Berkshire Natural Resources Council Blog

Landkeeper's Blog

Join us in our mission to keep land open for everyone to visit and enjoy.
Scroll down to see what we're up to!

Family Self-Guided StoryWalk, Housatonic Flats, Great Barrington

Saturday, December 10 – Sunday, January 2 (dawn to dusk)

Housatonic Flats, Great Barrington 

As you walk enjoy a story about a father that takes his child on an adventure to go owling for the first time on a cold winter night. Wordlessly the two companions walk along, for when you go owling you don’t need words. You don’t need anything but hope. Sometimes there isn’t an owl, but sometimes there is! While the audience of the book is 3-7-year-olds, the content is great for all ages- even adults!  

DIRECTIONS

From Lee: From the Mass Pike/Big Y intersection, take Route 102 southwest toward Stockbridge. In Stockbridge turn left onto Route 7. After passing Monument Mountain, before reaching Price Chopper, look for the parking lot on the right side of the road.  

From Great Barrington: From the Price Chopper, head north on Route 7 for less than half a mile. Parking will be on the left.  

From Lenox: Take Route 7 or Route 7A south toward Great Barrington. After passing Monument Mountain, before reaching Price Chopper, look for the parking lot on the right side of the road.  

GPS: 42.216357, -73.343895 (Trailhead parking) 

For questions reach out to Mariah at mogg@bnrc.org 

Thank You Volunteers!

October 2022

By Charlotte Hood, Volunteer & Outreach Assistant

On a gorgeous fall afternoon, BNRC staff, volunteers, loved ones, and community partners gathered to recognize the hardworking and thoughtful individuals who volunteer their time to help care for Berkshire land and trails.  Coming together around food, drink, and games amidst the beautiful scenery of Wild Acres, a City of Pittsfield conservation property, painted a clear picture of how essential volunteers are to the sense of community and comradery that we value at BNRC.

 

 

 

 

 

 


With around 80 active volunteers, BNRC’s volunteer program is ever-growing.
 Volunteers in attendance went back as far as 30 years (shoutout to Ginny Akabane!) and as recently as this summer. Whether they be lifelong residents of Berkshire County or recent transplants, students, or retirees, we all unite around our love for the outdoors and the importance of access to nature for all.   

A short, leisurely hike to an observation tower at Wild Acres offered a spectacular view of Mahanna Cobble at the northern end of  Yokun Ridge. The creation of BNRC’s Mahanna Cobble reserve, (and many others) was made possible in large part by the hard work of volunteers, who helped build the dramatic switchback trail. Volunteers continue to help steward it by stocking maps (over 8,000 trail maps across BNRC reserves so far this year!), submitting trail reports, and helping clear blowdowns. 

The evening came to a close with an award ceremony—“Crushin’ It,” “Rock Star,” and “Ground Breaker” were among the titles—highlighting the dedication and personalities of volunteers. It was a time for us all to reflect with gratitude on the role volunteers play in the regional popularity of BNRC trails and reserves. Thank you, volunteers! 

If you’d like to learn more about volunteering with BNRC visit bnrc.org/volunteer.  

  

 

Your 2022 Autumn Newsyletter

Right now, BNRC donors are helping put together one of the largest land protection projects in BNRC history—one that will result in over 14,000 acres of contiguous conservation land.

I’ll get to that in a minute. First it’s important to remember how these projects come to be.

When you walk a BNRC property, when you pick berries, spot birds, and pause to enjoy the rushing waters or the soft breezes, take a moment to remember that every one of these places was once cared for by a family who had a choice to make.

When the land’s future was up for grabs, they made a choice that benefits all of us. And you make it possible for families to make conservation-minded decisions that shape the Berkshires forever.

Donate to BNRC

As this very busy summer winds down, it’s my pleasure to report to you on what you make possible when you donate to BNRC in 2022.

But first, this note about the past… and the future.

When I arrived at BNRC, we’d just celebrated its 50th anniversary with a big party. This year, BNRC is 55 and there’s no party. Instead, there’s… planning.

Yes, planning. If you’ve read some of my letters to you in the last few years, you’ll know I’m kind of a planning nerd. Along with BNRC’s (incredible) staff and (amazing) board, and you, we’re looking out 5, 10, 20 years and asking:

What does the Berkshires need that only BNRC can accomplish? (And by “BNRC” I mean all of us—staff, board, volunteers, donors, hikers…)

  • What lands are most endangered?
  • How can we build climate resilience?
  • Who doesn’t have access to nature?

