Category Archives: Nature Detective

reworkings of the series Michael A. sends out to our TNS

How to Make a Recycled Nature Journal

Julia is a teacher-naturalist at Moose Hill who has been with Mass Audubon for over two and a half years and at Moose Hill specifically for the last year and a half. Julia is passionate about conservation and protecting the environment so future generations have the same resources that we have today and she loves sharing that passion with people of all ages. With a background in geology and environmental studies and research projects on fluvial features on mars as well as wetland restoration, she can easily teach on the many aspects at Moose Hill, hopefully sparking an interest or love of the environment in children and adults. She particularly loves seeing a child express excitement over something they learned.

Make your own homemade journal using recycled materials found in your home. Then use it to write and draw about things you see and observe in nature! 


  • Cardboard from a cereal box, soda box, or any other cardboard item 
  • Ruler 
  • Pencil/pen 
  • Hole punch  
  • Scissors 
  • Yarn 
  • 5 sheets of computer paper/any paper you have in your home 


  • Using the ruler, measure 2 pieces of the card board as a 6” by 9” rectangle using the ruler and pen to mark the measurements. 
  • Cut out the 2 measured cardboard pieces. 
  • Fold 5 sheets of 8” by 10” computer paper in half the “hamburger” way. You may use more paper but keep in mind it will be harder to poke holes in it the more paper you have. You may also use any kind of paper you have. 
  • Using the hole punch, punch three holes along the edge of each cardboard piece and the folded packet of paper. Make sure the holes line up with each other. You can use scissors to make the holes if you do not have a hole punch. 
  • Using your yarn, weave through the holes. Put the yarn down through the top hole, up through the middle hole, and down through the bottom hole. 
  • Then weave the yarn back up through the middle hole, and back down through the top hole.  
  • Then tie the two ends together.  

And tada, you have a nature journal! Now get out there and document that nature that is budding in your backyard right now. You can take it another step further and decorate the cover however you see fit so that it is personalized just for you.

We hope you had fun crafting with us today. Be sure to share your findings with us on Facebook or Instagram! We love to see what you come up with.

While the Nature Center, Gift Shop and trails are closed during this time, there are still a number of ways you can support Moose Hill as we prepare for when we once again can welcome everyone back – join Mass Audubon (there’s a new member special for just $32 dollars!); join our CSA, with a regular pick-up worth $27-$32 a week, it’s a guarantee of fresh, organic vegetables this summer; support our partners:

Musings From a Sidewalk Explorer

Ms. Patti, one of our educators who has been teaching preschool and kindergarten aged children at Moose Hill for 25 years, continues her daily walks around her neighborhood and shares what she sees and a few fun activities and resources for you.

I was excited to notice the first buzzing bumblebee bumbling around my yard (it was a bit chilly, so I think that may have been impacting the bee’s flight path). I am sure it was searching for a flower to have a snack; however, to date the only things blooming in my yard are maple trees, daffodils, and a few weedy lawn plants, slim pickings for sure. I am hoping the bumblebee will be back when my blueberry bush is in bloom since bumblebees are blueberry pollinators. Since they are way too big to physically get into a blueberry flower to access the pollen, they use buzz pollination! They grab hold of the flower and vibrate their bodies at the proper frequency so the pollen drops out.  Watch this super cool adaptation! 

Learn about bumblebees (and other bees/wasps) in Massachusetts. 

Learn all about bumblebees. 

Celebrate bumblebees…here’s how: 

  • Enjoy blueberry pie, blueberry muffins, blueberry pancakes, or the fresh fruit unadorned to show your appreciation of bumblebees! 

Let us know your bumblebee (and other pollinator) sightings and activities.  Be well and stay safe. 

A Wandering Naturalists Notes

Michael, who worked part-time for Mass Audubon for 15 years before joining the Moose Hill team permanently 10 years ago, is our very own wandering naturalist. He is always on the move, notices everything in nature, and has a passion for sharing what he sees. Michael can make anyone see just how amazing nature is – no matter where you find that place – in your town, at the shore, in the mountains. As with all of us, he is enjoying some daily walks on the streets in his town and shares the spring activity that is happening outside now.

Early Spring: Late March-mid-April

Welcome to Spring!!  After an exceptionally warm, and dry, January and February (8-9 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the 100 year average), this trend continued till late March when temperatures became more seasonable and precipitation more copious.   This, in turn, yielded the beginning of an earlier Spring with daffodills and crocuses up by mid-March, and birds like Pine Warblers returning from their southern, wintering grounds. Here are some of the observations I’ve made over the past few weeks on my Wanderings in my own neighborhood and what I know is awakening at Moose Hill. 

Red Maple flower (male)

Red Maple flowers—male: Some of the earliest of our trees to flower, giving off a “reddish-orange” hue from a distance; Driving along our roads and highways, this is one tree that you can identify clearly this time of year; the male flowers usually appear before the female ones to spread their pollen; with all of the rain and wind during April, many have fallen to the ground, littering lawns and driveways.

Red Maple flower (female)

Red Maple flowers—female: These bright red flowers tend to appear just after most male flowers have opened up AND for good reason, “Why bloom any earlier than you need to?”  New seeds (and genetic potential for the species) will be produced IF they are properly fertilized during the Spring; And IF that happens like usual, flowing water will carry them to a scarified embankment so that they may potentially germinate;  A few late freezes during early Spring (when morning temperatures drop to just below 32 degrees Fahrenheit)  might keep these seeds from even forming, so I am monitoring a few trees carefully.

Willow flowers (male)

Willow flowers (male): this genus of plants (especially the shrubbier species) also inhabits our wetlands and displays its flowers nice and early; One of the most northerly of shrubs, willows are a hardy lot, so no worries about their being able to survive cold temps and snow!  Just look at those little “pussy cat mittens!”

American Elm flowers

American Elm flowers: the Massachusetts state tree is one of the larger species to flower in the early Spring, also within wetlands and alongside streams & roads; still occasionally ravaged by Dutch Elm Disease in certain areas (western MA and up through VT), there are many healthy individuals in our neck of the woods IF you just look carefully enough—check out their classic form (below) and swelling flower buds as you drive along Rte. 27 (from Cobb’s Corner) up the hill to Sharon Center…there is a large individual on the left; Some are still in flower, while others are going to seed.

American Elm

The “vase-like shape” of an American Elm: those 3 trees I just mentioned (in Sharon) possess some of this lovely form, but not quite like those that grow in more open areas of New England.

