Timing Is Everything: A Talk by Climate Scientist Tara K. Miller

Climate science tells us that spring is arriving earlier than it used to. Wild plants and animals follow nature’s clock as they move through annual cycles of migration and reproduction. Climate change is changing the timing of some of these cycles, and disrupting the interdependent web of nature.

Tara K. Miller

Our guest speaker at this year’s annual meeting, climate scientist Tara K. Miller, will share some of the latest research on this topic, describing how some of the plants and animals that populate our bioregion are no longer in sync with each other, and what that means for our future.

The 2021 Annual Meeting of the Attleboro Land Trust will be on Tuesday, November 16th, at 7:00 pm via Zoom and is open to the public. The Zoom link is:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85322417648?pwd=c1JwSHFSa0tHY2hsZUd4clJOYlpYdz09

Meeting ID: 853 2241 7648 Passcode: 572462
Audio Only +16465588656,,85322417648#,,,,*572462#

A most agreeable feathered favourite

Visitors to the Deborah and Roger Richardson Nature Preserve will notice something new:  six birdhouses designed specifically for Eastern Bluebirds.  This beautiful bird migrates south for the winter and returns in the spring.  The birdhouses were made by Scout Eric Carey in 2014 as part of an Eagle project and placed in the meadow at the Nickerson Walking Woods Preserve.  However, not many bluebirds took residence in them.

This year we decided to move the birdhouses to the Upper and Lower Hayfields at the Richardson Preserve, where bluebirds are more common.  (Thanks to the volunteers who made this happen!).


Male Eastern Bluebird – Photo by Lee R. DeHaan

John J. Audubon wrote admiringly of the bluebird as follows:  “It adds to the delight imparted by spring, and enlivens the dull days of winter. Full of innocent vivacity, warbling its ever pleasing notes, and familiar as any bird can be in its natural freedom, it is one of the most agreeable of our feathered favourites.”

Earth Week Activities for Families

Earth Day is normally celebrated on April 22nd.  The Attleboro Land Trust will be stretching its observance into an “Earth Week” with free activities for families from April 19th to 23rd.  The activities will be geared to children aged 6 to 13, but all ages are welcome. All children must be accompanied by an adult for the entire duration of the event.

Three time slots will be available on each day of Earth Week. The time slots are 11am-12:15pm, 12:30pm-1:45pm and 2pm-3:15pm. Click on one of the links below to sign up for an activity at your chosen time.

Monday, April 19: “Slow Down and Look Around #1” Discover the natural features that exist right in your backyard with this nature scavenger hunt. (Nickerson Walking Woods Preserve) SIGN_UP

Tuesday, April 20: “How Curious Are You?”  Learn to see nature through the eyes of a curious naturalist while gathering nature items. (Larson Woodland) SIGN_UP

Wednesday, April 21: “Letting Nature Inspire Your Art” Focus on the beauty around you and create your own artwork with materials obtained from nature along with provided materials. (Deborah and Roger Richardson Nature Preserve) SIGN_UP

Thursday, April 22: “Slow Down and Look Around #2” Discover the natural features that exist right in your backyard with this nature scavenger hunt. (Nickerson Walking Woods Preserve) SIGN_UP

Friday, April 23: “Can you Identify these Trees/Plants?” Practice and learn how to identify certain types of trees and plants found in these areas. (Deborah and Roger Richardson Nature Preserve) SIGN_UP

For more information or questions, contact Evan Foster at evanfosterALT@gmail.com.

Fishing for Answers at Larson Woodland

Staff and volunteers from the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council in Rhode Island paid a visit to the Attleboro Land Trust’s Larson Woodland on September 17 to take a census of fish species in the Ten Mile River.  They came at the invitation of Keith Gonsalves of the Ten Mile River Watershed Council.  Keith has long been concerned about the health of the river and its inhabitants and has been arranging these scientific surveys annually for a number of years to monitor the river’s condition.

Volunteers helped collect the fish, using a device which temporarily stuns the fish with a slight electric shock.  The fish are counted and measured, then returned unharmed to the river.

 

In this video clip, ranger Jacob Gorke measures a baby largemouth bass.

 

This is a Yellow Bullhead Catfish.

 

Other species found in the river were Golden shiner, Tesselated darter, Pumpkin seed, Bluegill, Redfin pickerel, Crawfish, and Chain pickerel.

Thoreau’s Journals Provide a Wealth of Data for Climate Scientists

Spring is coming earlier than it did in the  nineteenth century, a scientific study has found.  One of the indicators of spring is the blossoming of trees and flowers.  Author, naturalist, and philosopher Henry David Thoreau was deeply interested in the unfolding of the seasons.  On his daily walks in Concord,  Massachusetts, he took notes whenever he observed such seasonal changes.  He wrote in his journal “I often visited a particular plant four or five miles distant, half a dozen times within a fortnight [2 weeks], that I might  know exactly when it opened.”  An entry on May 5, 1855, notes “High blueberry beg[in] to leaf in some places yesterday.”

Highbush blueberry in bloom at the Colman Reservation    Image credit: C Adler

Biologist Richard Primack has mined Thoreau’s journals for these observations and compared them with current data.  In 2010, for example, highbush blueberry first flowered in Concord on April 7.  Comparing 32 plants from Thoreau’s time to today, Primack found the first flowering dates were now occurring an average of 11 days earlier.  According to a United Nations panel, human activity has caused average global temperatures to increase 1.0 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.  In Concord, a suburb of Boston, the increase has been at least 2.0 degrees Celsius because of the “heat island” effect of dense development, pavement, and energy use compared to rural areas.  Plants are responding to this warming by blooming earlier.

A page from Thoreau’s Journal, May 5, 1855

 

Birds that migrate long distances, such as this Great Crested Flycatcher, have not adjusted their schedules to stay in sync with the earlier arrival of spring in Massachusetts.    Image credit: C Adler

In recent studies, Primack has found evidence that insect populations shift their schedules in sync with the plants they feed on, which is not surprising.  However, the arrival of birds who winter in the tropics has not, on average, shown much of a shift.  As a result, one of the consequences of climate change may be a mismatch between bird populations and the availability of the insects they feed on.  In 1852, Thoreau voiced a similar awareness of the importance of climate in the circle of life, noting that an unusually long winter could have deadly consequences for returning birds.  But he did not foresee the steady retreat of winter that we now face.

Annual Survey Monitors the Health of the Ten Mile River and Its Inhabitants

On September 22, volunteers from the Ten Mile River Watershed Council assisted ranger Jacob Gorke of the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council of Rhode Island in conducting a survey of fish species in the Ten Mile River at Larson Woodland.

The fish are stunned temporarily with an electric shock, netted and removed to be identified, then released back to the river.  The survey is conducted annually.

Fish survey volunteers receiving their instructions.    Image credit: Keith Gonsalves

This is just one of many activities conducted year round by the Ten Mile River Watershed Council to promote and protect the river.  For more information, contact Keith Gonsalves Keith@tenmileriver.net.