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Six families and other visitors enjoyed spending time Saturday at the Coxhall Kitchen Garden, on Simpson Road in Hardwick. The weather Saturday afternoon and evening was perfect for setting up tents, singing songs, playing, walking the trails and roasting marshmallows over the fire. It’s impressive to be inside such a magnificent stone wall structure that was build in 1774, and still standing! People had so much fun together and exploring that next year we’ll have camping available both Friday and Saturday nights. Maybe you’ll join us?

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Ken Carlson explaining all the pieces of gear that he takes into the woods when he goes hunting and fishing.

Ken Carlson explaining all the pieces of gear that he takes into the woods when he goes hunting and fishing.

On Saturday, June 30th the East Quabbin Land Trust hosted a Wheel-A-Thon at its section of the Mass Central Rail Trail in New Braintree and Hardwick. The rail trail is flat with a firm surface, giving everyone a chance to get out into nature. “Our goal is to introduce the rail trail to people who need wheels to get around, whether that’s people who use wheelchairs or families pushing youngsters in strollers. This is a safe and interesting trail to enjoy,” said Mark Mattson, the originator of the Wheel-A-Thon event.

20180630_101330webThe heat and humidity didn’t deter folks from coming out to explore the rail trail with friends and familiy, learning about the area in the process. Stations along the trail included, 1) Ken Carlson, sharing the tools and tips he uses when going out in the woods in his wheelchair, 2) Brad Blodgett, recounting the railroad history and fun facts about the area, 3) Ross Hubacz, warming people up as they cored a nearby tree and read the rings, and 4) Dick Reavey, showing his fly-fishing ties and equipment at the edge of the Ware River.

20180630_103914webVisitors could also read a story about Wood Ducks (by Hope I. Marston and Maria M. Brown) as they made their way along the trail. We’ve seen wood ducks along the Ware River and installed nest boxes to support breeding pairs.

20180630_123731webMany thanks to former State Senator Stephen Brewer for taking visitors on wagon-rides. Driving through a tree-lined trail, crossing the historic pony truss bridge and seeing things from a new height is a great treat! Also, thanks to all the volunteers that made the Wheel-A-Thon possible, with an extensive appreciation for the planning committee members – Ken Carlson, Tom Clough, Ashley Dziejma, Cynthia Henshaw, Mark Mattson and Dick Reavey.

Go out for a roll or walk! The main parking area is at the location of the former New Braintree train station, on Depot Road – the short cut-off road between Hardwick Road and West Road in New Braintree. GPS 1700 Hardwick Road to get to the access point. Parking at either end of the 3-mile rail trail is also available at the end of Maple Street in Wheelwright or just below the active railroad line on Creamery Road.

Lynda V. Mapes reading from her book, Witness Tree, with a photo of John O'Keefe taking data for his phenology study that has documented changes in when trees leaf out in spring and drop their leaves in fall.

Lynda V. Mapes reading from her book, Witness Tree, with a photo of John O’Keefe taking data for his phenology study that has documented changes in when trees leaf out in spring and drop their leaves in fall over the past 25 years.

Lynda V. Mapes spoke during our Annual Membership Meeting and shared her book Witness Tree. The book uses a century-old red oak to tell the story of our changing climate.

As a Bullard Fellow at the Harvard Forest, Lynda got to dive in deeply with “her” witness tree, the network of scientists and community members in Petersham, and the old technology used in new ways that is informing the science of how the trees in the woods are reacting to a climate with more CO2, the vital element for photosynthesis.

20180609_111454webIn fact, one of the things learned is that red oaks are among the plant species growing at a faster rate and being more efficient in their growth. Leaf-out in spring averages five-days earlier than just 25 years ago. With a longer growing season and more CO2 in the air, red oaks don’t need to open their stomatas as wide or as long as before. Meaning that they don’t lose as much water, and are more efficient in photosynthesis. The inter-related dynamics is really complex. Scientists are  hard at work to better understand these changes that are having a dramatic impact on the natural world, and will influence human society too.

Phil Warbasse, a member of the Friends of the Stone Church in Gilbertville, shared the progress in the repairs and fundraising efforts to restore the building and tower.

Phil Warbasse, a member of the Friends of the Stone Church in Gilbertville, shared the progress in the repairs and fundraising efforts to restore the building and tower.

The meeting was held at the Big Stone Church in Gilbertville. Thank you to The Friends of the Stone Church for letting us enjoy the wonderful space.

Standing at the old landing, Roger used the map to orient the group to the different treatment areas.

Standing at the old landing, Roger used the map to orient the group to the different treatment areas.

