Littleton's Natural Resources
Welcome to some information we hope you can use to explore Littleton's natural resources. This site is a work in progress, so please check back often! Some topics you can explore and things you can do:
We're looking for the biggest trees in Littleton that are on public property or easily visible from public areas. If you think you have a winner, measure the "Diameter at Breast Height", or dbh, which is about four feet off the ground or, for a typical adult, about breast height. For now, send the location, tree species and dbh to email@example.com and we'll see if we can keep track of who finds the biggest! Lets start with easily identifiable trees like white pine or some of the oaks. A 53-inch red oak on Sanderson was just reported. For a very rough estimate about how old the tree is, try this link.
Birding Big Year (Littleton style)
Have you heard of the Big Year? For North America the record is about 750 birds seen by one person in the course of a year as the birders criss-cross North America. Grant Marley threw down the gauntlet to see if we could find 200 species in Littleton in 2020. You can report unique findings to Littleton Trails on facebook, or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be sure to mention where you saw the bird and, if at all possible, a photograph. You can see the summary of the reports here. The Nature Observations link below mentions some of our more common birds. You can also use this state-wide bird checklist as you make your own bird list.
Want a short or easy walk? Try going to Long Lake Park at the end of Colonial Drive, the new Cloverdale Boardwalk, the paved (steepish) drive up to the Newtown Hill watertank, Hartwell Preserve or Prouty Woods. Check in with the Littleton Conservation Trust for locations and trail maps.
The Littleton Conservation Department, Conservation Trust and Land Stewards are conducting an ongoing battle against invasive plant species that are overrunning many of our open spaces. Check in with LCT here for more information. We are working with Sudbury Valley Trustees and the SuAsCo Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area in planning for invasive species management throughout the town. WE NEED YOUR HELP! If you would like more information, please go to the CISMA Weed Warrior page. Their Educational Resources tab has good videos to help with invasive species identification. If you would like to be certified as a Weed Warrior please submit this certification form to the Conservation Department. When you are trying to control invasive species on your property, disposal can be a big challenge since you don't want to spread them. This brochure from Groton has some helpful disposal information.
- Garlic Mustard: Garlic mustard starts to show up in the spring and is pretty easy to recognize and pull. We will try to identify garlic mustard pull areas on Conservation lands so you can help out. We recommend placing the pulled material in a black (contractors) bag and leaving it in the hot sun on your driveway for 1-3 weeks. You can then remove the material and re-use the bag. First year plants which are just leaves can be pulled, crushed in your hands so they won't re-sprout, and left, but any plant with flowering heads should be bagged. If you help us in this control, please let us know where you pulled and about how much you pulled (a photo of your full bag(s) is great)!
Clara Cahill has come up with this great Observation Checklist form. Good for any hike, any time of year. And there is some info on how to spot local wildlife that could be handy. Take a look at Mass Audubon's Outdoor Almanac to anticipate what to look for. Go to the Northern Woodlands webpage to see their Week in the Woods project to see what to keep an eye open for.
The Littleton Trails facebook page has a growing group of people who post recent sitings and where you might be able to go see for yourself. Lots of great photos there, too! Keep up with what is happening through the seasons.
As you work and plan for your gardens all year, consider on focusing on using native plants, especially to support the native (and often declining) pollinators that rely on the native plants, while we rely on the pollination services. Our native bumblebees in particular are keystone species that may serve as the canary in the coal mine for our pollinator systems overall. MassAudubon has a nice summary of our native bees and wasps (including the non-native honey bee).
The Metrowest Conservation Alliance Native Pollinator Task Force has great tools for choosing plants and knowing where you can buy them. Littleton participated in their tours of pollinator gardens in 2022 and the tour package for Cloverdale and Reuben Hoar Library are available. Please call the office if you'd like to volunteer to help these initiatives! The Conservation Commission also has documents focusing on planting native trees where possible and how to mow a field to the best advantage for pollinators, nesting birds and controlling invasive species.
In the mean time, you can also hear Dr. Robert Gegear talk about the approach to focus on bumblebees, many of which are in declining populations, and how helping them can help pollinator systems as a whole. He also has a Beecology Project for citizen science. Here, Evan Abramson talks about designing for biodiversity, again stressing the importance of pollinators. In their pollinator toolkit tab, the Lincoln Land Conservation Trust lists some Best Management Practices in designing a pollinator garden. The Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Club has a nice summary of the issues bumblebees face and how you can help.
Grow Native, as part of their Evenings with the Experts series, has posted the Doug Tallamy's lecture on "Natures Best Hope". It's definitely worth watching, and while it isn't focused on pollinator systems, you will learn a lot about native plants, insects and their importance. For those of you who don't know him, Grow Native says this about Dr. Tallamy and his lecture:
- Recent headlines about global insect declines, the impending extinction of one million species worldwide, and three billion fewer birds in North America are a bleak reality check about how ineffective our current landscape designs have been at sustaining the plants and animals that sustain us. Such losses are not an option if we wish to continue our present-day standard of living on Planet Earth. The good news is that none of this is inevitable. Doug Tallamy discusses simple steps that each of us can— and must take— to reverse declining biodiversity and to explain why we, ourselves, are nature’s best hope.
- Doug Tallamy's groundbreaking book, Bringing Nature Home, was published in 2007 and continues to have national impact; it was awarded the 2008 Silver Medal by the Garden Writers' Association. In 2014, he co-authored The Living Landscape with Rick Darke. His newest book, Nature's Best Hope was published in 2020, concurrently with this event. Doug’s widely respected conservation work and science-based advocacy for native plants continues to be recognized nationally, earning him numerous awards.
The Littleton Conservation Trust has trail maps and guides that you can use in your explorations. There are also some "Easy Walks" described above, on this page
Tree Hunt and More
A group of people have come together to urge families to get out into our open spaces in the winter. They have also created a quick treasure hunt that you can use any time! Mass Audubon has other great ideas on how to Explore Nature At Home.
Check in here for information on the Amphibian Crossing Brigade and vernal pool information.
Spring wildflowers will be out soon, so keep an eye out! I'm hoping to be able to get some of my photos posted from last year. You can use an app like iNaturalist to help you identify what you see.
Your Back Yard
Bill Vales has all sorts of great information on LCTV. There are 21 different segments you can explore. For deeper dive into some areas, try Bill's Hidden Treasures info for Oak Hill and Tophets Chasm, Prouty, or Newtown Woods for some examples.