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Wildlife/Animals

Tom Denney Nature Camp 2024 registration underway

It’s time to think summer! Ensure your children can be part of all the Tom Denney Nature Camp action! Campers enjoy getting out in nature, exploring, and learning new skills while bonding with friends and making new friends.

Tom Denney Nature Camp: Registration for Summer 2024 is now open! Register before April 1st and receive the Early Bird Discount! Here’s an overview of what to expect by age group:

Kindergarten – 5th grade: Games in the fields and woods. Swimming, Predator, and Prey (all-camp tag game), Amazing Race (physical & mental team challenges), arts & crafts, tracking, hiking, shelter building, campfires & more!

9 am – 3 pm (before and after care available)

6th -9th grades: Eco Adventures program with kayaking, laser tag, night camping & s’mores.

9 am – 3pm: (9 am – 10 pm on Thursdays for a night camping experience)

9th grade & above: Counselor-in-Training program (M-F 8:45 am – 3:15 pm)

Play games with campers and have fun with friends while gaining experience and volunteer/leadership hours. Involves an orientation and a minimum of two weeks of attendance.

For more info or to register for camp, see the Tom Denney Nature website: http://tdnc.boltonconservationtrust.org

Find TDNC on Facebook as well! https://www.facebook.com/TomDenneyNatureCamp

Monarch butterfly caterpillar makes its debut

If you’ve never seen a monarch caterpillar hatch, you’re certainly not alone. The eggs are about the size of the tip of a pencil. Yet a lot is going on inside!

Below is video taken (with a microscope attachment) as a baby caterpillar breaks out of its egg. It then eats the egg as its first meal.

We named this little guy Miles—inspired by the many miles monarchs travel on their trip to Mexico.

Miles’ egg was found on a plant growing next to a concrete parking lot in Sterling, MA. The egg was removed in case the plants were cut down, which they often are in parking lot cases. The shell darkens before hatching. That’s the caterpillar getting ready to break free.

Milkweed planting

After eating its eggshell, monarch caterpillars rely on milkweed plant leaves for all meals. Milkweeds are the only food for these caterpillars. There are a variety of types of milkweeds. If you order seeds, make sure to get milkweed plants that are native to your area.

Milkweed seeds can be planted in the fall and winter or placed in the fridge to mimic natural cold stratification. There are a number of great ‘how to’ videos to learn more about growing milkweed plants. 

Saving milkweed plants

It’s hard to tell how many monarch eggs or baby caterpillars like this are killed each year. They have a variety of predators. Habitat destruction and chemicals are a bigger threat to the species as a whole. The problem: they are often cut down as weeds, cleared for construction, or sprayed with chemicals.

Instead of clearing them or spraying them, consider planting native pollinator plants around them to give adult butterflies a great place to stop. Milkweed plants often have flowers that are pretty and complement other flowers well. 

Will a monarch lay eggs if you have a milkweed plant ready? It’s hard to tell as there are dwindling numbers of monarchs, which are endangered. Those who track monarchs say improving habitat is critical.

To create a habitat, avoid spraying the plants with chemicals or cutting them (you could be cutting off eggs or caterpillars; they are small!) and plant milkweed and other native pollinator plants that are protected from spraying or mowing.  

Monarch lifecycle

The monarch butterfly’s lifecycle is pretty amazing to watch. After hatching, monarch caterpillars go through weeks of rapid growth. They have to literally shed their skin to grow. This includes busting out of their little face masks. This video (still using a microscope camera) shows one of little Miles’ molting sessions.

Many baby caterpillars like Miles won’t make it due to habit loss or spraying. Here are some resources to learn more about how to help:

Mass Audubon

Xerces Society

Pollinator Partnership

Check back here in the coming weeks. We’ll post the video of Miles and friends as they continue their journey toward becoming butterflies. We’ll also look at the serious illness that is spreading among monarchs, why it can kill many, and what NOT to do if you see baby caterpillars. 

Also, if you love wildlife videos, check out the Bolton Trail Cam and Bower Springs beaver stories!

Bower Springs beaver—tail splash video

It appears that the early hiker or snowshoer catches the best view of wildlife in action.

