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Things We've Spotted

Wood Turtle at Bartholomew's Cobble

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Here are the latest wildlife spottings (and other nifty things!) straight from our staff out and about across the Commonwealth.

July 18, 2013
Occasionally I receive a call about a "nuisance" snake. Of course, nuisance is a matter of opinion. The snake is just doing what it always does: living. The real fear is from people who would do the snake harm. The other day I got a call was about a rattlesnake. Rattlesnakes are a protected species, and their populations are in danger in Massachusetts. Bravo for the landowners to call for help rather than killing it. In fact, killing is why these snakes are in danger! Killing, collecting, and habitat loss make the timber rattlesnake one of the most endangered vertebrate animals in New England.

Rene and the Snake; Rattlesnake at Bartholomew's Cobble

Currently their population is being studied. The picture shows the animal being scientifically processed. It was measured and weighed, then a DNA sample taken and a pit tag inserted into it. This is the same tag used in cats and dogs. If the snake is caught again, a quick scan will ID him. It turned out that this one was a young male between four and five years old. For all those reading this, please don't kill snakes. If you are afraid, call someone for help. There are plenty of people who love these animals that will come on over and remove the animal from your yard.

–Rene Wendell, Conservation Ranger

July 16, 2013
Bartholomew's Cobble received some great help yesterday from local Wahconah High School students. After a nice vigorous hike, the kids, who are studying invasive species in summer school, helped me pull out spotted knapweed. As Bart's Cobble is a National Natural Landmark for its biodiversity, invasive plants like knapweed are not welcome and are detrimental to its ecosystems. It was a hot and buggy day, but we had a few laughs. Thank you kids!

Bart's Cobble: Wahconah High School volunteers

–Rene Wendell, Conservation Ranger

July 13, 2013
It was a hot and muggy day for the Southern Berkshires North American Butterfly Association Count yesterday. This is the 21st year of the count! About 20 of us fanned out across the southern Berkshires and counted every butterfly we saw. This season's rain kept some butterfly numbers low. And, monarchs were conspicuously absent. I heard there was a huge die off in Mexico (where they overwinter) this past season.
 
Here is what we saw at Bartholomew's Cobble:
Eastern Black Swallowtail (1)
Tiger Swallowtail (1)
Spicebush Swallowtail (1)
Cabbage White (5)
Clouded Sulphur  (6)
Orange Sulphur (1)
Banded Hairstreak (5)
Eastern Tailed Blue (6)
Summer Azure (5)
Great Spangled Fritillary (8)
Pearly Checkerspot (3)
Eastern Comma (1)
Viceroy (1)
Appalachian Brown (1)
Little Wood Satyr (7)
Common Ringlet (1)
Large Wood Nymph (11)
Silver-spotted Skipper (20)
Long Dash Skipper(2)
Northern Broken Dash Skipper (7)
Little Glassywing Skipper (2)
Dun Skipper (9)
---
Total Species: 22
Total Individuals: 105 

–Rene Wendell, Conservation Ranger

July 1, 2013
While looking for bog copper butterflies yesterday in the cranberry bogs (in the sweltering heat and swarming mosquitoes) at the Crane Beach dunes, I came across this colorful toad and gray hairstreak. The cranberries were in full bloom, but most of them are under water due to the crazy amount of rain we've had this spring and summer. The dragonflies are impressive and taking advantage of the water. And, I even saw my first Carolina Saddlebags. The swales are completely magical!

Crane Beach: Toad

Crane Beach: Gray Hairstreak

Crane Beach: Swale

–Russ Hopping, Ecology Program Director

June 7, 2013
The North Shore Garden Club planted rare magnolia trees at Ravenswood Park as part of the centenial celebration of the Garden Clubs of America. The plantings are part of The Trustees of Reservations efforts to restore the population.

Ravenswood Park: North Shore Garden Club plants rare magnolia trees

–Russ Hopping, Ecology Program Director

June 6, 2013
Look at these beauties! These snapping turtle mommas were laying their eggs recently on the Ashley House lawn. Tis the season where mother turtles are looking for warm, sandy soil to make their nest. This is why we see so many turtles in the spring alongside and crossing roads. So, be on the lookout!

Ashley House: snapping turtles | The Trustees of Reservations

–Rene Wendell, Conservation Ranger

June 5, 2013
The giant swallowtail butterflies are out and about at Bartholomew's Cobble now. This is their first brood, and there will be another later in the summer. North America’s biggest butterfly…Woot! Woot! This is the fourth year we have had them in decent numbers. Last year was the greatest concentration…they were everywhere! I am pleased they overwintered. They are a more southerly species – only occasionally coming up into Massachusetts. I was worried that this past winter (very cold and long) would of killed them. It's believed they're expanding their range, taking advantage of climate chaos and the warming temperatures of the Northeast. This being their fourth year here, I think they are now calling the Cobble home.

