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2019 December Newsletter

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obelia cardinalis, “Cardinal Lobelia” in the Wooded Wetland section of Hall’s Pond this past August. Photo Credit: John Shreffler

A Time to Reflect

Tom Brady, Brookline Conservation Administrator, Town Arborist, and Tree Warden

AS WE WIND DOWN the fall season and begin our transition into winter, it is a perfect time to reflect on what has been accomplished and what needs and issues will need to be addressed in 2020.

2019 has been a vibrant and busy year for the Sanctuary. The Friends of Hall’s Pond has had two enormously successful work-filled Community Days, and Frank Caro and his volunteers have continued to provide a tremendous amount of care and upkeep to the Sanctuary as the season has progressed. These efforts are critically important in our goal to control the ever-advancing invasive species currently present on site. We saw the successful implementation of some new water bars to control runoff. These were the result of a successful project by a local youth who is advancing to the rank of Eagle Scout! Last October’s storm illustrated just how valuable this project is in curtailing erosion and runoff at one of our access pathways. These incremental steps all add up to improve water quality and maintain the health of the Pond.

Marc Parent from DPW Parks and Open Space installing a dry well near the Formal Garden on Fall Community Day. The dry well will minimize runoff from the adjacent parking lot. Photo Credit: Harry Breger

As is the normal practice, the major maintenance and upkeep of the Sanctuary has continued throughout the year using Town staff and contracted services. Items addressed include tree pruning and removal, regular mowing of the formal garden areas, maintenance of the sediment forebay which protects the Pond from harmful sediment, drainage improvements to control and mitigate runoff that may affect the sanctuary, and repairs to fences and entrance gates which enclose the Sanctuary. We have also been keeping an eye on construction activities in the vicinity of the Sanctuary that could impact this resource.

Recently I paid a visit to the Sanctuary to complete a walkthrough and to ensure that this fall’s wind events did not leave any hazardous situations in its wake. As I approached the Sanctuary I saw and heard a large group of elementary school children with their teachers and chaperones. As I walked throughout the Sanctuary the sounds of exploration, excitement, and laughter filled the air. In an instant, my energies rose and my spirit was lifted in hearing and observing these moments of discovery.

So, I invite you to visit the Sanctuary this autumn and take a nice stroll through this natural gem and stop and find your own moment of discovery! Enjoy this fall season, and bundle up and enjoy the sights and sounds of the winter season as well! I look forward to seeing all of you at the 2020 Spring Community Day.

From the Co-Presidents

Ellen Forrester and Frank Caro

THANKS TO PLENTY OF RAIN in the spring and summer, 2019 was an excellent year for vegetation at Hall’s Pond! The perennials and shrubs that we planted in recent years flourished! Throughout the growing season, the formal garden never looked better.

We scheduled our Spring Community Day well into May to maximize our chances for good weather. Unfortunately, we were challenged by an unexpected rain shower that began just as we were starting. Our intrepid volunteers ignored the rain and planted many perennials and shrubs. Next year, we again have hope for good weather, live music and activities for children at Community Day.

Ferris Hall, a founding board member, spoke at our annual meeting about the history of the Cottage Farm neighborhood and Hall’s Pond. The talk attracted a standing-room-only crowd. Ferris’s excellent slides are now on our website.

Fred Bouchard and Neil Gore led early morning bird walks in the spring. Our volunteer maintenance team kept the formal garden looking attractive all summer. In the sanctuary, the volunteers kept the vines out of the trees.

Belted Kingfisher at the Pond, September 25. Photo Credit: Nate Dow

The “See and Share Sightings” section of our website continues to grow. Particularly striking are recent photos by Nate Dow of a belted kingfisher that used to be rare at Hall’s Pond but is now a fairly regular visitor.

Volunteers cleaning up at the end of this year’s very productive Fall Community Day.

