The Thornton Burgess Society
Around the Pond
By Mary Beers, Education Director
This month there is still much to see along the banks of the Smiling Pool. Female Winterberry Holly bushes, also called Black Alder or Christmas Berry, are covered with plump red-orange berries. This deciduous holly loses its leaves so the berries are showcased against the brown branches. You have to catch this bush early in the month before northern American Robins arrive to consume these nutritious berries. Our female American Holly trees are spectacular in December with bright red berries vivid against dark waxy evergreen leaves. These berries are also consumed by Robins and other birds as a seed spreading adaptation of hollies.
Open water brings water fowl to the Smiling Pool. Look for Ring-necked Ducks, Common Goldeneye, Gadwall, Hooded Merganser and Common Loon from viewing spots along the shoreline. The large boat dock offers vantage points for looking up and down the pond. Look down under the water too and perhaps you can spot a tadpole or two. Our feeder station is a great place to view woodland and yard birds. You can sit inside our classroom and gaze out the windows or brave the chill and stand at the corner opposite the feeders. There are usually 4 to 5 sparrow species searching under the feeders. Look for White-throated, Field, Tree, Fox and Song Sparrows. Consider accompanying Gretchen on her Monday Morning Birding trips.
This month offers many opportunities to be out and about in nature. Families are exploring Mammals this month in our Saturday Science classes. Consider joining us for our annual Winter Solstice Celebration. Our Gingerbread House workshop is a great opportunity to step away from the hectic bustle as a family. Even in December our Bug Club attendees will be out and about the trails of the Game Farm looking for critters underneath logs and bark. May this Blessed Season bring joy and peace to you and all you hold dear.
FEBRUARY IN THE BRIAR PATCH By Mary Beers, Director of Education
Love is in the air! While it is true that Valentine's Day falls in February I am thinking of the local wildlife. Raccoons, weasels, skunks, gray and red fox and coyote are still mating or starting to mate in February. Starting next month parents will be busy tending to the needs of their young. Great-horned Owls are nesting now and are very vocal. Listen for their loud hooting right through the night. Look for the nests in evergreen trees. Great Horned Owls frequently claim old squirrel, hawk, crow and even osprey nests. They may even use a tree cavity. Driving through Camp Edwards early in May I saw very large owlets sitting in an old osprey nest high on a light pole. They had their beaks open to release some of the heat of the warm day while an osprey pair screamed above them. It seemed the osprey were complaining that the nest was still occupied when it was now their turn to use it.
Great Horned Owls in the Nest
Mallard and bufflehead ducks and the resident mute swans are paired up and feeding at the Smiling Pool. Walk quietly to the large dock and look up and down the pond for a sight of the February "love" birds. Early next month the swan female will be sitting on her nest up around the smile to the backside of the pond.
Be sure to walk through the garden and the wooded paths and look for the different mosses which offer a welcome reprieve of the drab browns of winter with their vibrant shades of green. Mosses are primitive plants which lack roots. Look for them in moist areas like the bottom of tree trunks and on fallen logs. Be careful when stepping near since they are easily dislodged. Princess pine stands tall above its bed of dried leaves still holding its spore candelabra now empty and brown. This member of the ancient Clubmoss Family is an ancestor of the 100 foot tall trees of the Dinosaur Age.
Having an attack of February Cabin Fever? Consider joining me
and the Wild Women of Wednesday on our afternoon jaunts. On the 8th when
we explore the East Sandwich Game Farm and Talbot's Point in search of
nesting owls and the 22nd when we explore the Lowell Holly Reservation
for a "Where's the Green?"
walk. We leave Green Briar at 1:00 and return at approx. 3:30pm.
January Around the Pond By Mary Beers, Director of Education
This winter has been a mild one as we start 2012. Plants we do not think of as evergreen are still growing in the wildflower garden and along the woodland paths warmed by the unfrozen ground. Look for the large rounded leaves of the Golden Ragwort and the dark green oval hairy leaves of Forget-me-not. There are green Japanese Honeysuckle vines along the trails. I found a Dandelion flower along the road. I am sure the cold bitter weather will arrive by month's end but for now we are glad for a reprieve from the cold weather fuel bills.
If you are able to come this way you will find a great number of birds are at our feeder station and oftentimes 5 puffed up Gray Squirrels. You can find ground feeders such as Field, Song, Tree, Fox and White-throated Sparrows, Mourning Doves, Slate-colored or Northern Junco and male and female Northern Cardinals. Hanging from the tube feeder you will find Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, House Sparrows, White-breasted and Red-breasted Nuthatches, Red-bellied and Downy Woodpeckers and American Goldfinch. Sitting up on the red hopper feeder you can see most of the previous birds and male Red-winged Blackbirds. The thicket behind the feeder station offers the cover needed to avoid the predatory hawks that zoom in and out.
Any day that warms beyond 40 degrees is a day to watch for Deer Ticks along the upper hillside paths. Wearing light trousers and long socks you can pull over the pant bottoms will aid greatly in tick spotting. Be sure to check out the pond edges for visiting water fowl. We usually find Common Goldeneye, Mallard and Ring-necked Ducks, Pied-bill Grebes and the occasional Bufflehead or Hooded Merganser.
Winter is a great time to get out and look at birds without the tree leaves blocking your view. Monday Morning Birding from 8:30 – 11:30 with Gretchen Towers resumes January 9. Be sure to call and have your name added to the list.
