Tag Archives: ecosystem

2019 Earth Day Photo Contest

This year’s Earth Day has a theme of “Protect our Species.” The theme calls for us to be aware of the many forms of life that contribute to a healthy environment. In the words of Rachel Carson, “Nothing in nature exists alone.” As such, we are called to protect endangered species and appreciate the value of all species.

In that spirit, the Sustainability Committee at Pare is pleased to share our 8th Annual Earth Day Photo Contest.   Please enjoy the photos submitted by Pare’s staff below, and vote using the poll located at the top of this post. The winner of the 2019 Earth Day Photo Contest will receive a Gift Card to B-Good. Voting will close on Wednesday, May 8th and the winner will be announced in the next blog post.

PHOTO 1 – Lunch Buddy

On a pretty summer day, this young bunny deemed it safe enough to come out for lunch as I was enjoying mine. While it is hard to distinguish between the Eastern and New England cottontails, I am hopeful that this little rabbit is part of the efforts to restore the species. Learn more at https://newenglandcottontail.org.

PHOTO 2 – Wild Turkey

By the nineteenth century, the species of eastern wild turkey which had been plentiful prior to the arrival of the first colonists in the seventeenth century was virtually non-existent due to hunting and destruction of habitat for agriculture. In the 1980s the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management reintroduced wild turkeys. Their population has since flourished. While some view wild turkeys as a nuisance, their presence is a symbol of a thriving ecosystem and reminds us that we share a common home.

PHOTO 3 – Grizzly Bear

The largest predator in the western plains and still a protected species, the grizzly’s recovery from near extinction in the lower 48 has made its presence in ranching areas ubiquitous. Contrary to most paradigms, grizzly bears do not account for a large percentage of cattle deaths. In ranching areas such as Tom Miner Basin, cattle deaths attributed to actual grizzly attack are few. Most grizzly bear encounters with cattle are bears coming upon cattle winter weather deaths or sickened animals. Attacks on humans are rare too, and are usually the result of hunters and grizzlies happening upon each other purely by accident and scaring each other, especially during elk bow hunting season in the fall. And grizzly bears are not the most dangerous animal in the western plain states, by far. In fact, more people are killed by moose, than all other predatory animals (grizzly bears, black bears, coyotes, wolves, mountain lions) combined.

PHOTO 4Sandy Can’t Read

Photo taken after Superstorm Sandy at Misquamicut Beach. Notice the sign in the location of a former dune that reads “Please Help Protect the Dune Area Please Keep Off” It’s a reminder that we need to do more to Protect All Species.

PHOTO 5 – Flowering Cherry Tree

Flowering trees are beautiful to look at in the springtime, but also provide a necessary function in our food chain. Flowering trees like the cherry tree (pictured) provide a much needed food source for bees and other pollinators after a long winter. In turn, those pollinators provide a service to the human species by pollinating many of the fruits and vegetables we eat in the summer and fall. If you enjoy your summer and fall harvests, plant a tree that flowers in the spring.

PHOTO 6 – Condor over the Grand Canyon

It is easy to lose track of a giant condor when faced with the enormity of nature’s beauty. But never forget that the beauty of nature comes alive through the species that call it home.

PHOTO 7 – Honeybee

Providing an estimated $20 billion to U.S. crop production, honeybees are an indispensable asset to our food production economy, bio-diversity, and way of life. Keep this in mind when self-performing or contracting pest/weed control services to make sure that you are using bee friendly products.

PHOTO 8 – Backyard Lake View

This lake provides not only a beautiful backyard view, but an incredibly diverse ecosystem for species including beavers, ducks, herons, and pickerel. Ecosystems with a large number of species tend to be more resilient to climate change, so protecting them protects us too!

PHOTO 9 – Butterfly Walk

It is estimated that Monarch butterfly populations have declined 90% in the last 20 years, largely due to development and agricultural practices that are wiping out Milkweed, their only source of food. A friend had an abundance of milkweed in her yard and gave me several bags of seeds. On a windy fall day, two tots and I went on a “butterfly walk” to set the seeds free at our favorite park. We kept the last bag to start a backyard butterfly garden of our own, and hope to pay it forward one day.