Carolina Spring Beauty

Green Grass and early Spring Wildflowers!—some grasses flower in open, sunny forests; on lawns (and in protected areas) dandelions have begun to flower; skunk cabbage leaves enlargen, hiding their early Spring flowers; Carolina spring beauty blankets the forest floor of our lower sugarbush—a truly unique habitat in these parts with its deep, alkaline (or “sweet”) soils and almost always adjacent to a flowing body of water.

Spicebush flower

Shrubs—flowering and leafing out. The spicebush (in swamps/along streams, especially those found along Moose Hill Street) are beginning to flower and add a lovely, yellow hue to these habitats; growing at our “eye level”, they are quite easy to see; tiny yellow flowers with a “lemon pledge” type scent. Huckleberries, lowbush blueberries, and a whole host of invasive, exotic shrubs have begun to leaf out as well; flower buds of highbush blueberry begin to swell and soon will open, attracting bumblebees and other insects with their sweet scent.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-Shouldered Hawks–I’ve seen a number of these hawks circling overhead and making that distinctive, loud “Kyah! Kyah! Kyah!” over the past 2-3 weeks, often in pairs; Like Robins, Phoebes, Tree Swallows, and a handful of other birds, these are your “long distance migrants” that overwinter down in the southeastern US; So great to hear and see them back again down in these parts!  A pair nested in the swamp across the street from us last year and I am guessing that they’ll favor that again; A little smaller than your Red-Tailed Hawk with a tail that isn’t always so “broad”, besides the reddish coloration in spots and banding, are good field marks.

Pine Warbler

Along with the Yellow-shafted Flickers, Great Blue Heron, Killdeer, Woodcock, Eastern Phoebes, Tree Swallows, Field Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows, and a few other species that have returned to their breeding grounds in our area (2-3 weeks earlier than in year’s past), the Pine Warbler has also made its return, filling the piney woods with its musical trill; more often seen than heard, although they occasionally visit bird feeders during April-May.

Spring Peeper

Spring Peepers!—the little chorus frogs have been calling over the last few weeks in the wetlands across the street from our home, as well as down the road in a much larger, Red Maple swamp;  a high-pitched, “peep, peep, preeeep”, almost reminiscent of sleighbells in the distance.

Wood Frog

Wood Frogs—these most-northerly of amphibians started calling (or “quacking”) in larger numbers within our Vernal Pools during the 2nd week of March this year, 2-3 weeks earlier than usual; usually, an “explosive breeder”, with males calling loudly over a few days period and determined to attract females; a few could still be heard chorusing along Moose Hill Street (and Moose Hill Parkway) during mid-April.

Eastern Garter Snake

Eastern Garter Snake—the most northerly of reptiles, at least 2 individuals were observed basking in the sunshine along the Vernal Pool Loop back in mid-March.

There’s so much happening outside – what are you noticing on your wanderings around your yard, your neighborhood, your town?

While the Nature Center, Gift Shop and trails are closed during this time, there are still a number of ways you can support Moose Hill as we prepare for when we once again can welcome everyone back – join Mass Audubon (there’s a new member special for just $32 dollars!); join our CSA, with a regular pick-up worth $27-$32 a week, it’s a guarantee of fresh, organic vegetables this summer; support our partners:

Musings from a Sidewalk Explorer

Ms. Patti, one of our educators who has been teaching preschool and kindergarten aged children at Moose Hill for 25 years, continues her daily walks around her neighborhood and shares what she sees and a few fun activities and resources for you.

Northern Mockingbird

As I continue to take daily walks as a means to keep active and stay sane, I have noticed an abundance of Northern Mockingbirds along my route.  This slender gray and white bird with flashes of white on the wings when it flies is not shy; I saw one dive bomb a cat years ago and one did a close fly-by of my husband last week. Look for them perched on phone poles, roof tops, and sometimes hiding in the shrubs.

The Mockingbird is a mimic…and an accomplished one too. This morning I would have bet the bird singing was a White-throated Sparrow, but alas, it was the Mockingbird.

Mockingbirds have been known to mimic alarm clocks, frogs, car alarms, and other sounds, including an array of local birds. It will repeat each call two to six times, although I have noticed it is usually in sets of three. So, unless you see a flock of singing birds, it is probably a single Mockingbird. 

Find out more about this bird:

On your next exploration in your neighborhood or yard this weekend, look/listen for the Mockingbird; you don’t have to be an expert birder to identify it. 

Take a lesson from a Mockingbird:

  • randomly choose a word from the dictionary (I suggest “crepuscular” to start) and use it at least three times in a day;
  • learn to count to three (and beyond) in a new language,
  • play the mirror game where one person copies the actions of another.

And, if you want a little extra fun this weekend, why not try one of these activities as you Explore Nature at Home.

Be well and be safe!

Tales from a Wandering Naturalist

Michael, who worked part-time for Mass Audubon for 15 years before joining the Moose Hill team permanently 10 years ago, is our very own wandering naturalist. He is always on the move, notices everything in nature, and has a passion for sharing what he sees. Michael can make anyone see just how amazing nature is – no matter where you find that place – in your town, at the shore, in the mountains. As with all of us, he is enjoying some daily walks on the streets in his town and shares the spring activity that is happening outside now.

Red-shouldered hawk

Across from my house, there is a resident Red-shouldered hawk who wakes us up each morning and just squawks a bit, so I have come to know this call quite well! Learn more about the Red-shouldered hawk and listen to it’s various calls here.

Red-tailed hawk

Yesterday as I was walking down the road in West Stoughton, I noticed a Red-shouldered hawk flying over calling loudly, ‘kiyah, kiyah, kiyah’. THEN it landed on a gray squirrel’s nest high up in an Oak tree.  Within seconds, a Red-tailed Hawk fly out from a nearby tree (making its distinctive call), and the smaller Red-shouldered hawk flew after it.  This is the second time I have seen the Red-shouldered hawk on top of one of those nests (close to the forest edge) too. Learn more about the Red-tailed hawk and listen to it’s various calls here.

Cooper’s hawk

But that wasn’t the end, within a couple of minutes, a Cooper’s hawk called from within this patch of forest. Learn more about the Cooper’s hawk and listen to it’s various calls here.

Quite an amazing few minutes there and definitely some competition for food resources between these 3 species of raptors, not to mention some nesting territory issues which does occur here.  Ah, but if they ONLY knew about the local, Great-horned Owl.

There are SO many things to see and hear in our area during April – what have you seen or heard in your neighborhoods?