Giant Swallowtail Butterfly at Bartholomew's Cobble

–Rene Wendell, Conservation Ranger

May 22, 2013
Found this owlet (Great Horned Owl) along with a sibling in the Great Pasture at Appleton Farms today. The two had just fledged, so they weren't able to fly well. One even hung upside down for a bit not being able to get stable. No sign of the parents. Photo taken by Clamflats Photos.

Appleton Farms: Great Horned Owlet - Clamflats Photos

–Russ Hopping, Ecology Program Director

May 16, 2013
Beautiful day looking for rare species on Monument Mountain. Fun to see turkey vultures soaring below me.

Monument Mountain: view

Here's a pic of a lovely black chokeberry that we found at the summit.

Monument Mountain: black chokeberry

–Julie Richburg, Ecologist

May 6, 2013
Had a great day with volunteers on Thursday at Bartholomew's Cobble. We put in six cedar posts for bluebird houses. These will replace the metal fence posts that are in the cow pasture now. The cedars are dug deep into the ground and hopefully will withstand the need for cows to scratch against them! We have 17 bird houses on the property, most of which have some signs of nesting activity…mainly tree swallows but three have signs of blue birds!

Bluebird posts

–Rene Wendell, Conservation Ranger

May 4, 2013
So, the bobolinks have returned to Bartholomew's Cobble, first week of May, just like clockwork! I hope they enjoyed their flight from Argentina. Here's a migration map from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Bobolink migration map via Cornell Lab of Ornithology

–Rene Wendell, Conservation Ranger

April 24, 2013
A few of us spent the morning checking out the new trail at Little Tom, which will be opening officially in May. The spring wildflowers were beautiful, with some open and others just beginning to open. Trailing arbutus (pictured below, first), bloodroot, round-leaved violet (pictured below, second), and trout lily were just a few of the spring flowers open today!

Little Tom: trailing arbutus

Little Tom: round leaved violet

–Julie Richburg, Ecologist

April 18, 2013
I was out with a group of students from Smith College to collect data at the Rivulet old growth forest stand. Even though there was still snow on the ground in some patches, this beautiful mourning cloak butterfly was flitting about, catching some nice spring sunshine. Spring has even arrived in the Hilltowns!!

Mourning Cloak butterfly

–Julie Richburg, Ecologist

April 16, 2013
Here's what's in bloom at Bartholomew's Cobble: skunk cabbage (almost past), blunt-lobed hepatica (peak!), bloodroot, coltsfoot, early saxifrage, trout lily, cut-leaved toothwort (just starting).
–Rene Wendell, Conservation Ranger

April 14, 2013
Had a great time at Bart's Cobble yesterday. A dozen people turned out for our Life in a Vernal Pool program, including notable herpetologist Tom Tyning who wrote the Stokes Nature Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians!  It was a bit cold but we had a ton of luck! Here's what we found...

  • Jefferson salamander (1 adult)
  • Spotted salamanders (12+ adults)
  • Red-backed salamander (1 adult)
  • Spring peeper (1 adult)
  • Mallards (a pair)
  • Spotted salamander egg masses (30+)
  • Wood frog egg masses (150+)
  • Fairy shrimp (lots)
  • Amphipods
  • Water beetle
  • Fingernail clams
  • Caddisfly larvae
  • Mayfly larvae
  • Mosquito larvae
  • Aquatic worm
  • Daphnia
  • Planorbid snail
  • Spire-shaped snail

Bart's Cobble: Salamander

–Rene Wendell, Conservation Ranger

April 12, 2013
I braved the sleet and ice today to meet with one of the Environuts – the environmental club at the Mass College of Liberal Arts – up at Mountain Meadow. This group of enthusiastic college youth have helped us control garlic mustard and other invasives at Field Farm and Mountain Meadow for the past 4 years. The group will be headed out in a few days to pull garlic mustard. Keep your fingers crossed for a sunny day.

Garlic mustard in snow

–Julie Richburg, Ecologist

April 10, 2013
I got to spend the day at Bartholomew's Cobble yesterday, and spring is in full force there. Even with some ice still remaining on one of the vernal pools, the wood frogs and peepers were singing loudly and swimming about! Check out the video – not much to look at, but the sound comes through well.

