Honk! for Cambridge Wildlife

Fresh Pond Creatures at the Honk! Parade 2014

Coneflower Headgear for Honk!
A purple coneflower. One of our new meadow flower costumes this year for Fresh Pond Creatures at Honk!

Join our Fresh Pond Creatures contingent on Sunday, October 12th. This informal Cambridge community group will march in the 9th annual Honk! Parade, a festival of brass bands from all over the United States.

All Cambridge families and individuals are welcome to join Fresh Pond Creatures. Help celebrate the ecosystem at Fresh Pond Reservation. You may use scooters or bicycles or may choose to walk. Strollers are welcome too!

You can be any plant or animal that calls Fresh Pond its home (no bears or dragons, please). We have costumes and masks to lend to you during the parade, or you can help hold one of our banners.

This year we’ll be marching in the parade dressed as: Giant Great Blue Herons (birds), a Peregrine Falcon, Sunflowers,    Purple Coneflowers, Bluegill (fish), Rabbits, and Red-winged Blackbirds.

Come to the corner of Herbert and Day Streets, Somerville (Davis Square), at the gathering time of 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, October 12th, and look for “Fresh Pond Creatures.”

Contact freshpondwildlife@comcast.net with questions

It’s Midnight. Know Where Your Regional Floodplain Forest Is?


Regional Floodplain Forest for Arlington, Belmont, and Cambridge Massachusetts

Addendum 8/6/14:

In the post below, I alluded to the long history of the floodplain forest which is likely to be cut down shortly, but I agree with those who have gently suggested I had not effectively pointed readers in the right direction for further information. The Friends of Alewife (FAR) maintains a web site which is the first place to stop to get more information, follow the campaign, and find ways to support the integrity of the parcel. It can be found at friendsofalewifereservation.org. Friends of Alewife also posts on Twitter and Facebook. Indeed, FAR has been the leader in defending the 15 acres owned by O’Neill Properties in Belmont, Arlington, and Cambridge (3 acres in Cambridge, to be precise) from habitat destruction and development, notwithstanding the good efforts of other neighbors and organizations such as Green Cambridge, the Belmont Citizens’ Forum, and theCoalition to Preserve the Belmont Uplands. In addition to these organizations’ sites, further information and a petition is also posted on a site compiled by Cambridge lawyer Mike Connolly,  silvermapleforest.org. Meanwhile, the meeting described below, between Cambridge City Manager Richard Rossi and his counterparts in Arlington and Belmont, has been scheduled for 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, August 7, at Cambridge City Hall. The meeting is not public (see below).

On Monday, July 28th, Cambridge city councillors downshifted a proposed policy order that would have paved the way for an open meeting with Belmont and Arlington regarding an area that has been dubbed the Silver Maple Forest. What’s at stake is storm water management in future flood scenarios and the consequent health, safety,  engineering, and local economic issues that depend on decisions made today. The policy order, originally sponsored by City Councillor Dennis Carlone, concerns a parcel of  land abutting Alewife Reservation that is due to be cleared of trees by a developer for a nearly 300-unit residence by the end of August. An open meeting proposed in the original order won’t be happening. Instead, Cambridge’s city manager is charged merely to approach his colleagues in the other municipalities regarding a collective effort to stave off the destruction of this critical floodplain forest. There’s a long history of battles over this piece of land.  If you care to delve further, see the  state’s 2003 master plan for the area. Numerous experts, most recently five professors at Lesley University,  have testified in support of the ecological and economic value of the floodplain forest (let’s call it that, in our next breath, after the mellifluous and evocative “Silver Maple Forest”).

“Urban forests are one of the major ways cities can mitigate the effects of increasing temperatures due to climate change; large forest reserves and their surrounding areas average 1–3 degrees cooler than the rest of the city and the larger the forest the greater the effect.” (Letter to Cambridge Community Preservation Committee Chair Lisa Peterson, June 18, 2014, by Professors Amy Mertl, David Morimoto, Jeffrey Perrin, and Albert Liau of Lesley University)

These same authors extrapolate from existing studies on Boston and other urban areas that  the annual savings to Cambridge, Belmont, and Arlington, if the site remains forested, total

  • $1M per year in flood damage avoidance measures;
  • $50K per year in cooling costs; and
  • $30K per year in air quality remediation.