About that last question: a few weeks ago, a team of Roots Rising Farm Crew teens took a walk at the Old Mill Trail in Hinsdale, with BNRC’s Director of Public Programs, Mackenzie Greer. She’s also a Roots Rising board member and is passionate about its mission to empower teens through farming, food, and meaningful work.

She shared with me that the teens were particularly excited that the Old Mill is accessible—they really connected to the importance of making it easy for people to experience nature.

The Old Mill, and Parsons Marsh, and the Hoosac Range, and over 50 other properties that you’ve helped protect, make it possible for teenagers to connect to nature. For people with physical challenges to get outside. For toddlers to discover their first salamander.

You help people experience the transformative power of nature.

Donate to BNRC

So, about those 14,000 acres.

You are leveraging enormous investment in nature.

Right now, you’re helping BNRC with one of the largest projects it has ever done—connecting over 14,000 acres in Monterey and Tyringham. It includes 836 acres of new conservation land (about the size of NYC’s Central Park).

Over $800,000 in donations from BNRC supporters will leverage nearly $2.4 million in grants and in-kind donations from state agencies and foundations.

The result: connecting, and adding to, large swaths of already-conserved land to create a habitat corridor for black bear, moose, and bobcat. Opening new opportunities for hiking, snowshoeing, fishing, mountain-biking, and swimming. Building the climate resilience of the Berkshires.

This happens when we build partnerships:

  • with families, who trust BNRC to look out for their interests and care for their land;
  • with other conservation organizations, who work together on projects;
  • and with state agencies, who know they can rely on BNRC to complete large and complex projects with integrity.

Huge as it is, this is only one of the projects in progress right now.

New land and farm conservation is going on in West Stockbridge, Richmond, Lenox, Great Barrington, Lanesborough, Williamstown, Sandisfield, and New Marlborough.

And trail and habitat improvements are underway in Great Barrington, Lee, North Adams, Dalton, and Pittsfield.

In other words, ALL OVER THE BERKSHIRES.

Thanks to you.

Donate to BNRC

You’ll see some new faces in the field… and in the office.

The NEW office, I mean—BNRC recently moved to sunny, spacious new digs in Lenox. In the Landkeepers Report, you met the summer crew—those hardworking folk who are doing the backbreaking work of moving rocks, heaving logs, and creating those effortless-looking foot paths.

You may have also run into Charlotte Hood out on the trail. BNRC’s new Volunteer and Outreach Assistant, this NYC native always found herself drawn to the natural world, whether it be the pigeon outside the window or the classroom bunny.

She quickly found herself at home amongst the trees while attending Skidmore College in upstate New York. With a degree in Environmental Studies and a background in environmental education, Charlotte loves sharing her love for nature with you.

I’m also really excited to welcome Deanna Smith, High Road Manager. Deanna owned her own trail-planning and building company, constructing trails across the country and the Berkshires. She is committed to sustainable and equitable access to nature. Deanna is hard at work fleshing out the plan for the next High Road legs throughout the county. I know she is really looking forward to sharing them with you.

And a few key people behind the scenes, too: Ashley Winseck joins us as the Special Assistant to the President. That lofty-sounding title doesn’t come close to describing the wizardry she is bringing to every aspect of the organization. She does everything from figuring out the best project management software to keeping track of all the board committees, all the while keeping me and BNRC’s meetings organized.

And Kathleen Mosher is BNRC’s new Assistant Director of Development. You will be hearing a lot from her—she’s organizing all kinds of get-togethers to help you stay in the know and connected to the work going on to care for and protect your Berkshires.

One final summertime thought:

Everything we do depends on dozens, if not hundreds of friends.

That’s one reason we are determined to pursue ideas and initiatives that benefit the whole community… to foster a belief that land can be shared, with plants and animals as well as with each other.

Your friendship and financial support is indispensable to successful projects like these… it’s essential to building a stronger community.

Thank you for caring for this land we all share.

