- Division of Ecological Restoration
Watching the fascinating process of a larval fly crawling out of a river, breaking out of its exoskeleton and flying away, or the revelation of learning how all those large boulders in the woods came to be there are just a few of the perks of the Westfield River Wild & Scenic Watershed Blitz. In September people from across the watershed and beyond gathered for the fourth annual daylong ecological blitz along a portion of the Westfield River.
The intent of the blitz is to rotate annually through the Wild & Scenic segments of the three branches (East, Middle and West) of the Westfield River to catalog the outstanding flora, fauna and physical characteristics of the river. The approach is straightforward - engage a diverse team of experts to lead small groups of volunteers for a day of discovery and science. The gathered information is used to document the state of the river while the event offers watershed residents and visitors a unique opportunity to spend the day learning and observing the river with their selected specialists.
This year the focus was on the East Branch Westfield River and its amphibians, reptiles, mammals, macroinvertebrates, fish, geology, and natural communities. Volunteers arrived early on a sunny Saturday morning at the beautiful Chesterfield Gorge, a Trustees of Reservations property. People enjoyed a morning snack, met their specialist, grabbed cameras, clipboards, GPS units and collecting equipment and headed to their assigned river section. One group donned PFDs and headed to the East Branch’s headwaters, Fisk Meadow, for an on-the-water exploration.
The seven specialists spent several hours walking, wading or paddling in and along the river. The volunteers, who selected their group when they registered, came ready to get wet, dirty, sweaty, and to have fun. Participants helped collect data on the flora, fauna, geology and health of the river. The specialists helped translate the observations into findings about the larger context of river ecology, function and health.
Following a few hours of exploring and lunch along the river, the groups reconvened to share their observations. From fish to fungus, the species found and characteristics observed indicate that the East Branch Westfield River supports a healthy and diverse riverine community. The work of the specialists and their teams also uncovered a few areas of concern (such as the presence of non-native plants like the chocolate vine) and potential management options to address the problems.
For many of the attendees, this was not their first Watershed Blitz; it is quickly becoming an annual tradition with the opportunity to join a different specialist each year where they can gain a new perspective on the river’s ecology and contribute to improving the knowledge base that supports river protection and restoration efforts.