Critter of the Week: American Robin

Ms. Patti, one of our educators who has been teaching preschool and kindergarten aged children at Moose Hill for 25 years, sent a fun little update to her Knee High Naturalists and we thought we would share it with you – fun for the young ones, but fun for adults too!

Miss Patti exploring the fields with her Knee High Naturalists

Hello, I hope you are noticing the arrival of spring.  Even with the current situation, I walk daily and have been delighted to see spring’s arrival from my neighborhood’s sidewalks.  Trees and daffodils are blooming, birds are chirping spring songs, and at some point the temperatures will warm.

Look for robins working any lawn.  They run, run, run and then stop.  As they tilt their heads they are actually looking for worms/insects since their eyes are on the sides of their heads.  Play the “robin game” in your yard…it’s easy.  Run about and when the caller says “stop” look at the ground to see what you can notice.  What’s hiding in the grass?  Is it easy being a robin? Below is some great information about robins.  Or check out Mass Audubon’s website for additional information about this and other birds:

Critter of the Week:  American Robin: the American Robin is a familiar sight pulling up worms on suburban lawns. Although it’s at home breeding in deep, mature forests, the robin is the most widespread thrush in North American thanks to a tolerance for human-modified habitats.

Description: a large thrush, back and wings gray, underparts red, dark head with white eye crescents. These birds are between 20-28 cm (8-11 in), weigh about 77 grams (2.72 oz) , and have a wingspan of 31-40 cm (12-16 in). If you measured your outstretched arms from fingertip to fingertip – what would your wingspan be?

Sex Differences: sexes look similar; female paler, especially on head.

Sound: song a musical whistled phrase, “cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up.” Call note a sharp “chup.” Also a very high-pitched thin whistling note. Click here to listen to the sounds of the robin from the The Cornell Lab.

Conservation Status: populations appear stable or increasing throughout its range. Because the robin forages largely on lawns, it is vulnerable to pesticide poisoning and can be an important indicator of chemical pollution. You can help scientists learn more about this species by participating in the Celebrate Urban Birds! project.

Cool Facts:

  • Hundreds of thousands of American Robins can gather in a single winter roost. In summer, females sleep on the nests and males congregate in roosts. As young robins become independent, they join the males in the roost. Female adults go to the roosts only after they have finished nesting.
  • The American Robin eats both fruit and invertebrates. Earthworms are important during the breeding season, but fruit is the main diet during winter. Robins eat different types of food depending on the time of day; they eat earthworms early in the day and more fruit later in the day.
  • An American Robin can produce three successful broods in one year. On average, though, only 40 percent of nests successfully produce young. Only 25 percent of those fledged young survive to November. From that point on, about half of the robins alive in any year will make it to the next. Despite the fact that a lucky robin can live to be 14 years old, the entire population turns over on average every six years.
  • Although the appearance of a robin is considered a harbinger of spring, the American Robin actually spends the winter in much of its breeding range. However, because they spend less time in yards and congregate in large flocks during winter, you’re much less likely to see them. The number of robins present in the northern parts of the range varies each year with the local conditions. For a discussion of how snow cover affects wintering robins, based on Great Backyard Bird Count data.

Take a moment and enjoy a story from another one of our education coordinators and our camp director, Shawn, about how the robin got it’s red breast. Listen here.

We hope that you find time everyday to look for the many signs of spring in your own yard, or in your neighborhood – draw a picture, keep a journal of your observations, write a poem, take a picture – and then share those things with us! We’d love to hear from you.

Nature Detective Notes: early Autumn 2017

A much cooler Summer than in year’s past, following a much wetter March-July.  According to meteorologists, we may moderate a bit as we move into October and November, so what is “cool” for one month will be “warm”, or just right, for the  next.  Oh, how the weather WILL dictate our observations!!

Indian Tobacco or Lobelia inflata

Here is a list (and description) of what I have seen, heard, felt, smelt during September at Moose Hill:

Wildflowers – most Goldenrods are in peak flower at this point in the season and we see a great number a variety of them in our fields and open forests (look for the Blue-stemmed Goldenrod). There are also a few different species of Woodland Asters with Small White Aster, White Wood Aster, and Whorled Wood Aster, being the most common. The tall (up  to 10 feet at times) Joe Pye Weeds, with their pink ball of flowers, have begun to go to seed and a few Lobelia’s can be seen in the open, moist forests such as the Cardinal Flower and Indian Tobacco, a small plant with tiny, blue flowers. At the summit of Moose Hill, you might get a chance to see those purple New England Asters and at the bottom of Moose Hill’s main driveway, you might  notice the fragrant, 4-petaled, white flowers of the vine-like, Virgin’s Bower.

Need help identifying wildflowers? here are a number of websites or books that might be useful to you:

Fall Wildflowers of New England – a fun breakdown of flowers based on a few different factors, including by the flower color you see; good pictures.

Welcome to Wildflowers of New England – may not have all the flowers in our area, but nice pictures and descriptions.

Wildflowers of New England  – a relatively good book regarding New England’s wildflowers but I also recommend having a few other books for additional drawings that can be very helpful in identification such as Peterson’s Field Guide and Newcombe’s Field Guide.

Insect Choristers – Yes, it still seems that I am fanatical about trying  to describe these little creatures and tell you all about them. As a musician of sorts, it all comes naturally to me so here goes, briefly, that is:

1) Daytime choristers (warmer days = singing; cooler/rainy days = quiet, generally speaking)

  • Cicadas – on warmer days (70’s on up) we can still hear the “sawlike” buzzing of those dog days of summer Cicadas, the last species that  seems to emerge from the ground in our area and points northward; a few Lyric Cicadas out there still, with their very noisy rattle heard up in Oaks and other deciduous trees;
  • Ground Crickets – that high-pitched, raspy trill we hear during most mornings, throughout the day, and into the night; very hardy and will sing until the first hard frosts;
  • Sword-tail Crickets, or Trig – the Handsome Trig is the most common species in our area; also produces a raspy, high-pitched trill (almost sounding like a wire “shorting out”), but it is found in our shrub layer, NOT on the ground, like the  previous crickets; a southern species that has made its way northward over the years;
  • Rattler Round Katydids – large, green, and hardly seen, these insects make a lower-pitched rattling and are found in the low vegetation areas of our open forests (think: the “woodlands” along our Vernal Pool Loop;
  • Meadow Katydids – a host of species out there that produce high pitched trills and shuffles, yet the most easily heard is our Lesser Pine Katydid that is found up in….Eastern White/Pitch Pines!;
  • Conehead Katydids – no, not related to Beldar from the old SNL, but a group of katydids that tend to produce “clear, mechanical” songs, most being quite loud; the Sword-bearing Conehead sounds like the “ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ecc…” of a lawn sprinkler (can also be heard during the night time hours); the other one in our area, the Round-tipped Conehead, produces a loud, almost ear-piercing buzz akin to our Cicadas; both species are found in grasses and within fields of goldenrod;
  • Tree Crickets – later in the season, a few species sing into the daytime hours, such as the Narrow-winged Tree Cricket (short, low-pitched trill heard mostly during dawn and dusk), the Two-Spotted Tree Cricket (sounds similar to the  last one, but has raspy breaks in its song), and the Pine Tree Cricket (a lovely, peaceful trill heard high up in  our pine trees). Note that all species produce a “pure tone” liken to an organ versus a “piano keys tinkling” that Ground Crickets seem to make.

