Thom Smith | NatureWatch: Cedar waxwings drop by; 50th Earth Day coming up

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Of the many species of berries that ripen in the fall and persist through the winter, one that has never let us, or the birds, down is winterberry. I planted three winterberry cuttings in our yard shortly after purchasing the property some 10 years ago. A few days ago, a flock of 15 or so cedar waxwings arrived. My wife, Susan, saw them the first day they were here, but didn't tell me. When I looked out the window the following morning, I noticed something had been at the bushes, there were hardly any berries left and, as I admired the visitor's thoroughness, the flock returned to finish devouring what remained. They were cedar waxwings and within an hour the branches were nearly nude, leaving a small number of deep red berries for a determined few birds.


I signed up to plant a pollinator garden as an Earth Day project, an easy way out for me because I plant one every spring and add to our perennial garden primarily designed for pollinators. Here is a tip to consider for your garden, vegetable or flower: In early June, (if hot weather has set in), put out several basil plants here and there (as few or as many as you wish) and let them grow without pruning to allow the flowers to blossom. You will be surprised by the assortment of beneficial insects that will be attracted.

Although I am not familiar with the variety, African blue basil is said to be one of the best pollinator plants you can add to your garden or edible landscape. If left to flower, it brings in bees and butterflies in numbers.

But back to Earth Day, there is so much more that each of us can do to combat the current environmental philosophy in The White House. For ideas and more information go to Now, more than ever, we all need to do what we can and unite and tackle environmental degradation and the climate crisis of today.

Do you have plans for Earth Day April 22? Let Naturewatch know.


Hi Thom, just a quick note regarding the value of all-natural peanut butter. I started serving it to our birds last year when it gets very cold out. All of our birds love it. I've had chickadees, titmouse, blue jays, juncos, even cardinals, enjoying this high-fat treat.

They all do the same routine — peck at the peanut butter, then take a sunflower seed and take off.

— Chuck, town of Florida

P.S. Please stress that it be "all-natural" peanut butter. I've read the processed stuff will make birds sick from all the chemicals.

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Along with Springside Park, Fred Garner Park (both gems found within Pittsfield's city limits) is a favorite destination of mine when I have an hour to kill. I remember in my days at The Berkshire Museum, I would sometimes enjoy a leisurely lunch there, especially in warmer weather.

Join the Berkshire Natural Resources Council for a sunset stroll along the floodplain forest at Fred Garner Park from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Thursday. Learn about conservation in the Berkshires, look for animal activity and identify trees along the river.

This event is free and open to the public and part of Pittsfield's 10X10 Festival. Hot beverages will be provided. Dress in layers and wear appropriate footwear.

Fred Garner Park is on Pomeroy Avenue, Pittsfield.

For information about upcoming hikes visit or email Mariah at


Sue Morse, founder and science director of Keeping Track, will present "The Cougar Returns to the East" at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Berkshire Community College, 1350 West St., Pittsfield.

Morse is highly regarded as an expert in natural history and one of North America's top wildlife trackers. Since 1977, she has been monitoring wildlife, with an emphasis on documenting the presence and habitat requirements of bobcat, black bear, Canada lynx and cougar.

Cougars are not only being seen in eastern North America, some are attempting to recolonize their former habitats. Where once it was flatly dismissed as an impossibility in the so-called "developed" east, scientists have now documented cougar dispersals and even occupancy in a growing list of eastern states and Canadian provinces.

For more information, contact The Berkshire Environmental Action Team, 413-230-7321, or email


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