Cambridge Outdoors

playing, learning, and being outdoors in Cambridge, Mass.


5 Questions for Fresh Pond’s Ranger

Jean Rogers has been Fresh Pond Reservation’s ranger since 1994.

1. Are you coming to the Honk! Parade on October 9th?

I am going to come, though I won’t be walking the entire parade route. You can see me helping launch the Cambridge Wildlife marching group in Davis Square as the parade begins, and I’ll be there again as the parade ends in Harvard Square.

I’m going to Honk! because it’s a way to reach out to people who are celebrating the fall season. The giant animal puppets, and the handmade costumes, help people be aware of the real animals that are all around us in the city. Anyone in Cambridge can march with Cambridge Wildlife. It’s a way to celebrate our connection to them. The Honk! band music makes it even more enjoyable!

2. Why is it important to people to know what animals live in Cambridge?

Well, what’s important is that we pay attention. We don’t want to  take away things wild animals need or use up all the space ourselves.  All of us are sharing the city with other people but we also sometimes forget we have animals in the city, wild animals that we might not think about very much.   There’s so many animals that we need to be aware of—so that we don’t step on them or harm them in other ways. It’s nice to see the wildness of animals because we are part of nature, and we have wildness in us too.

3. What are some of the questions people ask you the most at Fresh Pond Reservation?

How far is it around the pond is the main one.  People come to tell me about things they see. Because when they don’t know the name of an animal, they can’t find out more about it in a book, so they ask me to help them start to know something about it.

A lady came in the other day to say she noticed a turtle on the grass and wanted to know if it was okay. It was! Turtles come onto the land to lay their eggs. People don’t know when wild things are okay, and they worry whether an animal is in the right place or not. Also, they want to know what wild things eat and should they feed them. They shouldn’t. People think I take care of the wild things at Fresh Pond, but actually they take care of themselves.

4. What are three of the most fascinating animals at Fresh Pond?

Minks are fascinating because they are so athletic. They are really an all-terrain animal. They are on the water, they are in the water, they are up a tree; they are on the ground, they are under the ground. They chase chipmunks up trees. Chipmunks are their idea of a very good meal. You never expect to see chipmunks up in a tree! Minks are very wild. A mink will  ignores us, try  to not be visible to us; it will back away, do what ever it can to remain unseen.

I think rabbits are fascinating. They try to be invisible in plain sight—they just stay still..

The tree swallows that use our nesting boxes and other hollow areas in trees are interesting. They like to live near the water, where they can catch insects to feed their young. Every spring the same pairs come back to raise their young here. They follow us around to see which bird box they’re going to get, as we’re putting them up!


Tree swallow peeking out of Nesting Box #15 at Fresh Pond Reservation, Spring 2016.

5. What do you think surprises people about Fresh Pond?

Because so many people move so quickly here, they don’t notice a lot of things. Either that, or they’re using earphones or talking with a friend while walking. Most people are really surprised that, when they stay still and quiet for a bit,  they see wild things.



Climate Congress in Cambridge

On Saturday, October 1, Cambridge’s Climate Congress opens at City Hall. The purpose is to articulate a vision of “climate citizenship.” The concept of climate citizenship is reviewed in this FAQ regarding the Climate Congress, which also spells out the role of delegates  and other kinds of participation open to the public:

“The bare minimum requirements to be a delegate are that you are able to attend the opening (Saturday, Oct 1) (or commit to viewing the video recording ASAP) and closing sessions (Saturday, Nov 12), and participate in at least one weekly evening discussion (usually Wednesday evenings). That said, we understand that not everyone can make that time commitment, so you are not automatically ineligible if you can’t. Individuals can be delegates, and youth and children (the latter with parent’s guidance) are allowed as delegates.”

For full information visit the  Green Cambridge site, from which the agenda and information below is drawn.

Click here for the self-nomination form.

Click here to nominate someone else (from your group, organization, or community).

Agenda for the 2016 Cambridge Climate Congress

Saturday, October 1st – Cambridge City Hall
9:00 AM to 12:00 PM Opening Session

(will be videotaped for later viewing)



Wednesday, October 5th, Citywide Senior Center
6:00 PM to 8:00 PM, Second Discussion Group: Origins

Thursday, October 13th, St. James Episcopal Church, 1991 Massachusetts Avenue
6:00 PM to 8:00 PM, Third Discussion Group: Faiths

Wednesday, October 19th, Citywide Senior Center
6:00 PM to 8:00 PM,  Fourth Discussion Group: Personal Resources

Wednesday, October 26th, Citywide Senior Center
6:00 PM to 8:00 PM,  Fifth Discussion Group: Political Values

Wednesday, November 2nd – Location TBD
6:00 PM to 8:00 PM,  Sixth Discussion Group: Climate Action and Activism

Saturday, November 12th – Cambridge City Hall
9:00 AM to 12:00 PM, Closing Plenary Discussion
12:00 PM to 1:00 PM,  Lunch
1:00 PM to 4:00 PM, Closing Plenary Overflow (as needed)

Click here for full  image (map).