2) Night time Choristers (warmer nights = MORE species sing, and at faster rates; cooler nights = less species that sing, and at slower rates)

  • Tree Crickets – the daytime choristers written about above will also sing during the night time hours, along with a few others such as the common, Snowy Tree Cricket, whose song sounds like a more “musical” beeping of a car alarm (“beep, beep, beep, beep,” over and over and over and…, slowing down when the temps get into the 50’s); If you too, are musical, think: 2/4 time during warm nights
  • Field Crickets – that familiar chirping we know well; occasionally, sing during the  daytime hours in low vegetation
  • Jumping Bush Crickets – an odd species that is rarely ever seen, but certainly can be heard with each individual making short trills on a different (yet lower) pitch; sounds like an “orchestra warming up;” found in shrub layer and around housing developments
  • Trigs – often will sing through the night later in the growing season
  • True Katydids – the unmistakable, slow paced and deliberate, “CH-CH, CH-CH-CH” (“ka-ty, ka-ty-did”, ecc) heard high up in deciduous trees and produced by an amazing “file and scraper” located on both their hind wings and dorsal, stridulatory shield; in our area they will sing till early-mid November at times
  • Oblong-winged Katydid – a very similar song to the True Katydid, but weaker sounding, higher-pitched, and given at a faster rate; found in shrub layer along roadsides or within fields of goldenrod
  • Bush Katydids – these guys produce of series of “tsips” and “clicks”, and are sometimes seen more than heard; most live high up in the trees
  • Angle-winged Katydids – the familiar, loud, “tick, tick, tick, tick, ecc.” Heard on the tops of small trees during early Autumn is produced by this species; not commonly seen, it blends in well with the green foliage like its cousins  another species that has migrated northward over the years

Here is a good website regarding our chorusing insects, and is put together by Elliot Lang and Will J Hershberger who wrote the book, Songs of Insects.

Other late Summer-early Autumn Insects: loads of Bumblebees gathering pollen/nectar, various wasps doing the same (those like Paper Wasp, metallic Halictic Bees, etc. Are especially fond of goldenrod), Hornets hunting for an insect meal and adding both girth, and dimension, to their large, paper hives; Syrphid Flies (a “bee mimic” of sorts) becoming more common on those wildflowers mentioned after the first frost; yellow-brown Ambush Bugs are still active on goldenroads, carefully staking out a meal to pounce on; dragonflies such as Meadow Hawks and Darners searching for an insect meal over meadows before they either take a permanent nap, or migrate south.

Frogs!: Gray-tree Frogs call occasionally and can be heard trilling (short duration and on different pitches, much sweeter sounding than those Jumping Bush Crickets) during daytime hours when the temps rise above 70 degrees and humidity in the air increases;  the “autumn chirps” of our tiny Spring Peepers can also be heard in most forests, especially near wetlands;  while the Gray Tree Frogs, True Frogs, Toads, and our reptilian friends start to hunker down for the cold months ahead (the garter snake is one exception I would make), these little Peepers will keep doing their thing until we get at least a hard frost, OR extended period of cold;  I’ve heard them in January, even up in VT, so a tough species.

Resident Birds and Long-Distance Migrants: Blue Jays and Crows have been very active staking out food sources/defending feeding territories, as have Black-capped Chickadees, Titmice, Nuthatches, Cardinals, and other resident birds; Our woodpeckers have been at work too looking for insect meals, and the Pileated woodpecker individuals at Moose Hill have been seen more frequently this year, as has evidence of their excavation; their cousin, the Yellow-shafted Flicker, will soon fly to more southern climes in North America, along with the Gray Catbird (still “meowwwing” out there), the Eastern Phoebe and Wood Pewee (two Flycatchers still singing throughout), Pine Warblers (great to hear their lovely little song), Song Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds and Grackles, Bluebirds, a few American Robins, a select few Blue Jays, and a few other species; Interestingly, I have seen/heard more Cedar Waxwings over the last few weeks, moving gregariously from one spot to the next in search of fruit to consume; onsite during cloudy days, or even the sunniest of days, you might hear a Barred Owl exercising its voice.

Fall Foliage Preview: starting MUCH sooner than in year’s past, here in southeastern MA and up in VT, where my family lives; our Flowering Dogwoods have been turning that purple-pink-maroon color since mid August, Red Maples are just starting to turn red-orange-yellow, Sugar Maples onsite tend to turn an “orange-brown” and are beginning to turn (and lose leaves), White Ashes are starting to turn their purple-orange-maroon, Black Gum leaves are beginning to turn scarlet red, and both Poison Ivy/Poison Sumac and Virginia Creeper are ablaze with scarlet-fluorescent reds, oranges, yellows……with the decreasing daylight each day, and each week, “it won’t be long (till we see the  hillsides in full color…and till the snow comes, apologies to my wife about that one)!!”

So, until we meet again in a couple of weeks, keep those eyes-ears-noses-tactile senses to the skies and world around you!! Try closing your eyes to enhance the experience!

And…PLEASE let me know what you all have observed as well!!

Michael Scutari Acciavatti

Nature Detective Notes by Michael, Moose Hill’s full-time teacher naturalist who often heads out on the trails to stretch his legs and observe what is happening. His enthusiasm and knowledge make for wonderful updates about the nature of Moose Hill. We hope that you will be inspired to head out on our trails as well and enjoy the changes that each season, or better yet, each month brings to Moose Hill. We look forward to seeing you here!

Nature Detective Notes: Mid-late January 2017

Welcome to the New Year—2017!!

