By Stewardship Manager, Erik Boyer
For the past three years, Brian Vigorito has volunteered at Willow Brook Farm Preserve in Pembroke through Wildlands’ “Adopt-a-Preserve” program. He is a regular at Wildlands’ Trailblazer projects and is one of our Hike Leaders. He is an avid hiker, birder, photographer and self-trained naturalist. Learn more about him and why he volunteers with Wildlands in my conversation with him below:
How did you first get interested in spending time outdoors?
I always played in the woods as a kid and hiked, but got away from it as I got older. Several years ago, I noticed there was a nature preserve [Willow Brook Farm] five minutes from where I live in Pembroke and started hiking there a few times a week. Around three years ago, I decided that I was interested in helping Wildlands at Willow Brook Farm and reached out to them to become a volunteer. I became interested in birding and photography just the last few years after attending Wildlands’ programming.
What is the most unique species of bird you have seen anywhere?
A Great Black Hawk, which I observed last year in Portland, Maine.
What is the most unique species that you have seen at Willow Brook Farm?
A black burnian warbler. I saw it on the Harry and Mary Todd Trail loop in the shrubland area, which is a great birding spot. After I first started getting into birding, I learned about an app called INaturalist which allows you to upload photos and submit your identification at an area. This is how I started to get into photography.
I recall that you had one particularly odd photo that reminded me of an awkward meeting of distant relatives, what’s the story behind it?
I went out to Shifting Lots Preserve on a cold and windy early spring day and observed a snowy egret and two little blue herons hunkering down on the edge of the marsh trying to stay out of the wind.
What is your favorite part about “Adopt-a-Preserve”?
That I can go five minutes from home to walk Willow Brook Farm and I can do it when I’ve got time, and it’s nice that it’s an open-ended experience.
What is your favorite trail work memory?
I would say building the new trail through the forest of green briar in the middle of the summer. It was impressive to watch Owen Grey mow down a 7-foot wall of briar.
What is your favorite thing to do while out on the property?
Definitely ID’ing organisms. I have identified 189 species at Willow Brook. This includes 94 species of birds, 8 mammals, 4 reptiles, 6 amphibians, 34 insects, and 47 plants.
What is your favorite trail work tool?
It would definitely be hand pruners. I’m a detail oriented person and it’s enjoyable to fine tune the trail behind the power tools.
What is the strangest item of trash you have picked up?
A 10-foot metal pipe during a beach cleanup at White Horse Beach in Plymouth.
What is your favorite spot on the trails at WBF?
The observation overlooking Herring Brook. It’s a great birding location and it gives you the best view of the property.
What’s the best time of year to visit Willow Brook?
The winter, it’s especially a great walk just after a snow fall as you can follow all of the wildlife tracks in the snow.
What is the coolest critter you’ve found out there?
A four-toed salamander under a log.
What is your favorite Wildlands property to visit outside of Willow Brook?
Shifting Lots, it’s my go-to spot for good birding – especially shorebirds!
What would you tell anyone who is thinking about volunteering with Wildlands?
You get to meet a great community of people at projects and other events. Adopt-a-Preserve is great because you can do it at your own pace and on your own time.