Friends and Family of Terry Blunt gathered today at the Sugar Loaf Overview to celebrate his life. Looking down on the Valley he loved so much, people shared their memories of him: his sense of humor, his love of beagles, his love of wilderness and open space. Incredibly, Terry was a partner in preserving literally thousands of acres of farmland, wild habitat, and land buffering and protecting the Connecticut River.
John Muir wrote:
The enemies of wildness are invincible and they are everywhere,
but the fight must go on.
For every acre you gain,
10,000 trees and flowers
and all the other forest people
and the unborn generations
will rise up and call you blessed!
Terry was truly blessed, as we all were for having him with us here in the Valley.
The Valley that Terry loved so much was an appropriate backdrop for a memorial celebrating his life’s work. He worked tirelessly to protect farmland and habitat.
In part, thanks to Terry’s work, a marshy, wetland at Mass Audubon’s Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary known as Ned’s Ditch was preserved for all the generations to come. He hadn’t been to Ned’s Ditch for twenty years so I invited him to hike through hip deep water and muck to spend a day sitting in a bird blind with mosquitoes and nats. He jumped at the chance! I had the pleasure of spending a day with Terry talking about wildlife and the incredible beauty in nature. What started as 3 Great Blue Heron nests, twenty years ago when Terry helped preserve the area, has grown today to a rookery with over 50 nests. His legacy will live forever.
double click on images to get a bigger picture.
Take a look at all the fun activities I had at Mass Audubon’s Discovery Day at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary! John Green led a nature walk, Blanche Derby educated people on what you can eat in the wild, and Tom Ricardi showed us his Birds of Prey! He even released a rehabilitated great horned owl back to the wild, incredible!
Mass Audubon is running a great program all day on Saturday, October 16th called Discovery Day. Explore the Sanctuary, learn about nature and join local wildlife rehabilitator Tom Ricardi as he presents his incredible flock. For more information visit Arcadia’s website or give them a call at 413-584-3009 or 800-710-4550.
Many of you probably don’t know that Mass Audubon actually has 5, yes, 5 wildlife sanctuaries in the Connecticut River Valley. Take a look at the video I put together introducing the 5 wonderful sanctuaries:
What would you get if you put Madonna and wildlife from Northampton together? Take a look:
During the week, I worry.
I worry about the usual: my job, my mortgage, my future.
I worry about my blood pressure!
And then it happens.
For a brief moment I am transported to another world,
Where breath is so much more important than thought.
Where simple and awesome live together.
Where the present is always a flower,
to a vacation in Mexico.
And Mary Oliver writes:
Don’t bother me.
The butterfly’s loping flight
carries it through the country of the leaves…
for long delicious moments it is perfect
lazy, riding motionless in the breeze on the soft stalk
of some ordinary flower.
excerpted from the book,
“Blue Pastures”, Harcourt Brace & Company, 1995.
Double click on an image to enlarge:
A friend who is a 1st grade school teacher was collecting monarch butterfly caterpillars to show her class and she was very generous in giving me a couple to video for my blog. They were high energy, eating lots of the milkweed (chemicals in the milkweed are toxic to most animals and make the caterpillars toxic to most predators). Then the caterpillar crawled under a leaf and went completely still for a couple of hours (double click on any pic for a larger view):
Then it created a white silk button at the tip of its tail, and hung from it upside down. It would hang like this for upwards to 12 hours!
The caterpillar then began to contract and expand, flexing its muscles up and down its body, its color turning greener and greener. It looked like it was doing crunches… for over an hour! How it had the energy to keep flexing is beyond me. Finally from the head it started to turn green. This green capsule flowed totally over its body until it had encased itself in this green, hard chrysalis. The chrysalis is a work of art! The video shows this incredible transformation:
I will try to get some video of the emerging butterfly in 10 days, stay tuned!
Keeping with the Berry theme, this is the bloom of the cranberry (Genus: Vaccinium). Legend has it that early european settlers saw the blooms and thought it resembled the head and neck of a crane (double click on the above photo for a larger image). Over time, it went from craneberry to cranberry. Native Americans used it in their pemmican, while it is said that early settlers survived their first Thanksgiving by being shown by Native Americans how to harvest and prepare them.
Just like low bush blueberries, cranberry bushes are a very low shrub. They thrive in cool, damp to wet locations. Although they’re best known for being cultivated on the south shore of Massachusetts and Cape Cod, there are wild cranberries growing in many locales in Massachusetts, especially in bogs. One such bog is Burt’s Pit Bog (Brookwood Marsh Conservation Area) at the end of Ellington Road in Florence, Mass. The bog itself has been preserved by the city but the essential important land around it has not. The cranberries grow on a floating peat mat, drawing nutrients from the sunlight and bog. In the fall and winter, animals travel to the bog for a great treat. To learn more about the bog, take a look at the video I made:
I was expecting tall blueberry bushes when I showed up for a tour of the Benson Place Wild Blueberry Farm in Heath, Mass., sponsored by Valley Land Fund (VLF). What I saw were beautiful fields of low bush blueberries, only ankle deep! We may have come for the blueberries but we stayed for views, they were just incredible! Turkey, blackbear, moose, and coyote share the blueberries with their human visitors, but they don’t have to pay the nominal fee for the berries. They just come and go as they please.
Dave Gott and Ted Watt, co-owners, gave us the grand tour of the farm they have put into agricultural preservation (in collaboration with Franklin Land Trust and the State of Massachusetts; VLF provided some of the funding). Their hospitality will keep me coming back for more. Check out the videos of the history of the farm on Burnt Hill (reaching back to the Native Americans) and how low bush blueberries are actually harvested, as well as some pictures (click on the thumbnails to get a bigger image). You can visit their website at: The Benson Place
Some views of the fields, Ted and Dave, and Indian Hawkweed.
The group, a view of Mt. Greylock, an more views across the fields.
After watching a couple of Oystercatcher families, I am smitten! An Audubon guide described them as a hefty bird wearing a tuxedo and smoking a carrot. Wonderful. From what it looks like the fledglings have black eye bands but the parents have the striking orange eye bands.
They were once plentiful in the northeast but by the middle 1800’s their numbers were low and they didn’t extend past the southern states. With the Migratory Act they once again claimed the northeast as their home range but it sounds like their numbers are once again going down due to habitat loss. For info on the Oystercatcher in Massachusetts, go to the fantastic blog, The Turtle Journal.
Well, I know that I said I live in Western Massachusetts, so you’d expect a lot of wildlife from there but I’ve been traveling this summer so here are some pics and video of an incredible Nature Conservancy preserve in Cape May. They’ve rehabilitated a phragmites wetland into a highly productive catty nine tail wetland plus they’ve roped off much of the shoreline for shore birds. Yesterday I tagged along with an Audubon Society hike, it was pretty foggy but the leader was great. Today, my mother and I hiked the mile path and saw American oystercatchers (Haematopus palliatus), a Halloween pennant dragon fly (Celithemis eponina) terns, and even a deer!
Oystercatcher Halloween Pennant