Birds, Birds, Birds

Birds and Breakfast, Sunday, May 5 started overcast and damp, but everyone enjoyed a great show of early birds followed by pancakes with maple syrup from the Natick Community Organic Farm. Lists of species seen have been kept on the second or third Sunday of May every year for 42 years. The total seen during those years is now 132 species with the addition this year of a pair of ring-necked ducks. They were late migrants and gone the following day.

Great blue herons will take red-winged blackbird chicks if they encounter a nest in the marsh. This male red-winged blackbird circled and dived on the great blue, which raised its feathers in annoyance.

Mass Audubon’s Birdathon took place May 10-11. Broadmoor fielded nine teams across the state with 35 birders identifying 188 species and raising nearly $4,000 to support the sanctuary. One of the beautiful birds seen was the tiny common yellowthroat. It nests at Broadmoor along the marsh edge and sings “wichity, wichity, wichity”.

Visitors don’t need to search far for nesting birds, tree swallows and eastern bluebirds nest in boxes in front of the nature center. A house wren is using the nest box house to loudly announce his territory.

Thanks to Education Coordinator Joy Marzolf for these great photos of birds in action. Join her on May 25, for a workshop on Nature Photography: The Beauty of Spring. And check out more nature photography programs at Broadmoor.

Earth Week and Beyond

Natick’s Earth Day event attracted large crowds. Many presenters including Broadmoor focused on Climate Change. Our table had climate change information and actions we all can take to make a difference.

Visitors added their creative ideas to the Take Climate Action poster.

Mass Audubon continues our work to encourage emissions drawdowns and was awarded a grant by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection through the Electric Vehicle Incentives Program. I was pleased to accept the award from DEP Commissioner Marty Suuberg, with Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter and Senator Michael Brady. The grant will help us install an electric vehicle charging station in the Broadmoor parking lot.

Senator Brady, Elissa Landre, Mayor Bill Carpenter, Commissioner Marty Suuberg

How can we celebrate this season without birds? Our annual Birds and Breakfast pancake breakfast and birding event is this Sunday, May 5 followed by Birdathon May 10 -11. Join us for one or both of these rites of Spring.

Red-bellied woodpecker

Spring Weekend

April Showers may be in the forecast, but flowers are blooming, birds are nesting and there’s lots to see when you visit the sanctuary.

Male downy woodpecker

A downy woodpecker has excavated a nest hole on the topmost branch of the dead ash tree in the native plants garden. Watch for coming and going in about two weeks when young are hatched and parents are feeding them.

Eastern bluebird

Nest box #15 in front of the nature center has 4 Eastern bluebird eggs. Borrow binoculars at the front desk to see if parent birds are delivering food to the young.

Eastern painted turtles

How many can you count from the boardwalk?

Snow fleas and Turtles

There are still footprints in the snow on the trails. Look closely, some have tiny black creatures the size of pepper flakes. But they jump. They’re snow fleas, Collembola, also called Springtails.  They live in the leaf litter where they’re very hard to see, except when they hop onto the snow.

Macro picture of a snow flea
Deer hoofprint

South winds and melting snow brought visitors to Broadmoor today to find red-winged blackbirds, great blue herons and the first turtle of 2019! Next week is the first day of Spring so come see what you can find.

Eastern painted turtle summer photo, but they are coming up for air as the ice melts

March Surprise

Broadmoor is beautifully blanketed in 15 inches of snow.

Indian Brook from the main bridge

That large mound of snow in the marsh is a huge beaver lodge. Look downstream from the main bridge.

Beaver lodge in the distance covered by snow

Trails can be walked but snow shoes and skis are a fun way to explore as well.

If you gear up at REI in the next month, please vote for Mass Audubon. Broadmoor will receive a grant that will go directly to trail improvements to make your adventures at the sanctuary even better in the future.

Lots of Activity!

February School vacation week camp was just about perfect this year. Kids got to slide like otters in the snow, practice their aim with snowballs at the icicles below the waterfalls and track the behavior of coyote, raccoon, squirrel, and turkeys.

Another day, the campers placed taps and buckets on two of the sugar maple trees in the nature play area to collect sap for the Natick Community Organic Farm. We’ll see that sap again on May 5 when it returns in the form of maple syrup for our annual Birds and Breakfast pancake breakfast and birding walks.

Maple buckets and fun in the snow

If you missed February vacation week, April will be just as much fun with birds and mammals more active, early flowers in bloom and spring peepers and woodfrogs calling.Visitors have been reporting river otter in the Wildlife Pond and this afternoon I got lucky and saw this large otter on an ice flow munching on a fish. While not a great photo, look for the very dark shape in the water on the upper right, and borrow a pair of binoculars at the visitor desk to look for yourself.

Hooded mergansers, mallards, house sparrows, cardinals, black-capped chckadees, tufted titmice and red-tailed hawks are also getting active.

January Thaw? Oops, it’s already February

After temperature extremes in January as low as minus 17 windchill, Broadmoor is having a brief thaw. Trails are mostly free of ice and ponds have some open water.

These are perfect conditions to look for river otters. Otters swim up and down the Charles River and streams that flow into it. At Broadmoor, Indian Brook flows through the sanctuary. Otters swim upstream, rest on floating ice; then slide into the water looking for fish. They are curious creatures so you may see them dive into the water, then raise their heads like a periscope to see what you are up to. If you don’t see the otters themselves, look for slides in the ice or across snow.

otter slide in snow

Another animal that visits when there is even a little open water is the hooded merganser, a petite diving duck, also looking for small fish.

Hooded merganser pair

This pair of “hoodies” as some call them, are fishing together in the Wildlife Pond.

World of Winter

There is so much to see right at your feet. Look down!

Where do you find turkey tracks? What are they doing? How many can you count?

Fishers are actively hunting for their favorite food – squirrels – and leave tracks in the ice on Broadmoor ponds.

Photographer Cheryl Rose captured frog faces in the ice.

Ice and water are endlessly changing.

Come and find something beautiful in the winter landscape.

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.