Thursday, August 23, 2007

Nighthawks Migrating

Each August, Common Nighthawks overhead reliably signal the end of summer. They were flying over Newton Center this evening and last night as well. I always enjoy watching these exotic looking birds fly overhead. I once had the pleasure of capturing one in a mist net in Oklahoma. Although the Common Nighthawk naturally nests on the ground, in Massachusetts they now nest more frequently on flat roofs in urban areas (see Birds of Massachusetts). Listen to their distinctive call by clicking here.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sweet Pepperbush - Shrubs #1

Sweet Pepperbush is now blooming in wetlands at sites such as Hammond Woods and the Charles River Path - Wells Avenue. This common plant of the Atlantic Coastal Plain produces spikes of intensely fragrant white flowers. It's attractive enough that it is now commercially available for landscaping. This plant is indicative of wetland conditions. This is a lovely native shrub. Recently, I was reading a proposal for soil remediation that required excavating a wetland dominated by Sweet Pepperbush. Given my fondness for this plant, I was quite distressed to see the applicant's consultant mistakenly describe Sweet Pepperbush as a non-native and invasive shrub. Please go out and enjoy this fragrant and attractive shrub while it is still blooming.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Flying Squirrel!

A common theme of this blog is a fascination with urban wilds - small remnant natural areas, and the plants and animals these areas still support. Many species that are common in less developed portions of our state are uncommon or absent in Newton, and it is always exciting to identify a new species that does still occur here. For example, previous postings have discussed the status of wood frogs, spotted salamanders, and red squirrels in Newton. Yesterday, I was thrilled to find a road-killed Southern Flying Squirrel on Winchester Street (photograph above). Note the skin flaps for gliding on the flanks, the flattened tail, and the large eyes for night vision. It was exciting to find that this species still makes it's home in parts of our city. I would love to hear your observations of this species or other unusual flora and fauna that you have encountered in Newton.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


1026 goldenrod field
The goldenrods are beginning to bloom - a sure sign that summer is well underway. These are the yellow-flowered plants of roadsides, old fields, woods, and wetlands that bloom in the late summer. These are sometimes hard to tell apart, but I think that I have at least 5 native goldenrod species in my front yard on Garland Road; The two species that I am sure about are Gray Goldenrod and Showy Goldenrod (not yet blooming). I also think I have Sharp-leaved Goldenrod? I am still working on identifying the rest...