Our Fall Community Day was also a great success. With the good fortune of enjoying beautiful fall weather, we attracted lots of participants. Our activities included placement of Betsy Shure Gross’s Black Willow grove in its permanent locations west of the pond beyond her bench, planting of bulbs and perennials, live music provided by John Harris and Don Monroe, storytelling for children provided by Caroline Richardson from the Coolidge Corner library, and a bird walk led by Neil Gore.

John Shreffler edited this newsletter again this year. Harry Breger continues to do an excellent job in designing our newsletters and posters [but is looking for a volunteer to train to replace him]. Helen Herman has stepped forward to serve as Corresponding Secretary and new board member Diane Ryan is serving as Recording Secretary. Together, Helen and Diane are filling an important position that had been vacant for many years. I wish there were space here to acknowledge all of the volunteers who made significant contributions. We continue to need more volunteers.

Your membership payments and more generous gifts are important to us. We use the money to purchase plants for the formal garden, sanctuary, and meadow. Your financial contributions and volunteer work encourage the Town to finance major projects at Hall’s Pond. The Town has several large projects waiting to be done at Hall’s Pond. Most conspicuous among them is rebuilding the boardwalk. Your contributions to the Friends help to make Hall’s Pond a higher priority for the Town.

We urge you to continue your visits to Hall’s Pond during the winter. The Sanctuary has a special charm when the plant life is dormant and the shadows are long.

Mother Nature’s Little Helpers

Fred Bouchard

MAMA EARTH runs a pretty smooth eco-system (even universe) but She can’t do it all. She sees to it that chickadees spot last year’s flicker drill holes to make this year’s nest. And, as maples work on photosynthesis, they give off carbon to turkey- tails and other fungi, which return the favor giving trees extra nutrients and water. (Reference terms: Oppor- tunism and mutualism).

So naturally, we humans try to give Mama a little boost. Our natural environment may look a bit messy, but we don’t over-rake or clear beneficial natural debris. Light leaf-raking sacrifices tidiness to allow ground cover to shelter overwintering fauna, like queen bees, amphibians, and insects. Decaying debris feeds smaller bugs, which in turn help aerate and fertilize the soil, thus benefiting larger birds and animals.

In more obvious aids to Mother Earth, we stake and sheath saplings to assure upright growth and protection against predation. We clear garden escapees (‘volunteers’) and uproot invasive ground-covers like vinca, euonymus, and agepodium.

Wood Ducks, potential nesters, have been showing up in recent years, thanks perhaps in part to our improved habitat. Photo Credit: Bruce Wolff

A Tree House, set up at the pond edge, is designed specifically to encourage migrant Wood Ducks to move in next Spring. Brilliantly plumed and fast-flying, the flashy Wood Ducks nest in hollow trees, old woodpecker holes – or a roomy pre-fab nest box. Fe- males select the site, males stand guard until eggs are near hatching, then both raise the nestlings. Once threatened by habitat loss, Wood Ducks (like Ameri- can Kestrels) have made a comeback through concerted housing efforts. Migrating woodies have yet to take up residence, but Hall’s Pond is now ready to welcome them. Listen for their squealy calls (so unlike the Mallard ‘quak!’) come March.

Red-eared Sliders in formation. Photo Credit: David Lucal

Logs strategically placed pondside encourage turtles to sun themselves. Red-eared Sliders and Eastern Painteds need little inducement, queueing up nose to tail on warm afternoons like tourists at a cabana bar.

Double-crested Cormorant drying off. Photo Credit: Sam Seicol

Often a Double-crested Cormorant swings by from the Charles River to fish, then perches on a log and spreads wings to dry. Other successful avian anglers are Great Blue Heron and Belted Kingfisher.

Watch for a bat box next Spring,  attached to a sunny tree in the woods. The Friends are espousing the cause of these little-known and oft-maligned, but ecologically valuable, little winged mammals. Bats, true fliers with astonishing hearing, can echo-locate insect prey with laser-like accuracy.