Donate to BNRC

Yours truly,

Jenny Hansell
President

Naturalista Sin Complicaciones: Todo sobre el Otoño (caminata autoguiada) en el Old Mill Trail, Dalton/Hinsdale

Sábado, 17 de septiembre – lunes, 24 de octubre   

Old Mill Trail, Dalton  

El otoño es la época perfecta para realizar una curiosa caminata por el bosque. Profundice su conocimiento sobre los cambios que experimentan las plantas y los animales mientras se preparan para el invierno, aprendiendo qué señales buscar mientras disfruta del aire fresco y las coloridas hojas. ¿Por qué cambian de color las hojas? ¿Qué animales migran o se preparan para la hibernación? Descubra las respuestas a estas preguntas y a muchas más. Esta actividad estará ubicada en el Old Mill Trail de Dalton durante un mes y es apta para todas las edades. El sendero se considera de fácil acceso – 1,4 millas de ida y vuelta y con una superficie relativamente plana.  

INDICACIONES:   

Desde el centro de Dalton: tome la Ruta 8 hacia el sur hasta la frontera de Hinsdale. Desde la frontera del pueblo, continúe 4/10 millas hasta girar a la izquierda en Old Dalton Road. El estacionamiento del sendero es el primero que encontrará a la izquierda. 

GPS: 42.4480, -73.1305 (estacionamiento al inicio del sendero) 

Si tiene preguntas, por favor, comuníquese a chood@bnrc.org. No es necesario realizar una inscripción para asistir al evento. 

Autumn Appreciation Hike, Hoosac Range, North Adams

Hoosac Range, North Adams 

Sunday, October 2nd   

10:00 am – 12:00 pm

Enjoy the crisp air and beautiful colors of peak fall foliage along Hoosac Range’s ridgeline hike to Sunset Rock. We will enjoy a special fall treat at the summit as we appreciate the spectacular view of North Adams, Mount Greylock, and the Green Mountains. In honor of Indigenous People’s Day, we will also discuss the history and significance of nearby Mohican Mohawk Trail. This hike will be 1.6 miles roundtrip, including moderate elevation gain.  

Well behaved dogs on leash are welcome.  

DIRECTIONS: 

From North Adams: Take Route 2 east. Past the hairpin, on the top of the hill, the parking and trailhead will be on your right. 

From Pittsfield: Take Route 8 North, at the Cumberland Farms in North Adams, take a right onto 8A. Then take a right, heading east on Route 2. The trailhead parking is on the right at the top of the hill, immediately after the Wigwam Cabins. 

GPS: 42.6965, -73.0648 (Trailhead parking) 

For questions reach out to chood@bnrc.org. 

  

The Easy Naturalist: All About Autumn (self-guided walk) at the Old Mill Trail, Dalton/Hinsdale

Wednesday, September 21st – Wednesday, October 26th   

Old Mill Trail, Dalton  

Autumn is the perfect time for an inquisitive walk through the woods. Deepen your understanding of the changes plant and animal life undergo as they prepare for winter, learning what signs to look for as you enjoy the crisp air and colorful leaves. Why do leaves change color, anyway? Which animals are migrating or preparing for hibernation? Find out answers to these questions, and many more. This installation will be up at the Old Mill Trail in Dalton for a month and is friendly for all ages. The trail is considered easy – 1.4 miles roundtrip and relatively flat surface.  

DIRECTIONS:   

From the center of Dalton: take Route 8 south to the Hinsdale line. From the town line, continue 4/10 miles to a left on Old Dalton Road. The trailhead parking is the first, immediate left. 

GPS: 42.4480, -73.1305 (trailhead parking) 

For questions reach out to chood@bnrc.org. No registration necessary.  

Nest Watch: Feathered Fun with Community Science

July 2022 

By Charlotte Hood, Volunteer and Outreach Assistant 

Watching eggs hatch and baby birds grow for science? Yup! This is BNRC’s first season participating in Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology NestWatch program, and what fun it has been!  

NestWatch is a nationwide program designed to track the status and trends in the reproductive biology of birds, including the timing of nesting, number of eggs laid, how many eggs hatch, and how many hatchlings survive. The data participants help collect is used to study the condition of bird populations and how they may be changing over time due to environmental stressors such as climate change and habitat loss. Given that there has been a nearly 30% reduction in the North American bird population since 1970, research like this has never been so important (Rosenberg et al, 2019).  