Before I share some observations as of late, let’s reflect upon the year 2016 just a bit. One of the warmest years on record here in MA (based on weather records from the 1880’s or so); This translated into:

  • A relatively snow-free Winter 2015-2016 (early Dec-early Mar), with the “white stuff” not staying on the ground too long,
  • An average-early Maple Sugaring season at Moose Hill (late February-3rd week of March)
  • and a very “good year” for Blacklegged ticks (i.e. deer ticks, Ixodes scapularis) from late March-parts of December.
  • It also proved to be one of the driest years in recent memory, as observed by:
    • An infestation of the European Gypsy Moth (Lymantria dispar) in isolated locations within our area and points east and west.
    • Greatly reduced volume of our Vernal Pools/swamps/ponds at Moose Hill (and elsewhere); and although most streams within the wildlife sanctuary are “intermittent” in nature (flowing only during the Winter-Spring months), they were exceptionally low this year, even the cascading stream flowing through the Lower Sugarbush and down into Beaver Brook.

      Wolomolopoag Pond – usually water is up to the shrub line

    • Less mosquitoes throughout AND poor survival of both obligate & facultative species inhabiting those Vernal Pools. For Moose Hill that meant obligate Yellow spotted Salamander nymphs to facultative Predaceous Diving Beetle larvae.

Now, as we transition into the middle of Winter and the coldest time of the year, many questions come up (I am sure) with regard to, “what will the remainder of the year be like?” or are we “out of the drought?”  And again, if you are curious about that sort of thing like I am—a Teacher Naturalist-Forest Ecologist by trade, and a contadino (farmer/worker of the land) by default, PLEASE check out the Climate Prediction Center’s website.  It is updated daily and provides weather forecasts/predictions for various periods of time (i.e. temperatures and precipitation over 10 days, 14 days, 3 months…).

To quickly shed some light on that second question, the answer is “maybe”.  Our southeastern area of MA (we are actually on the “edge” here at Moose Hill, receiving both the moisture and moderating effects of a nearby Ocean—25 to 30 miles—AND some precipitation from weather systems originating farther west, “lake effect” included) has received copious amounts of rainfall since leaf senescence in November and even a bit of snow as of late.  The Climate Prediction Center forecast over a 3 month period is that the drought will persist to some degree, even WITH warmer temps predicted AND an increase probability of precipitation most likely in the form of rain (or “snow to rain” during the Winter months—basically, what we have already been experiencing over the past few months).…..NOT what we contadini want to hear, but that is life and we must adapt our practices.  With a good deal of snow/ice melt that occurred due to sunshine and warmer temperatures earlier this month (not to mention at least ½ inch of rain), we may be in luck for the short-term, though.

With all of those reflections and predictions taken into consideration, now I will move forward and into the sunshine (ahhh!) on this lovely day. Here are some observations I have made over the past few weeks and guaranteed to “brighten your day” a bit more:

  • Increasing Daylength!! Here we are on January 13th, the middle of Winter with its usually cold and dark days; while the cold takes a break till Saturday, January 14, our daylength is actually increasing and will continue to do so, ever so slowly, till the middle of February when the sun climbs noticeably higher in the sky and we gain even more daylight. There is not much difference to be noted in the morning yet (sunrise is at 7:12 am, an increase on 1 minute since January 1), but we have gained 9 minutes in the afternoon (with sunset at 4:32 pm). By month’s end, we will have gained 14 minutes in the morning and 22 minutes in the evening, so a 36+ minute increase since January 1 and the Winter Solstice (which was December 21).  So, 6:59 am sunrise and 4:57 pm sunset—close to a 10 hour day!!  The sun feels so good this time of year and I am hopeful!!
  • Prior to the Snowstorm on Saturday, January 7, frozen soil, frozen wetlands. With fluctuations between colder than average temperatures and warmer than average temperatures, the soils throughout our forests-meadows-wetlands have only “partially” frozen…OR at least the top layer has gone through numerous “melt-freeze cycles”.  Being interested in the “Average Frost Depth” across the lower 48 States, I was able to determine how deep soil freezes in our area of southeastern MA –  between 25 and 30 inches each year, on AVERAGE. With variable topography causing micro-climates, soil at the Bluffs will freeze to one depth, while soils in the “hollows” along the lower Kettle Trail will freeze to another. The same goes for our wetlands and bodies of water—one day, a thin layer of ice on top, the next, melted due to increased temperatures and rain.
  • Evergreen Shrubs and Herbaceous Plants. There are a small handful of these plants living in our forests, and they are wonderful and unique in their own way:
    • The Northern Bayberry (Myrica gale)—found occasionally on the edges of forests and roads….especially along the Access Trail, open to the Wetu Field (from the Old Pasture Trail), and along the lower parts of Moose Hill Street (going south and just before the Upper CSA Field, on the left).
    • Pipsissiwa (Chimaphila umbellata)—I was really excited to find this herbaceous evergreen in the same vicinity of some Northern Bayberry, going south on Moose Hill Street;  NOT a common plant in these parts. Note: the two main roads that cut through our sanctuary are great and wonderful for discovering a number of things AND totally under rated for hiking. However, both Moose Hill Street and Moose Hill Parkway can be busy at times, and with some limited sight lines (especially on the curves), please be careful if you go exploring!
    • Spotted Wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata)—a close relative to Pipsissiwa and much more common throughout our acidic, Oak-Red Maple-Pine forests.
    • Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)—also related to the last two species (and a member of the Heath, Ericaceae family of plants), but this is the one that yields the “wintergreen oil”;  NOT so common at Moose Hill, as well and found in isolated locations such as on Wood Thrush Way, at the intersection of Old Pasture Trail and Summit Trail, and in a few other, isolated locations.
    • Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens)—a creeping, prostrate herbaceous evergreen that is found throughout our forests, IF you know where to look – it really does just lay prostrate on the forest floor – not a climber.
    • Ferns—not too many grace our forests during the Winter months, but IF you look closely, you may find Evergreen Woodfern (Dryopteris sp.) growing in their usual clump (along the “pine forest” of the Vernal Pool Loop) or even Common Polypody (Polypody sp.), covering a few rocks “off the trail” at Hobbs Hill

      Evergreen Woodfern

      Common Polypody

    • Club Mosses (Lycopodium sp.)—the most common in our forests is Tree Club Moss (with its bristly “branches” and noticeable strobili), but you also may find Princess Pine/Running Ground Pine (with its scaly, flattened “branches”) and even Staghorn Club Moss (similar to Tree Club Moss, but with numerous “branches”).  Both of these were found growing next to each other along the Vernal Pool Loop, as you cross over a pile of stones on the trail and just before descending to the small bridge—at the intersection of the Vernal Pool Loop and the Kettle Trail.