Let’s call the Silver Maple Forest our regional floodplain forest.  Let’s also call on the city leaders not to be penny-wise and pound-foolish. At its July 28th meeting, the City Council did vote to take a partial step in the right direction—calling the attention of the Dept. of Conservation and Recreation to the outdated rainfall predictions that were used when the proposed development was approved. Here’s what you can do:

  • If you vote or will vote in Cambridge municipal elections, let your city councillors know that the byzantine history of the Alewife area nor its romantic qualities should put them off  wise action on behalf of all of Cambridge’s citizens for generations to come—halting the imminent removal of the regional floodplain forest. The entire city council can be reached via  council@cambridgema.gov.  Individual councillors email addresses and phone numbers are available on this page. Thank them for recommending to the Dept. of Conservation and Recreation that the  developer be required to prove its proposed construction storm-worthy using up-to-date predictions of extreme precipitation events (More information here).
  • Take the  Friends of Alewife’s  Virtual Tour of Alewife Reservation (PDF).
  • Read the gory details:  Technical Analysis Upper Alewife Brook Basin Impact Study (2012).
  • Tell the Cambridge Community Preservation Committee that you support setting aside funds to purchase the Silver Maple ForestFriends of the Alewife Reservation has petitioned the Cambridge Community Preservation Committee to set aside funds to help purchase the Silver Maple Forest for conservation land. You can support this effort by emailing Karen Preval (kpreval@cambridgema.gov) and Committee chair Lisa Peterson (lisap@cambridgema.gov) to say you value this unique floodplain forest and support the committee setting aside funds.Emails must be received by August 5th. 
  • Stay in touch with the Friends of Alewife on its “news and events” page. The public may accompany wildlife assessor Dave Brown on a walk through the reservation  on August 23, 2014, at 10:00 a.m. Future events will also be found at that link.


Coal Plant Shutdowns: Economic Justice for Communities

On November 12, 2013, I attended the hearing of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities & Energy at which Rep. Lori Ehrlich of the 8th Essex District testified in support of H. 2935. Here’s my Storify record.

  1. Here @ state house 4hearing on H.2935, An Act to Transition to 2 #CleanEnergyCommonwealth and its community transition fund #climatechange
  2. Amazing confluence of several streams this morning at #MA state house: #Parenting, #ClimateChange, #Envirojustice. 1/2
  3. #Climatechange hearing @ MA state house. I’m here w/ @mothersoutfront and residents of communities w/#coal plants t.co/M8IVYir6AF
  4. Gr8 2B w/so many @MothersOutFront 2day 2demand progress on #climatechange WITH attention 2communities impacted (jobs, tax revenues). #MAPOLI
  5. Cancer survivor, Somerset resident whose grandson is an asthmatic now speaking. #climatechange MT @Mothersoutfront t.co/ZkBjR2tfd7
    Pro-active approach needed so towns historiclly dependnt on taxes from coal plants=better prepared.@BetterFuturePro t.co/Z3JKxvXrxj
  6. #AppalachiaNorth is what those who support H. 2935 feel Holyoke, Somerset, Salem should be considered. #climatechange MT @Mothersoutfront
  7. Resident of Salem since ’79 now speaking …Salem skyline dominated by stacks..visited Appalachia to see what #coal co’s do when leaving.
  8. Toxics Action Center Campaigns was proud to co-host a lobby day with Coal Free Mass today! Coal plant owners… t.co/pBSQzfXRic
  9. @loriehrlich speaks at Coal Free Day. Natural gas prices leading to closing of coal plants. #mapoli @EnviroLeagueMA t.co/gvulWRFqPi
  10. Three residents (Holyoke, Somerset, Salem) now testifying in support of H.3945. #climatechange #ecojustice #coal t.co/J4kbYbIIGt
  11. Holyoke res Carlos Rodriguez: wife has been 2ER 4x this yr (asthma). 1visit: half of others in ER were there for same reason. #Envirojustice
  12. Pauline Rodrigues:Somerset tax base red. fr $13M to $975K now that #BraytonPoint closure.. 200 workers now @plant. Asks 4healthy industries.
  13. Reuse planning needs 2have community voice, restoration of land and water, says Salem resident supporting the bill #CleanEnergyCommonwealth

August Update: Nature Programs &Etc in Cambridge



Dave Brown Wildlife Walk

1-3 p.m. Join Tracker-naturalist David Brown, who conducted a pair of wildlife surveys in the park a decade ago,on a wildlife walk on the North trail of the Alewife Reservation.  No Cost, All Ages welcome.

