Search results for 'wildlife'

Thanks to the Over 330 Who Have Volunteered

19 Nov

Update: Another 22 volunteers help out today, December 2. Thank you! See photo of what the site looks like NOW way below.

Forest Tze, a UMass Boston student, has dedicated 15 hours to this project. Thank you, Forest!

It was perfect in the swales this morning: 55˚ F with a light warm rain and mud everywhere—ideal conditions for pulling out phragmite rhizomes. They came out easily.

Removing phragmites is a meditation. There you are outside, in a beautiful spot with a big sky and good company, focused on accomplishing a physical task. While the project itself can seem overwhelming (and even futile), the task itself is satisfying and, especially today in the mud, even fun. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so dirty.


The rhizomes are thick and extend in a web 3″-6″ deep across the swale.

I have developed extraordinary respect for phragmites. They dominate because they extend a web of 1/2”-¾” thick rhizomes that grow horizontally 3-6” below the surface. They’re strong and jointed like bamboo. They also spread by seed from their beautiful seedheads. A few weeks ago, on a windy day, we watched thousands of these seeds blow across the fields.


Who knows why phragmites overtook the eastern swale? It wasn’t one of the 20 wildflowers planted there in 2009. Curiously, the “sister” western swale at the park is without them.


The western swale is full of wildflowers and volunteer trees.

In the next weeks, Elisabeth Cianciola of the Charles River Watershed Association will lead a few more volunteer events to dig out the last rhizomes and then cover the site with black fabric that will stay down for 2 years. Then, wildflowers will be planted, which, we hope, will out compete the phragmites.

The whole goal of this project has been to replace the invasive phragmites with wildflowers again for the sake of biodiversity and to recreate a richer habitat for insects and birds. May we be successful.


Eastern swale as of 12.2. The CRWA will be covering it with black tarp in the next few days.

Thanks to the over 330 who have already volunteered, to the others who will pitch in in the coming weeks, to the CRWA for leading this effort, to the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation for funding it, to the Charles River Conservancy for partnering, and to the City of Cambridge for loaning tools and disposing of the waste. Working together, we’ve got a shot at success. This small project has been HUGE.


Music! Stories! Big Animal Puppets! And Bicycle Decorating on Friday, July 28

25 Jul

UPDATE: We’re moving to our rain date, Friday, July 28. Sorry to change things, but we don’t want you sitting in the wet. Tomorrow should be beautiful! See you at the park!singing white background horizontal

Come celebrate sustainable and healthy commuting at our Walk/Ride Day Eve Celebration Friday, July 28 at 6-8pm (rain date: Walk/Ride Day, Friday, July 28). Bring a picnic and enjoy treats from ice cream truck!

Boston-based band Trusting Fate will serenade us with “imaginative, unexpected music that combines elements of rock, folk, bluegrass, roots and blues into a fresh, powerful sound.” Katie Liesener from Massmouth will MC commuter-related storytelling. (Have a funny, gripping, or otherwise memorable personal story about urban biking, walking, or transit experience to share in 4-5 minutes?) Gallery 263 will host a bicycle decorating table, so bring your bikes. And be amazed by big animal puppets made by the Cambridge Wildlife Puppetry Project. FREE!

Thanks to our partners: Green Streets Initiative, MassMouth, the Cambridge Wildlife Puppetry Project and Gallery 263; and to our sponsors: Sanofi Genzyme, MIT, Kimco, Forest City and the Charles River Conservancy.

The Annual Warbler Migration is Underway

31 May

Note: Jeanne Strahen, who’s conducting the wildlife inventory of the park, will lead a FREE bird walk THIS Saturday, June 3. Meet on the BU Bridge, facing the park, at 7:30am. Bring your binoculars! (Rain date: Sunday, June 4.)

Each spring, warblers wintering in Mexico and Central America catch favorable air currents and begin their migration up through the Midwest, then head east to New England and Canada, where they breed in the summer months. The migration peaks in the first two weeks of May, when groups of warblers arrive at Magazine Beach after traveling as much as 200 miles in the previous evening. They stay a day or two to rest and feed on insects. Depending on the weather, they will be joined or replaced by a new group of warblers every day or two. Each group brings new species, most of whom will head north. I’ve identified sixteen species at Magazine Beach since the beginning of May. Look for them in the tall trees around the Magazine Street entrance.

–Jeanne Strahen

Yesterday’s sightings at the park: 20 black crowned night herons and three great blues with a total of 459 birds!

