Category Archives: Land Observations

Leggett Fairy Trail

With increased stress associated with the COVID crisis, natural lands have never been more important – to all of us. They provide essential places of peace, solitude, and healing as we all attempt to navigate a world that became so much more complex, seemingly overnight. Our protected lands are a great place to appreciate the small things in life that bring us joy.

A good example of such a place is in Stow, where I live with my family.

The Stow Conservation Trust – an all-volunteer local land trust started in 1977 – protected a special place there, now called the Leggett Woodlands. I have been a trustee/director of the Trust for some time, and serve as the organization’s current president.

In 2004, I had the pleasure to work with Dorothy Leggett to protect this 23-acre forested property through her generous donation of the land. Charlie Leggett, her late husband, developed a new variety of squash in the mid-1940s, later named the Waltham Butternut Squash, in a field across Gleasondale Road from the Leggett Woodlands. The squash he developed has since become world famous.

Forest Fairy Statues (photo by Ann Carley)

A loop trail was constructed on the property in 2008, and the Leggett Woodlands are now home to two stations on the Trust’s Nature Discovery Trail. The first is a woodland Music Station with an amandinda (a log xylophone) and chime wall. The second station is “Forest Tales” which is home to whimsical forest fairy statues created by artist Linda Hoffman of Frog Pond Orchard in Harvard. The Trust commissioned them with a grant from the Alice Eaton Foundation. There are a series of small statues on rocks along a path; people are encouraged to play with the statues and add to the sculptures – as Ann Carley’s photo shows.

This serves as an important reminder that the natural world can bring us joy, even in stressful times.

-Bob Wilber, Director of Land Conservation

Look Up!

One of the joys of working with landowners and looking at land for conservation is the chance to explore special places in the outdoors.  Much of the work of land conservation is done at a desk – preparing documents, reviewing reports, and talking on the telephone.   Then the sunny day comes and you MUST go out to see properties in person. 

Last summer there came such a day.  I was in Sandisfield, walking around a property, looking for any signs of wildlife, finding the boundaries, hoping there were no piles of debris, tires, or old bed springs.

Walking down a steep slope, watching my footing, I heard a sound.  I stopped suddenly and looked up. 

Directly in front of me was a startled porcupine.  Porcupines are near-sighted and slow moving, and generally they are active at night. They spend most of their time on the ground. However, in the summertime, they like to rest in trees. This one decided to keep on climbing, getting farther away from whatever danger she thought might be coming her way. 

The famous porcupine quills, about 30,000 per critter, are lightly attached to the porcupine’s skin.  They come off easily if the porcupine encounters a predator (fishers are the primary ones).   With few predators, porcupines are known to live as long as 18 years.  Their babies are born during April and May.  Babies have soft quills which harden with exposure to air. 

Porcupines are plant eaters (actual vegans).  They dine on bark, stems, nuts, tubers, seeds, grass, leaves, fruit, and buds.  If you see a porcupine, you are lucky because they are shy and nocturnal.  Enjoy the view but don’t try to pat one!

Kate Buttolph, Land Protection Specialist

A Moment of Gratitude

During these unprecedented difficult times it is easy to slip into negative head space. A way to break the downward spiral is to pause and remind yourself of what you are grateful for. Whether it be a spouse who lifts you up or the smell of fresh coffee. Appreciating what you have allows you to see the joy in the moment.

I am Mass Audubon’s Conservation Restriction Steward. A Conservation Restriction (or Easement) is an important tool designed to permanently protect the landscape for its intrinsic natural values such as prime farming soils, old growth forest, endangered species, etc.  Each year, I visit all the properties where we hold this type of restriction, ensuring the land is not significantly impaired.

During a monitoring visit in Plymouth, I stumbled upon rocks placed in the shape of a heart and at the center was a stone that said “Thankful for nurses, Drs, EMT, FF + police”. I was touched by the note. It made me stop and think about the firefighters, police officers, and nurses in training that I know and most importantly it made me smile.