Among the volunteer participants was a family of homeschoolers who were quite literally doing this for science (class!). They braved the chilly spring and muddy trail, and it paid off, opening their box one day to find these beautiful eastern bluebird eggs and then a few days later, naked nestlings!

    
    

Another participant battled a pesky and persistent field mouse who kept returning to the nest box to make its home. Perhaps it confused itself for a bird? Thankfully, this dedicated volunteer was just as persistent and found a different nest box with a tree swallow nest. Tree swallow nests are easily distinguished from eastern bluebird nests by the feathers that characterize their nesting material. Additionally, tree swallow eggs are pinkish white, quite different from the eastern bluebird’s turquoise (see photos). 

 As we near the end of July, adult tree swallows and their fledglings are gearing up for their southern migration to overwintering sites in Florida and Central America, an early trip for songbirds. Meanwhile, eastern bluebirds are attempting a second and sometimes even a third brood, not migrating south until later in the season.  

If you don’t have the time to participate in NestWatch you can make a difference by building your own nest box. Tree swallows and eastern bluebirds use the same nest box, so you can attract both species to your property and support their reproduction. See All About Birdhouses for more details and a free, downloadable construction plan.  

By participating in NestWatch, BNRC was able to offer the public a new way of interacting with the natural world – an intimate window into the life of birds, and the chance to make a difference. For kids and adults alike, NestWatch offers a beginner-friendly introduction to the biology of birds and data collection and allows land trusts like BNRC to broaden our sphere of influence.  

Are you interested in participating or learning more? Send an email to Charlotte at chood@bnrc.org or visit NestWatch online.

 Reference 

Rosenberg KV, Dokter AM, Blancher PJ, Sauer JR, Smith AC, Smith PA, Stanton JC, Panjabi A, Helft L, Parr M, Marra PP. Decline of the North American avifauna. Science. 2019 Oct 4;366(6461):120-124. doi: 10.1126/science.aaw1313. Epub 2019 Sep 19. PMID: 31604313. 

https://www.birds.cornell.edu/home/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/DECLINE-OF-NORTH-AMERICAN-AVIFAUNA-SCIENCE-2019.pdf 

Your 2022 Spring newsyletter!

June 3, 2022

For those of you not signed up to receive BNRC’s “Newsyletters,” or for those wondering what a newsyletter is, these regular updates are one excellent way to keep up-to-date on BNRC’s recent accomplishments and upcoming plans – all sent right to your inbox! We hope that you’ll enjoy reading our spring feature below, and, if you like what you see, you can sign up to receive them by clicking here.

What do you love most about the Berkshires?

That question came up recently on a local Facebook group I follow. People were asked to respond with pictures.

Almost immediately, the photos started coming: serene lakes, mountain vistas, rugged trails. A secret tract of forest. Deer, bears, and bees.

Do you know why we have this serenity, beauty, and ruggedness? Why the views, and the quiet… why the wildlife isn’t gone?

It’s because of you, and people like you: people who love the Berkshires and who have decided its mountains, trees, and bees are important.

People who have chosen to act with their heart, their hands, and their money, to protect what matters most.

Donate to BNRC

It’s funny, isn’t it, to measure success in what hasn’t happened?

What if together we hadn’t acted to protect Baldwin Hill in Egremont?

When you walk Baldwin Hill today, what you don’t see is development. You don’t see the collective efforts of hundreds of people like you. All you see is—beauty. Open fields. The majestic elm… Egremont’s most beloved resident!

But it IS the work, the coming together, the focusing of our time, energy, and money on what we value, that ensured that Baldwin Hill… and Undermountain Farm in Lenox… and Hollow Fields in Richmond… and hundreds of other places across the county… will stay as they are—as our generations received them.

You did that. You and folks like you can do that this spring by donating to BNRC.

Donate to BNRC

But this wasn’t meant to be a typical fundraising letter! Actually, at this point in the year, I usually write what we call a Newsyletter—filled with updates on recent accomplishments and plans for the coming seasons.