Warblers sighted at Magazine Beach: black and white warbler, common yellowthroat, American redstart, yellow rumped warbler, Nashville Warbler, blackburnian warbler, blackpoll warbler, magnolia warbler, northern parula, prairie warbler, chestnut-sided warbler, black-throated green warbler, palm warbler, pine warbler and Tennessee warbler.

4.29 Earth Day Cleanup & Bird Walk THIS Saturday!

30 Apr

Thanks to all who participated in yesterday’s Earth Day Charles River Cleanup, including: Gensler, Reed Hildebrand, the Green Engineer, MIT, Pack 56 Cub Scouts and Cambridgeport neighbors; and to event organizers: the Charles River Watershed Association and Charles River Conservancy.

DCR will pick up the many piles of sticks and branches this week. Volunteers pulled tons of bits of plastic from the river and shoreline. A high school student took bags of it and will craft artwork from the marine debris.

Nature Lovers: We also sighted a muskrat, living along the river’s edge!!!!!! And, last week: a great blue heron. Jeanne Strahen, who’s conducting the wildlife inventory of Magazine Beach, and CRWA bird watcher Matt Marshall will lead a Bird Walk at the park Saturday, May 6. Meet on the BU bridge, facing the park at 7:30am (rain date: Sunday, May 7). Free. Bring your binoculars! UPDATE: Rain is predicted, but it’s not raining. The walk is on! See you there!

Wildlife photos courtesy of Garrett Newton and Coleen O’Connell.

The Birds are Back!

6 Apr

In April, nearly every day of observing at MB brings a special treat. Today, the air is raw and the wind is strong, but my internal complaint about the slowness of spring is interrupted by the sight of a bird with long, crooked dark brown wings moving high over the water.  As it comes into full view, its underside is white, its wings banded black and white with dark patches at the crook, and its eyes sport a black band.   This first Osprey I have seen this season catches a column of air and soars in large ovals above the water. My delight increases as it draws its wings up, extends its feet down, and descends to the water feet first to fish, hovering on beating wings.   It pulls up out of the water having failed to catch its fish and resumes its soaring. The air column takes it downstream out of site and I move along. But moments later an osprey comes up from behind, catches a column of air and soars gracefully ahead of me. I tell myself it is likely the same bird, but then another soars into view, then two more join in an aerial ballet.Robin with wormSo far, spring has been cool and wet, but birds are easy to find at MB. Who is back? Red-wing blackbirds, Crows and Robins. Earlier this week I estimated 300 robins were hunting worms on the lawns. If the lawns look a bit torn up this is because they have thoroughly aerated the grass while removing the worms. Male Redwing Blackbirds claim territory in the hedge for nesting when the females return.   MB’s riverfront location makes it appealing to shorebirds- Killdeer, American Woodcocks, and Snipes are using their long bills to remove insects from the moist leaf litter on the ground. Duck are swimming by, often in pairs, looking for places they might nest. In addition to the usual Mallards, Ring Necked Ducks with purple heads and rings on their bills (not their necks), and Hooded Mergansers with crests like large white sails outlined in black swim by. Double crested cormorants fly through and will shortly perch in groups on the floating orange stanchions across the river. Gold finches flit through in groups. Song sparrows give daily concerts. From here through May it only gets better.

Jeanne Strahan

Note: Jeanne, who’s leading the wildlife inventory of the park, will be leading a FREE bird walk there May 6 (rain date: May 7), at 7:30am, with CRWA birder Matt Marshall. Meet at the BU Bridge, facing the park.

If you’re looking for the CCTV video of the 3.30 Cambridge Meeting about I-90, click here or go to Events. If you’re looking for the CCTV video of our 4.13 meeting a out I-90, click here.

Spring is Bursting Out…

5 Apr


Head to the park to see bird’s nests, budding trees and tiny flowers. They’re all there under the snow…

Last week, Jeanne noted: The birds were in full song—not just chirping, several brand new tiny, beautiful birds nests appeared and the following spring birds: goldfinches, ruby-crowned kinglets, an eastern phoebe, a purple martin, blue-grey gnatcatcher, a white breasted nuthatch. Bees buzzed around.

Note: Much wildlife stayed put for the winter. Spotted between December and February:

Birds: Canada geese (flocks of 40 to 100 birds), seagulls, sparrows, cormorant, great crested flycatcher, slate colored junco, downy woodpeckers, golden crowned kinglets, mockingbirds, catbird, blue jays, red-tailed hawks, robins, eastern phoebe, chickadees, scarlet tanager, wood thrush, goldfinches, brown thrashers, cardinals, grackles, black-throated blue warbler, yellow warbler, mallard ducks, common mergansers, northern shovelers, mourning dove, great blue heron, purple finches, house finches, raven, European starling, redwing blackbird, and cedar waxwing.