      Tree Club Moss

      Princess Pine Moss

      Staghorn Club Moss

    • Sap Mushrooms sure are tough! Pinwheels in early January and last seen on a very warm (high 50’s) Thursday, January 12. HOW such a soft and mushy little organism can be “active” and growing one day and quite dormant the next is quite amazing to me. Nature is awesome and makes every day out an adventure, full of discoveries just waiting to be found.

      Pinwheel Mushrooms

  • Birdsong! Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches, Blue Jays, and House Finches – I have heard all singing to some degree, but only on warmer, sunnier days. That will change when we get into parts of February or March when the birds respond even more to those ultimate environmental factors, along with the proximate ones. We saw a Tree Sparrow at the feeder the other day, which was nice, considering it’s not the harshest of Winters. No Fox Sparrows, Redpolls, etc. yet, but a few Pine Siskins have been observed from time to time.
  • Walking the “back 40” of the Hayfield (the big field where we do our Star Gazing Parties) on the afternoon of Friday, January 13, I was happily surprise to see a flock of Eastern Bluebirds gathering food in the meadow, flying from tree to tree as I strolled along, and even perched upon our nest boxes. Not something I am used to seeing in mid-January, and it reminds me of my Winter down on the NC-SC border back in 2005 while I was pruning trees on Bartlett’s Arboretum—more Titmice, Cardinals, and Carolina Wrens than we have here, and Mockingbirds, Towhees, and Bluebirds, of course, in great abundance.
  • Snowstorm on Saturday, January 7 into Sunday, January 8:
    • “Drifting” and “metamorphosis of snow—When I first drafted this edition, I was considering adding a whole bit about the properties of snow like I did last Winter. With these wonderful, powdery and fluffy flakes piling up to 8-10 inches in our area….for just a few days, I have decided to omit any lengthy discussion. IF you are interested in learning more, then please refer to Surface Features from Winter 2015-2016);  Any amount of snow falling and collecting, be it light and fluffy with temps in the 20’s like this past storm, OR heavy and loaded with moisture, should be cherished this year check out the blog post from last year done in late January 2016.
    • Glistening snow and refraction. Only fresh snow that is powdery and has defined flakes (large, visible crystals or tiny versions clumped together) will produce any amount of refraction and hence, a “glistening” effect; the combinations of changes in temperature, moisture, wind, etc. will cause this new-fallen snow to “decompose” (compact, melt, evaporate, and even sublimate) rather quickly—destructive metamorphism, that is.
    • Yellow Birch seeds and bracts on the snow’s surface—wherever birch trees grow, you can count on their 1”, oval strobiles to disintegrate during the Winter months, peppering the snow’s surface with tiny seeds and bracts (which hold seeds within the strobilus). Check out the Lower Summit Trail, Woodthrush Way, or lower parts of the Bluff Trail after a snowstorm to see this sort of thing.
    • The overall importance of SNOW to plants and animals in our forests-meadows-wetlands of New England—Like our Wha-he-stah-he-stah legend (told to Grades K-2 during the Native American Life school program), I cannot emphasize how important snow is for plants and animals that choose to live in New England during the Winter months. It is that blanket protecting tree roots and burrowing animals, that source of water that slowly melts and percolates through the soil, or goes through various melt-freeze cycles and adds volume to our Vernal Pools, providing life for those that require it, etc. And when the snow remains on the ground for just a short time, the temperature fluctuations at the soil surface (and below) become quite drastic for all those who need more consistency during these lean months. Add a good dose of rain, and those burrows not sealed up so well will get wet, leading to potential death due to exposure by chipmunks and other ground dwellers…regardless of their food stores. On the other hand, more southerly animal species (especially our feathered friends) do benefit from the lack of snow, being able to find more food resources on the ground and in the trees.
    • Clear skies following the passage of a cold front and storm system that provides snow—this phenomenon is NOT something we usually saw growing up in VT, unless a very strong cold front invaded the area; lots of clouds much of the time up there, so our weather post storm down in southeastern New England is a bit more pleasant – and just calls for you to get out, on the trails, and explore in the beauty of the day.
    • Animal Tracks in the powdery snow—I did see the usual squirrel, fox, and coyote tracks, along with a raccoon pattern that wandered across them. Again, I will save a more “snow-focused” set of Nature Detective Notes for February….that is, IF we ever get more snow that sticks around more than a week.
    • Melting Icicles—they sure formed fast and provided some great refraction of sunlight, especially if you have a south-facing window at home. So interesting to watch them form—melting, freezing, clumping up, and even becoming something of a “column”, as in cave stalactites and stalagmites
  • The unusual, “extended”, Winter Thaw from Wednesday, January 11 through Friday, January 13.  “Here today, and it’s gone….tomorrow, it’s here and gone so fast….”, to quote an often forgotten song from the Beach Boys (really Brian Wilson), Pet Sounds album of 50 years ago. Most years do not bring temperatures (in mid-Winter/January) that last more than two days, so unusual and something we may need to live with periodically over the upcoming years. The positives of this thaw, and the accompanying melting of most of the fluffy snow pack (ONLY large, iceberg-like piles and snow found in cooler, shaded, northern slopes remain), ice in the soil, and increased rainfall have allowed water tables to increase a little bit. The fact that we have been in a drought may be relative during this time of year, really, as we ALL know that evaporation rates are quite low…till March, at least.

So other than a few changes I have noticed while hiking the trails of Moose Hill or walking the “back 40” of the Hayfield (as mentioned above), we are back to where we were a month ago when I typed up my last set of Nature Detective Notes—the earth tone hues of our Oak-Red Maple-Pine forests set against a blue (or gray) sky, the sweet smell of the Earth…wanting to wake, yet content to sleep some more, the rustling of the oak leaves and comforts of the wind, drowning out I-95, a mere mile to the west, and the twittering of our resident (and visiting) birds.

Be well, stay warm, and keep in touch,

Michael P. D. Scutari Acciavatti

Nature Detective Notes by Michael, Moose Hill’s full-time teacher naturalist who often heads out on the trails to stretch his legs and observe what is happening. His enthusiasm and knowledge make for wonderful updates about the nature of Moose Hill. We hope that you will be inspired to head out on our trails as well and enjoy the changes that each season, or better yet, each month brings to Moose Hill. We look forward to seeing you here!

