NestWatch: The Birds Need You

Yellow Warbler Nest. Photo by Joan Chasan
Yellow Warbler Nest. Photo by Joan Chasan

SVT is seeking volunteers to participate in the NestWatch project. NestWatch is a nationwide monitoring program coordinated by the Cornell lab of Ornithology in order to track the reproductive status and trends of birds.

SVT is providing a training session for anyone who would like to participate in NestWatch: 

Tuesday, March 19
7:00 to 9:00 pm
Wolbach Farm
Wolbach Road, Sudbury

Sign up for the free training session

Top 4 Reasons to be a NestWatch Volunteer:

  1. You’ll contribute extremely valuable information that can help to improve management strategies and stewardship.
  2. Without your help, it would be impossible to gather enough information to accurately monitor nesting birds locally and nationally.
  3. Your observations are added to a continually growing database used by researchers to understand and study birds.
  4. You’ll learn firsthand about birds, creating a lifelong bond with the natural world.


Take a Hike with SVT's New Mapping Tool

SVT's Interactive Trail Map

Our Properties page now includes new maps for all 42 of our trails. You can download the maps, print them out, or simply access them from your cellphone while you're on the property.

And to help you figure out which trails are located near you, we've added an interactive map to the page. Each trail is marked by a green "pin." Zoom in and you'll also see the property boundaries and trails. 

By clicking on a pin, you'll learn the name of the property and its address, and you'll find a link to the trail map.

Check out the map tool and our new trail maps.

Workshop Explains Landowner Conservation Options

Photo by Bill Shelley

Have you thought about conserving your land but don't know where to begin?

SVT and four local conservation trusts invite you to join us for a complimentary workshop to hear one couple’s conservation story and learn from experts about how to plan for the future of your property. Landowners, an attorney, an appraiser, and SVT's Christa Collins will make presentations and answer questions (see complete list below).

Tuesday, February 5
7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Sargent Memorial Library, 427 Massachusetts Avenue, Boxborough, MA

If you plan to attend, please RSVP to Ashley Davies so we can get an accurate head count. [email protected]; 978-443-5588, x121.


  • John and Molly Beard, Landowners. John and Molly placed a conservation restriction on their land in Wayland through a bargain sale. John and Molly will provide insight as to the challenges and rewards of conserving your land.
  • Jonathan Avery, Appraiser and Founder, Avery and Associates. Jon will discuss the role of an appraisal when conserving your land and how to obtain the best appraisal for your situation.
  • Richard J. Lane II, Esq., Attorney, Comins & Newbury, LLP.  Richard will discuss the legal process involved in conserving your land, including tax benefits and other important considerations.
  • Christa Collins, Director of Land Protection, SVT. Christa will give an overview of conservation options to help you evaluate which option will best suit your situation.

Hosted By

Make Plans to Attend the Annual Benefit Gala

Don your best plumage and join us as "Birds of a Feather" gather together for our Annual Benefit Gala on March 9, 2019, at the Sheraton in Framingham.

You'll enjoy:

  • Cocktails and Hors d'Oeuvres
  • Dinner
  • Silent & Live Auction

David O'Leary from Magic 106.7 is returning for the second year to serve as our celebrity auctioneer!

Learn more and buy tickets.

SVT Acquires CR on Pickman Meadow

Earlier this month, SVT completed a conservation restriction (CR) on Pickman Meadow, a small but important parcel adjacent to the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. The Town of Bedford acquired the parcel in 2006 using Community Preservation Act funds. The use of CPA funds requires that a CR be placed on the property, and SVT was delighted to accept the CR.

Located in the northwestern part of Bedford, Pickman Meadow abuts a large corridor of conservation land along the Concord River.  SVT also holds CRs over the nearby Hughes and Coffin properties, both of which are also owned by the Town.

The Pickman Meadow property, which was formerly used as pasture land, is managed as a meadow, though portions of it are quite wet.  It is designated as priority habitat for a state-listed species, and is identified as BioMap2 Core and Critical Natural Landscape.  

