You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2010.

I came across this fern, set off by itself, and it caught my attention

In many ways I’m a hopeless generalist. One of the things I don’t know much about are ferns, but I find them interesting. Identifying them can be a little daunting.

I came across this fern down in the swamp below my house, a little off my regular walking trail. It was in shady, moist – though not wet – woods, somewhat uphill of the wetter areas. Rocky but not dry soil.

I’m thinking it’s either one of the spleenworts or a polypody. Maybe someday I’ll be able to figure it out. I have a copy of Cobb’s Field Guide to the Ferns which contains excellent illustrations and explanations. But even with that at my side, I’m still uncertain.

Anyway, I just thought I’d share it.


Nottingcook Forest in Bow, NH, is a piece of town-owned land meant for people enjoy – hiking, canoeing, picnicking. Some people have other uses. They dump rubbish there, apparently mistaking it for the town dump. Four-wheelers like to drive around the place tearing things up.

The local snowmobile club, with the approval of the town, spent several thousand dollars to put up gates and signs to limit access. Two weeks after they were up, vandals destroyed them. The club has put them back up.

Now some residents who live on the far side of the forest say the gates cut off their access to the center of town. They suggest keeping the gates unlocked, and having people report any unwanted activity.

That would be nice, if it would work. They should give it a try.

Unfortunately, by the time anyone can respond, the damage is done and the perpetrators are long gone. That’s been the experience elsewhere.

Without being too scientific about it, I was under the impression that there was a fair amount of public support for wind energy here in Massachusetts. And what’s not to like about it?

No need for oil spills, no need for mountaintop removal to get at the coal, no radioactive fuel rods to store for the next millennium, no greenhouse grass emissions. Other places – Texas and parts of Europe – have jumped into wind power with both feet.

Here in Massachusetts, things have been a bit slow getting off the ground. There are only 22 licensed wind turbines in the state. Gov. Patrick would like to see that number increase to 3,000 in a few years. The proposed wind farm in Nantucket Sound has been stalled for 10 years. Residents are fighting smaller facilities in Brimfield, Munroe, and a few other places. There’s opposition to an offshore wind farm in Rhode Island, too.

It seems that while a lot people like the idea of wind power, they’d like it to be someplace else.

I’m not sure that large-scale wind farms are the way to go, unless they’re comfortably offshore. They seem to be successful in northern Europe, where there are several, and several more being planned. A large land-based wind farm may not be appropriate here in Massachusetts. I do think smaller-scale projects should be encouraged.

The town of Princeton has two or three located on Mount Wachusett that provides a generous amount of power for the town. They recently upgraded to newer models to produce even more power. I’ve hiked around there, looked around at the older ones when they were operating (I’ve haven’t yet been up to see the newer ones) and my impression was that they were pretty unobtrusive.

I think it would be an entirely different matter if someone decided to try to put up a couple dozen wind turbines on the mountainside. That would be intrusive.

No method of generating electricity is perfect. There are going to be trade-offs. As long as we have an appetite for inexpensive power, we’ll have to accept those trade-offs.

The growing opposition, even to small-scale wind power development, is an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

Bucky Dumaine's Headstone and memorial stone benches

I had always thought it was private property, maybe a part of the nearby Groton School. After all, no signs point to it. From the road, it’s just a brick wall and a wrought-iron fence.

But there always seemed to be cars parked outside the fence, several, and generally didn’t seem to be the same ones. So finally my curiosity got the better of me, and went to check it out.

I had found The Groton Place.

It’s a curious place.

It looks like part of an estate, because that’s what it used to be – part of the estate of Frederick “Buck” Dumaine. Today, its 54 acres and 150 acres of the adjoining Sabine Woods are managed by the New England Forestry Foundation, and open to the public. Wide, well-tended paths wind through the area, including about a half-mile along the east bank of the Nashua River.

Crossing a small bridge between the main gate and the grounds, the first thing you see is a memorial to the fox hunts that were held here during the first half of the 20th century. Dumaine and his favorite horse, “Pat Rooney” are buried on a spot overlooking the river. Dumaine’s stone just carries his years 1866-1951.

There’s no other information about him anywhere on the grounds.

A quick internet search doesn’t give us much more.

The family money came from the Amoskeag Mills in Manchester, NH. He also became a railroad tycoon. He’s characterized as a sportsman and aggressive businessman. Other than that, no one seems to have anything nice to say about him.

Not exactly a wild place, because of all the past plantings and landscaping, but as the years have gone by, it has become less groomed, giving it a forlorn look. Still, an interesting place for a walk.

The Nashua River in Groton

I came across a nice trail that runs along the bank of the Nashua River in Groton. Walking there now, it was difficult to recall that much of where I was had been under water when I first came here in the spring.

Today was different. Late-summer warm, the river quiet, hardly seeming to flow at all. People walking their dogs. Families canoeing down the river.

I had hoped to do some birding, but there was a bit too much activity. Still, it was a pleasant afternoon walk to be in among tall trees and the river.

It was a time and a place given over to contemplation.

Not long ago I read of a study that established (as if they needed to!) that walking out in nature can change a person’s moods. That’s certainly true for me.