Getting Ready to Honk!

3–5 p.m. Join Ranger Jean Rogers and Julie Croston at Fresh Pond Reservation to make dragonfly (Wandering Glider) and damselfly (Blue Fronted Dancer) wings, or an algae hand-puppet, to wear in the Fresh Pond Creatures Contingent at the Honk! Parade on October 13th. For families with ages 5-11; rain or shine. Meet at Fresh Pond Reservation Ranger Station. Offered by Friends of Fresh Pond Reservation and Tobin Friends of Fresh Pond.



Cambridge Residents: Appeal to City Council for Silver Maple Forest funds

6 p.m.  Join Friends of Alewife Reservation’s Quinton Zondervan at Cambridge City Hall, Sullivan Chamber to support this appeal for funds from the Community Preservation Act.



Telling Your Natural Story: A Storytelling Workshop

1–3:30 p.m. Come take a short walk with Ranger Jean to learn the stories of nature at Fresh Pond, and then, over tea and cookies, storyteller Amy Tighe will show you how to create and share your own stories. Register at jrogers@cambridgema.gov.



A Fresh Pond Reservation Walkabourt

6–7:30 p.m.  Take a walking tour of recently restored areas at Fresh Pond Reservation and learn about both ongoing and future restoration projects. Watershed Manager Chip Norton will answer your questions about the past, present, and future of landscape management at Fresh Pond. Meet at Purification Facility front door, FPR.



Anne Marie Lambert Little RIver Nature Poetry Walk

3-5 p.m.  Join Belmont Citizen Forum guide Anne Marie Lambert, who has been leading groups since last year and enjoys sharing perspectives, history and wildlife information.




Botany Walk on Grasses and Sedges of Alewife Reservation with Walter Kittredge 

Meet at 1:00 p.m. at the lot on Acorn Park Drive, Cambridge., Mass., for this walk. Walter is Senior Curatorial Assistant at the Harvard University Herbaria, a worldwide research collection of over 5 million dried plant specimens. Walter is also the Assistant Curator of the New England Botanical Club Herbarium. Walter has 35 years experience as a botanist and 25 years experience as a Wetlands Delineator consultant. Walter is co-author with Bryan Hamlin of Changes in the Flora of the Middlesex Fells Reservation. Walter leads educational hikes on plant identification and ecology, and created a nature trail for the Dark Hollow Pond Trail which is now called Bear Hill Habitats, Current research focuses on documenting the largest trees of the Fells using the Eastern Native Tree Society methodology. Walter has participated in Biodiversity Days at various DCR properties, and conducts floristic inventories of conservation areas throughout eastern Massachusetts.

Cancelled in the event of rain. For more information please email info@friendsofalewifereservation.org.



Online Class on Urban Agriculture through UMass

UMass is offering a 6-week online class called Urban Agriculture: Innovative Farming Systems for the 21st Century, beginning Monday, July 8.  This class earns 3 college credits and may count toward the Sustainable Food and Farming Online Certificate.  The instructor, Helena Farrell, has a Masters in Landscape Architecture from the University of Massachusetts and her course is well-grounded in permaculture principles.   The cost is $371/credit.  For more information, see: http://www.justfoodnow.org/urbanfarm.htm.Students will learn about innovative production methods and critical social, economic, and environmental dimensions of modern day urban agriculture.  Multi-media presentations by the instructor, articles and videos online, and a custom, library research guide provide a strong foundation for students to investigate important topics and evaluate the performance of real life urban farm systems. The course will consist of readings, videos, quizzes, and research assignments in which students critically assess major strengths, weaknesses and issues of 21st century urban farm systems.



SUMMER BIRD WALK at Fresh Pond Reservation

7:30 to 9:30 am. Early morning is the best time to look for birds because they are most active when the air is cool and they are hungry for breakfast. We may find adults feeding babies in the nest and fledglings that are following their parents and begging for food.  As always, beginning birders are welcome.  We have binoculars to lend and will show you how to use them. You must register for parking and meeting place information E-mail friendsoffreshpond@yahoo.com or call 617-349-7712 and leave your name and phone number to register.


