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Wildlife Walk in Alewife Reservation-February 2013

Snowy Wildlife Tracking Walk at Alewife Reservation
Left to right from Belmont, Arlington and Cambridge:
Yang Ta, Sandy Rosen Sara Conn, Laurie August, Dave Brown- guide, Ellen Mass
Stewart Watson, photographer

On Saturday afternoon of February 16 the Friends of Alewife Reservation sponsored a wildlife walk, one of a series held more or less monthly in the reservation. Eight people braved the cold and snow trekking the less-visited south side of the reservation along the Little River Pathway. Tracker-naturalist David Brown led the walk and while describing a woodcock flight demonstration area just over the wooden bridge from the T-station, he pointed out a beautiful hooded merganser among the mallards nearby Little River bridge and Minute Man just before the MBTA station. The male next to a female, suggested they had already mated, a sure sign of approaching spring. Later two great blue herons were also seen gliding down river among the ducks and geese. Their aggressive squawking was also a sign of seasonal change. Fresh snow had covered tracks but the group crossed the trail of a white-tailed deer, and browse sign were spotted in the shrubbery. Brown explained that the grove of aspen that the group passed through was apparently the attraction for the beavers that have inhabited the river in the past. These trees, which area a favored feed tree for beavers, grew into the area after the land was reclaimed by draining.

The destination for the walk was the large over 4 acre storm-water retention project on the south side of the river. At the fence guarding the project's perimeter, Ellen Mass, president of the Friends of Alewife Reservation, explained the intention to create a large, natural wetland on the site that will fulfill the multiple purposes of providing storm water detention from North Cambridge, relief for downstream properties from periodic flooding, as well as providing additional habitat for the reservation's wildlife and improved native plant diversity. But the main purpose is to build settling impoundments for storm water run-off that will reenter the river once its solids have settled out in the basin. The attractive, natural re-created wetland has plantings along the margins of the basin with tens of thousands of native species that will benefit wildlife. City of Cambridge, DCR, Mass Highway and FAR have been working for many years on this and some were very opposed. Flagging for the locations of these plantings could be seen by the hikers, and partially completed boardwalk that will allow visitors to stroll over the wetlands without damaging them. Although the site looks rough with construction, and covered with snow, the group imagined the sight in completed state which will improve the south side of the reservation for wildlife, native species diversity as well as for reservation visitors.

Intern, Friends of Alewife Reservation, Cambridge
Lena Cavallo