Come to the Forest Jubilee, SVT's Annual Benefit

SVT's Annual Benefit is scheduled for Saturday, March 10, at the Sheraton Framingham (6 to 10:30 pm). The theme of "Forest Jubilee" celebrates both our 25th annual benefit and our 65th anniversary as an organization.

Join us at this annual fundraiser, where you'll enjoy:

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

New: Celebrity Auctioneer--David O'Leary from Magic 106.7

Attire: Forest Flair! (Prize for best costume)
Learn more and purchase tickets.

Spring Internships at SVT

SVT has openings for two interns this spring. These unpaid positions provide valuable, hands-on experience in conservation work and non-profit marketing:

The Stewardship Intern will assist with both property maintenance and data management. Intern must be in good physical condition, be willing to bushwhack, and be an upper-level undergraduate or have a bachelor's degree in natural sciences or related field. 10 hours/week. Read full description.

The Video Communications Intern will assist our staff in filming and editing 3-minute videos of nonprofit organizations in Framingham. Requires a background in film or media studies. 10 hours/week. Read full description.

Record Count for Wild Turkeys at the 2017 CBC

Wild turkeys roosted near Ricci Fields in Lincoln. Photo by Norm Levey
Wild turkeys roosted near Ricci Fields in Lincoln. Photo by Norm Levey

Norman Levey, Compiler for the Concord Christmas Bird Count, reported on the bird sightings by participants in the 2017 count.

The Concord Christmas Bird Count wrapped up its 58th count on Tuesday, January 2, 2018, with a spirited evening in the SVT Wolbach farmhouse, where our coordinators and compilers shared a delicious potluck supper and called out the list of all the birds we found the previous Saturday.

If this count was not a record maker for bird abundance, it was notable for ice, snow, and cold. Our early-rising field teams encountered 4°F temperatures that made the afternoon high of 16°F seem balmy. On the same day, counters in Fairbanks, Alaska, experienced about the same daytime temperatures as those of us at the Concord count.

Few of our field teams saw even one Canada goose, but spots of open water in the Assabet Wildlife Refuge and in Hager Pond in Marlborough (which by some miracle never totally freezes over on the coldest of count days) delivered 222 geese, 32 mute swans, 6 gadwall, 28 American black ducks, 614 mallards, a lone green-winged teal, and a lingering American coot.

We may have one record count for wild turkey, which shortly after its introduction in the Commonwealth in 1972 steadily reestablished a vigorous breeding population and made its Concord count debut in 1997 with a tally of 9. Adjusting for our possibly lower than average participation rate this year may make 319 of these iconic birds a new high. Prehistorically, the wild turkey was abundant in the state until its extirpation in 1851.

Ten great blue herons stood sentinel-like over the few remaining outflows under beaver dams and culverts, with one or two especially bedraggled individuals reported. A great blue heron will eat just about anything it can swallow, head first, but its typical summer restaurant that serves frogs, fish, turtles, voles, and large insects vanished more than a month ago. For every great blue heron, there was a belted kingfisher hunting in the same seasonally vanishing habitat.

A few dramatically dark and boldly marked red-tailed hawks with inky black belly bands, interlopers from the Canadian north, were spotted by a few field teams. Our locals are pale by comparison. Woodland dwelling red-shouldered hawks may be making a small resurgence after a few lean years with a total of 4. We’ve had recent counts of 0 and 1.

Local owls showed expected numbers except for Northern saw-whet, which except for one individual located in Wayland vanished from its winter roosts and very likely migrated to more promising snow-free hunting grounds.

Woodpecker counts hit the average, except red-bellied is still showing a steadily upward trend-line. Downy is our most abundant woodpecker, and our count of 760 hews to the 10-year average.

Falcons made the list with 1 American kestrel and a single merlin. Kestrel once tallied in double digits on our counts, but has declined to one or two individuals every year.

Common feeder birds such as cardinals, chickadees, titmice, and house finches were easily found in neighborhoods. Field parties censusing more remote wooded conservation properties turned up 244 golden-crowned kinglets—just short of 1973’s record 273—and a few red-breasted nuthatches. A school classroom feeder in Lincoln had a wintering Eastern towhee sharing a feeder with 35 house sparrows and 2 white-throateds, and another feeder hosted a ruby-crowned kinglet which are migrants and very uncommon winter residents. Hermit thrush did well, with 11 spotted by several field teams. This winter hardy thrush does just fine and dandy dining on bittersweet fruit and nut and suet cakes at feeders.

