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Mother's Day Report on Walk on the Wild Side
May 8, 2011
Cambridge Science Festival Event
Mother's Day morning. Naturalist and assessor for the Reservation, David Brown along with a handful of adults and children explored meadow, riparian and forest habitats. An accomplished birder and seasoned tracker, David described the rich animal and bird biodiversity inventoried over his years spent walking the reservation. He noted too the significant changes to the landscape since past visits, particularly in the eastern end where there have been intensive plantings of non-native species on the site of the former Arthur D. Little building.
Further into the walk David described the tall growth of the canopy from former meadow where staghorn sumac and pin cherry have prevailed. Commenting several times that wildlife like unkempt spaces, he added that the many layers of growth -- ranging from shrubby understory to mature silver maple canopy -- actually bring more wildlife to the reservation than to many more remote areas around the state.
Just steps from the curb, David pointed out sign from the largest animal whose presence we would infer: deer browse on recently planted ornamental yews. In their midst were found the distinctive squished spheres of cottontail rabbit pellets. The adjacent picnic table was littered with acorn bits and the dark brown droppings left by a grey squirrel. Other, animal sign encountered by the six visitors during the two hour trek included vole and chipmunk holes as well as both tracks and scat indicative of coyote. Conspicuously absent were the usually common signs of otter including feces and tracks at the typical rolling sites along the banks of Alewife Brook.
But really it was the birds that stole the day. Ubiquitous were the Canada geese and a bakerís dozen yellow warblers' Tee-Tee-Tee-Wee'd their way along the route from parking lot clear to Little Pond, where tree swallows dove within narrow swerving distance of a double-crested cormorant pair in search of fish. Song sparrows, a white breasted nuthatch and catbirds added to the chorus with a black and white warbler chirping in for good measure. A turkey was first spotted by the younger set even before stumbling on its tell-tale tracks. Yet, the grand avian finale may have been stopping to watch a Baltimore oriole constructing itís nest along Acorn Drive - a mothers day labor of love, no doubt.
One slug and numerous insects were also observed.
Finally, in the plant realm, conversations touched on arrow wood, poison ivy and stinging nettles (ouch!) - is jewel weed really a palliative for the latter or just p.i.? Though now past its prime as an edible, the thick stands of the non-native garlic mustard begged the question, how many saladsí worth must line the path? A viable food source for the future, perhaps....