Are you responsible for the latest oil spill?

According to the National Academy of Sciences, oil equivalent of an Exxon Valdez oil spill is released into the environment from cars every eight months. This equals 10.9 million gallons of petroleum entering sensitive ecosystems and this number only includes discharges in the United States! So, that rainbow sheen you see running from underneath your car or in the parking lot of your local shopping center is responsible for polluting local streams and rivers.

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Oil entering the environment as runoff from streets, driveways and parking is extremely detrimental to local watersheds. It comes in the form of car exhaust, tire wear, metals, oil leaking from engines, and improper disposal of oils and lubricants. The amount of pollutants has grown due to the rising demand for cars, and the increased stormwater produced in urban and suburban places. This is bad news for vulnerable ecosystems, such as rivers, lakes and coastal habitats, where much water pollution often ends up. In addition to cars, oil pollution is common from boating activity. This petroleum hydrocarbon pollution from motor vehicles is expected to continue growing in the upcoming years with global urbanization.

Impervious surfaces are partly to blame. When stormwater is unable to infiltrate, it collects pollutants on the surface of streets and parking areas, which are carried into storm drain systems. Storm drains release this polluted runoff into local waters and wreak havoc on the plants and animals. Oil spills are well-known to have detrimental effects on birds, plants, and fish. It is also increasingly important to ensure cars and engines do not leak and stormwater runoff is reduced to avoid damages to fragile ecosystems.



Living with Coyotes

Coyotes can be a cause of fascination and concern.  The  70th Anniversary Meeting of the Worcester County Conservation District will feature a presentation about coyotes at the Rutland Library.   This October 28 meeting will include a pot luck dinner before the 7 pm discussion of coyotes.

coyote blogMarion Larson of the MA Division of Fisheries & Wildlife will talk about our largest wild canid (dog) and answer many of the common questions about these animals.  Learn how to keep coyotes, pets and people at a respectful distance.

The pot luck dinner will be at 6 pm.  Please bring your favorite entrée or salad but avoid foods with nuts.  The Worcester District will supply beverages, paper products and dessert.

Please RSVP by October 21st to Lisa (508) 829-4477 ext. 5 or email:  The Rutland Free Public Library is located at 280 Main Street, Rutland, MA.

Fauna Friendly Yards

Labor Day began winding down a season of garden delights.  Summer flowers have gone but cheerful late bloomers will keep bees busy a while: pink Turtlehead, lavender Obedient Plant,  golden Rudbeckia, many Asters & Anemone, a few Phlox, and Oak Leaf Hydrangea blossoms fading to pale violet.

IMG_0367-Pat Hayes

Pat Hayes photo

It’s been great seeing varied wildlife in the yard this summer. Melodic song birds as well as raucous calls of crows, blue jays and wrens greeting the dawn.  Each day, our yard had scores of birds flitting between flowers, feeders, shrubs and trees: chickadees, titmice, finches, cardinals, grosbeaks, woodpeckers, flycatchers, doves, hummingbirds and more.  At dusk, bats were catching mosquitos and sometimes we enjoyed an owl hooting.

Also darting and swooping among flowers, shrubs and trees were myriad insects, including a dozen kinds of butterflies as well as dragonflies, damselflies, caddisflies, wasps, bees, ladybugs, beetles and crickets.  On the ground are bold chipmunks, stealthy moles, wily squirrels and curious cottontails.  Along with an occasional red fox stalking them.   All part of this amazing ecosystem.

Earlier this year, we certified our backyard habitat with the National Wildlife Federation’s global network of mini-refuges. It required a small fee and a few minutes to answer questions about food, shelter and water to sustain wildlife.  The NWF also offers plenty of tips for the essential elements of a healthy backyard habitat.

Fall is a fine time to enhance wildlife habitat in your yard.  Planting shrubs and trees will offer flowers and berries next year. Planting evergreens and creating brush piles can provide shelter over winter.  For more interesting ideas, visit

Nature at The Clark

Enjoyed the amazing exhibit “Van Gogh and Nature” at The Clark Art Institute.  As the museum’s website explains “For Vincent van Gogh, nature was the defining subject of his art. Over the course of his short but intense working life, Van Gogh studied and depicted nature in all its forms—from the minutiae of insects and birds’ nests to the most sweeping of panoramic landscapes—creating a body of work that revolutionized the representation of the natural world at the end of the nineteenth century.”  This unique Van Gogh exhibit will continue thru September 13 with extended hours for Labor Day Weekend.


Connecticut River from French King Bridge

The Clark’s recent expansion added new facilities to the 140 acre grounds, which include walking trails, green roof systems, and new landscaping with permeable parking areas that feed into a stormwater collection system.  A drive along the Mohawk Trail (Route 2) to Williamstown offers a panorama from the French King Bridge; pastoral scenes along the Deerfield River valley; and views of Mount Greylock, the state highest peak.  It’s always a delightful trip.

Native Plants for our Rain Gardens

Rain gardens are strategically designed to soak up stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces such as pavement.  As such, the type of vegetation utilized in rain gardens is crucial to their success.  Native plants are preferred for use in rain gardens as these require the least maintenance, having already adapted to regional climatic patterns and rely on local insects.  Additionally, native plants are recommended species for bioswales and ecological landscaping.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center disseminates information regarding the conservation and sustainable use of native plants in North America.  Additionally, this resource provided by the University of Texas at Austin provides a list of plants native to different discrete geographic regions, their physical characteristics and growing conditions.

Native plant species suitable for rain gardens and other landscapes in Massachusetts include orange milkweed, cherry birch and blue mistflower (pictured below), along with over 100 other wildflower and tree species.


Blue mistflower, native to Massachusetts

To access the full list of native plants recommended for landscaping in Massachusetts visit:

Riverfests, Canoe Trips, Wildlife Tours and More


With summers arrival, there’s lots to do on local waters across the state.  The Division of Ecological Restoration has compiled a 2015 calendar of activities to celebrate rivers, streams and wetlands.

This calendar runs through July 5th with dozens of free events your family and friends can enjoy, such as canoe trips, kayaking, whitewater rafting, nature walks, bird watching and river cruises.

River/watershed organizations around the state are also hosting Riverfests with music, food, children’s’ activities and other fun stuff.

The DER calendar provides more details and links to events – this pdf can be downloaded at

great_blue_heron_210088[1]Great opportunities  to see some of the wonderful waters and wildlife in Massachusetts.

Celebrate Water!

With the return of balmy weather, it’s a perfect time to appreciate local waters.  Visit your favorite brook, stream, river, pond or lake.    Wonder at the intricate web of aquatic life – are mayflies hatching? are fish feeding on these nutritious tidbits?  And look for the aerobatics of bank swallows (Riparia riparia) – often the first sign of a hatch are swallows swooping above the water catching insects as they fly.  If you like, send a photo to and we’ll try to post your special place on this blog.view  Swift arch

Also celebrate water as part of Drinking Water Week.  Since 1988, the American Water Works Association and its members have celebrated drinking water during the first week in May.  An annual opportunity to recognize the vital benefits that safe healthy water provides for our communities.  For more info about your drinking water you can visit