Around the Pond By Mary Beers, Education Director
The April showers have indeed brought May flowers. Early in May look for Canada Mayflower, Trout Lily, Wood Anemone, Star Flower, Trailing Arbutus (Our State Flower) and Cherry blossoms in sunny and shady wooded areas. As the nights warm and sun prevails more blooms emerge. The wildflower garden is bursting with blossoms. It seems everyday something new is up and growing. The fern fiddleheads are wonderful to behold in their ancient unfurling.
Solomon's Seal, Lungwort, Yellow Anemone, Rock Cress, Fritillary or Checkered Lily, Virginia Bluebells, Bloodroot, Assorted Violets (I am really impressed with the Downy Yellow), and several species of Trillium are here for your viewing pleasure. One illusive and short-lived beauty is the deep reddish brown bell-shaped flower of the Wild Ginger.
It is blooming now on the hillside between the Japanese Maple and the Red Cedar. You will have to gently lift the thick round leaves to catch a glimpse. Our wildflower garden crew is busy potting up extra plants for the Herb Festival Plant Sale coming up May 13, 14 and 15. We have a small sale going on now on the porch of the Jam Kitchen Building. We are still looking for a man or two who can work with Russ Lovell on Monday mornings for an hour or two.
American toads are singing their high pitched trilling from the ditches at Mr. Beaton's bog. Pickerel frogs are more solitary in their snoring call of love. Listen for them on the bank of the Smiling Pool in early May.
Yellow warblers have arrived and the Briar Patch Trail is filled with the males "sweet, sweet, I'm so sweet" song. Everyday someone new returns and bursts forth is song. Are they glad to be back? We are surely glad to have them back after such a trying winter.
Because of Memorial Day weekend the Children's Book Club will be meeting on Friday May 20th. We will be changing the date for June as well to June 17th because of our annual meeting on the 24th.
May is a wonderful time to get out and explore. If traipsing along a wooded path is too adventurous come and explore the grounds at Green Briar. You may be rewarded by being the first to view this year's batch of swan cygnets. Mom and Dad bring them down to the boat dock banking in early May. You are sure to hear many bird species while sitting on a garden bench. Look for the queen honey bee before the numbers grow too large to find her among her workers.
Around the Pond By Mary Beers, Education Director
Let the "Dawn Chorus" begin is my cry for April. Although our busy bird feeder usually has more than 10 species to spot any winter day, now is the time for the migrants to appear in numbers. Swallow, Phoebe, Catbird, Chimney Swift and House Wren have returned to the Briar Patch and the Smiling Pool banks.
Spring American Robins seem to be the first early morning song that I hear. With day break coming earlier and my window open a crack, their "Cheerio-cheer-e-a" song wakes me right up. Here at Green Briar the robin's song is joined by the throaty high pitch call of the Common Grackle and the not so new "Konk-a-ree" call of the March-arriving Red-wing Blackbirds.
April is a great month to start to
explore birds, their songs and calls. Every day brings some new
returnee home to the Briar Patch, their joy at arriving represented by
the beauty of their song. Forgive my obvious anthropomorphic rambling,
but it does seem to me that these bird songs are filled with joy.
Because so many plants lack the thick leaf cover of summer now is
the perfect time to not only hear the birds but see them as well.
The wildflower garden is bursting forth with overwhelming beauty. There is something about the sight of the first flowers of springtime that heals a winter-wounded heart. Nature offers us such wonderful life lessons to learn. No matter how harsh the winter, how bitter the cold, how snowy and dark those wintery days, spring eventually comes to Cape Cod with the promise of new life, new hope and perhaps a bit of warmth.
Come and get rejuvenated, recharged, re-energized around the pond.
Around the Pond By Mary Beers, Education Director March, 2011
Most of our native mature mammal females are pregnant during this month. The mating season for most occurs in January and/or February. Squirrel and cottontail rabbit females may be carrying their first litter now but will become pregnant again anytime from late spring into summer. Mrs. Woodmouse and Mrs. Meadow Vole are continuous breeders, perhaps to compensate for the numerous young taken by predators. Gestation periods range from 25 days for the woodmouse to 200 days for white-tailed deer does who would have become pregnant last fall.
Around the pond Mrs. Johnny Chuck will mate anytime from later this month into April. Her young are born about 30 days later but do not emerge from the burrow until about 5 weeks of age. Hooty and Mrs. Hooty Owl's young have already hatched and are in the nest this month. The resident Mute Swan pair has started their nesting duties this month. The male is often seen on patrol while the female is on her nest hidden from view around the corner at the far right end of the pond.
Warm rainy days that extend into
warm rainy nights above 40 degrees trigger the start of the spring
migration of our local amphibians to the breeding pools. On nights with
these conditions met watch for Spotted Salamanders trying to cross roads
especially after midnight to dawn. The migration continues over several
evenings. Are you someone who just can't wait to hear the sound of the
first Spring Peeper Frog? I salute you my friend! Spring peepers
calling and swollen pussy willow buds signal the arrival of spring for
Around the middle of March beginning late afternoon we start to hear the call of the male Woodcock out in the swampy center of the Smiling Pool. His nasal buzzing "peent, peent" signals the start of the aerial display to follow. Once with night rapidly descending I couldn't see him but could hear the twitter as he ascended and the bubbling warble as he came back down. The Audubon Society Long Pasture Sanctuary in Cummaquid offers walks to see this incredible display in their large field.
If you are local and have a couple of hours to volunteer on Monday morning between 8:00am and noon please consider helping us in the wildflower garden starting March 21st. I especially need men who are able to help with rocks and trees. Everyone is welcome whether or not you have experience. There are jobs for every skill level.