And the frogs were not the only ones enjoying the sun. I also got to see about 25 painted turtles sunning themselves on logs and two garter snakes working on making some new little snakes! There were also mallard ducks flying about, a great blue heron, and lots of spring bird activity!
–Julie Richburg, Ecologist

April 10, 2013
So, the hepatica (a cool plant named after your liver!) is peak right now at Bartholomew's Cobble! Back in the day doctors believed that all ailments could be cured with plants…all you had to do was look for a “sign.” Since hepatica’s leaves are lobed and brown when they are dying back they thought it could cure disease of the liver. Sorry, it unfortunately doesn’t, so don’t try it!

Bartholomew's Cobble: Hepatica
 
We have the first coltsfoot flowers up just west of Ashley House along Cooper Hill Road. A beautiful yellow, it's flowers are often mistaken for dandelions. It's from Europe originally and colonizes in poor soils, hence the roadside where it's often found. Just the flowers are up now, the leaves come later and are shaped like a horse's cloven hoof. Historically, it was used as medicine helping with sore throats. Now it is best left for the bees, as flowers this time of year are sparse.

Ashley House: Coltsfoot

–Rene Wendell, Conservation Ranger

April 8, 2013
On Friday, I was in search of bald eagles at the Cobble as part of the MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife annual count. No luck. Unfortunately, our nest was abandoned last year. This happens as most nests have a life span of half a dozen years or so. I think our birds moved to nearby Twin Lakes as I’ve gotten reports of a new nest there. I was feeling disappointed all day until I saw the season's first butterfly: a mourning cloak. They are one of the species of butterfly that overwinter, riding out the weather under bark or in another protected spot. I was reminded that beauty and discovery can often be found in the smallest of things.
–Rene Wendell, Conservation Ranger

April 4, 2013
Yesterday I was at Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge on Nantucket – and at Great Point a couple hundred grey seals with pups (below) were hauled out. I did not know this was a breeding location. Also, I noticed that many great black backed and herring gulls are nesting already. The pups were incredibly cute! Ospreys were back, along with several harriers and a couple of great egrets. Got a nice look at a peregrine falcon feeding on a herring gull it had killed recently.

Seal Pups at Coskata-Coatue | The Trustees of Reservations

–Russ Hopping, Ecology Program Director

April 2, 2013
Spent the day on Crane Beach in Ipswich installing shorebird fencing. Three piping plovers were on the beach. Other migrants included several kestrels and two great egrets feeding in the marsh.
 
Last Tuesday the wood frogs were out by the hundreds and calling in the vernal pools at East Over Reservation in Rochester. Plenty of coyote scat, deer tracks, and many promethea moth cocoons (below) – these are one of the giant silk worm moths. Great to see them in good numbers as they are parasitized by a biological control released decades ago to control gypsy moths.

Pomethea moth cocoon at East Over Reservation | The Trustees of Reservations

–Russ Hopping, Ecology Program Director

April 1, 2013
A trip to the vernal pools at Bartholomew's Cobble on Saturday turned up a ton of fairy shrimp! They are some of the coolest creatures that call the Cobble home! Right now they are living out their brief adult lives, maybe a month or so, making next year's progeny. In this time of cold and ice the shrimp have very few predators. They live only in vernal pools and only complete their life cycle when the pool completely dries up in the summer. If you had sea monkeys as a kid then you had a species of fairy shrimp! After the adults die and the pool dries up, the eggs wait (and wait) until they are again exposed to more than 30 hours of water. We do not have fairy shrimp every year. The pool must completely dry up like it did during last year's drought.  Laboratory eggs have been hatched after 15 years – they can withstand extreme cold and intense heat! Not too bad for a tiny, upside-down-swimming crustacean that only lives for a month! Come to my vernal pool program on April 13 and see them!
–Rene Wendell, Conservation Ranger

March 25, 2013
On my way to work the other day, I encountered a dead opossum in the road. I moved it under a tree on Corbin’s Neck at Bartholomew's Cobble in Sheffield; this spot is on Rannapo Road after the bridge on the Housatonic River. After work, around 4PM, I pulled alongside the road to check if anything had found it. There were several vultures on the carcass and many flying overhead.  All total there were eight turkey vultures and six black vultures. Then a red-tailed hawk swooped in and scared the vultures off the opossum. Then the vultures chased it away. Then I saw a bird coming in fast, very fast! I put my binoculars up and saw a peregrine falcon tuck his wings and do a power dive on the river. A bunch of ducks spooked into the air and the falcon did this dynamic bank and caught one! It was out of sight for a few minutes. Then two red-tails came in and chased it off its kill. The peregrine flew into a nearby tree and I got a great look. Heavily spotted, not too much gray, probably an immature. After a while, I walked to the rivers edge to see what it had killed. The red-tail was still on the duck, a beautiful male wood duck!
–Rene Wendell, Conservation Ranger