The public may access Pickman Meadow through the adjacent Altmann Conservation Area.

The Coywolf and Me

In Fall 2018, Steve Wightman took this photograph near his home in Bedford. Here is his story about the encounter:

As I got closer and closer to get this shot, I pretty well knew that I’d be detected. After all, coywolves’ combination of hearing, eyesight, and smell are far and away greater than my own. Even with my low crawl and sloth pace through shrubs and with my camouflage skin, those ears homed in on my location as accurately as any radar.

First he studied me. Then he came a little closer, ran a bit, stopped, scent-marked, and then sat calmly as if to say; “This is my field, I’m the king critter here now.”

So, we played a little game; I studied him, he studied me, and we both seemed to agree on a comfortable distance – for now. Neither body telegraphed aggression. Peace was at hand.

Given the wind direction, he now likely knows what I smell like, and that is unique and indelible. Next time, he’ll remember me and likely be very curious about me. He’s trying to decide if I’m a foe while I’m trying to communicate that I am not. Our careful dance shall continue.

It’s not every day that I get to interact with a predator. I recall Kevin Costner playing with wolves in Dances with Wolves. I’m not sure which side had more fun. The key to it happening at all was a strong mutual trust and acceptance. That could never happen without a deep understanding of behaviors and language.

Yes, all wolves have language – most of it is body language, but it also involves scents and sounds. This helps them set social order, identify friend or foe, coordinate hunts, and coordinate adult care for their young. Perhaps that’s why they have survived for more than ten thousand years all around planet earth – and like this encounter, perhaps mankind and nature can work as one where neither is threatened.

About the Author: AMC and Sierra Club member Steve Wightman is a public speaker and a nonfiction producer and publisher of books, blogs, videos, and print articles. He writes and speaks about aviation, personal finance, nature, and America then and now. In 2019, he plans to produce a memoir of his building and flying the world’s fastest single-engine amphibious airplane, a Seawind, and another book - a view of the fate of mankind and our relationship to our only planet including some First Nation prophecies. Learn more at: and

SVT Note: There is debate on the naming and use of the term "coywolf. " In general, SVT uses the terms "coyote" or "eastern coyote" but has not edited Mr. Wightman's lovely account of his experience with our region's wild "canid."

Learn About Your Conservation Options

Landowners who are interested in learning about their conservation options are invited to attend a series of free workshops hosted by the Bolton Agricultural Commission, the Bolton Conservation Commission, the Bolton Conservation Trust, and SVT. 

Residents of all towns are welcome.

The "Managing and Protecting our Farms, Forests, and Open Spaces" series will consist of four workshops that explain land conservation and management options as well as tax incentives for protecting land:

Details about each workshop are below. Up-to-date information and details are available from the Town of Bolton Conservation Commission or by contacting Sara Amish of SVT at [email protected] or 978-443-5588, ext. 138.

Workshop 1:
Land Protection Success Stories. 
Learn from local landowners about the options for taking care of and protecting land. Guest speakers: Walter Bickford, Berlin Conservation Commission; Christa Collins, Director of Land Protection, SVT

January 26, 2019
10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Houghton Building
697 Main Street
Pie and coffee will be served

Workshop 2
: Chapter 61 Property Tax Reduction Programs.
 Chapter 61 programs lower property taxes on forests, farms, and open spaces as long as they are kept undeveloped and productive. The programs allow towns the right of first refusal if development is proposed for Chapter 61 properties. Guest speakers will include a local woodlot owner and Laura Dooley and Michael Downey, foresters from the Mass. Dept. of Conservation & Recreation

May 4, 2019
10:00 am
Houghton Building
697 Main Street
A site walk at Wilder Road woodlot will follow the presentation

Workshop 3
: Conservation Restrictions.
Conservation Restrictions (CRs) allow landowners to retain ownership of their land while permanently restricting certain activities. Learn about the many different ways a CR can be used to protect land. Take a walk on one of the many scenic conservation restrictions in Bolton and see for yourself the benefit of land conservation.  Guest speakers will include the Bolton Conservation Trust.

