Creating young forests to save the N.E. cottontail rabbit

Twenty four girls and boys hunted pheasants over some of the finest bird dogs in Connecticut Sunday when the Groton Sportsmen’s Club opened its land for the annual youth hunt.

Mike Marchand photo, N.H. Fish & Game

Mike Marchand photo, N.H. Fish & Game

Inside the club lodge, meanwhile, the conversation was about rabbits. Bill Salisbury and Ray Thiel, two of the club’s committee chairmen, were discussing how they have been working with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to manage club land for the threatened New England cottontail.

It’s being displaced by the eastern cottontail, a rabbit which is much more tolerant of humans and their suburban sprawl, Bill says.

Working with foresters and wildlife biologists — and supported by government grants — the club and other private landowners have been restoring woodlands to provide the native plants and the coverts New England cottontail need. Some areas required clear cutting.

When the old trees were felled, new brush appeared, and in other spots, state workers, biologists and club volunteers planted native shrubs that were grown in Connecticut nurseries.

It’s too early to tell how much the New England cottontails will benefit from the work, but Ray says that birders already are noticing that songbirds such as the eastern towhee, have moved in. The population of this beautiful sparrow has declined dramatically, due, in part, to forests maturing and the lack of new shrub growth.

Deer also love the new growth. They like it so much that the sportsmen’s club had to erect fences to keep the deer out of certain areas.

If you’re interested in learning more about Connecticut’s Young Forest Initiative, click here.

NOAA: Warmer winter ahead for So. New England

Winter scene croppedA winter white-out in southern Rhode Island last year.

Southern New England is in for a warmer than normal winter, according to climatologists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Sea surface temperatures across the equatorial Pacific have been near average since spring 2012, and forecasters expect that to continue through the winter. That means that neither El Niño nor La Niña is expected to influence the climate during the upcoming winter.

It’s a challenge to produce a long-term winter forecast without the climate pattern of an El Niño or a La Niña in place out in the Pacific because those climate patterns often strongly influence winter temperature and precipitation here in the United States,” said Mike Halpert, acting director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “Without this strong seasonal influence, winter weather is often affected by short-term climate patterns, such as the Arctic Oscillation, that are not predictable beyond a week or two. So it’s important to pay attention to your local daily weather forecast throughout the winter.”

The forecast calls for below-average temperatures in the Northern Plains and the Alaskan Panhandle. Rge forecast predicts above-average temperatures in the Southwest, the South-Central U.S., parts of the Southeast, New England and western Alaska. The rest of the country falls into the “equal chance” category, meaning that there is not a strong or reliable enough climate signal in these areas to favor one category over the others, so they have an equal chance for above-, near-, or below-normal temperatures and/or precipitation.

NOAA’s outlook does not project where and when snowstorms may hit or provide total seasonal snowfall accumulations. Snow forecasts are dependent upon the strength and track of winter storms, which are generally not predictable more than a week in advance. 

New bridge completes Grills trails in Westerly & Hopkinton #RI

New bridge enhancedHarvey Buford, left, and Ted Dionne complete a day’s work on the new bridge over Tomaquag Brook yesterday.

A new bridge, connecting the Grills Sanctuary in Hopkinton RI to the Grills Preserve in Westerly RI, may be ready for hikers this weekend. The span crosses Tomaquag Brook, connecting the 3.1-mile trail from the trailhead off Route 216 in Hopkinton (pictured below) to the parking area on Bowling Lane in the village of Bradford.

Tomaquag trail at sunsetThe top of Tomaquag Trail in Hopkinton RI at sunset yesterday

The new bridge, built by volunteers from the Hopkinton Land Trust, is less than a mile from the Polly Coon Bridge, an aluminum span, built by the Westerly Land Trust, over the Pawcatuck River.

The new bridge over Tomaquag Brook is 55 feet long, said Harvey Buford. It is about a foot higher than the 100-year-flood mark, but the boardwalks leading to it probably will be submerged in times of flooding, he said.

The new bridge has fiberglass braces and black-locust wood walkways that should endure for 100 years or so, he said.

Both of the Grills sanctuaries offer wildlife a variety of habitats, and hikers can enjoy some gorgeous New England scenery and sounds throughout the year. (For the past week, barred owls have been hooting away during the day.)