Wintering warblers did not make the count this year.

Rusty blackbird counts show peaks and valleys, but this year’s total of 38 is double our 10-year average for this diminishing species. Overall, rusties have had an alarming 45-year decline in population that may have several causes, such as winter habitat loss, poisoning of other blackbird species with rusty as an incidental victim, and disturbance of its boreal wetland breeding grounds. The more common red-winged blackbird nailed the average this year with 133, which is a total surprise considering the severity of the weather.

Our final result will show a grand total of about 26,000 birds counted, 9,500 fewer than last year’s number. The significance of this smaller tally should be attributed to harsh weather and a lower than usual field participation rate.

Again, we extend our thanks to Sudbury Valley Trustees for its sponsorship of the Concord CBC, and especially Laura Mattei for hosting our countdown and potluck supper in the comfort of the Wolbach farmhouse.

Join us next time on Sunday December 30, 2018, for another adventure in winter birding!

Learn more: Spotlight: Norm Levey and the Concord Christmas Bird Count.

Improving Habitat for Native Pollinators

Since the autumn of 2015, Nan Burke of Westborough has played an important role in SVT’s efforts to improve pollinator habitats in our region. She has been raising milkweed seedlings that we have planted on our properties and shared with our members to plant in their own gardens. The milkweed is essential habitat for the monarch butterfly caterpillar, and its nectar is also vital to other insects.

In 2017, she expanded her efforts and began raising and releasing the monarch butterflies themselves.

We recently asked Nan to discuss both projects, and she provided some useful resources for others who are interested in raising monarchs. Read the full story.

Nature Sightings: The Best of 2017

An eastern screech-owl, photographed by David G Seibel.

Over the course of the past year we've received nearly 500 submissions to our Nature Sightings page. It's a wonderful testament to how much our members and friends appreciate the variety of wildlife in our region.

Owls, hawks, songbirds, flowers, mushrooms, snakes, salamanders, butterflies, bobcats, deer, weasels: the list of species for which we have photos gets longer and longer, and is now at 504! These photos and videos demonstrate the diversity of species that we support through our land conservation and stewardship efforts.  

We're grateful to everyone who shares their sightings throughout the seasons, and as the year comes to a close, we decided to share some of the best images from 2017.

View our picks in the SVT Nature Sightings, Best of 2017 Google Photo Album.

We hope you'll continue to let us know about the nature you see, whether on our properties, in your back yard, or anywhere in our service area. If you have an interesting picture or video to share, please contact Dan Stimson

To receive weekly e-mails summarizing the latest Nature Sightings, subscribe to our free Nature Sightings e-newsletter on the top of our Nature Sightings page.

The Wish Tree Comes to the Storybook Trail

On this day of the winter solstice—and just in time for school vacation--we have posted a new story on the Storybook Trail at Wolbach Farm.

The Wish Tree by Kyo Maclear tells the story of Charles, a young boy who sets out with his sled Boggan on a wintery day to find a fabled wish tree. Along the way, the pair meet wild animals and help the animals stock their homes with food and supplies.

This tale was recommended to us by SVT member Emily Schadler, who along with her young children is a frequent visitor to the Storybook Trail. Thank you, Emily!  (If you have a suggestion for the Storybook Trail, please let us know.)

The Storybook Trail is located along the George Lewis Memorial Trail at SVT’s Wolbach Farm at 18 Wolbach Road in Sudbury. The trail is only ¾-mile long—the perfect length for a walk with young children on a winter’s day.

We have posted the pages of the book on 12 stations along the path, so you can read the story in sections as you walk through the woods. Be sure to wear appropriate footwear. The trail could be snowy or muddy.

After you finish the Storybook Trail, we invite you to stop in at the Nature Nook on the side of our office building. The Nature Nook offers families an interactive way to learn more about our natural surroundings. Activity sheets, crafts, and children's books feature the plants and wildlife of Wolbach Farm and other local conservation areas.