July 14


1 to 3 pm. Water Purification Facility parking lot, Fresh Pond Reservation, at the Volunteer Trailer
250 Fresh Pond Parkway
Join us as we start removing seed pods from this year’s crop of Fresh Pond’s most invasive vine. We’ll work along the Pond fence digging it up where we can, and picking pods where we can’t dig. Tools and training provided. To join us, e-mail Katie at fpr@cambridgema.gov or call
617-349-7712. Co-sponsored by Cambridge Pod Patrol, a public education campaign to spread the word (not the weed) about black swallowwort in Cambridge.


July 15

UPPER WATERSHED NATURE WALK (transport to and from Cambridge provided)

6 to 7:30 pm
Water Purification Facility front door
250 Fresh Pond Parkway
Landscape architects at Bioengineering Group will introduce you to the unique habitats found on Cambridge-owned land in the Upper Watershed.  Find out where your water comes from and discover new places to explore.  Transportation provided to registered participants; call 617-349-7712 or email fpr@cambridgema.gov.

Saturday and Sunday

JULY 20/21

First Outdoors Family Camping Weekend, at Otter River State Forest, Baldwinville, Mass.

These weekend experiences are designed for families who are new to camping and families of all kinds are welcome! Depending on the location, activities may include: Camping Fundamentals, Nature Walks & Plant Identification, Fishing, Archery, Nature Center Exploration, Live Animal Program, Outdoor Cooking and an Evening Campfire Program.  Registration information is here on the  Department of Conservation and Recreation. Registration preference will be for those families who are new to this program.  Additional dates for this program are below:

July 27 & 28 — Harold Parker State Forest, Andover


July 29

WATER QUALITY MONITORING at Fresh Pond Reservation

6 to 7:30 pm
Water Purification Facility front door
250 Fresh Pond Parkway
Learn about the Cambridge Watershed system and the Water Quality Monitoring Program with Watershed Supervisor David Kaplan.  Find out about the parameters measured and what they tell us about the water quality.  Check out some of the tools and techniques used for sampling water collected from reservoirs and tributaries for laboratory analysis.

August 3 & 4 — Nickerson State Park, Brewster

August 10 & 11 — Tolland State Forest, Otis



image descriptionDaylight Moonlight: Nature Storytime with Children’s Author and Artist, Matt Patterson


Join the Harvard Museum of Natural History in Cambridge, Mass.,  for a special Nature Storytime with children’s author and artist, Matt Patterson, who will read from his newest book, Daylight Moonlight. This beautifully illustrated book provides a fun way for children to learn about the animals that populate different habitats by day and by night. Matt has painted 22 scenes of the forest, desert, underwater, seashore, wetlands, grasslands, mountains, public parks, and even his own backyard. (Copies of Matt’s book will be available for purchase in the Museum gift shop.)

The museum has many other good programs going on this summer.


Playful Minds, Spring 2013

In the spring edition of the Playful Minds photo series, I’m challenging you to guess where I am (Massachusetts history aficionados, alert!) as well as what I am. Try turning thus into a game of dictionary. What’s in this photo? Imagine, and describe.

Answers to Playful Minds

Harvard Forest Seminars

The Harvard Forest has Friday morning seminars,  available streaming. On January 25, the seminar will be given by Danielle Ignace, who studies invasive plants’ complex effects on ecosystems.

Danielle Ignace
Danielle Ignace

On February 8th, the seminar  will be given by Michael Reed, Tufts University, on
Persistence & extinction of small populations: birds, fish, and Elvis.

Here is the complete list of winter/spring seminars, and links to the web stream.

Drink This Pearl

No, this is no Alice in Wonderland admonition.

Among doctors, “pearl” is shorthand for “pearl of wisdom.” The ones that are the most commonsensical are the most valuable. This is Drinking Water Week—we’re in the middle of it right now—something to “celebrate” as its sponsor, American Water Works Association, suggests? The availability of potable water is disastrously inadequate in so many places. I’m not keen on doing much celebrating. I do, however, feel grateful to the people who manage my local watershed; to my Cambridge, Mass. neighbors who don’t pour awful things into the storm drains, and to everyone who stays off the roads and walks or bikes or takes the T and thereby makes non-point-source pollution of the water a little bit better.

My tap water.

Drink this pearl—a beautiful rant by Dr. Bernard Lown. Enjoy with a chaser of tap water.