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Fourth Annual Docent Training at Alewife
provides valuable lessons
By Lisa Maloney, HMNH Education Department, 26 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
Many wildlife signs were found during the Alewife Reservation docent training sessions on April 16 and 23. Six future volunteer guides learned to recognize the subtle differences between dog and coyote tracks, rabbit and muskrat scat (droppings), and the fine distinctions between holes dug by foxes and woodchucks. Veteran wildlife tracker Dave Brown, assessor for the Friends of Alewife Reservation's Biodiversity booklet, is leading the series for the 4th year in a row.
During the first session, Dave shared his philosophy of motivating people to protect wild places, "You don't have to convince people to conserve what they love". For the next three hours in the field and forest near Little River, Dave shared his love of tracking, as the docents examined meadow vole tunnels in grass, rabbit chews on a young cherry tree, and old beaver-gnawed stumps that help tell the history of the unique and varied Alewife Reservation. Friends of Alewife Reservation president Ellen Mass asked the group to consider protecting the highly threatened urban wild by writing letters and by guiding friends, neighbors, family and other constituencies around the Reservation in the future.
The second session's highlight was a walk among the marshy cattails, featuring the sound and sight of male red-winged blackbirds vying for territories and mates. The docents learned how cattails are native plants that provide excellent habitat for birds and mammals. They were dismayed to see that the Reservation is now threatened by many non-native invasive plant species such as purple loosestrife, Japanese knotweed, phragmites, bittersweet vines, and garlic mustard, as they explored the area around Blair Pond.
The third session, on May 7th, will explore the threatened upland silver maple forest area. The docents are concerned about the future of Alewife Reservation, since they hope to be able to lead their own walks there, and inspire many future volunteers to care about this fascinating place.
Friends of Alewife Reservation is also sponsoring two biodiversity walks this season to celebrate the state's Biodiversity Days: a birdwalk by Herb Pearce on June 1, and a tour by Mary White on June 4. For more information, see the Events page.