Trail maps ave available online from

Save #CT and #RI forests to save birds, scientist says

For the first time in 300 years, residents of Rhode Island and Connecticut are seeing old-growth trees, says Robert Craig, executive director of Bird Conservation Research, Inc., a non-profit group tracking forest birds in southern New England. “Unless we set aside vast areas of forest now,” he says, the size and diversity of bird populations will be diminished.

Audubon Craig croppedCraig summarized his study, “The Forest Bird Survey of Southern New England,” at the 116th annual meeting of the Audubon Society of Rhode Island yesterday. Before he spoke, Candace Powell of Jamestown RI, Audubon’s president, reminded members that birds are indicators of health in the environment.

To save the size and diversity of bird population, it is critical to prevent the fragmentation of forests, Craig said.

His study of forest birds and their surroundings revealed the links between bird populations and habitat. “Extensive forests host the most diversity,” he said. Citing Rhode Island’s Arcadia Management Area and State Forest (which abuts Connecticut’s Pachaug State Forest) Craig said such vast tracts must be saved now, when they contain trees as old as 300 years as well as farm land.

To complete his study, Craig walked more than 1,000 miles and made 50,172 birds observation of 87 species. He examined 17,760 habitat sites.

A weekend for wildflowers and Harvestival

beach roses and daisiesIf you love wildflowers, this is the perfect time to saunter along southern New England’s coast. Inland in Massachusetts, Tower Hill Botanic Garden is celebrating Harvestival in its gardens and orchard.

beach rose croppedMontauk daisies, coastal goldenrod, and asters are among autumn’s wildflower display along the beaches of Cape Cod and Rhode Island this week. Some beach roses (pictured here) are still in blossom, and there is a bumper crop of rose hips to pick for vitamin-rich jelly. It may be a little late for beach plums, but Penny, my Brittany, and I are going to try to find some today.

One of the most beautiful displays of wild Montauk daisies is on the western side of the  Quonochontaug Breachway in Charlestown, RI.

Poison ivy, with leaves in every shade of red, is spectacular along the beaches and back roads now.

glasswort croppedIn the salt marshes, delicious glasswort (pictured at left) is changing from chartreuse to brilliant magenta now.

If cultivated gardens and orchards are more appealing to you, visit Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, MA during the three-day Columbus Day holiday. Harvestival, a family event, features kids activities, tours and more. Our favorite activity is the tour of the apple orchard which has the largest collection of heirloom apples in New England. There are opportunities to taste various varieties, and then purchase them.

Tower Hill will be open Saturday through Monday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admitance for non-member adults is $12, $9 for elders, and $7 for children between 6 and 18. Youngsters under 6 are admitted for free.

It’s Walktober in The Last Green Valley

Farmers Market at the Nathan Hale Homestead

Farmers Market at the Nathan Hale Homestead

It’s Walktober, a celebration of The Last Green Valley, in southern Massachusetts and eastern Connecticut, along the  Rhode Island border.

The 23rd edition of Walktober features scores of walks and paddle trips among natural wonders and important historical sites from Sturbridge, MA to Griswold, CT.

Sunday, we visited the Coventry CT Farmers Market at the Nathan Hale Homestead (pictured above), and walked around a bit through the rain. It was wet and muddy, but several children had a blast in the puddles. (And the farmers market was wonderful.)

Walktober includes 106 walks, hikes, paddles and bike rides as well as 36 events that highlight the cultural, historic or natural resources of The Last Green Valley.  The Walktober Calendar labels each walk as easy, moderate, or difficult. Many offerings are geared specifically for families with children. The family dog is welcome at pet-friendly walks. Adventurers will enjoy 13 paddles and three bike rides included in this year’s schedule. To download the schedule as a PDF file, click here.

Walktober is such a gift!

Tomaquag Brook gets a new bridge, extending trail

New bridge croppedMembers of the Hopkinton Land Trust in southern Rhode Island are building a bridge crossing Tomaquag Brook, one of the prettiest little streams in the state.

The new wooden bridge extends the white-blazed trail on the Grills Sanctuary. Earlier this year, a metal pedestrian bridge over the Pawcatuck River was completed; it connects the Grills Preserve in Westerly to the sanctuary in Hopkinton.

