Become a Plant Conservation Volunteer with New England Wild Flower Society!

downloadNew England Wild Flower Society is seeking enthusiastic people interested in plant identification and exploring interesting natural habitats to participate in their Plant Conservation Volunteer Program.

Plant Conservation Volunteers (PCVs) puts the skills of citizen science to work collecting information on rare plants and their habitats across all six New England states. There are also opportunities to assist with invasive and habitat management projects that benefit rare plants and botanical surveys. The New England Wild Flower Society provides annual training for those interested in becoming PCVs. The Society also offers free field trips and learning opportunities to PCVs often interacting with professional botanists to learn more about hard to identify species and the ecology of various habitats.

Good candidates are motivated, interested in plant identification, and a little adventurous. It’s an excellent opportunity to develop your botanical skills and put them to work, learn more about the flora of New England, meet others with similar interests, and help preserve your state’s natural heritage.

Training sessions will be held on a weekend in March/April for each of the New England states. Interested applicants with some botanical knowledge and are outside of Eastern Massachusetts are encouraged to apply.

For more information and to apply visit our website at or contact:

Laney Widener

Botanical Coordinator

New England Wild Flower Society

508-877-7630 ext. 3204

A Honey Whodunit at Crystal Spring Farm

Crystal Spring Farm Whodunit

A local beekeeper houses a number of beehives at Crystal Spring Farm to increase pollination of the crops (and make honey for the beekeeper!).  Several weeks ago, Seth Kroeck, our tenant farmer at Crystal Spring Farm, called to report trouble at the beehives.  Something or someone was wreaking havoc with the hives and he asked us to keep an eye on the beehives.

The beekeeper lost most of his hives over the winter and had recently installed new ‘package’ bees in several of his hives.  (A ‘package’ is 2 – 4 pounds of worker bees and one queen, delivered in the spring to start a new hive.)  It is common practice to feed sugar water to bees in the spring, to help the hive get established while weather is cool (making it hard for the bees to get out to forage for food) and food sources (flowers) are in short supply. The unknown attacker was removing sugar water containers from the hives and discarding them nearby.  The containers are screwed into a base located at the entrance to the hive, so their removal requires some dexterity.  This seemed to rule out most wildlife.

Everyone was mystified. We all disliked the possibility that a person might be vandalizing the hives. And vandalizing beehives seemed extremely bold or extremely foolhardy. Who was the culprit?

We made a quick call to The Nature Conservancy which graciously loaned us their game camera. We set the camera to photograph in response to motion, and asked Seth to notify us when the next disturbance had occurred.  It didn’t take long. The beekeeper replenished the sugar water the next day and the containers were ransacked almost immediately.

We retrieved the camera and downloaded the pictures.  There were hundreds of pictures of waving branches (thanks to those windy days we’ve been having) and a few of the beekeeper or tractor passing by.  No daytime marauders.  But the night pictures (which are black and white and somewhat out of focus) were most intriguing. Many revealed a dim rounded form near the hives that was clearly an animal.  Identification was difficult until we found the picture below, which clinched the identity of the marauders – do you see the two thieves?  Clever little rascals – capable of unscrewing a mason jar from its base and cagey enough to wear their masks in case they got caught!

Masked Thieves

Masked Thieves

We reported our findings to Seth and the beekeeper who now have the challenge of outsmarting the raccoon family.  The beekeeper has removed the sugar water which he was  providing to ease the bees’ work as they build honeycomb. He will likely install some kind of prickly board around the hive (e.g. a board with exposed nails sticking up) to deter future forays by our masked marauders.

Whodunit? Solved!

Ovenbirds Underfoot!

Watch where you step this time of year!

Spring is certainly a time of new growth for many species. On a walk today at Crystal Spring Farm to evaluate the status of a couple species of rare grassland sedges that grow there, a nest was found. Can you find it in this photo?

Ovenbird nest from afar

baby ovenbirds_croppedbaby ovenbirdsTake a look at these close ups. It is a little easier to pick out the tiny nestlings in their amazingly camouflaged nest.


The bird has a fitting name – Ovenbird – because of its outdoor oven-like nesting strategy. Ovenbirds are a species of warbler who nest and spend much of their time on the forest floor. They have a loud song that many describe as sounding like “teacher-teacher-teacher”.

The distinctive rising trill of another warbler species, the prairie warbler, was also heard today and a male indigo bunting gave us some good looks and songs. Lots of great bird action today in the blueberry fields at Crystal Spring Farm.

Let us know what you’re seeing on BTLT properties and in your backyard!