Acts of kindness and gratitude are contagious. They have the power to change someone’s day for the better. Just taking a moment to think about what you are grateful for will surely bring some light into these dark times. 

So what are you grateful for…

Olivia Barksdale, Conservation Restriction Stewardship Specialist

A Nice Hike at Lime Kiln Wildlife Sanctuary

Lime Kiln Wildlife Sanctuary, November 13, 2016
By Kate Buttolph, Land Protection Specialist – Western Massachusetts

It was a balmy November afternoon at Lime Kiln Wildlife Sanctuary.  A group of Berkshires Wildlife Sanctuaries supporters met with Sanctuary Director Becky Cushing, Education/Program Director Dale Abrams, and Land Protection Specialist, Kate Buttolph, for a walk and talk about Mass Audubon’s future land protection efforts at Lime Kiln.  We are excited to be working on an addition of approximately 100 acres, using a special grant dedicated to protecting the Housatonic watershed.

If you have never been to Lime Kiln, it is worth a visit.  The trail is an easy walk, with a visit to the old Lime Kiln, and two points with scenic vistas.  The lime kiln was used for the calcination of limestone to produce quicklime, which is used as a main ingredient in cement and in paper mills.  It was once used in stage lighting because when heated it emits a bright glow, called a limelight.  The lime kiln is located here because of the presence of calcareous bedrock.  This area is one of the most limestone-rich regions of the state.


Later in the trail you will pass a memorial plaque for the donor of this remarkable place, Edna Sheinhart.  This spot overlooks a field where, in the summer, you will see many butterflies and birds.

Even in the fall, there was evidence of wildlife activity and habitat, as well as the opportunity to hone our tree identification skills!


When you are finished walking, adults may head over to the Berkshire Mountain Distillers, or down the road to Big Elm Brewing for tours, or visit neighbor The Magic Fluke for a ukulele.

Busy Day on a Beaver Pond

By Nick Rossi, Conservation Restriction Stewardship Specialist

Even on a hot day in a dry summer, beaver ponds remain a wet and bustling oasis for wildlife.  Mass Audubon has many beaver ponds within its sanctuary network, and we may have another one soon. We anticipate adding roughly 86 acres to Rutland Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in central Massachusetts within the next year or so. This pristine patch of woodland has many desirable natural features. However, the beaver pond on it may be the most valuable.

Beavers build dams to flood sections of forest using mud, sticks and small trees. This creates a watery safe zone from predators and habitat for the aquatic plants that make up a large part of their diet. In the process, they also build habitat for a variety of other species.


On my visit to this beaver pond last week, the air filled with the chatter of tree swallows, quacking of ducks and the buzzing of dragonflies. Along the banks I found numerous trees gnawed at their base—a sign of a healthy and industrious beaver colony.  I couldn’t help but admire their handiwork.


Learn more about beavers >


High Summer Sanctuary Jaunts in Pioneer Valley

View from High Ledges

View from High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary

It is high summer in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts.  It’s a great time to be out on a trail, hot days in the shady woods, enjoying the smells of pine and balsam and the cool sounds of small brooks running.  Visit Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary (Easthampton), Conway Hills Wildlife Sanctuary (Conway), Graves Farm Wildlife Sanctuary (Williamsburg) and High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary (Shelburne Falls).  Each has a unique character.

Arcadia gives you grasslands and wooded paths along a river.  Conway Hills has shady woods, a stream and a short loop trail just off of Route 116.  The wooded trail through Graves Farm is a quiet and lovely antidote to the hubbub of Route 9.  Spot the disappearing white tail of a deer, and admire the rock formations and old stone walls.

Path through split rock - Graves Farm

Split rock – path at Graves Farm Wildlife Sanctuary

For a wooded walk to a dramatic overlook, head to Shelburne Falls, High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary.  The view over Shelburne Falls and the Deerfield River is breathtaking, and you might spot an eagle soaring through the updrafts on a breezy day.

By Kate Buttolph – Land Protection Specialist, Western MA