Put Nature on Your Gift List

Memorial Forest, Photo by Jill Moonheron

As you make plans for your holiday giving and end-of-year charitable donations, why not keep nature in mind? You can make a lasting impact on the open spaces and natural areas of our region.

Shop at Amazon Smile

If you shop at, you can simultaneously support SVT and our conservation efforts at no extra cost to you. Sign up for the Amazon Smile program, select SVT as your charity of choice, and then 0.5% of your eligible purchases will be donated to us. It's a simple way to support a cause you care about. (Please be sure to log in at before making a purchase).

Give an SVT Membership

Share your love of nature with your friends and family by giving them memberships in SVT. They'll learn about regional conservation and be able to attend most SVT programs at no cost. It's a great way to help those you love connect with the out-of-doors. Contact Michael Sanders, 978-443-5588, X111

Give an SVT T-Shirt or Hat to Your Favorite Tree Hugger

We just received a shipment of SVT t-shirts with our logo on the front and a new tag line on the back. Cotton shirts ($15 each) are available in two colors: denim blue and dark green; performance fabric shirts ($20) are available in dark green only. Men's sizing, S to XL.  And we have plenty of SVT caps ($20) in stock; adjustable sizing.

Call 978-443-5588 to order; a shipping fee will apply, or you can pick your items up at the SVT office at no extra charge.

Become an SVT Sustainer

When you plan your annual giving, consider changing from an annual membership to a sustaining membership. By making automatic monthly contributions to SVT, you can spread out your donation and provide a dependable source of revenue for us. It's easy!

Support SVT's End-of-Year Appeal

The need to support local conservation efforts is becoming increasingly important. By working together to protect local lands and natural areas, we can protect wildlife habitats, save coldwater streams, and help to slow the effects of climate change, all while creating opportunities for our friends and neighbors to enjoy nature. This year, put nature on your gift list; please support SVT's end-of-year appeal.

Thank you to all of our members and supporters. You make our success possible.


Behind the Scenes at the Christmas Bird Count

Norm Levey of Lincoln is well-known in the local birding community for leading the Concord Circle of the National Audubon’s Annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC). Each year, scores of area volunteers participate in this citizen science project that helps researchers determine how the birds of the Americas are faring over time.

We recently interviewed Norm to learn more about the CBC and what’s involved with coordinating such an important citizen science project. Read the full story.

Now Open: Mainstone Farm Trails in Wayland

Mainstone Farm Trails, Rice Road, Wayland
Mainstone Farm Trails Parking Area, Rice Road, Wayland

SVT and the Town of Wayland have finished the trails at Mainstone Farm and have opened a small parking area at a new trail head on Rice Road. 

The Hamlen Family, which owns the farm, agreed to put trails on the property when they sold a conservation restriction to the Town and SVT in April 2017. The new trails meander through the forested portion of Mainstone Farm and connect with trails on adjacent conservation lands, creating a network of more than 11 miles of trails in the heart of Wayland.

When you visit, please remember that the farm is still privately owned and large portions of the land are not open to the public. Please stay on marked trails.

For directions and a trail map, see Hamlen Woods and Mainstone Farm.

Calling Citizen Scientists for the Christmas Bird Count

White-breasted nuthatch. Photo by Joan Chasan.

This year marks the 118th Christmas Bird Count (CBC) sponsored by the National Audubon Society. During this census, thousands of volunteers across the U.S., Canada, and other Western Hemisphere countries count birds over a 24-hour period. Their counts help researchers understand how the birds of the Americas are faring over time.

Everyone is invited to participate in this citizen science project, but you must join an official "count circle" that is recognized by the National Audubon Society. For the 2017 count, each count circle will select one day between December 14 and January 5 to hold its count. Participants will work in a designated 15-mile diameter circle, counting every bird they see or hear all day.

SVT participates in the Concord Circle of the CBC, which has scheduled its count for December 30.

You can participate in one of two ways: by joining a field party that counts birds in a specific location, or by enjoying the warmth of your home as you count visitors to your bird feeder.

Interested? Check out the Concord Circle website to learn more and register.

Also: see our Spotlight article on Norm Levey, the coordinator of the Concord Circle.