They Flew, They Buzzed, They Honked. Meet Them Again on October 9th

14441037_1709087102747543_7973205996886963962_nGreat Blue Herons acquired new necks. A great horned owl had a large collection of paper feathers custom-made for it. Little brown bats were born. All of these goings-on this past weekend at the Cambridge Wildlife Puppetry Project’s Fly, Buzz, and Honk! Flying Creatures Expo, co-sponsored with Fresh Pond Reservation. Volunteers from People Making a Difference were on hand to match the puppets and masks with Cambridge species in the form of facepaint. Volunteers from MIT also helped out with everything from structural engineering to paper-plate mask-making. Families heard a bat presentation from Dorothy Barr, a local fan on bats who has volunteered with Bat Conservation International. Ranger Jean Rogers, chief ranger at Fresh Pond Reservation, collaborated with the CWPP to produce the event and was available to talk about animals who live at the reservation with all and sundry. Ranger Jean also alerted attendees to a bat-related event at the reservation on Saturday, October 22 (Click here for all Fresh Pond Reservation public programs).

The “flying creatures expo” was a preface to a major event for puppeteers, parade-lovers, and brass band music fans coming up next month.

The birds and bats at Saturday’s event are part of a larger corps of furred, feathered, and scaled animals that live in Cambridge—rendered as giant puppets and costumes by the CWPP—that will be available to Cambridge individuals, families and school groups to wear and carry in the Cambridge Wildlife marching contingent in the 11th annual Honk! parade on Sunday, October 9th. Click here to sign up to participate.


Shagbark Hickory at Fresh Pond Reservation. Photo by Julie Croston

City Trees

At the end of a dry, dry summer, we have fewer healthy trees than we did in June here in Cambridge. Green Cambridge has sprouted  Cambridge Trees  to reach out to citizens and the city to address the threat to the city’s trees. Why are trees important in the city? Trees contribute to healthy air quality; their shade reduces the need for air conditioning in summer. A healthy urban forest has been correlated with better health amongst city residents.

Radio Lab Podcast on Trees:

Trees affect mental health in positive ways:

Spending time around trees and looking at trees reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and improves mood. Numerous studies show that both exercising in forests and simply sitting looking at the trees reduce blood pressure as well as the stress-related hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Looking at pictures of trees has a similar, but less dramatic, effect. Studies examining the same activities in urban, unplanted areas showed no reduction of stress-related effects. Using the Profile of Mood States test, researchers found that forest bathing trips significantly decreased the scores for anxiety, depression, anger, confusion and fatigue. And because stress inhibits the immune system, the stress-reduction benefits of forests are further magnified.


A tree suffers from drought in Cambridge.

Source: NY Dept. of Environmental Conservation.

Learn more about trees and human health, here.

Learn more about Cambridge’s urban forest,  here.



A close observation of a Monarch before it is released into the wild

Five Questions for Cambridge’s Monarch Nannies

A family checks out the monarch butterflies still in their nursery boxes shortly before helping to escort them to the meadow for release on August 7.  Kim Ahern/Cambridge Water Department Photo.

Why are Monarch butterflies so special? We recently asked five questions of Martine Wong, Fresh Pond Reservation (FPR) Outreach & Volunteer Coordinator, and her Cambridge Mayor’s  Summer Youth Employment Program (MSYEP) intern, Shewit.  On August 6th and 7th, amidst some fanfare—kids and puppets—Martine, Shewit and other staff and volunteers released most of the butterflies that they had helped raise, under the auspices of the Water Department of the City of Cambridge, over the course of the summer.

1. Why is FPR raising butterflies for release?

Shewit: We raise Monarch butterflies every year to educate people about and show the life cycle of the butterflies and to teach the importance of milkweed to Cambridge residents so they might plant milkweed in their gardens. Milkweed is the only plant [Monarchs] lay their eggs on and eat when they are caterpillars. The Monarch butterfly is now in decline because of milkweed plants’ reduction by pesticides and because of using land for other purposes such as for pavement and farming.

Martine Wong, left, with volunteer Lisa and MSYEP intern Shewit, at the Monarch Release event at Lusitania Meadow, Fresh Pond Reservation.

Cambridge Water Dept. staffer Martine Wong (left) with volunteer Lisa Recolta (middle) and MSYEP intern Shewit Yitbarek (right), at the Monarch Release at Lusitania Meadow, Fresh Pond Reservation.Kim Ahern/Cambridge Water Department Photo.