Our forester, Roger Plourde, lead a group of neighbors and friends for a walk at Henry’s Grove in anticipation of a timber harvest over the 2018-19 winter. The overarching goal is to improve the quality and health of the trees growing on the 94-acre property that runs from Lombard Road down to the East Branch of the Ware River.

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Roger discussing the existing young trees and how this coming harvest will allow more trees to get started once completed.

Some parts of the property have strong regeneration with lots of young trees growing in dense areas. Those trees got their start when the last timber harvest happened and more sunlight reached the soil. Areas with dense growth of young trees will be avoided this time, opening up the canopy in other spots to create favorable conditions for more young trees to get their start.

There are also three areas that will won’t be cut. These reserve areas are designated because of unique landforms, close proximity to the Ware River or a beautiful dense hemlock stand that adds to the diversity of the woods.

After the cutting is completed, the East Quabbin Land Trust is planning to create a walking trail loop and encourage people to get out onto the property, visit the banks of the Ware River and view some of the unique features at Henry’s

The existing trail runs through a stand of 15-20 foot tall white pines that started after the last harvest. This time, a woods road will avoid this area to not disturb the young trees.

The existing trail runs through a stand of 15-20 foot tall white pines that started after the last harvest. This time, a woods road will avoid this area to not disturb the young trees.

Grove.

Breeding birds monitored

Ann, John and Jeff watching for birds at Wendemuth Meadow

Ann, John and Jeff watching for birds at Wendemuth Meadow

Thanks to Jeff, Ann, John and Cynthia, we have a better handle on what birds are using Wendemuth Meadow and Mandell Hill during this breeding season. Early Sunday morning, we convened at Wendemuth and walked the longer loop trail that runs up and around the hill. It was a beautiful, sunny morning, though a bit windy.

Looking towards the hill at Wendemuth and the trail is beautifully maintained by Harrison. During bobolink breeding season all visitors, including dogs, need to stay on the mowed trails.

Looking towards the hill at Wendemuth and the trail is beautifully maintained by Harrison. During bobolink breeding season all visitors, including dogs, need to stay on the mowed trails.

On the way we made four stops for five minutes each to watch and listen for birds. We focused on the birds in the fields, but could also hear others in the woods behind us at various spots. In total we saw nine bobolink males and one female. Plus lots of Red-winged blackbirds, Common yellow-throat, Song sparrow, House sparrow, Tree swallow, Gold finch, Great blue heron, Chimney swift, Mourning dove, Barn swallow, Red-tailed hawk, Starling, Sharp-shinned haw, Grackle, Tufted titmouse, House wren, Crow and five Canada Goose flying overhead.

Ann and Jeff stopping to look at birds on our way to the Chris Ellison Memorial Birding Platform.

Ann and Jeff stopping to look at birds on our way to the Chris Ellison Memorial Birding Platform.

At Mandell Hill we monitored the birds from the Chris Ellison Memorial Birding Platform. Here the male bobolinks were doing a lot of flying around, not settling or diving into the tall grass. We are speculating that they must still be looking for mates to be exhibiting that kind of behavior at this time of year. We saw seven male bobolinks. Other birds included: Vireo, Tree swallow, Red-winged blackbird, Starling, Mourning dove, American bluebird, Turkey vulture, American kestrel, Flicker, Kingbird, Mocking bird, Red-tailed hawk, Meadowlark, Yellow warbler, American robin, Black-billed cuckoo, Barn swallow, Song sparrow, Rose-breasted grosbeak, Great blue heron and Red-shouldered hawk.

It was a wonderful, relaxing morning to be out in the East Quabbin region enjoying nature!

Ken Levine and others as we started on our trip from Barre Plains.

Ken and others as we started on our trip from Barre Plains.

We had a great trip down the Ware River today! Even with eight boats we saw and heard lots of birds, like cedar waxwings, red-winged black birds, and some sort of sandpiper, among others. Inadvertently we chased a Great Blue Heron downstream for a ways, we got to see a Great Horned Owl roosting at the edge of the river. That’s one BIG owl.

Chris Komenda canoeing down the Ware River.

Chris canoeing down the Ware River.

The water was a bit low, but we managed to get over the few rocky spots. Well worth the trip and took a little over three hours. Thanks to Don Rich, who helped us ferry cars to the take out spot in the morning, so we were all set once we reached Creamery Road in Hardwick.

Anne at the portage around the Wheelwright dam.

Anne at the portage around the Wheelwright dam.

Chris Buelow orienting the group, while Rick and John look on.

Chris Buelow orienting the group, while Rick and John look on.