Rhododendron in front of the Japanese Maple tree. Photo Credit: Bruce Wolff

Volunteer Maintenance Team

OUR MAINTENANCE TEAM attends to the formal garden and Sanctuary throughout the growing season. The team removes weeds, dead heads flowers, and prunes shrubs in the formal garden. The team also controls invasive species throughout the Sanctuary.

The team complements the work done by the larger number of volunteers who participate in the spring and fall Community Days. This year the team held its first session on a chilly day in the middle of April with a clean-up of the formal garden. The team ended its year with a session on a sunny day in early October when we pruned Rhododendrons that define the south border of the formal garden.

Volunteers cleaning up the Formal Garden at our first session of the year. Photo Credit: John Shreffler

For the second time, the maintenance team scheduled its twice-monthly work sessions in advance for the entire season. Reflecting the preferences of our volunteers, all of the sessions were held on Thursday mornings from 9 AM until noon. With a schedule set in advance, our volunteers were able to schedule other activities around the Hall’s Pond work sessions. The team also held its second annual picnic in late August to celebrate its efforts. At the end of one of our regular sessions, the picnic was held at Amory Park, just outside of the Sanctuary.

In the formal garden, our deep pruning of established shrubs has produced good results. The recently added herbaceous plants are doing well. With plenty of rain in the spring and through much of the summer, we enjoyed good blossoms throughout the summer and into the fall. In the Sanctuary, we now rarely discover invasive vines that have climbed high up into the trees. Our emphasis now is on keeping the vines out of the trees.

Our volunteers find the experience very satisfying. At every session, we see immediate improvements in the appearance of the formal garden. By working regularly in the Sanctuary, we enjoy the gradual progression of the vegetation from spring into the fall.

Maintenance volunteer end-of-the-season picnic lunch. Photo Credit: Fran Perler

Our core group of volunteers this year consisted of “veterans” Fran Givelber, Fran Perler, Diane Ryan, John Shreffler, Priscilla Smith, and Janet Wynn. We were particularly pleased to have two newcomers in our core group: Sharon Gray and Joseph Cohen. Helen Herman, Paul Warren (another newcomer), and Neil Gore joined us occasionally. I continue to coordinate the effort.

We continue to welcome newcomers whether they come frequently or only occasionally. We provide equipment and on-the-job training to new volunteers. We find light work for those who want it. We accommodate volunteers who prefer the formal garden. We also welcome volunteers who want to work entirely in the Sanctuary.

Frank Caro ( / 617-739-9228)

Shawn Carey (not at Hall’s Pond).

The Return of the Carolina Wren

Neil Gore

IN THESE INCREASINGLY DIFFICULT environmental times, Hall’s Pond continues to serve as a true Sanctuary for us, as it thrives and changes. Birding here in 2019 reflects the variability of our lives, with familiar experiences in different combinations.

I thought the Spring birding experience was somewhat indifferent and frustrating. The mild winter led into an early but cold, protracted Spring – seemingly now our customary pattern – in which

the migrants were slow to arrive, until flooding in May, and, after which, was over too soon. In short, I felt the most interesting part of the birding year was over.

And then, in mid-summer, I heard a bird that I have missed seeing for several years. The Carolina Wren, one of my favorites, had returned. I confirmed this hearing and sighting often throughout the late summer and early fall. It is the largest of the several members of the Wren family, and has an incredibly loud call – “CHEE-burger-CHEE-burger-CHEE- burger” is my rendition. Although more often heard than seen, it can be sighted, with patience and luck, teed up on a bare branch in the middle of Amory Woods, or on a fence, broadcasting its song.

I say “return” because, before the last few years, it had been a regular at Hall’s Pond, and following a mild winter, it is inclined to stay year-round.

This uplifting experience reminded me of other positive sightings: More frequent appearances of Belted Kingfisher, which seems to be having some success feeding at the Pond; a pair of nesting Red-bellied Woodpeckers in a willow overhanging the playing field; and the Yellowthroat, a colorful Warbler which seems to really appreciate the pondside reeds and tangles.

