The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 22, 2001


'Can you name this plant?' ­ A report on Biodiversity Days in Carlisle

"Do you know what this is?" "Have you ever seen one of these?" "Quick, look at that amazing red butterfly!" These exclamations were heard on Carlisle's Biodiversity Days walks, as our town participated in a statewide celebration and exploration of diverse natural communities.

Three years ago, naturalist and author Peter Alden founded the tradition of Biodiversity Days in Massachusetts. In Carlisle, conservationist Ken Harte is the town coordinator. The project involves getting people of all ages and abilities to join naturalists in observing and inventorying plants and wildlife. The state's department of environmental protection is keeping a database of the observations. The goals include knowing what populations there are and if they are changing. The activities get more people to look closely around them and see the vast variety of organisms that are close to home. Of course the hope is that people will not only appreciate their surroundings more, but care about protecting the diversity. For more information on the state project, visit their web site at: At this site you can also access information about individual species of wildlife and learn more about observation, conservation and identification.

Three local walks held

About 40 participants took part in the weekend activities which, besides three naturalist-led walks, included individual observations and trips by smaller groups around town. A trip to a neighborhood pond with two adults and three six-year-olds turned up three species of frogs, several dragonflies, damselflies and butterflies, and in the pond a variety of creatures, including a predacious diving beetle and a crayfish.

The scheduled trips drew several local naturalists and conservationists but also reached out to the wider community. One person, new to town and to natural history, jumped in, spotting and netting for the local experts. Another family from out of town, who drives by the Cranberry Bog every day to deliver the Lowell Sun, came for a closer look and joined the walk there on Saturday, led by biologist Susan Emmons.

While most of the children who came loved searching in the ponds, netting flying insects and peering under logs for salamanders (none found), one participant found the activity was not for her, preferring a more rapid pace than stopping to look closely at each fern, flower, bird or insect.

This year's highlights

On the State Park walk on Sunday, led by local birding experts Tom and D'Ann Brownrigg, participants were treated to the sight of a mink swimming at the large pond. Seen near the State Park boat landing were Ebony Jewelwings, a spectacular damselfly with iridescent blue-green body and large black wings.

Conservation commissioner and natural history enthusiast, JoRita Jordan, led the Friday evening walk on Towle Field. The observers who braved the mosquitoes and poison ivy were treated to a medley of evening birdsong, and among the over 90 species of plants identified there, the ragged-fringed orchid was a special find.

Some new species noted this year include striped maple and a cecropia moth. Nesting red-shouldered hawks and a yellow-throated vireo were highlights of the 69 species of birds seen. Both green frogs and bullfrogs were abundant, after some years of concern about the decline in the frog populations.

Over 20 species of dragonflies and damselflies were recorded throughout town. With the help of the trip leaders and local biologists, a total of 376 species of flora and fauna were identified.

The town plant

and wildlife inventory

Biodiversity Days gives a picture of what is seen on the designated three-day weekend (this year June 8-10). However, there is also an ongoing town-wide plant and wildlife inventory, which records all plant and wildlife species seen throughout the year. This list, which is maintained by Carlisle resident Betsy Fell includes information about times of flowering, nesting and any unusual conditions at the time of sighting. She requests that any sightings of interest be sent to her for permanent recording. Include details of the sighting: location, habitat, date and any special conditions.

Send your observations to

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