I went in feeling the crush of all those things that need doing, scolding myself for taking the time for a walk when I should be getting something done. By the time I finished, everything was back in perspective, and I felt energized, ready to plunge on.

Is this a Fowler's Toad?

I came across this little guy while walking at the Flat Rock Wildlife Sanctuary in Fitchburg, Mass., not too long ago. He was quite small, maybe an inch long at most, fairly light brown.

Looking at the markings, he seems to be a Fowler’s toad, a bit less common than the American toad, but I don’t think it’s a threatened species.

He was in dry rocky area off the old Scott Road. He was pretty well camouflaged, but a slight movement caught my eye.

It’s getting to be an exercise in mass denial.

Today’s Providence Journal carries an article about this year’s unusually early harvest. Pumpkins are ripening way ahead of schedule. So are apples. Lots of things are.

“Don’t hasten to point the finger at global warming,” warns the reporter. To be fair, he’s not the only one.

June 2007, in American Scientist “researchers say that global warming has nothing to do with the decline in ice at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.”

February 2009, in a piece about the rise in temperatures in Florida cities in “It’s hot, but don’t blame global warming.”

June 22, 2010 “leading scientists say the idea of blaming global warming on El Nino doesn’t look so hot.”

January 2010 “don’t blame California storms on global warming.”

September 2006 “Don’t blame the sun for global warming.”

The lesson from all this?

If the Patriots don’t win the Super Bowl, whatever you do, don’t blame global warming.

Even though there’s a law prohibiting ATVs from driving on public and conservation properties, even though there are signs prohibiting driving on such trails, even though fines for violating those laws have been increased, it just doesn’t seem to make any difference.

ATV riders continue to tear down the signs, vandalize the property, and as for the law, they just ignore that.

The most recent account comes from Westminster, Mass.

A story in today’s Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise describes the plight of people trying to protect the trails at the town’s conservation and recreation areas.

Gov. Deval Patrick signed the new Massachusetts law July 31. It attempts to bring ATV use under some form of control. It’s a good idea, and a good law. Other New England states are wrestling with the same problem.

Enforcement is the issue. Local and state police officers have more important things to do than chasing after some ATVs.

Maybe it’s time for citizen action, in the form of photographing and/or filming ATVs and vehicles carrying ATVs at restricted areas, and filing complaints with the local conservation and/or police station. Would it be possible to get them to issue summons? Even if it’s not enough to formally prosecute, maybe the hassle would be enough to sow down the destruction.

Just a thought.

New leaves sprout from what's left of a splintered trunk

I came across this tree as I was walking along the White Rock Trail at the Flat Rock Wildlife Sanctuary in Fitchburg, Mass.
I’m not sure exactly what happened, but something shattered what looks like a Swamp White Oak. Other trees were down around it, in a fairly small area, but whether it was an ice-storm or maybe a micro-burst I couldn’t tell.

What first attracted me was the splintering of the trunk, and then I noticed the sprouts of new leaves along what was left of it.

Now I’m wondering what it will look like in another few years.

Flint’s Pond in Hollis, NH, isn’t a big pond, only about 48 acres, but it has a big problem, one plaguing many New England ponds and lakes: Eurasian milfoil. Once the invasive weed takes hold, it pretty much chokes out everything else.

A few years ago the Army Corps of Engineers estimated it would cost $9 million to dredge the pond – a lot more than the town could spend. But if nothing was done, the pond would eventually disappear, first becoming a swamp, then eventually a forest.

The town did approve some money for hydro-raking, which will at least clear up the pond for a time. And there are recommendations that they treat the pond with an herbicide to keep the weeds from growing back. In any case, they may have to keep coming back, raking up the weeds every few years.

Opinion in the town is divided. Some say the ones to foot the bill should be the ones who live around the pond, since they’re the only ones who benefit, and town money would be better spent elsewhere.

Those are hard issues, and it’s up to the people in Hollis to make those decisions. I would just say that some things are worth doing, even if everyone doesn’t get a direct benefit.

For now, they’re doing what they can, it’ll do some good for awhile, buy the pond some time until they figure out what to do. I think they’re doing the right thing.

