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snow and stone wall


Heavy fog hangs over Mill Pond, as seen from Osprey Point in the Headwaters Conservation Area (HCA), on a warm day between Christmas and New Year’s. Until about five years ago, a colony of great blue herons nested in the dead trees in the pond every spring, but the trees finally lost most of their branches and could no longer support the herons’ large stick nests.

January 13, 2012, Page 5,18


By Annie Reid
Westborough Community Land Trust

Quiz Yourself on Nature

Winter is off to – dare we say it? – a mild start in 2012, with nothing to shovel yet in Westborough. Our local ponds have a partial skim-coat of ice, but most aren’t completely iced over.

Our photo shows fog over Mill Pond on a day between Christmas and New Year’s, with the dead trees casting eerie reflections in the water. (As a friend suggested, turn the picture sideways, putting the left side at the bottom, to see another face of nature.)

Such a winter fog sets in when a warm day brings relatively warm, moist air over a cold surface, such as cold lake water or piles of snow. The cold surface cools the air and moisture condenses into fine droplets that make up the fog.

Even if the weather is letting you get out and about more than usual for this time of year, it’s still a good time to put your nature literacy to the test – without leaving the comfort of your chair. Take our annual nature quiz. Below you'll find short descriptions of natural things featured in Nature Notes in 2011. See if you can match these descriptions with answers from the list that follows.

Choose your answers from the drop down lists. Check your answers by clicking the "Show Answers" button. The answer page will contain links to the 2011 “Nature Notes” columns so you can re-read them as a way of preparing to enjoy nature in 2012.

If all or most of your answers are correct, email us your name (or your group’s name if a class or scout troop or other group is answering the quiz) at NatureNotes@westboroughlandtrust.org. We'll congratulate the top scorers in a future issue of the Westborough News – the more top scorers, the better for Westborough’s nature literacy.

Match these descriptions with possible answers from the list below:

1.   The bright red male is a year-round favorite at bird feeders, and this bird is the state bird of seven states (but not Massachusetts).

2.   This bird was once considered a southern bird but has expanded its range northward into Massachusetts as forests have returned to the state, providing the tall trees this bird needs for nesting.

3.   Typically found under rotting logs or stumps, this creature has no lungs and instead “breathes” through its skin, and is the most common and abundant of its type in Massachusetts.

4.   These birds of prey are nature’s clean-up crew, feeding on carrion which they locate with their remarkable sense of smell.

5.   This plant can hold 25 times its weight in water, but when dead can be mined and burned as the fuel known as peat.

6.   This salamander is the smallest one in Massachusetts, and breeds in boggy wetlands.

7.   This small yellow insect-eater has a soft buzzing song and returns in the spring to breed in heavily overgrown, shrubby old fields near water.

8.   Found along sidewalks, driveways, roads, and paths, this small green plant with yellow button-like blossoms smells like pineapple when any part of it is crushed.

9.   This large yellow butterfly has black stripes and a forked “tail,” and is a large, smooth green caterpillar in an earlier stage of its life.

10.   This native shrub bears bristly husks containing nourishing nuts, which are popular with wildlife such as squirrels, chipmunks, mice, ruffed grouse, deer, and blue jays.

11.   This large white bird is the emblem of the National Audubon Society and stalks fish in the shallows of local ponds when it migrates through our area in August and September.

12.   This large grayish bird with a long neck, long legs, and long beak used to nest in the dead trees in Mill Pond and is well camouflaged as it fishes along shorelines during much of the year.

13.   This wild native vine has fleshy red-brown flowers with a heavy scent and produces starchy underground tubers that helped to keep the Pilgrims from starving during their first winters in Massachusetts in 1620s, thanks to local Native Americans who shared their knowledge of it.

14.   This smart, adaptable, and vocal forest bird hides large numbers of acorns by burying them in the ground and then retrieves most of them to eat later on.

15.   Sometimes used as a Thanksgiving decoration, this fan-shaped fungus with colorful rings has pores on a white underside and grows in clusters on dead hardwood logs, where it produces “white rot” as it breaks down and recycles materials in the wood.

16.   This fungus is a look-alike, as its name suggests, but it’s also called leather fungus because of its smooth, brown underside.

17.   This dramatic natural event shook parts of Massachusetts on August 23, 2011, even though it was centered in Virginia.

Possible answers:
- Beaked hazelnut (Corylus cornuta)
- Blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata)
- Blue-winged warbler (Vermivora pinus)
- East coast earthquake
- False turkey tail (Stereum ostrea)
- Four-toed salamander (Hemidactylium scutatum)
- Ggreat blue heron (Ardea herodias)
- Great egret (Ardea alba)
- Groundnut (Apios americana)
- Northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
- Pineapple weed (Matricaria discoidea, formerly Matricaria matricarioides)
- Redback salamander (Plethodon cinereus)
- Sphagnum moss (Sphagnum)
- Tiger swallowtail (Papilio canadensis and Papilio glaucus)
- Tufted titmouse (Parus bicolor, Baeolophus bicolor)
- Turkey tail (Trametes versicolor)
- Turkey vulture (Cathartes aura)

Nature Notes is printed in The Westborough News on behalf of WCLT (Westborough Community Land Trust). Report your own local nature sightings (or check out what others have seen) on WCLT's Facebook page! Find more information about enjoying nature in Westborough, including trail maps and a calendar of events, at the WCLT website

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