yellow flowers and lavender bee balm are popular with bees.

Bee balm comes in many colors including magenta.

A favorite with Monarch butterflies is butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa).  Monarchs nectar and lay their eggs on this beautiful perennial plant.


Ospreys at Waseeka

Fish hawks or Osprey at Mass Audubon’s Waseeka Wildlife Sanctuary in Hopkinton are raising two young at a nest in the  middle of the pond.

Summer campers in Broadmoor’s Voyagers program used telescopes and binoculars to get close up views.

One camper said, “This is an experience of a lifetime!”

Indigo Buntings!

Two of these beautiful male indigo buntings greeted the Fair Weather Birders this morning at the Medfield Charles River State Reservation in a field overlooking the River.

A female scarlet tanager carried a fat caterpillar to her nest, Eastern kingbirds called, a belted kingfisher flew off with a fish, and a muskrat gathered a mouthful of juicy plants.

Fair Weather birders saw a total of 34 species on this first full day of summer.

To join Fair Weather Birding e-news, sign up at Fair Weather Birding sign-up .

We’ll pick the best weather day in the week and send a message to subscribers with the day, time and location of each week’s birding trip.

Birds, birds, birds!

Last Sunday was Broadmoor’s 41st annual Birds and Breakfast.  Birding walks from 7 – 10 am were followed by a pancake breakfast in the pavilion featuring maple syrup from our trees tapped by the Natick Community Organic Farm.

Over 41 years 130 species of birds have been seen.  This year, we added a new one – Little Blue Heron.

Other highlights were Scarlet Tanagers, Blue-winged Warblers, and Wood Ducks.  There were 41 species seen between 7 am and noon.

Join us next year on the first Sunday of May for this celebration of returning spring migrants.

Broadmoor teams will be birding in Mass Audubon’s annual fundraiser,  from 6 pm Friday, May 11 to 6 pm Saturday, May 12.  Join us at Broadmoor at 6 pm Friday or support all the teams with a donation.  Details at  Broadmoor Birdathon.

Pileated Woodpeckers are just one of the more than 180 species we hope to see this weekend.

They’re Back!

Tree swallows have returned and are checking out nestboxes.  During cold weather they will fly farther looking for flying insect food.

Eastern phoebe, another insect eater, is also back.  Look for tail-wagging while birds are perched.

One of the first flowers of spring is the tiny red beaked hazelnut on the tip of slender branches.  The drooping catkins are the male plant parts containing pollen.  Look for hazelnut bushes in the forest on trail edges.  Bushes are about three feet high.

Willows and red maples are blooming too.