Stony Brook Tour 042317 GN

Doug Williams of the Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary conducted a number tours though the property during Sunday’s Earth celebration. Here, he stands on remains of a stone wall that divided cultivated land (foreground) and uncultivated land. Now both sides of the wall have gone back to a natural state.

NORFOLK - A fitting way to celebrate Earth Day weekend came in the form of a tree-planting and a hearty nature walk through woods at the Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary on Sunday.

The spice bush, which will eventually grow up to 10 feet high, was planted along the walkway surrounding the sanctuary building. The plant is native to the property and important to the wetlands, according to sanctuary director Doug Williams.

Early in the afternoon, Williams led a half-dozen people two-thirds of a mile within Thompson Woods, across the street from the sanctuary. The forest, dominated by pine trees, was a landscape that had been modified by glaciers in the past, Williams explained.

In response to a question from one of the walkers, Williams showed the crowd how to determine the age of a white pine seedling. For every "whirl" of the white pine's branches, it marked one year. Williams counted 18 whirls, estimating that with this number, along with the space between a few of the whirls, that the white pine was 20 years old.

The final portion of the walk took the participants on a small hike up an esker - an "upside down stream" formed by a glacier, which was now a rise in the landscape.

"Imagine: this is the debris of the debris flowing in a stream that was a glacier," Williams told the walkers.

Williams also pointed out a certified vernal pool in the woods, where wood frogs and salamanders breed and lay eggs, as well as a beaver lodge along the banks of the Little B.B. Pond.

Robert O'Toole of Dedham, who recently joined the Massachusetts Audubon sanctuary, considered the nature walk "informative."

"I learned a lot about trees and different wildlife and plants," said O'Toole, a nature enthusiast.

The planting of the spice bush was a special way to celebrate Earth Day, Williams said, and topping the event off with a nature walk was even more special.

"It provides us with a foil for talking to people about how important these woods are, and it gives us an opportunity to tell people why conserving this land is important."

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