RI’s Giant Pumpkin Championship Oct. 12

The 20th annual Southern New England Giant Pumpkin Championship returns Saturday, Oct. 12 at Frerichs Farm in Warren, RI. Unloading of the biggest pumpkins grown in the area will begin at 9:30 a.m. The weigh-off will begin at 12 p.m., and the winning pumpkin will be weighed at approximately 3 p.m. In case of rain, the championship will take place on Sunday, Oct.13.

Refreshments will be available, a “pumpkin coach” will shuttle people around, and corn and hay bale mazes will challenge adults and children alike. The ever-popular “pumpkin drop” will highlight the start of the event. There will be pumpkin-painting booths for the kids and numerous tents with seasonal arts and crafts, gifts, and products available for purchase. It is recommended that the public bring lawn chairs or blankets on which to sit during the weigh-off.

The event is sponsored by the Southern New England Giant Pumpkin Growers Association, the Department of Environmental Management’s Division of Agriculture, and Frerichs Farm and Greenhouses to determine the largest pumpkin grown in the area each year and to crown an annual local champion. This is the 20th consecutive year that the contest has been held.

At last year’s contest, Ron Wallace of Greene, RI had the largest Rhode Island-grown pumpkin weighing in at 1,872 pounds. Ron also grew the world-record pumpkin in 2012 weighing in at 2,009 pounds; this pumpkin was shown at the Topsfield Fair in Massachusetts. Wallace’s world-record pumpkin was the first pumpkin every grown in the world that topped one ton.

Frerichs Farm charges a $5 parking fee for the event. Those interested in competing in this year’s event or receiving additional information should contact Barbara Frerichs at (401) 245-8245. In case of rain, please call Frerichs Farm to confirm the date of the event.

Directions to Frerichs Farm from Providence or Fall River: Take Route 195 to the Route 136, Warren/Newport Exit (this is Exit 2 in Massachusetts). Follow Route 136 South across Route 6 for two miles to Schoolhouse Road on the left. Take Schoolhouse Road for one mile to Kinnicutt Avenue (right at the fork) and proceed to Frerichs Farm on the right.

Directions to Frerichs Farm from the Mount Hope Bridge: Take Route 136 North to Route 103/Child Street on the right. Follow Child Street one mile to Kinnicutt Avenue on the left and follow to Frerichs Farm on the left.

Places to hike or paddle for leaf peeping now

pawcatuck autumnFall colors are flowing through southern New England now. Along some streams and through many beaver ponds, autumn colors are at their peak, so it’s a great time to pck up the paddling gear and go for a boat ride.

In southern Rhode Island and eastern Connecticut, the Pawcatuck River is aflame in some places. The stretch between the Bradford fishing area (pictured above) and the Burdickville Bridge is stunning, and the foliage should be even more brilliant this weekend.

In the Arcadia Management Area, near the Connecticut – Rhode Island border, Breakheart Pond is one of the first ponds to display color in the fall. Nearby, the shores of the Wood River are beginning to show their autumn colors and scarlet cardinal flowers are still in bloom in some spots.

Too shallow to paddle, the Falls River has a lovely hiking trail to Stepstone Falls, a scenic place for a picnic beneath fall foliage. It is off Route 165, a short way from the Connecticut – Rhode Island border.

Together, Pachaug State Forest and Arcadia Management Area offer thousands of acres and miles of trails and streams with free access for a autumn adventure.

First day of fall is a beauty

Donn on Shaw Pond croppedThe first day of autumn dawned in rain in southern New England, but by noon, the rain clouds had disappeared. This afternoon is perfect for a hike or paddle beneath brilliant blue skies with a light breeze.

Tomaquag Trail first day of fallMy wife Marie and I headed for the Tomaquag Trail in Hopkinton RI (at right) with our Brittany, Penny. It was lovely, especially now that all of last winter’s storm damage has been cleared. Several stretches of the white-blazed trail are wide enough for two hikers to walk side by side. The trails are all flat and easy, but exposed roots make them inaccessible to wheelchairs or strollers. Click here for great guide to many of Rhode Island’s trails and paddling spots.

To the north, foliage is beginning to take on its autumn colors. The first fall pastels are visible from the Massachusetts Turnpike near Jacob’s Ladder. And maples near streams and ponds are very red.