March 20, 2013
Feeling ducky on the first day of spring at Bartholomew's Cobble! There are hundreds of waterfowl on the Housatonic River today: Canada geese, mallards, black ducks, mergansers, teal, and wood ducks are all celebrating the new season with a splash!
–Rene Wendell, Conservation Ranger

March 3, 2013
We have three greater scaup ducks here at Bartholomew's Cobble! Two males and a female. In the 11 years I have worked here this is the only time I have seen them here. Pretty neat birds. They are usually found along the coast where they flock with other sea ducks like eiders and scoters. They used to be named blue bills because they have…you guessed it…a blue bill.  In the 1800s, when market hunting was at its height, thousands of these ducks were killed and their populations still haven’t recovered. Even on the coast these are great ducks to see!
–Rene Wendell, Conservation Ranger

March 1, 2013
Spring is so close...and the animals know it! Yesterday was an amazing day to be wildlife watching at Bartholomew's Cobble. The most uplifting were the red-winged blackbirds signing in the wetland behind the Ashley House. I love it when they come back!  Here's what I saw…
Peregrine Falcon (1) mature
Black Vultures (4)
Turkey Vulture (1)
Raven (1)
Crows (70+)
Canada Geese (80+)
Common Mergansers (6)
Mallards (23)
Black Ducks (15)
Green-winged teal (2)
Ring-necked ducks (2)
Belted kingfisher (1)
Killdeer (1)
Hairy woodpecker (1)
Red-bellied woodpecker (1)
Robin (2)
Eastern bluebird (1)
Red-winged blackbirds (5)
European starlings (800+) Huge flock!
Cardinal (1) male singing!
Blue jay (2)
White-breasted nuthatch (2)
Black-capped chickadee (20+)
Tufted titmouse (1)
Junco (1)
Morning doves (4)
 
I also saw a mink, muskrat, rabbit, opossum – and I heard a pack of coyotes howling! 
–Rene Wendell, Conservation Ranger

February 28, 2013
So, I worked on our nest boxes with the volunteers! What a great day to be outside. The ice on half river was still thick enough to check on the wood duck nest box. Changed out the wood chips…no evidence that it was used last year. Though there are always wood ducks and hooded mergansers in this wetland. And, sometimes with ducklings in tow. Let’s hope for next year. We also reattached some bluebird houses that needed fixing. Any day know the bluebirds will be checking out boxes. The best news was the kestrel nest box. This was definitely used! There was a broken egg shell inside…probably from hatching, and there was a whole egg that didn’t hatch out. Also, we found the leg of a songbird in the nest remains. Obviously was dinner at some point  for the growing chicks!  This supports what I witnessed in the fall. There were two mature kestrels in the vicinity of the box with two fledglings on the ground! This is so great because this handsome little raptor is in decline throughout its range. Glad they are calling Bartholomew's Cobble home. –Rene Wendell, Conservation Ranger

January 26, 2013
I took a quick look of the Corbin's Neck area at Bartholomew's Cobble today on my way to town for a cup of coffee. Spotted the immature bald eagle (no leg bands), two crows, a bluebird, about 50 Canada geese, 2 hooded mergansers, two black ducks, and three mallards. Coffee and birds...two of my favorite things! –Rene Wendell, Conservation Ranger

January 16, 2013
I had the two adult bald eagles together on the same dead branch on Corbin's Neck at Bartholomew's Cobble today! Man, I need to get a nice camera! They had a good view of the river and of the 20 or so mallards. There were also 100 or so Canada geese in the farmers field on the other side of the river. All this with the fresh coating of snow made for quite a sight! –Rene Wendell, Conservation Ranger
 
January 11, 2013 
Had an immature bald eagle (3rd year, no leg bands) diving on a raft of mallards, black ducks, and common mergansers at Bartholomew's Cobble. Seen from the Rannapo Road bridge. It dove on the ducks 8-9 times but had no luck. The ducks were diving underwater and scattering everywhere. And, there was a kingfisher in a tree watching the whole thing. It was pretty cool! –Rene Wendell, Conservation Ranger

January 10, 2013 
There was a Wilson's snipe on the Sheffield/Egermont road near the intersection of Lime Lin Road (near Bartholomew's Cobble). –Rene Wendell, Conservation Ranger

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