Nature Detective Notes: December/late Autumn-early Winter

The darkest days of the year are upon us at the moment, but this doesn’t always translate into “cold and snowy” conditions.  This past November was a much warmer month then in year’s past, with a brief cold spell in the latter weeks. Precipitation was mainly in the form of rain and accumulated in average amounts, despite what seemed like a deluge at times.  We are just NOT used to seeing so much at one time during this dry year—our area still needs 8-10 inches of measurable precipitation to catch up to those 100 year averages and provide our watersheds what they desperately need.

As for the darkest, shortest days of the year (sunrise is now around 7:00 am and sunset is close to 4:15 pm), these usually extend from late November into late December.  With that sunrise time staying quite constant until early in February, waking up will be tricky for all of those diurnal creatures. Sunset times, however, will REALLY rebound by January, and just in time to shovel snow under better lit conditions.  Not that we will have as much as “snowmageddon” during the Winter of 2014-2015, but there is evidence to suggest (from the Climate Prediction Center) that we will have more snow than last year.

The ½ inch of snow from the “storm” on December 5 was quickly washed away by copious rainfall and melting upon contact with most of the ground. As the ground surface cools (and it will with a short blast of Arctic air during the latter part of the week), please by careful out on the roads.  Late Autumn-early Winter here in New England means a good deal of “black ice” and slick roads at times for reasons just mentioned.

Remember that our seasons in these latitudes are relative with no truly defined “boundaries”, as calendars would have us believe with the “first day of Winter (Winter Solstice) arriving on December 21”.  That is merely in “astronomical terms” and indicates the Earth’s position to the sun OR the angle of elevation of the sun ON that particular date—the lowest in the sky for the year, resulting in the shortest day.

With the Nature Detective Notes, I speak in “meteorological terms”—when the coldest days occur, when the warmest days occur, etc., and usually at 3-month intervals, as expressed by not only our weather forecasters (or meteorologists), but also ecologists and WE that focus on the applied sciences for a living.

Consider this idea and the fact that EVERY season goes through its stages—early Autumn chill and migration of birds, mid Autumn leaf senescence and frost, late Autumn leaf fall and grey, rainy days.

So…, early December-early March (Winter), early March-early June (Spring), early June-early September (Summer), and early September-early December (Autumn).  Note: with the impeding warming of our planet and Climate Change,  like I “hint at” below, in our lifetime we may begin to see a shortened Winter season from mid December-mid February, just like the Piedmont of North Carolina.

Here are some observations I’ve made  over the past few weeks, as we transition from late Autumn to early Winter:

  • Frozen ground and Melting Frost—each year I attempt to keep track


    Rime ice on a surface

    of WHEN the first, hard frost occurs, and each year it tends to happen later. This time it occurred just before Thanksgiving, and even then, the soil holding my potted trees wasn’t frozen solid. While scraping the thick frost off of my car this morning, I was struck by how quickly the sun’s rays melted this frozen “rime ice” and water droplet; this is December, after all and NOT March; WHAT are things like in your area? Have you had to scrape your windshields? Do you park your car so that the early sun can be aiding in the removal of that ice?

  • But it feels like late March or early April in southern New England—while walking down one of our trails last week I really felt like I had been transported to these months, that it was much later in the day, AND that the “timberdoodles” (or American Woodcock) would be making their flight display in, what we affectionately call the Poison Ivy field, off the Billings Loop. Sure, the greys-browns-tans-lawn greens/piney greens are all VERY early December (or late November) in our area, but there was a smell in the air, a feeling that we had skipped all of that cold and snowy weather. DO you sense some of what I am sensing?  All very typical of Winters down in the North Carolina piedmont region, actually, just not so typical of what we have been used to in the past.


    Red/Black Oaks with leaves still hanging on

  • Down come the Oak leaves—After the 2-3 inches of rain that fell last week, many of our Oaks (especially the Red and Black types) have lost their leaves, littering the side walks and forest floor in most areas. Those trees devastated by Gypsy Moth larval feeding produced a much smaller amount. Along the roadside and forest edges, you might find younger individuals who have retained their scarlet-russet leaves, as is characteristic of these tree species in our area.
  • European Buckthorns tough it out—the most common of our exotic invasive shrubs, this species will keep its leaves attached until the colder and snowier weather arrives.
  • Winter Moths—These exotic invasive, insect pests don’t seem to be as common as in past years and thank goodness for that. I am guessing that certain density dependent factors might be at play here – disease, parasitism, etc….I just started seeing them around Thanksgiving, which is at least 2 weeks later than usual. Read more about these moths here.
  • Garter Snake!—a large individual, possibly a female, was seen just  off of the Kettle Trail last week with our preschoolers. The latest I have ever seen one active in this area, and interestingly, the ONLY Herp (short for herptile – a reptile or amphibian) seen or heard that day. Usually, a few Spring Peepers will call during damp days in the 50’s-60’s, but not the case where we were. In any case, this species/subspecies is the most northerly of our native reptiles, able to exist in parts of the Yukon and Northwest Territories, so go figure.
  • Where have all the turkey’s gone?—by this point in early December, I usually step in numerous piles of wild turkey poo, either tracking it in the Nature Center or smearing it on my clothes; not so this late Autumn-early Winter season. My guess is that with ample food supplies throughout our Oak-Pine-Red Maple forests (last year was a bumper crop for nuts and acorns, and this year is almost as good in spots), these re-introduced, native birds DO NOT need to crowd our feeders at Moose Hill, put down a chicken farm’s share of waste, and roost in the trees just across the street, looking southward. Then again, maybe their populations have “tanked” due to disease or other density dependent factors… Read more on this idea here.pinwheel-mushrooms
  • Pinwheel Mushrooms on Hardwood tree bark—I love finding these little, Basidiomycetes on the bark of Sugar Maples, Red Maples, and White Ashes, feeding  on dead lichen, moss, etc., thanks to the warmer, moister air last week, they woke up from their dormancy; a great strategy that allows many creatures to survive the weather extremes in southern New England

Back to peeling my Italian Chestnuts and dreaming of collecting a basket or two of our native ones, here in southern New England.

Be well,

Michael P. D. Scutari Acciavatti

Nature Detective Notes by Michael, Moose Hill’s full-time teacher naturalist who often heads out on the trails to stretch his legs and observe what is happening. His enthusiasm and knowledge make for wonderful updates about the nature of Moose Hill. We hope that you will be inspired to head out on our trails as well and enjoy the changes that each season, or better yet, each month bring to Moose Hill. We look forward to seeing you here!