Nature Blog Network


RSS The Ecocryptic

  • Maine DEP update July 31, 2013
    Maine Department of Environmental Protection has reversed itself and will schedule a public hearing on proposed changes to the state's clean air standards. No date has been set.Environmental groups, legislators, and the general public were outraged when the Portland Press Herald reported yesterday that the state agency had tried to sneak through the cha […]
  • At Maine’s DEP, it’s the fox guarding the henhouse July 30, 2013
    What happens when you put an industry lobbyist in charge of environmental protection? Just take a look at what’s going on in Maine. According to an article in today’s Portland Press-Herald, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection wants to weaken the state’s clean-air regulations, and they don’t want anyone to know about it.No public hearings have […]
  • Northern Pass Rears Its Ugly Head (Again) July 15, 2013
    Despite massive public opposition, significantly over-budget, and three years behind schedule,  the CEO of the Northern Pass Project vows the controversial high voltage transmission line will be built.The project is a 180-mile power line that would bring power from Canada to New England. It first came to the attention of environmentalists and others when the […]
  • Stung by Criticism, Utilities Go on Tree-Cutting Rampage August 11, 2012
    Here in the northeast, we’ve been hit by a succession of “weather events” – ice storms, wind-storms, hurricanes, early snowfall, late snowfall. Each one offered the utility companies serving this area to demonstrate once again that they were completely unprepared. In each case, customers in the most advanced country in the world were left without power for w […]
  • Victory for the Blackstone: Court backs EPA, Worcester must stop dumping sewage into river August 7, 2012
    Score one for the Blackstone River, and all the people who care about it. The U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals has lifted a stay of enforcement of an EPA order that will force upgrades at the Upper Blackstone Water Pollution Abatement district sewage treatment plant, according to an article in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.The problem is a simple o […]
  • NH Senate Denies Eminent Domain for Northern Pass – Or Does It? January 30, 2012
    Under intense public scrutiny, the New Hampshire Senate last week approved a bill that supposedly sets limits on the use of eminent domain to seize property for public projects and excludes using it for privately-funded projects. That would seem to exclude the controversial Northern Pass project, a proposed 180-mile transmission line that would bring hydroel […]
  • Northern Pass Developers Pushing State To Take Land By Force January 24, 2012
    Ever since the controversy began over the construction of a new transmission line to bring power from Canada into New Hampshire slicing through some of that state’s most scenic landscape, the backers of the project have been quietly lobbying for eminent domain powers to force reluctant landowners along the proposed route to sell.The issue gets its first real […]
  • The Balsams Landscape Has Been Saved! January 15, 2012
    Every once in a while the good guys win one.The Society for the Preservation of New Hampshire Forests has reached its goal of raising $850,000 to buy a 5,800-acre parcel of land near the famous Balsams Grand Hotel in Dixville Notch, NH. They made the announcement in a statement yesterday on their website.The land was considered a key piece on the proposed ro […]
  • Worcester officials cite city parks to defend continued pollution of Blackstone River December 29, 2011
    I was trying to find a short, pithy way of describing the gist of an article that appeared in today’s Worcester (Mass.) Telegram & Gazette.Here’s the story.The Blackstone River has its source in Worcester and flows through Rhode Island into Narragansett Bay. Since colonial times, residents and businesses have regarded it as their personal sewage system. […]
  • Slick media campaign hides the dark side of Northern Pass October 23, 2011
    The campaign to approve the billion-dollar plan to bring hydroelectric power from Canada to New England is in full swing. The home page for the project features pictures of all the things we like about New Hampshire, things like pristine lakes and woods. What it doesn’t show are the 140 miles of transmission lines criss-crossing the White Mountains, with 135 […]

RSS Martin Laine – Digital Journal

  • Giant tortoise species brought back from brink of extinction
    A species of Galapagos giant tortoises that numbered just 15 individuals 50 years ago, now has a healthy breeding population numbering over a thousand. The news is a rare bright spot at a time when the outlook for many species is increasingly bleak.
  • Stockholm’s backseat therapists to help battle ‘winter blues’
    As the months of extended darkness loom in the northern latitudes, so does the lethargy and depression known as “winter blues.” One Stockholm taxicab company is offering to have a therapist talk with their passengers during their ride.
  • New home colon cancer test goes on the market today
    Beginning today, a new home test for colorectal cancer will be available by prescription. The hope is that the millions of Americans who have been avoiding the unpleasant alternative testing methods will take advantage of it.
  • Heart transplant breakthrough could make more hearts available
    Surgeons in Australia have successfully transplanted hearts that had stopped beating, a major breakthrough in the process that had usually used only beating hearts. This could significantly increase the number of hearts available for transplantation.
  • Denmark rolls out the welcome mat for returning Jihadists
    While officials in many western countries are wringing their hands over what to do about those citizens who want to return after fighting with one of the extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, Denmark welcomes its returning Jihadists with open arms.
  • 'Let me survive this' says fugitive cop-killer lookalike
    Pity James Tully who has the misfortune of resembling Eric Frein, the object of a massive manhunt following the ambush shooting of two police officers six weeks ago, and who lives in Canadensis, Pa., the epicenter of the search.
  • Nine in Conn. ordered quarantined, monitored for Ebola
    Nine people, including a family of six, have been ordered to stay in their homes for the next three weeks while public health officials check for signs that they have contracted the Ebola virus. None of them have shown any signs of the illness so far.
  • Mass. stool bank offers donors $40 a poop
    Ever since the discovery that healthy human stool bacteria could be used to cure such debilitating diseases as colitis, the medical profession has struggled with two problems — collecting a sufficient supply and finding a way to get it into a patient.
  • Chinese officials scramble to find Putin’s tiger before poachers
    Kuzya, a 23-month-old orphaned Siberian tiger that Russian President Vladimir Putin helped release back into the wild in May, has crossed into China. The last thing Chinese officials want is for Kuzya to fall victim to poachers.
  • Trial raises questions over Navy's order for silencers
    What started out as an investigation into an alleged contract fraud scheme by a U.S. Navy directorate involving untraceable rifle silencers has raised questions about whether they were part of a secret mission or rogue operation.