For birders of all levels, but especially for those who want to practice finding birds other than the obvious residents, Hall’s Pond provides both a refuge and a pleasant challenge.

See and Share Sightings

Fred Bouchard

Hi, Sanctuary Visitors! If you see something, say/show something!

People visit Hall’s Pond to unwind and commune, but also to observe and explore.

You might spy an odd caterpillar, marvel at a flower, or glimpse a bird.

If you’d like to share or ID it, do add your comment or photo here: items/see-and-share-sightings/

This fisher was resting on a fork about 40 feet or so up the pine. The majority of the time it was just dozing or sleeping, but kept a watchful eye on the nearby grackles, April, 2018. Photo Credit: Chao “Jimmy” Wu

Did you find a curious spider web? Get buzzed by darting dragonflies? Discover faint snow-tracks? Post it but no people or pet shots, please!

Conversely, scroll on down the See and Share Sightings page to see what others have noticed to get ideas of what you might find, or look for, on your next visit. The page shows recent pix of cool critters: Belted Kingfisher, Fisher Cat (first-ever!), Wil- son’s Warbler, Blue Dasher, Barred Owl, Fork-tailed Damselfly, Eastern Painted Turtles, and shares views of pretty flora like Trillium, Japanese Maple, Red Osier. Add your own sweet tweets.



Volunteer Melanie Julian with sons Lucas and Owen planting a brand new Black Willow tree at this year’s Fall Community Day. Photo Credit: John Shreffler

What Price Nature?

Bob Schram

NO ONE DOUBTS for a second that Hall’s Pond Sanctuary is a priceless resource, an amazing treasure in the midst of our community. Having this natural haven tucked within a mile of downtown Boston is a gift we should never take for granted, a legacy which demands constant attention and ongoing investment. And sometimes we do have to take a hard look at the numbers – what does it cost to maintain the Sanctuary and what will it actually cost to realize our vision for the future of Hall’s Pond.

A graceful Great Blue Heron gliding in for a landing at the Pond. Photo Credit: Joel Feingold

It takes money just to preserve and maintain the status quo at Hall’s Pond. The Town of Brookline can only do so much to maintain our parks and open space so the Friends of Hall’s Pond are called upon to help make up the difference. Over the last ten years, The Friends have purchased thousands of native plants and devoted tens of thousands of volunteer hours to improving and protecting the Sanctuary: by gradually eliminating invasive species and then planting native grasses, ferns, trees, and bushes, in our decades-long quest to return the sanctuary to its original pristine state.

Redwing singing, May, 2019. Photo Credit: Sam Seicol

The Friends of Hall’s Pond has been spending roughly $5,000 a year, above and beyond the Town of Brook- line’s support, in order to keep up the progress. And at this rate, we still have at least thirty years to go to complete the master horticultural restoration plan. Sadly, our fundraising has not been keeping up with this pace of spending for quite a while, and so our financial resources are gradually dwindling since we have refused to halt the steady progress towards our vision.

If everyone who enjoys Hall’s Pond were to become a member of the Friends for just $25 per year (families $35), we would be able to keep up our current pace of improvements. If you can help us to raise

Join the Friends of Halls Pond >

Doug Sherman (not at Hall’

Asarum canadense, wild ginger

Ellen Forrester

This is the Canadian Wild Ginger that is native to the lower states in Canada and here in New England. The flower looks nothing like the tropical ginger flower that we can purchase at the local florist and the roots look nothing like the ginger you buy at the market. This ginger has a thick fleshy root that does smell like ginger. Please don’t pick it if you find some. As with many plants, it once had edible and medicinal uses but now we know it does contain toxins. It has large heart shaped leaves that can also cause an irritation if you are sensitive. At the base of the leaves, early in the spring, you can find a brownish burgundy flower, usually at ground level. The plant is only about 6 inches tall. This is a terrific, mat-forming groundcover that thrives is shade but likes a rich composed soil. Early in the season this early flower is a food source for beetles and later in the season is also a larval host to many butterflies. See if you can find some planted nearby.