Friday, my brother Donn (pictured above) and I paddled Shaw Pond in Becket and Otis MA where we spent our summers as kids, and saw some lovely scenery. It will be even brighter next weekend. Click here for a guide to outdoor activities in the Berkshires.

ICYMI Fiddle n Folk Fest will return to Barrington #RI

Bay Spring Folk playing Star of the County Down in Haines State Park

In case you missed the news,  Local Brew Events presents the third annual Fiddle n Folk Fest, a free event in Haines State Park (near the marina) in Barrington RI tomorrow, Sept. 15, from noon to 6 p.m. Last year’s event drew many foot-tapping, hand-clapping music lovers from throughout southern New England. This year promises another great lineup of musicians including:

*Bob Drouin & Rich Horwitz
*KC Moaners
*Janos Perge
*Bluegrass Invitation Band
*French Roast with Michelle, Alan, and Rachel
*Andy Grover
*Hollow Turtle
*Sunday Night Jammers
*Emmalee Holmes-Hicks with Rachel Panitch
*Bay Spring Folk and of course,
*Old Fiddlers Club of Rhode Island

Join the fiddle workshops from 10 to11 (Cajun Fiddle by Michelle Kaminsky) and 11- noon (Improvisation Games by Rachel Panitch). Sign up for these workshops at at Craft vendors, food trucks, and kids activities will round out the day. The day’s events are free, thanks to generous sponsorship from RI State Council on the Arts, Wildflour Vegan Bakery, Barrington Public Library, The Bay Team, Bay Spring Community Center, Barrington Parks and Recreation, and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

Discover 825 miles of trails in southern New England

Connecticut residents, and the rest of us who live in nearby Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island, are lucky to be near the Nutmeg State’s Blue Blazed Hiking Trails. They cover 825 miles and pass through 88 towns. This video is a great introduction to some of the hiking possibilities.

Help hummingbirds by keeping feeders filled

Perhaps the action at your hummingbird feeder has slowed down with the slightly cooler New England weather recently, but the folks at Wild Birds Unlimited in Warwick RI remind us that all the birds haven’t left yet.

“Now is a crucial time for migrating hummingbirds to stop for a refueling on their journey south,” the WBU staff says. “Even if your resident birds have left the neighborhood, you may get some very hungry migrants. Your feeder could mean the difference between them making it or not.

“Watch for overnight frost when you should bring the feeder in at night and put it back out in the morning.” 

Members of the Bailey Brook Farm family

Members of the Bailey Brook Farm family.

Bailey Brook Farm in East Greenwich, RI has been named state’s 2013 Outstanding Dairy Farm of the Year by the Rhode Island Green Pastures Committee. Winning dairy farmers from each New England state will be honored at an awards banquet on September 13 at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, MA.

The Rhode Island Green Pastures Committee chose Bailey Brook Farm because of its outstanding relationship with the community, use of good management practices, and commitment to ensuring a viable agricultural industry in the West Bay. The farm is owned by three siblings – Rodney Bailey of East Greenwich, Gladys Bailey of East Greenwich, and Priscilla Crofts of North Stonington, CT.

Since 1980, Bailey Brook Farm has been a member of Agri-Mark Cooperative, the regional dairy cooperative which owns the Cabot brand, which picks up their milk every day and markets it to customers in southern New England. Some of their milk is also sold locally under the Rhody Fresh brand in conjunction with seven other local farms.

Rodney and Judy Bailey have been members of Rocky Hill Grange for more than 50 years, and have been very active in their local community. Judy served on the East Greenwich Town Council from 1990-1994, on the RI Agricultural Lands Preservation Commission for 18 years, and was a member of the RI State Board of Elections for 10 years. The couple has four children.

Dig this: New potatoes are ready

potatoes crop

It’s time to dig up new potatoes here in southern New England. Of three varieties we planted, Adirondack Red was the most productive and flavorful. It’s a pretty potato, too, with bright red skin and a bit of pink inside.

We made warm potato salad withabout two pounds of boiled potatoes, chives, tarragon, parsley and thyme from the garden, tossed with a little wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Here’s a recipe for roasted new-potato salad that appeared in Southern Living magazine.