“This was an early morning snowshoeing run with me and Kathy!” noted Bolton resident Elizabeth Davis-Edwards, who was out early at Bower Springs in Bolton with fellow Bolton resident Kathy Romeo.  “We got there at 6 am and were the first ones at Bower that morning.”

They may have surprised this Bolton beaver—with the surprise going both ways. See their video of the encounter:

Wonder why beavers slap the water with their tails? According to wildlife experts: “Beaver families are territorial and defend against other families. In order to warn family members of danger, beavers slap their tails against the water, creating a powerful noise.” See that information and more in this article:

9 Interesting Facts about Beavers

Bolton wildlife in action – Amazing trail cam footage

If you want to see Bolton wildlife in their natural setting, acting the way they would without human interference (aside from the camera), check out Bolton resident Keith Silver’s Still River Road trail cam episodes on YouTube. 

Here’s Keith Silver on how he got started: 

“Years ago I bought a cheap game camera on a lark.  The very first time I downloaded the photos off of it there was a bobcat right in front of the camera and I was hooked.  I’ve lived at my property on the Still River for over 30 years and I’m amazed at the variety of animals that the cameras capture that I’ve never seen with my eyes.  It’s a fun hobby but can be frustrating – like sorting through 300 movies of a weed blowing in the wind or two bucks fighting but only capturing the back half of one of them because the camera needed to be pointed a few feet to the right.  Still waiting to get a moose….”

Keith adds: “All of my movies are from my property on Still River Rd. I have 3 of them so far posted on YouTube. If you search on YouTube for “Bolton MA game camera” you should find them.”

Watch for more posts and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more Bolton animal adventures!

Viewing tip: Click the broken square to the right of the YouTube logo on the video to switch to full-screen video.

Rainy nights are treacherous for tiny travelers

[UPDATE: 3/27/23: Warmer temperatures and rain lead to more movement. There have already been several recent nights of the movement of frogs and salamanders. That’s expected to continue.]

[UPDATE: 3/23/23: With warmer temperatures, if it rains, experts are expecting movement tonight and on wet nights in the coming weeks. Their advice: watch the roadways to allow the amphibians to cross safely.]

[The story below is from March 19, 2022, but sums up the problems of car versus amphibian]:

—— 

Rainy spring nights can be a very dangerous time for our local amphibians who have to cross roadways to get to their vernal pool breeding grounds. Many don’t make it. If it’s a warm, rainy night in March or April, there’s a good chance there are frogs and salamanders traveling back and forth. The signed areas are the heaviest crossing locations, but not the only ones.

This Blue-spotted/Jefferson hybrid salamander was among the casualties on the first migration night—March 7, 2022—in Bolton. Environmental scientist Jonathan Shuster, who lives in Bolton, had been working to help amphibians cross that night and found her injured—clipped in the head and jaw by a car. 

“She was technically still alive, but not a very good prognosis,” noted Shuster, who has worked with amphibians for years. “I placed her in the vernal pool that she was headed towards. Who knows maybe she will live long enough to breed, but I doubt it.”  

A Blue-spotted/Jefferson hybrid salamander hit by a car in Bolton was not expected to survive her injuries.

According to Mass Audubon, Jefferson salamanders are ‘Listed as “Special Concern” under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act.’ The organization notes that ‘It’s illegal to kill, harass, collect, or possess this salamander.’ Of course, the driver would not have seen it. Though it is possible if you drive very slowly in the rain, with high beams on, to notice movement – even tiny spring peepers. So it’s worth it to drive slowly and let them pass. 

Volunteers often come out near the signed areas to help – bringing buckets, gloves, flashlights, and wearing reflective clothing. The goal is to help them cross in the direction they are going before a car comes along. 

Vehicles ultimately crush many amphibians each year. Combined with habitat loss, pesticides, and pollution, it’s putting pressure on many species. Here’s how to help: drive slowly or avoid driving in vernal pool areas on rainy spring nights. The National Wildlife Federation also has 5 tips to make your own property more amphibian friendly. 

One of the signs currently posted to encourage motorists to slow down