Other critters: Rabbit, snake, squirrels, voles, crickets, mosquitoes and tiny flies

Jeanne says that she observed most of the winter birds in the swales and the hedge. The thistles and milkweed pods, as well as seeds that had fallen to the ground there, provided a lot of food. She also saw birds around the berry trees along both sides of Memorial Drive, clustered around the footbridge. These berries lasted through the first half of February. Most of the hawks I saw were in the tall trees beside the footbridge, as well.

 Remember, our Annual Earth Day Cleanup is Saturday, April 30, 9-12 noon!


Look Closely

5 Dec

Among the milk weed and thistles is a tiny bird’s nest I have long been curious about. It is December so the weeds and tall grasses have died back enough that I can now walk among them, and see it up close.  About three inches across, it is shaped like the bulb of a small wine glass and sits in the fork of a small shrub. I pull the branch toward me and see that it is made from small, very fine grasses woven tightly and evenly. Inside, very small leaves form a cradle.  The goldfinch that likely made this is truly a master craftsperson…oops…bird.

I have been walking Magazine Beach nearly every day for years and have experiences of its marvels all the time. As the planning for the second phase of the beach proceeds, we need to remember that MB is the wetland home to many birds and other critters whose presence enriches those who make the time to look. I expressed my concern to Cathie Zusy that some of the larger birds that have been living at MB were not in residence this summer. At her suggestion, I am now compiling an inventory of birds and animals sighted at MB.  If you see interesting wildlife down there, please email me at OR note the name of the creature, and the date and time of your sighting on the new whiteboard on the Magazine door.


Blue Heron and Oriole Nest Sightings at Magazine Beach!

19 Jan

Many thanks to Bill August for the photos of a heron that he saw at the park October 30th. Birder Janet Crystal notes that Great Blue Heron “don’t migrate like other birds. They are considered a partial migrant because they may move south from their northernmost breeding range as the weather gets colder. They will stay around this area year-round as long as there is open water where they can catch food. It’s not unusual for them to stay around throughout the winter.”

The Riverside Boat Club’s Dick Garver says that rowers often see them standing motionless on the riverbanks. Mary Holbrow added that they are often spotted at the waterfall in Newton/Watertown. Here’s a video of a heron pursuing herring during a recent herring run in the Charles (near the Watertown dam). 2013 was a great year for herring in the Charles

See this List of birds found in this area and information about them.


Oriole nest. Photo by Mary Holbrow

Oriole nest. Photo by Mary Holbrow

Mary Holbrow identified the oriole nest above, looking much like a crocheted sack, just on the park side of the pedestrian footbridge. She notes that “According to an informative piece on the National Wildlife Federation website, many birds that use string seem to like white string best. Where the nesting bird found this much of it is a puzzle, though. Possibly from fiberglass scraps and monofilament fishing line.”

After some research, she added: “I looked into bird vision a bit on line. Birds’ visual capabilities are different from ours and differ from one species to another, but in general they have a higher density of red-green-blue color receptors than we do, and also ultraviolet receptors. This makes their vision and contrast perception sharper than ours, so probably your white string shows up brilliantly to them among the greenery. They probably use rather short lengths of string, too; apparently about 6 inches is ideal. Tight knots would be a problem, though; I imagine that last year’s string, if still around, would be easier for them to get off from shriveled leaves and branches.”

Send us your photos of wildlife at the park. This 15-acre stretch along the Charles is our local preserve! 

August: the pool closes, wildflowers bloom, and Riverside rowers compete in world championships!

26 Aug

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Sunday marked the close of the Veteran’s Memorial swimming pool for the season. What a gorgeous day, with swimmers, picnickers, geese and kayakers, all enjoying a last glorious day of summer.  Beautiful wildflowers, too, and freshly pruned trees, thank you very much, DCR.

Thank you to Carolyn Shipley for the plant identifications. From Carolyn, about Purple Loosestrife:  “It has wiped out millions of acres of native vegetation, thus depriving birds and other wildlife of their favorite plants. It has clogged and is clogging our marshlands, meadows, bogs, and inlets.”

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On the other side of the world (Magazine Beach’s) Riverside Boat Club rowers were competing in the World Rowing Championships in Chungju, South Korea. Go Riverside! Thank you to Riverside’s Amanda Milad for this update–our first, international post.