Enchanting gardens near the sea

Weekapaug chapel

Weekapaug Chapel, a centerpiece of peace

post-card-front-231x300Visit the seaside gardens of two of Rhode Island’s most lovely neighborhoods, Weekapaug and Shelter Harbor, Saturday June 13 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The fundraising tour directly supports the work and mission of the Jonnycake Center in Westerly. The Jonnycake Center strives “to provide a continuum of services in cooperation with other agencies in our service area to assist people through crisis situations and to work with each individual to find a path out of dependency toward self-sufficiency.”

Tickets cost $20 in advance, and may be purchased online or by calling Lynn Naccarato, (401) 377- 8069 ext. 3. Day-of tickets may be purchased at 12 Wagner Road (adjacent to the Shelter Harbor Inn on Route 1) for $25.

The first country fair of the season opens Thursday

Norwich Bullwtin video

The first country fair of the season in southern New England opens Thursday through Sunday, July 11-14 in North Stonington, Conn.

New this year will be miniature horses, donkeys, llama and camel rides.

Old favorites will return including tractor and draftt-animal pulls, livestock competition, and great country fair food.

The fair is small enough to be covered in an evening after work,

The fair queen pageant is scheduled for Thursday at 8 p.m. There will be live music daily and karaoke every night.

Admission costs $8 for an adult, $5 for a senior citizen on Saturday only. Children younger than 12 are admitted for free.

The fairgrounds are on Wyassup Road, off Route 2, near Exit 92, off Interstate Route 95.

Here’s a full calendar of Connecticut fairs this year.

Turkey Chicks take women outdoors

Women in the Outdoors 2012

Women in the Outdoors 2012

wito shooterWomen from all over Rhode Island and central Massachusetts are expected to attend Women in the Outdoors, Saturday, July 20 at the Auburn Sportsmen’s Club in Auburn, Mass., according to Jessica Pena, president of the Turkey Chicks Rhode Island chapter.

We are co-hosting our ladies outreach event with the Central Massachusetts Chapter,” she said. “I have been working hard promoting the event around Rhode Island. We already have over 50 ladies registered and are expecting 100 ladies for this fun event.”

Turkey Chicks is part of the National Wild Turkey Federation, a group whose local chapters do a great deal of conservation and education work in southern New England.

Women in the Outdoors will offer 26 classes during the day, starting at 7 a.m. They include fly fishing, self defense, photography, shooting, trapping, canning and more.

The cost is $65 for women older than 18 and $40 for girls from 13 to 17. Pena said the fee covers an annual membership, a light breakfast, hearty lunch and four class choices. Equipment, ammunition, and other gear will be provided, and everyone who attends will receive a souvenir, Pena said. Overnight camping with dinner is optional.

To register, contact Keith Fritze at (774) 272-1274 or

wito paddler crop

Lambsquarter: one of nature’s most delicious greens


Lambs quarters grow everywhere in New England

Lambsquarters grow everywhere in New England

Call it lambsquarters, white goosefoot or pigweed.

We call it supper. Chenopodium album is one of the most common weeds in New England, and one of the most delicious. It tastes like spinach, only better.

It is a member of the Chenopodiaceae or goosefoot family, so it is related to quinoa, beets and spinach.

It is high in Vitamins A and C, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, manganese, potassium and iron.

Ancient people revered it, according to the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. English writer Audrey Wynne Hatfield in How to Enjoy Your Weeds says that lambsquarters were “once the most valued vegetable for human beings and fodder for their animals.”

Lambsquarters must be cooked to reveal its incredible flavor. Raw, it is bland and its powdery leaf feels a little weird. Cook it as you would spinach. It’s great sauteed in olive oil with a little water or wine, plus salt. Add nettles to the pan for more flavor and nutrition.

Before eating any wild, foraged foods, be certain of what you have collected.

Bonsai show at Tower Hill this weekend

bonsaiHere’s one not to miss on this first weekend of summer:

Talented bonsai artists from New England will display their best work at Tower Hill Botanic Garden Saturday and Sunday, June 22 and 23, and compete in a judged show. Accomplished bonsai growers will present an impressive display of this ancient art form.

Learn to start and care for your own bonsai collection. Vendors will sell plant material, pots and accessories.