Chris Buelow, a restoration ecologist with the Mass. Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, lead a walking tour of the recent barrens restoration project along Muddy Brook. As Chris explained, the recent land use – woods with lots of the ubiquitous White Pine – of the area was really different from the past 8,000 years. Various scientists are fleshing out the historical land uses by studying the charcoal patterns (which shows how often fires occurred) and the pollen history. With these two pieces of information, they know that there was a band of pine barrens running north-south through Ware and Hardwick that is now part of the Muddy Brook corridor stretching into the Quabbin Reservoir Pottapaug Pond area.

A map of the riparian inland barrens in Hardwick. The area outlined in white was treated in 2016. The red area will be treated in 2018

A map of the riparian inland barrens in Hardwick. The area outlined in white was treated in 2016. The red area will be treated in 2018

Chris explained that the restoration is happening in several phases, with the second part to happen this spring. The clearing work and prescribed burn that happening in 2016 has already produced great results. There are globally rare plants and moths and other species that need this type of habitat that can now be found in Hardwick! The public is invited to visit the property, be sure to bring your binoculars and field guides as you explore the barrens. Remember, please keep your dogs on a leash and pick up after them. And check for ticks.

The group looking at native lupine that is re-surging after the habitat treatment.

The group looking at native lupine that is re-surging after the habitat treatment.

Muddy Brook curving through the valley

Muddy Brook curving through the valley

Bird's foot violet, one of the rare plants that now can be found because the growing conditions are favorable.

Bird’s foot violet, one of the rare plants that now can be found because the growing conditions are favorable.

Below are a smattering of photographs from the fabulous dinner and auction fundraiser held last Saturday. There are so many people to thank – corporate sponsors, auction item donors, attendees, catering staff, board members, volunteers and donors. The silent auction raised nearly $13,000 in total, and attendees rose to the $20,000 challenge by committing $33,000 more. The East Quabbin Land Trust is on great financial footing for 2018. THANK YOU!

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Getting Ready for Grazing

Lucas and Tom clearing the wall with a beautiful view over the Ware River valley towards Mount Wachusett.

Lucas and Tom clearing the wall with a beautiful view over the Ware River valley towards Mount Wachusett.

Thank you to Becky, Phil, Lucas, Tom, Cynthia and Harrison to their hard work at Mandell Hill. The electric fence line around the llama paddock is cleared. We need to add a few more posts to help keep the wires from grounding out this summer, but otherwise we’re ready to welcome the llamas again.

Harrison also spent time cleaning up the apple trees in the orchard, removing the suckers. That will help them keep their energy growing bigger apples on their strongest branches.

Becky and Phil cutting more brush.

Becky and Phil cutting more brush.

You Value Your Woods

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Over thirty people attended the workshop at the Barre Senior Center to learn more about the Values of their Woods.

Last Thursday evening over 30 people gathered to listen, learn and share information about the values of our woods. A lot of ground was covered in the hour and a half program, and we went away knowing that more woods walks and talks should be offered. Keep an eye out for those opportunities to gather and learn about our woods in the coming months!

As we went around the room people shared their questions, and here are a few of them:

  • What should we do about the growing number of forest pests, like hemlock wooly adelgid or invasive plants
  • Are there ways that we should be managing our woods to help with climate change? Does cutting help or hurt the climate impacts?
  • Can you scale stewardship so that even a few number of acres can be managed?
  • How is wildlife impacted by a harvest? Does the timing during the year matter? What if you have rare or endangered plants or animals on your land?
  • Can a harvest happen and still allow recreational access?
  • How can we incorporate silvopasture in the woods and still harvest?

Ron Rich shared his extensive knowledge about logging, wetlands, and the values of trees. Ron has his own timber harvesting business and is chairman of the Barre Conservation Commission. Also, Ron brought a copy of a Forest Management Plan, a Forest Cutting Plan and harvesting certificate for the audience to review.

LSR-Forum-4.5.18,-Ron-Higgins-webChris Capone, the new Mass. D.C.R. Service Forester for the region, presented an overview of the “current use” property tax programs, Chapter 61, 61A and 61B. A number of landowners were enrolled in these programs, but others were newer to the information. Local landowner Ron Higgins shared his experiences with timber harvesting on his woodlots over the years. He recalled the very first timber cutting that he witnessed on his grandfather’s land left him feeling like cutting was a real mess. “Why would anyone want to do this?” But since then, that property has been cut two additional times, each time the land recovers more quickly and the quality of the trees is improving.

This program was funded through a Landscape Scale Restoration grant from the US Forest Service, through a partnership with the MassConn Sustainable Forest Partnership and North Quabbin Regional Landscape Partnership.

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