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Naturalists Bond at Uplands
on December 13, 2003
by Stew Sanders

We had a wonderful walk last Saturday from Acorn Park Road, through the Kestrel-house meadow, to Little River and Little Pond, near the Alewife Uplands, on Saturday. Dr. Dave Morimoto of Lesley University, Jim Burnham, biologist, Mike Arnott, AMC and Friends of Alewife Reservation, and I made up the “hunting party,.” a group large enough to share our findings and small enough to minimize disturbance. Dave spotted a large owl, and soon we all had views of it, first perched, partially hidden, then flying to another hiding place in the O’Neill woods. From the research published by the Craighead brothers, I learned that the large owls need a minimum of 10 acres of woods. Mike spotted tracks of coyote, which are distinguished from dog tracks by shape and stride, and soon we saw tracks of raccoon, rabbit, and squirrel. Across the river from Hill Estates, we found the location of a predator’s kill.

Not far from where two of us placed a Northern Flicker bird house a year ago, Dave saw a Flicker. At Perch Pond, where Wellington Brook joins Little River, we startled a Great Blue Heron. In many places we found Downy Woodpeckers busily feeding. Dave gave the White-throated Sparrows’ whistle, "Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody," and in a minute we were watching two of them picking seeds off the snow. The footing on the crusty snow was fine, and our feet stayed dry. The bright sunlight and shadows were beautiful. Thanks go to Ellen Mass of F.A.R. for scheduling the walk; this was an excellent opportunity to learn and enjoy Alewife on a snowy day. The state-protected area is rich with wildlife, which should always be protected.

Questions asked:

What did we note about the area behind Jim Martignetti’s Rte. 2 property (Faces) as relevant to the Uplands? It would be wise for Belmont to require O’Neill Properties to restore their part of the marsh. With heavy construction equipment they would have to dig out the invasive phragmites. In the mean time we noted a small pond, and devised these study projects for Dave’s Lesley College students; how fast is the bio mass filling in the pond and wetland? Would it help provide more flood storage to open up the water flow connection to the marsh from Little Pond, where the original channel remains, next to the ramp from Lake St. to Rte. 2 eastbound and under the entrance to Acorn Park?

What did you note about the owl's habitat situation? Even in the deciduous trees, the woods was large enough to enable the owl to give us only obstructed views of it. That also gave nature its chance to challenge us to identify it, Barred or Great Horned; which was it?