Winter is an ideal time to get familiar with the year-round resident birds of Mount Auburn. If you are a beginner birder this time of year offers the opportunity to see and hear the common birds of the area without the distractions of migrants or foliage on the trees.
During the winter months, in addition to Sparrows, Blue Jays, Robins, Cardinals and Crows, you might see a Great Blue Heron, a Cooper’s Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk or a Red-tailed Hawk and possibly a Great Horned Owl or a Screech Owl.
There is also the potential for seeing any of the following birds here during the winter months: American Kestrel, White-breasted Nuthatch, Black-capped Chickadee, Brown Creeper, Dark-eyed Junco, Downy Woodpecker, European Starling, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, Hooded Merganser, House Finch, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-winged Blackbird, Tufted Titmouse, White-throated Sparrow and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers.
Yes, this accompanying photograph by Jeremiah Trimble really is a Purple Finch. Females and immature males are brown with a bold whitish eyebrow stripe which distinguishes them from the plain faced House Finch which is much more common here in Massachusetts. The name Purple is also misleading for the color of the adult male; it’s more the color of raspberry.
Roger Tory Peterson described the Purple Finch as a “sparrow dipped in raspberry juice.” Here in Massachusetts we tend to see more first year birds, like the photograph, than the adult males. The Purple Finch is an uncommon breeder in Massachusetts and as far as I know it has not been noted to nest in Mount Auburn since the days of William Brewster, who wrote in his Birds of the Cambridge Region (1906).” The juniper woods which once covered so much of the country lying between Mount Auburn and the Watertown Arsenal, used to attract Purple Finches at all seasons, and the birds bred there so commonly at times that on June 6, 1869, I found no less than six nests containing eggs or young within a space of half an acre.” (more…)
On October 4, 2018 Ron Trial led a citizen science mushroom ID walk at Mount Auburn Cemetery. Mr. Trial is a former president of the Boston Mycological Club. He served the club from the late 1970’s through the early 1980’s and remains an enthusiast for collecting and identifying fungi. Ron also volunteers at the greenhouse at Mount Auburn.
Several current citizen scientists, as well as some new faces met Ron on Laurel Avenue, where introductions, guidebooks, and collecting parameters where discussed before the group ventured into the woodland surrounding Consecration Dell.
Each participant brought along a basic mushroom survey kit, which included: a collecting basket, pocket knife, 10x lens, wax paper, and a smart phone for photos and ID assistance via apps such as the Rogers Mushrooms App.
The group spent the next ninety minutes carefully exploring the Dell and collecting fungi for identification. Conditions have been excellent for fungi growth, due to the mild temperatures and the rainy end of summer and start to autumn. As we strolled through the woodland, we carefully collected sixteen species of fungi. Common and edible mushrooms, such as the Horse mushroom (Agaricus arvensis) and the Jelly Ear (Auricularia auricula-judae) were collected, as well as many that require additional study to ensure proper identification. Ron explained to the group that even though he has many years of experience identifying fungi, he most likely would only be able to identify about 10 percent of the species we would see. This is not uncommon for any avid mushroom hunter and it is why it is important to take your time and make use of guidebooks and apps when attempting to ID your discoveries.
Some of the most fun and interesting things we learned were the strange and interesting names often given to mushrooms. The Angel of Death (Amanita ocreata) which is not found here (native to the Pacific Northwest) was a favorite.
We plan to offer more mushroom ID walks in the future and Ron plans to lead a fungi training for our Citizen Science Naturalist Program in 2019.
Edward O Wilson, Harvard University Faculty Emeritus in the Museum of Comparative Zoology, has been a transcendent figure in the world of biodiversity research. His long and storied career of field study, writing, and teaching, has led him to be called “a Darwin for the modern day.” In his 1984 book “Biophilia,” Dr. Wilson fostered what has been referred to as… the love of life and the living world; and the affinity of human beings to other life forms.
He described biophilia as…
“the rich, natural pleasure that comes from being surrounded by living organisms.”
The concept of biophilia is taught at many institutions and groups based upon it’s ideas and applications meet regularly in communities all over the United States.
Join us on Saturday November 3, 2018 at 3pm at Bigelow Chapel for our inaugural Biophilia meeting. The event will be led by David Morimoto, Director of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Lesley University. Speakers from the local academic and research community will share stories about working with Dr. Wilson, or of his influence on their own work.
This event is free and open to the public. Space is limited.
Please rsvp to Paul Kwiatkowski, Wildlife Conservation & Sustainability Manager at: firstname.lastname@example.org or at 617-607-1956.