So here’s some great news:

  • Thanks to the generosity of the owners of Ice House Hill Farm, BNRC has accepted a conservation restriction on 130 acres of the farm (formerly part of the Malnati Farm). This means the farm is preserved and its scenic views are protected in perpetuity. Because of donors, BNRC has expert land conservation staff who can act on opportunities like these on a moment’s notice…
  • Speaking of a moment’s notice, last November, BNRC was contacted by Cynthia and Randolph Nelson who wanted to donate their property of 120 acres that bordered Sleepy Hollow and Dublin Roads in Richmond. Their hope was to complete the donation quickly, and thanks to folks like you, it all came together just in time for the New Year’s Day holiday. This was a new opportunity for BNRC to offer more open land for public enjoyment, deepen its commitment to ensuring that farmers have access to farmland, and help land donors achieve their conservation goals. BNRC is in the process of learning more about this parcel and how best to open it fully to the public.
  • Over at Basin Pond in Lee, I’m thrilled that BNRC’s land stewardship team is currently in the permitting phase of improving the stream crossings along the trail that lead to the pond—a place that is perfect for picnicking, birding, and writing. Getting into those improvements this year will make it easier for more of us to use the trails (the stream crossings have been a bit precarious the last few years). It will be good for the streams too, keeping the edges of those beds in shape.
  • There’s also going to be improved access at the Olivia’s Overlook reserve on Yokun Ridge South—it’s seen a sharp rise in use since the start of 2020 and is also part of the newly opened High Road segment of trails to towns, thanks to the 600+ households that donated to the project several years ago.
  • Access is about more than trails too! Folks have written to the BNRC office and shared on social media that the Spanish language trail maps for BNRC reserves that you made possible are a huge hit!
  • You’ve also helped BNRC acquire outdoor equipment like snowshoes and gear packs, to share with local outing groups such as Berkshire Family Hikes and Latinas413.
  • In 2022, there will be new trail at Thomas & Palmer in Great Barrington, designs for parking access at the forthcoming Tom Ball reserve, and lots of other work on dams, bridges, culverts… which you might not notice but you would if they didn’t get done!
  • More conservation is in the works too. All in all, there are at least ten pending conservation projects, in various stages, amounting to over 2,000 acres of Berkshire forests, fields, vistas, farms, and waters—places that will remain unspoiled… where you can notice what hasn’t happened.

A final note: I wrote earlier in this letter that you all, together, are why the Berkshires look the way they do—why so many people on Facebook were able to share images of Berkshire beauty.

But I want to single out one particular person, who painstakingly, ferociously, persistently did the work to make these conservation projects happen.

If not for BNRC’s Director of Land Conservation, Narain Schroeder, the Berkshires would look very different today.

Narain is not someone who calls attention to himself. The only reason I’m doing so now is that, after 19 years, he’s decided to conclude this chapter of his career and seek new opportunities. As he told me, his kids have left for college and beyond, and now is the right time to go. He will be deeply missed.

For Narain… for the Facebook pictures… for the bobolink and moose… for the places where we fall in love… for the conservation projects in process… for free public access to nature…

please donate this spring to provide for everything we accomplish together through BNRC. It’s great having you on the team!

Yours truly,

Rich

Jenny Hansell
President

 

CANCELED: Floodplain Forest Walk at Housatonic Flats, Great Barrington

Saturday, July 23rd, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

Housatonic Flats, Great Barrington 

Floodplains are uncommon in Massachusetts, but they offer a wealth of environmental benefits. Floodplain forests host rare plant and wildlife habitat, offer climate resiliency by storing stormwater during floods, and, of course, store carbon. Join us for a walk at BNRC’s Housatonic Flats reserve, special for its floodplain forest that sits right along the Housatonic River. We will learn about the ecosystem benefits of floodplain forests and how to identify some of the plants that specialize in growing there.  

Distance: 0.9 miles

Difficulty: Easy (little elevation gain, slow pace)

For questions or to RSVP, email Charlotte at chood@bnrc.org (up to 12 participants).

Well behaved dogs allowed on leash. 

Directions 

From Lee: From the Mass Pike/Big Y intersection, take Route 102 southwest toward Stockbridge. In Stockbridge turn left onto Route 7. After passing Monument Mountain, before reaching Price Chopper, look for the parking lot on the right side of the road. 

From Great Barrington: From the Price Chopper, head north on Route 7 for less than half a mile. Parking will be on the left. 

From Lenox: Take Route 7 or Route 7A south toward Great Barrington. After passing Monument Mountain, before reaching Price Chopper, look for the parking lot on the right side of the road. 

GPS: 42.216357, -73.343895 (Trailhead parking)