the trustees of reservations
On The Land
The Trustees of Reservations

Monday, July 22, 2013

Farandnear Reservation - CR Wildlife Camera Program in action - and your chance for Volunteer Action!

Farandnear, one of our newest Reservations (click to read more!), is the name given by the Banks family to their land, now a Trustees' Reservation officially opening to the public in October, located in the classic New England small town of Shirley, Massachusetts.  If you're not familiar with Shirley it's just a stone's throw past Concord and Acton off Route 2 in northern Middlesex County and not too far at all from the city bustle at just over thirty miles from Boston.  You may know this beautiful and quiet town for the Bull Run which offers a lively restaurant and renowned destination music venue in a colonial tavern, the town's historic and well-preserved common, or if you're an Appalachian Trail buff you may know it as the home of the trail's visionary founding father, conservationist Benton MacKaye, a friend of the Banks family.  Now we hope it will become known, beyond a beloved community secret, for the natural splendor of Farandnear too!

Farandnear was named by donor, Professor Arthur Banks's, parents to describe Shirley's location, both far enough to be a two-day carriage ride at the turn of the 20th century yet near enough to be a seasonal home away from their urban home in the Wollaston neighborhood of Quincy.  Professor Arthur Banks donated a conservation restriction (CR) in 1995, and kept a reserved life estate for himself on his 80 acres, and we got to know him as a private yet unceasingly generous man who always allowed the public to come on his land and trails to enjoy nature until his passing in 2011 (Click here to read our 2011 memorial blog post to Prof. Banks)

By donating his land to The Trustees of Reservations, his legacy of community-minded generosity will continue. On October 5th, the grand opening of Farandnear will take place - in the meantime we invite you to get involved in helping to get this Special Place ready for official opening to the public with two volunteer workdays (click here!) on Saturdays, August 10th and September 21st!  
Farandnear joins the company of Cedariver in Millis and Rock House Reservation in West Brookfield, where the landowner and the land began their connection to TTOR with a permanent CR held by us, and eventually donated their entire property to become a Reservation.  That's not to mention the over 20 pieces of CR land given to us to become part of an existing Reservation, adding to such stunning places as The Crane Estate and Wildlife Refuge in Ipswich, Sherborn's Rocky Narrows, Dover's Noanet Woodlands, Petersham's Brooks Woodland Preserve, and Tyringham's McLennan Reservation and Ashintully.  And the 54 total Reservations that are additionally protected or connected by bordering or nearby CR properties.  This kind of generosity attests to the importance of CRs to our land protection work and the wonderful bonds that often form between CR landowners and TTOR through the relationships formed during the negotiation, annual monitoring, and perpetual stewardship of conservation restrictions on privately-owned land.

Farandnear is a true wildlife haven, featuring a variety of habitats such as open meadows interspersed with early successional patches, mature mixed hardwood forests, areas of mature white pine forest, a beautiful hemlock ravine, and copious wetlands including streams, vernal pools, red maple swamps, an old cranberry bog, and a couple newly created beaver ponds which are beginning to provide snags (dead trees) for bird nesting, feeding, and perching.  Its location close to town-owned conservation land in Shirley and Lunenburg makes it part of a much broader wildlife corridor than its 80 acres alone!   So are you curious yet what critters might be found out there?  We were too!

Lunchtime for a great blue heron!
The heron responded to an ad for real estate in a new beaver pond.  Here's that awkward first meeting with the landlord! (Look down, just above the words "Rapidfire Pro"!)
The CR Program was lucky enough to apply for and receive a Norcross Wildlife Foundation grant to purchase several motion-activated wildlife cameras this Spring, thanks to a great idea hatched by CR Program staff and a land trust partner in the Berkshires.  This summer and going forward, we are placing them on CR properties with high wildlife habitat value across the state - our primary goals are to learn more about what wildlife uses these lands, share these photos with the landowners, and with the public via this blog and TTOR's Facebook page.  Since Farandnear is a CR property that is now becoming a Reservation, we thought it the perfect laboratory to test our cameras.  So far we have been nothing but thrilled with the results!  Thanks to the Norcross Wildlife Foundation for the grant, volunteer Lydia Rogers for a camera loan while we waited for ours to arrive and for her tracker's eye to help us place the first ones, and ecologist Bill Latrell of Heath for taking time to share his wildlife camera best practices to train staff and volunteers who will place the cameras on CR properties around Massachusetts! 

Our first photo of the year - a bobcat on a nocturnal prowl!
Beginner's luck, or wildlife paradise?  This post shows just a few great highlights of the shots captured at Farandnear over the past few months!  Other wandering critters included a family of ducks, raccoons in the nighttime mists, a grey fox, many curious deer, several hundred pictures (I am dead serious - this heron is particularly narcissistic and likes to strut around in circles for hours in front of the camera, day and night) of the heron, a bear which walked by so close that we got no clear pictures but could only conclude "Yes that was definitely a bear." and a few shots of the rare and endangered Sally Naser, CR Program Manager, coming to set up the cameras!  With wildlife cameras now set up in The Berkshires, Central Mass, and soon in Greater Boston and the Southeast, we hope to have much more to share with you soon!  I am holding out hope for moose, otter, or fisher cats in the near future!

Is this a bear?  Or is this a bear?  I'm going with it's a bear. 
In the meantime, we need your help at Farandnear to get it ready for opening in October!  Check out the flyer and link above (here's the link again! Click for the info page!) to find how you can help at our volunteer work days on August 10 and September 21st.  With your help this amazing property will be open in time for the height of Autumn!