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.

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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.

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.