PHOTO 10 – Bridge of Flowers

This is the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, MA. In 1929, this old trolley bridge was converted into a public garden with many species of flowers and trees that bloom from early spring to late fall. These flowers support bees and pollinators who need nectar and pollen all season long.

PHOTO 11 – Spotted Turtle

The Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata) was once listed as a “Species of Special Concern” and today remains a species of greatest conservation need in Massachusetts. Protecting wetlands, upland corridors between wetlands, and potential nesting areas will be vital to the continued existence of one of the state’s most charming reptiles.

PHOTO 12 – Sunset

Sunset a few evenings ago.

PHOTO 13 –Hardy Blackstonian turtles

Hardy Blackstonian turtles. Conditioned to survive in Blackstone stone river. Adaptation or the effects of water quality improvements? Either way more work is required to save these creatures.

A Day At Wolf Hollow

This weekend, I had the unforgettable opportunity to meet a pack of endangered Gray Wolves.  I volunteered a morning of wetland consulting at Wolf Hollow in Ipswich, and in return I got to experience an informative and up-close encounter with their wolves.

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Prior to European settlement, the Gray Wolf was the top predator throughout most of the United States.  Their population was depleted through a combination of intentional killing and habitat loss, and a species once numbering in the millions in the U.S. was reduced to about 5,000. Wolf Hollow was established in 1990 with the mission of educating the public about the importance of protecting the Gray Wolf in the wild. The Sanctuary is now run by the founder’s son Zee Soffron who resides on the property, and a team of dedicated volunteers. Weekly presentations offer an informative look at the often misunderstood animal, and as well as an opportunity to view their ten resident wolves at close range.

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Zee Soffron, owner of Wolf Hollow, playing with the pack.

The licensed non-profit organization is supported solely through admission, gift shop sales, and donations. The visitor center, located on the first floor of the Soffron’s home, provides educational resources on the ecology of the Gray Wolf. Having outgrown the space, Wolf Hollow plans to construct a small standalone visitor center. I spent the morning walking the site and preparing a sketch of the general locations of wetlands on the property, and discussing what to expect in the permitting process once they are ready to move forward. Afterwards, I was given the rare opportunity to photograph wolves up close through openings in the fence!

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Meet Bear, a wolf-dog hybrid. I got to give this friendly fellow a scratch.

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I stuck around for the afternoon presentation – and I am so glad I did. The lecture was informative for small children and adults alike. Topics included how wolf lives in a family group, its role in nature, its surprisingly close ties to man, and the ongoing fight to preserve the species in the wild.

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The roles of the Gray Wolf in maintaining a sustainable landscape are more far-reaching than one might realize. For example, did you know that reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 has improved the quality of river habitat? Elk favor shady riverbanks, and when a herd lingers on one area the banks become overgrazed and erosive, damaging aquatic ecosystems. Predation from wolves has encouraged herd movement and dispersion, allowing riverbanks and other areas to recover naturally.

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Wolf on the Prowl at Yellowstone National Park

Sometimes it is easy to forget that all domestic dogs, from Husky to Pug, can be traced back to wolves, and many wolf-like behaviors are still apparent in domestic canines. Ever wonder why your dog rolls around on the ground when he discovers an intriguing scent? This behavior can be traced to a method of communication between members of a wolf pack. When a wolf picks up a new or unfamiliar scent, he will return it to his pack to relay a message: whether it be news of a potential rival, an unfamiliar animal, or a new source of food.

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My dog Cody often does this on hikes. Who knew he was picking up a scent to bring back to his “pack”?

Of particular interest were the discussions of the social dynamics within the pack. Wolf Hollow’s former Alpha Male Weeble recently passed away, and the pack is in a state of flux as males compete for dominance. Zee explained that the hierarchy is based more on confidence and behavior than size or strength. Case in point: Arrow, a smaller male, appears to be the top contender for Alpha. It will be interesting to see how these dynamics play out in the coming weeks!

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Arrow, a top contender for Alpha male. Photo by Michael Sterling from the Wolf Hollow Facebook Page.

I highly recommend a trip to Wolf Hollow, and I look forward to seeing how plans for a Visitor Center unfold. To learn more about Wolf Hollow, visit their website.

Also, be sure to “Like” their Facebook Page for updates on the wolves  and other goings-on.