Contemplating spring and a “biophilic” city

Even as I gazed on the ice-covered pond at Van Horn Park this morning — at the sinking traffic cones and plywood the Springfield Fire Department left there (adding to the poison-leaching garbage already threatening aquatic life) — I believe things can get better.

Here’s an interesting piece from Grist:

Habitats for humanity: Why our cities need to be ecosystems, too

Happy spring!



Yesterday morning (March 11), I heard that squeaky-hinge noise for just a second and jotted in my notes, “Red wing?”

This morning it’s confirmed, – I had eyes on 12 Red winged Blackbirds, who were raucously announcing their arrival at Van Horn Park!

You can learn about them here –

Spring is near!


The Awesome Things These 6 Cities Are Doing for Wildlife
With little effort, argue conservationists, cities can provide habitat for birds, butterflies, pollinators, and other creatures great and small.

The fallacy that cities are devoid of nature

I thought I’d share a link to this piece by Beth Buczynski:
How Cities and Wildlife Can Be Friends Instead of Enemies


It’s getting closer… Click to find instructions, FAQs, Tally sheet and a List of birds for your region (U.S. and Canada)

Save the dates…for the birds



It’s fun & it helps science, which can help birds. For more information click

Duck Tale

This rainy / icy morning at dawn I made my customary bread delivery to 15 mallards and one, white, domestic duck.  I’ve been hoping for weeks that it would wing away, perhaps, south along the Connecticut River where many wild ducks spend the winter when their favorite ponds have frozen over.

The Van Horn Park pond has been freezing and thawing with the fluctuating temperatures. I’ve been worried that with the wild bred out of it, this duck  may not feel the imperative to get out Dodge before winter sets in. The mallards have been treating him (or her) like one of their own, so I keep telling myself, when the group goes, this big, snowy oddball will go with them.

White domestic duck

Domestic duck (By Keith Reede –

A couple of weeks ago, freezing temperatures persisted over a few days, and one morning, I found ice from shore to shore, – no open water and no ducks. However, I spied something white, across the pond, under a fallen tree. It took me about 20 minutes to make the hike around.  I anticipated finding a plastic bag, a drink container, or a pail (common types of refuse I clean out of here), – but, as you likely anticipated, – the white thing was the duck. It hunkered alone, on the ice beneath the arching birch.

I clumsily picked my way through brush at the water’s edge until close enough to peg bits of bread to him. Recognizing food sliding along the ice, the duck slipped and struggled to get at it. That was painful enough to watch, but then I realized the duck needed water to swallow the stuff. I found a stout stick and punched holes through to expose liquid at a few places along the shore, however, the duck was going to have to get to the drink on its own, – the thin ice prevented me from getting nearer.

I didn’t know if I helped at all and didn’t know what else I could do. I came home feeling pretty awful about that duck’s chances. My daughter left a message with the animal control folks, thinking they might have advice. No one called back.

The next morning was warmer. I found the white duck near the bridge, with four mallard pals. As I broke up pieces of soft bread for them, I felt my hope return. This guy may emulate his friends, and live to see spring yet.

Since that day, the pond has frozen and thawed again. The number of wild ducks surged to 20 last week, and is currently holding at 15 mallards, and  – one white, domestic duck.

Live Fish Trapped on a Tree

As I gazed across the pond at sunrise from the pine shore, I noted fresh trash strewn over the open spot (at one time, a boat landing) and including a bag hanging on a tree, as I figured in the extra time it would take me to clean it up.

On arrival at the far shore, I could see plastic wrap, coffee cups and lids… and that the bag suspended from a broken branch was large, clear plastic, and contained water. The water contained about a half dozen fish, about three inches in length, and swimming. I was too shocked to waste time trying to ID the species. I unhooked the bag and carefully poured the fishes into the pond, hoping only that they might live.


Happy Day! Some Garbage Removed from Pond

So pleased to report that sometime Friday (10/18), either the Parks Department, or some good citizens with hip boots and a truck, removed the bright orange shopping cart and the purple plastic crate from the water at the Armory Street bridge. Wonderful.

I’d like to think there’s a chance the blue plastic tricycle in the small pond will disappear and the floating containers and other refuse will dwindle. The people of Springfield would prefer that to the dwindling of life.

Doubledecker Fungus


Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus), a double shelf in Van Horn Park, Springfield, MA, October 2013

Chicken of the Woods in Springfield, MA

The gorgeous color of the sulphur shelf mushroom, Laetiporus, in days of waning green is startling. This tree has produced extraordinarily large and beautiful specimens, with differing patterns and shades of yellow and orange over the years.

I am so glad I recorded this on Oct. 9th (click to enlarge the image), because this morning it was ruined. Someone had seen fit to destroy it, – just because it was there.