Martine: There are several reasons we’re raising Monarch butterflies for release at Fresh Pond! We hope to teach people about the connection between shrinking butterfly populations and the importance of protecting wildlife habitat. We also want to show people that there are action steps they can take to protect them—you can plant milkweed and other native pollinator-friendly plants, and help to remove invasive plants such as Black Swallow-wort. Also, they are exquisitely beautiful and a joy to behold.

2. Once you received the larvae in the mail, up until this moment of releasing the full grown butterflies, what surprised you most about them?

Shewit: They eat a lot of milkweed leaves and they grow so fast.

3. If we want to help Monarchs live in our city as a whole, what can kids (and just anyone, for that matter) do to make it a welcoming place for them?

pupating and hatching of Monarchs at Fresh Pond

Visitors to Fresh Pond Reservation this summer could view Monarchs at the Ranger Station, in various stages of their life cycle.

Shewit: To make a welcoming place for the Monarch butterfly is to plant enough milkweed plants in the garden, without pesticides. Once the butterfly lays her eggs, the caterpillar continues living upon the plant until it becomes a butterfly—there is no need to change things or worry about it. OR, If the person does not have garden they can raise them in the cage.

Martine: Monarch butterfly caterpillars exclusively eat milkweed – they truly depend on this plant for their survival. A sea of pesticide/herbicide-free milkweed plants for adults to lay eggs on and for caterpillars to eat would be a great welcome, along with planting native pollinator plants that can provide nectar for adult butterflies.

4. What did you learn from other Monarch projects in the United States?

Shewit: I learned some interesting facts, such as monarchs do not have eyelids and they can see UV lights. If the monarchs are in a cage, they need clean space and food because their waste is too much.

The adult Monarch in its new habitat at Lusitania Meadow, Cambridge

An adult Monarch butterfly raised in captivity by the Cambridge Water Department gets accustomed to its new surroundings. Kim Ahern/Cambridge Water Department Photo.

5. If we see a Monarch butterfly at Fresh Pond, will we know it’s one of the ones raised in captivity?

Martine: There’s no way of knowing if it’s one of ours! There are tagging programs for the purposes of learning more about their migration and biology. Perhaps we will try that out next year!

Monarchs are released from captivity by Cambridge's Monarch Nannies

The butterflies are released! Kim Ahern/Cambridge Water Dept. Photo


  • Find other resources about Monarch butterflies in general, and the Cambridge Water Department program in particular, on the Water Department’s Monarch Watch Page.
  • Read the Boston Globe’s coverage of the Cambridge Water Department Monarch Release on August 7, 2016.
  • Find out more about the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program, which partnered with more than 125 community organizations and city departments this year. Opportunities include many in sustainability and environmental fields, in addition to the internship offered at Fresh Pond Reservation and Alewife Reservation.

    Giant puppets of monarch and other butterflies (and a few moths) were part of the festivities and parade that escorted the butterflies to Lusitania Meadow at Fresh Pond Reservation, where they were released. Kim Ahern/Cambridge Water Department Photo.

    Giant puppets of monarch and other butterflies (and a moth or two) were part of the parade that escorted the Monarch butterflies to Lusitania Meadow at Fresh Pond Reservation, where they were released. The puppets were made by community members through the Cambridge Wildlife Puppetry ProjectKim Ahern/Cambridge Water Department Photo.

"Killit"—group of urban turkeys hanging around at Thanksgiving, term invented for the Human Nature Dictionary.

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Cambridge’s Baird Creates “Human Nature Dictionary”

Cambridge Resident Freedom Baird’s open-source participatory project, the Human Nature Dictionary, is part of an exhibit running through August 8th at the Massachusetts College of Art.

Shocked that the Oxford Junior Dictionary had removed basic vocabulary words related to nature, the artist devised the Human Nature Dictionary as a form of protest. She saw the publisher’s pruning as a codification and endorsement of humankind’s divorce from nature, particularly as its locus was children’s access to language. It was an act needing correction.

field desk

Field Desk, Human Nature Dictionary

Baird’s “dictionary” invites the public (including children) to invent, share, and restore  an English lexicon that conveys or reflects human perceptions, uses, and other relationships with the natural world. According to the main page for the online Human Nature Dictionary, it

“proposes not simply to reintroduce words about nature, but to create new language that shows that humans and nature are part of the same pan-natural system, and that our fates are inextricably merged.”

Examples of publicly-sourced Human Nature Dictionary entries include “Disney’s Law of Evolution,” the process by which animals found cute by humans experience population growth and habitat protection; “root-kilter,” a slab of sidewalk forced out of place by a growing tree root; and “april dregs,” garbage left behind after snow melt.


Root-kilter. Photo by Freedom Baird.

Visit the Human Nature Dictionary online here.