Nature Detective Notes: mid April-early May

We are truly into mid-Spring now, with the weather pattern favoring the brilliant sunshine of high air pressure for one week and then a cool rain off the ocean the next!

You all may have noticed how much “higher in the sky” the sun is on those sunny days, as compared to late March. Because of that event, more heat is spread out over a greater area up here in the northern hemisphere AND that “battle ground” between North and South (so typical of March-like weather) has been toned down quite a bit. The result? More tranquil weather and much less wind. Consequently, IF the Earth is allowed to heat up enough and there is a good combination of 1) cold air aloft and 2) the presence of strong low pressure, we will be in for a good rumble of thunder and the typical storm that ensues. That will eventually come once we get out of the very dry pattern we’ve been in for a few weeks.

One other feature of our weather in this part of New England (the eastern portion) that becomes apparent from mid April-June is the “backdoor cold front.”  It starts out cool with intermittent rain moving west to east, but then remains as a showery type with winds constantly out of the east, AND off the cool ocean waters a mere 25-30 miles away. This moderating effect usually slows down budbreak, leaf out, flowering, migration of Neotropical migrants, the metamorphosing of tiny, 1st instar caterpillars, and more.  A very new phenomenon for me, having grown up in VT where things really pop this month, almost unabated.

We WILL get into the heat this Summer, but in the meantime, enjoy the mix of peaceful, rainy days and fantastic sunshine!!

Here are some things the April vacation week campers and I have observed at Moose Hill over the past few weeks—from the ground, UP:

Green Grass and Wildflowers!

  • In most of our forests of Eastern White Pine-Red/Black/White Oak-Red Maple (competing best on fine sandy loams—VP Loop, for instance), both Canada Mayflower and Starflower have leafed out, providing a lovely carpet of green throughout
  • On lawns, Dandelions and Violets (various, exotic species of blue and white) are in full flower
  • Skunk Cabbage leaves enlarge, hiding their early Spring flowers, and ferns begin to unfurl

    Carolina spring beauty

    Carolina Spring Beauty

    in lovely “fiddlehead” fashion

  • On sites with rich, loamy soils (the Lower Ovenbird, Lower Sugarbush, Wood Thrush Way, etc.), a host of Spring ephemerals are beginning to flower thanks to more intense sunshine and lack of tree foliage—Carolina Spring Beauties, Wood Anemone, Kidney –leaved Buttercup; Over the next few weeks, more will follow so stay tuned!

Shrubs—flowering and leafing out

  • Quince (red flower), early Azaleas (pink), Catawba-type Rhododendrons (purple),

    dogwood flower bud

    Dogwood flower bud

    Magnolia (pink/white), Apples/Crabapples (white/pink), and even Spicebush (in our swamps/along streams) have either flowered or are beginning to flower

  • Maple-Leaf and Arrow wood Viburnums, Elderberry, Hazelnut, Witch Hazel, Spicebush, Willow, shrubby Dogwoods, Highbush and Lowbush blueberries, and a whole host of exotic shrubs have begun to leaf out as well

white oak

White Oak

Trees!—breaking bud, leafing out, and flowering

  • Bud swell of Hickories, Sassafrass, Bigtooth Aspen, and Sugar Maple
  • Most Oaks have broken bud and are slowly beginning to leaf out
  • Black Cherry, Silverbell, Quaking Aspen, Apples/Crabapples, Bradford pear, some Red Maples, and few others have leaf out “small”
  • Some Red Maples, American Elms, and most Willows and Aspens have begun to fruit as well; Something to note here is that due to a very cold 1-2 weeks in early April, trees that are usually adapted to flower and fruit in late April, such as Red Maples and Elms (both wetland species), were pushed earlier and many succumbed to a hard freeze; Not a particularly important crop for birds, but nevertheless, important for the proliferation of these species; Willow and Aspen, being some of the hardiest of flowering trees and shrubs, we not affected as much by this freeze

Return of some Long Distant Migrants!!

  • Different waves of these migrants make their way into our area during the month of April

    Eastern Towhee (rufous-sided towhee)

    Eastern Towhee (also known as the rufous-sided towhee)

    and early May; Usually, the first I notice are the Pine Warbler, followed (in sequence) by the Chipping Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow (NOT as common this year), Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers, Mockingbirds, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Solitary/Blue-headed Vireos (haven’t heard yet), Hermit Thrush, Rufous-sided Towhees, Fish Crows, and maybe a few other species

  • Along with these chorusing, diurnal bird species, I have been hearing a Screech Owl “whinny” during the early morning hours too


  • More Garter Snakes and even a few Ribbon Snakes were observed over

    ribbon snake

    Ribbon Snake

    the past few weeks, with the latter seen swimming in that large wetland adjacent to the Pepperbush Trail

  • Spring Peepers continue to chorus in the evening and on damp days; American Toads have been heard where I live in Stoughton over the past few weeks, especially on warm nights; a few Green Frogs have been calling, or “twanging” from the edges of wetlands lately; Wood Frogs occasionally visited the Vernal Pools to have a dip and get a bite during those warm, dry days during the past 2 weeks; Tadpoles have finally hatched out of their jelly-like egg masses following the cold weather in early April

predaceous diving beetle larvae

Predaceous Diving Beetle larvae

As of two weeks ago, diversity of life in both our smaller and larger Vernal Pools (just down from the esker along the Vernal Pool Loop) was “fair to midlin,” with water striders, phantom midge larvae, predaceous diving beetle larvae, water mites, a few caddisfly larvae in their casings, water bugs, round worms, fairy shrimp, water fleas, and the ever-present mosquito larvae; Since then, and in the upcoming weeks, the species diversity should even exceed expectations, considering the great volume of water in both pools;

So you’re probably thinking, “with such a warm Winter, how could this be so?” Going back to the last edition of our Nature Detective Notes, remember that the life cycles of these little animals (and ALL animals and plants living in temperate regions of the world, really) are truly dependent upon ultimate environmental cues, rather than just a warm or cold period; these cues include increasing day length and intensity of the sun; Just wait until late May-early June OR even early/mid September!!

Until the next time,

-Acciavatti Instep, Non Stop

Nature Detective Notes by Michael Acciavatti. Michael is our full-time teacher naturalist who often heads out on the trails to stretch his legs and observe what is happening. His enthusiasm and knowledge make for wonderful updates about the nature of Moose Hill. We hope that you will be inspired to head out on our trails as well and enjoy the changes that each season, or better yet, each month bring to Moose Hill. We look forward to seeing you here!