August 4, 2019
1:00 to 3:00 p.m.
Phillips Conservation Area
Old Sugar Road

Workshop 4
: Agricultural Preservation Restrictions. 
Agricultural Preservation Restrictions are non-development alternatives for farm owners, geared specifically to keep land in agricultural use. We’ll be visiting two Bolton farms to hear about the benefits of Agricultural Preservation Restrictions, food safety, and sustainability.

October 19, 2019
Time and location to be announced.


Early Results from the 2018 Christmas Bird Count

Robin. Photo by Raj Das

On January 2, top-notch birders from the region gathered at SVT's Wolbach Farm to compile the data that the Concord Circle gathered during this year's Christmas Bird Count on December 30. Here are some interesting tidbits:

  1. Volunteer birders saw 88 different species and a whopping total of 52,518 birds. Both numbers were higher than usual, and the group attributed this to two factors: warmer conditions AND better birders participating.
  2. One of the key reasons for the high population count was the observation of a HUGE roost of robins with an estimated 18,000 birds. What? Robins in winter? Robins are becoming increasingly common in colder months as they can live off fruiting trees that hold onto fruit (such as crab apples) through the winter. Robins will gather together in a "roost" in the winter, finding strength in numbers to fend off hungry predators.
  3. This was a record year for bald eagles and red-shouldered hawks. The return of these magnificent birds of prey is undoubtedly the direct result of environmental protections that came from the banning of DDT in the 1960s, and in the case of the bald eagle, being protected under the Endangered Species Act until 2007.

When the Concord Circle finishes tallying and evaluating its results, they'll be available at

About the Christmas Bird Count

For more than 100 years, the National Audubon Society has conducted a Christmas Bird Count (CBC) to help researchers understand how the birds of the Americas are faring. Thousands of volunteers across the U.S., Canada, and other Western Hemisphere participate in this annual census and count birds over a 24-hour period. 

The CBC is divided into hundreds of “count circles,” each of which selects its own count day between mid-December and early January. Everyone is invited to participate in this citizen science project, but you must join an official "count circle" for your results to be counted. Participants can either join a field party or stay in the warmth of their homes and count visitors to a bird feeder.

SVT participates in the Concord Circle of the CBC. To learn more about the project, read our December 2017 Spotlight article on Norm Levey and the Concord Christmas Bird Count.

SVT Seeks Community Ambassadors

SVT is seeking enthusiastic volunteers to serve as our “eyes, ears, and voice” in their communities! 

To help spread the word about our work, we have created a new volunteer position: Community Ambassador. 

By representing SVT at local events and by participating in social media conversations, the Community Ambassador will be an advocate for SVT and will help us learn about the environmental issues that are of concern to area residents.  The specific responsibilities will evolve, but initially they may include:

  • attending municipal meetings, local fairs, and environmental programs;
  • apprising SVT about conservation issues that are being covered in local news outlets; and
  • sharing SVT news with online discussion groups.

Eventually, we hope to have a Community Ambassador in each of our 36 communities, but to start, we are focusing on these localities: Berlin, Boxborough, Framingham,  Harvard, Littleton, Northborough, and Westborough. 

Interested? We'd love to talk to you about this exciting opportunity.

Read more and apply


Help Our Native Birds: Become a Nest Box Monitor

Want to make a difference?  Volunteer as an SVT Nest Box Monitor, and you'll provide an important service for our native birds. 

SVT is seeking volunteer Nest Box Monitors for our properties in Westborough and Northborough. Nest Box Monitors work about two hours per week from February through August. (Note: As of January 28, 2019, these positions are filled for Spring and Summer 2019. Thank you for your interest.)

In February, before the nesting season begins, you'll perform maintenance on existing nest boxes by clearing out old nesting materials and making minor repairs. Then, from March through August, you'll visit the box once or twice a week to monitor the number of nesting pairs and the survival rates of their young.

Interested? Read more and apply.

Learn about other SVT Volunteer Opportunities.