Riverside members and former Cambridgeport residents Lauren Schmetterling (L) and Emily Hueslkamp (R) on the podium after their win in the Championship Women's Double at the 2012 Royal Canadian Henley Regatta. This week, they are both racing for the USA National Team at the World Rowing Championships Chungju, South Korea. Emily is racing in the Women's 4- (straight four) and Lauren is racing in the Women's 8+ (eight with coxswain). Also racing at the championships are former Riverside members Meg Musnicki, Esther Lofgren, Dave Smith and Dorian Weber.

Riverside members and former Cambridgeport residents Lauren Schmetterling (L) and Emily Hueslkamp (R) on the podium after their win in the Championship Women’s Double at the 2012 Royal Canadian Henley Regatta.
This week, they are both racing for the USA National Team at the World Rowing Championships Chungju, South Korea. Emily is racing in the Women’s 4- (straight four) and Lauren is racing in the Women’s 8+ (eight with coxswain). Also racing at the championships are former Riverside members Meg Musnicki, Esther Lofgren, Dave Smith and Dorian Weber.



12 Nov

At a Glance: Since, 2010, our organization has supported and promoted Magazine Beach Park in all of its dimensions: its physical grounds, its ecology and history, and its community of users and neighbors. Partnering with the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the City of Cambridge, and dozens of organizations, we lead the stewardship of this valued public space. For our ongoing efforts, we have received recognition and awards, including the State of Massachusetts’ Unsung Heroine Award (2012 & 2016), the Charles River Conservancy’s Distinguished Service Award (2012) and the Charles River Watershed Association’s Citizen Activist Award (2016). And when the City of Cambridge was honored with the distinguished national 5-STAR rating, our community engagement process was spotlighted as exemplary.

Park Grounds


  • The study and critical restoration of the oldest building on the Charles River Basin, the 1818 Powder Magazine
  • The production of landscape plans for the western part of the park
  • The drafting of a park vegetation management plan
  • A series of key physical improvements, including the removal of a broken playground, a broken wading pool, the installation of a spray deck and canoe/kayak launch and outlook, and, now, making shoreline improvements and expanding the Powder Magazine patio and terrace

Park Ecology and History

  • With partners, initiated regular park cleanups, which include the removal of invasive species
  • Developed educational signage, to be installed in the spring of 2018, about park watersheds, water management, and habitat
  • Conducted wildlife inventory
  • Organized educational walks about park ecology, history, and the water management facility onsite
  • Published a seasonal newsletter, Nature Notes @ Magazine Beach
  • Conducted in-depth history of the site
  • Published History on the Charles: The Story of Captain’s Island and its Powder Magazine (2013)
  • Mounted exhibition, Magazine Beach—A Place Apart, at Cambridge Arts, City Hall and the State House (2014 & 2015)
  • Organized exhibition-related programs at Cambridge Arts and the State House (2014 & 2015)
  • Contributed to Historic Structure Report for the Powder Magazine (2016)

Park Community and Advocacy

  • Designed and distributed surveys and conducted interviews with hundreds of community members and local groups about the park’s needs and how it might provide greater community benefit. Analyzed results and produced report.
  • Performed extensive outreach to diverse constituencies: on site and across the city, in print, and on the web
  • Convened meetings with residents, local non-profits, businesses, universities, and City and State representatives to discuss and report on parkland issues and improvements, and the landscape plan for Magazine Beach
  • Engaged area students, from  3rd graders to graduate researchers in environmental science and urban planning, to solicit ideas and produce products: exhibits, a strategic plan, a study of the site’s topography and an assessment of need
  • Advocated for the park by giving testimony, writing letters, and meeting with local and State leaders
  • Promoted our efforts to broader publics through exhibits, films, articles, a website, and social media
  • Inspired over $3.5 million of park investment from the State of Massachusetts, the City of Cambridge, and over 350 individuals, foundations, and local businesses

Park Programming: Culture, Recreation, and Health

  • Over 5 years, organized over one hundred programs and events, partnering with dozens of organizations and drawing thousands of participants. Programs have ranged widely: from orienteering and art installations to swimming “Olympics” and performances.
  • Additionally, we have engaged volunteers who have contributed thousands of work hours in numerous areas: invasive removal and cleanups; nature study; visual art, photography, film production and design; research, documentation, writing and editing; project direction and strategic planning; and event planning, program coordinating, and education.

Here is our our annual reports : MB Partners Annual Report 2018 & 

2019 MBP Annual Report.