Tag Archives: Massachusetts

Urban Nature Walk: Savin Hill Beach

Jef led three of us on an urban nature walk around a very urban beach. Savin Hill Beach in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston is bordered by Interstate 93 and William Morrissey Boulevard. We were surprised at the diversity of water birds we found, including a few I hadn’t previously seen in the Boston area.

Savin Hill Beach in Dorchester
Savin Hill Beach in Dorchester

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Arboretum: Robins in Cork Trees and Castor-Aralia

I learned on Saturday’s bird walk that American robins love the fruit of Amur cork trees (Phellodendron amurense). I returned to see if I could photograph the birds eating the fruit. I had plenty of opportunity to do so.

American robin with cork tree fruit
American robin with cork tree fruit

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Arboretum Bird Walk with Bob Mayer

We went on an early morning bird walk yesterday led by Bob Mayer and Andrew Joslin. We saw a number of bird species. Two were a first for me, and one a first in the Boston area.

Bird walk group
Bob Mayer (in red shirt and white hat) leads a group in search of a warbler.

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Arboretum: Encounter with a Snake

On Wednesday, I heard something rustling in the grass near the Arboretum’s hickory collection. Turned out to be this garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis), a skinny fellow who was quite afraid of me.

Garter snake looking at the camera
Garter snake

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Parley Vale Preserve: Sowbugs and Salamanders

We passed a kousa dogwood tree (Cornus kousa) on Parley Ave yesterday afternoon. The ripening fruit look like berries. They are edible, but don’t taste so great.

Kousa dogwoods are native to east Asia and their fruits differ from our local flowering dogwood in that they are compound and much larger. It is possible that these fruits evolved this way to appear more appetizing to macaque monkeys, who would eat the fruit and disperse the seeds.

Kousa dogwood fruit
Kousa dogwood fruit

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Spectacle Island Birds: Tree Swallows and Laughing Gulls

We saw quite a few birds last Monday on our trip to Spectacle Island, including a species of gull for the first time. We counted 45 double-crested cormorants near the island’s shores.

Double-crested cormorants
Double-crested cormorants

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Tide Pools of Spectacle Island

The last time I explored tide pools on the Boston Harbor Islands, I was taking Bruce Berman’s Snails to Whales class. We learned the geography of the Harbor, visited the islands, learned about the clean-up, and saw so many creatures I never knew existed in this area. We saw a few of those same creatures on Spectacle Island this past Monday.

Taking cover near a rock, this Asian shore crab (Hemigrapsus sanguineus) does its best to remain hidden. This non-native crab can be distinguished from others in our area by the three “teeth” it has running down each side of its shell. Other species have at least five.

Asian shore crab
Asian shore crab

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Arboretum: Chinese Mantid and Panicled Hawkweed

As I left the Arboretum’s visitor center on Sunday, I noticed a crowd gathered around a shrub. It took me a second to see the shockingly large Chinese mantid (Tenodera aridifolia) that was the subject of everyone’s attention.

Chinese mantid
Chinese mantid

This praying mantis was larger than my hand. It had landed on someone’s leg and she had the peace of mind to place it on the shrub, where it stood still for many minutes.

The Chinese mantid is the largest of our praying mantises. Introduced from China in 1896 to control pests, they eat both harmful and beneficial insects, and sometimes each other. They are so large that they are able to attack hummingbirds.

Take a look at this face. It means business.

Chinese mantid face
Chinese mantid face

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Arboretum: Eastern Comma and Pigeon Tremex

I saw a few moths, butterflies, and wasps at the Arboretum last week. An eastern comma butterfly (Polygonia comma) rested on a leaf in the shrub and vine garden. It is named for the bright white comma, swollen at both ends, on its wing. I think it looks more like a crescent moon than a comma.

Eastern comma butterfly with wings closed
Eastern comma butterfly

The wings look drab until they open, revealing a rich orange with black spots. This is the winter form of this butterfly, with its hind wings more orange than black.

Eastern comma butterfly opening its wings
Eastern comma butterfly

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