A Half-Year Report from Friends of Fresh Pond Reservation

July 14, 2006

Fresh Pond Reservation in 2006 continues to provide the Friends group with plenty of opportunities for learning, helping, and enjoying. So far this year we have organized 33 programs, including the familiar bird walks, tree and wildflower identification, and family programs focusing on ponds, insects, and animal survival. New on the agenda are monthly "Welcome to Fresh Pond" walks with Ranger Jean, an evening of nature readings called "The Indoor Naturalist," a winter ecology walk, and tours of the Water Purification Facility. In addition, we offered two more of the very popular Fresh Pond history programs, "Shifting Patterns, Shifting Significance" by Jill Sinclair. In coordination with the Cambridge Historical Society, we held one of the programs at the Hooper-Lee-Nichols House on Brattle Street. The second program was held in the lovely 15th floor lecture hall of the British Consulate General building in Kendall Square.

The Reservation this year is undergoing extensive habitat restoration at Little Fresh Pond and in the Northeast sector. In an effort to help members keep abreast of the improvements, we have publicized once a month "Northeast Sector Walkabouts" offered by Watershed Manager, Chip Norton. Although the walks are offered weekly on Monday evenings throughout the summer, we agreed to co-sponsor and publicize them monthly.

Opportunities for Reservation stewardship this year have included a "Double Cleanup" day, and volunteer planting of wildflowers on the banks of Little Fresh Pond. We continue to maintain the gardens at the back patio of Neville Place, and we kept the nearby bird feeders stocked with sunflower and thistle seeds all winter long. Our wildlife inventories now include fungi, thanks to member Larry Millman, and insects, thanks to member Tom Murray. Squizzle Plekavich has expanded his monthly plankton surveys to include Black's Nook as well as Little Fresh Pond.

Biodiversity Days 2006 coincided with a week of rain. We held all seven of the programs that were planned, four of them while carrying umbrellas. The weather reduced the numbers of attendees and the species counts, but did not seriously dampen the enthusiasm of the participants. The lists of species we observed are being submitted to the State database, and any newly observed species will be added to the FFPR inventories.

Three members, Barbara Strell, Tom Murray, and Elizabeth Wylde, have been meeting every month as part of a yearlong pilot program with the purpose of observing seasonal and other changes in three habitats at the Reservation, a pond, a woods, and a meadow. Our goal is to determine whether such a program can be offered as a FFPR series.

Visitors to Fresh Pond continue to take and use FFPR's hand-drawn maps of the Reservation that we keep stocked in the one remaining information box at Kingsley Park, and in the information rack in the Ranger Station. We also print and make available other informational material, including monthly program flyers, specimen tree maps, bird checklists, lists of plantings in newly reconstructed areas (Water Department, Little Fresh Pond, Northeast Sector), and a list of invasive plant species. The Bird Sightings whiteboard in the Ranger Station is also popular and frequently used.

All but one of our nesting boxes for tree swallows and chickadees had to be moved to new locations this year because of the construction around Neville Place and Little Fresh Pond. The birds adjusted quite well: four boxes were occupied by tree swallows, and one by house wrens. We did fewer inspections of the boxes this year because both birds and inspectors found the intrusion upsetting. Soon we will take down the boxes, clean them, and store them until next spring.

Our membership growth remains steady at mid-year, with 91 renewals and new memberships, about 10 higher than last July. At the end of 2006 we had 126 memberships, 49 of which were "family memberships."

We now send monthly program publicity to about 700 individual e-mail addresses, the list serves of the Mystic River Watershed Association, the City Publicist, the Haggerty School, the Cambridge Public School employees, and the Department of Human Services, as well as the Cambridge Civic Journal website and the Art Deadlines List blog. We also put posters in local schools, libraries, and outdoors information boards. The number of people who check the FFPR website for program and other information continues to grow. Occasionally the Cambridge Chronicle and the Boston Globe publicize our events.

We have used our money this year to provide four bus trips for Cambridge Public School classes to the Maynard Ecology Center, to give Jill Sinclair a $100 honorarium and a framed print of the ice houses of Fresh Pond, for stamps, for cookies and juice, and for our website host fee. We currently have about $3000 in our checking account. We are looking for useful and creative ways to use this resource.

When we learned that the public parking lot at Neville Place was to be closed during construction in the area, we turned to our neighbor on Concord Avenue, BBN Technologies, and requested the use of their visitor parking lot during weekend events based at the Maynard Ecology Center. BBN President Ed Campbell's gracious response was, "What are neighbors for if not to help one another?" Participants at Friends group events are now directed to that lot and are given one-time passes for their car dashboards.

The Friends group appreciates the ongoing support of the Cambridge Water Department,
where we know we can turn for information, assistance, and the use of their photocopier. They have given us permission to use the first-floor training room during July, while the downstairs of Neville Place and the Maynard Ecology Center are closed for asbestos abatement. We also thank Maynard Ecology Center staff and the Cambridge School Department for their interest, and Neville Place for providing refreshments for our programs.

The vitality of the Friends group is a product of its active members. This year's programs have been led and assisted by the many people listed below.

Animal Survival and Arthropod Programs for Families: Susan Coolidge and Janet Kovner
Bird Walks: Nancy Guppy, Lance Drane, Jim Barton, Elizabeth Wylde
Ecology Programs: Larry Millman, Tom Murray, Peter Alden
Fresh Pond Restoration Project Walkabouts: Chip Norton and Water Department Staff
Fungus Programs: Larry Millman
History Programs, "Shifting Patterns, Shifting Significance": Jill Sinclair
Also helped with these programs: Suzanna Black, Lance Drane, Janet Kovner, Maria Meyer, Anne Remby, Mark Sinclair, Carolyn Young, and Frank Yulling
Insect Programs: Tom Murray
Introductory Programs- "Welcome to Fresh Pond": Jean Rogers
Nature Readings- "Indoor Naturalist": Wren Colle and Don Ostrowski
Phenology Program: Barbara Strell, Tom Murray, Elizabeth Wylde
Pond Life: Susan Agger, Squizzle Plekavich
Stewardship Programs: Jean Rogers
Tree and Shrub Identification: Jean Rogers
Water Purification Facility Tour: Tim MacDonald
Wildflower Identification: Elizabeth Wylde, Barbara Strell