Purple Martins and Stony Brook

Purple martins and Stony Brook? Not an automatic connection for most of our visitors, but sanctuary director, Doug Williams, and volunteer, Madeleine Linck, hope it will become one. About nine years ago, the purple martin house was erected in the front field in hopes that America’s largest swallow, the purple martin, would rear a new generation. Finally, after 5 years or more, the Purple Martins began to use the specially designed house as home base for their young.  For years, this is where the story ended…until last spring.


Current purple martin house at rest for the winter

Madeleine Linck, former wildlife technician at Three Rivers Park District in Minnesota, came to Stony Brook, attracted to the sanctuary because of the nesting purple martins. Madeleine was moving to Massachusetts and hoped to help monitor the purple martin house. Based on her former experience monitoring the MN district’s purple martin nesting sites, Madeleine became the lead in instructing volunteers in the fine art of checking the housing. By late summer of last year, Madeleine and her trained volunteers had identified active nests raising young and/or witnessed fledglings.

Male purple martin By Ingrid Taylar

Currently, on Madeleine’s recommendation, the sanctuary is hoping to provide an ideal gourd housing option for the growing population of purple martins. The gourds are more attractive to the purple martins and are much less accessible to predators. The sanctuary is hosting a free program for those who would like to learn more about purple martins, Wednesday, April 19th at 7:00pm. Of course, Stony Brook is home to many other discoveries and opportunities for you to explore. Hope to see you at the sanctuary soon!

Stony Brook Stewardship Sunday, January 8th at 1pm

Curious about how you can make a difference with only a couple of hours to spare this weekend? Join the Stewardship Volunteer Crew at Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary this Sunday, January 8th at 1pm and enjoy the peace and tranquility of the open fields and wetlands in Norfolk.  Come and work beside other volunteers who share a common desire to protect and care for our wild spaces.


Removal of Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) vine by volunteers, Connor Kenney (left) and George Darrell (right)

There will be a something sweet to eat and a warm welcome for you inside the sanctuary upon arrival this Sunday, January 8th at 1pm. Matt O’Neil, sanctuary property manager, will lead the team and provide a brief training and explanation of the task for the day that may include removal of invasives.

By Vilseskogen

Berries of Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora) Photo By Vilseskogen

Stony Brook Stewardship Day is an opportunity to learn more about our natural world. Perspective of our landscape becomes better informed as we come to learn about invasives such as the multiflora rose that will take over the natural habitat of our fields if not managed. Learn more about Mass Audubon’s management of invasive species and if your own backyard is host to these alien invaders.


Busy As A Beaver At Stony Brook…

Photo by Cheryl Reynolds, Courtesy of Worth a Dam

Photo by Cheryl Reynolds, Courtesy of Worth a Dam

Ever noticed the dams that are being built at both spillways surrounding the Stony Brook Pond? Miss the closer vantage point the boardwalk provided of the beaver lodge? Have you met the Sunday afternoon’s “Nature Answer Lady” and learned all about the beavers that reside at Stony Brook? Curious to discover their latest creation?  Come to Stony Brook!



Beaver Lodge at southern tip of Bristol Blake Pond

Discover the beaver lodge recently identified at the southern tip of Bristol Blake pond in the wooded trail system (entry sign is at the exit of parking lot across North Street).  Be sure to visit the Exploratorium inside the nature center to see a mounted beaver used for our educational purposes.  Most Sundays after 1pm, Carol, aka “Nature Answer Lady”, will be inside the nature center to show you and yours artifacts of our resident beavers and explain some of their behavior.


Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon

Stony Brook volunteers, mark your calendars! Saturday, January 11th, 2017, at 12 noon, the sanctuary staff would like to honor our volunteers and their service to Stony Brook.  Whether you have contributed 2 or 200 hours toward Stony Brook’s operation, make sure to come to this special event.


Teal Marsh vista from the first spillway. Photo taken by volunteer, Jessy Billman.

At this luncheon, you will meet other volunteers who share similar values of land protection, education, and conservation advocacy while enjoying a light meal provided by our staff.  Those volunteers who have dedicated over 50 hours in 2016 are specially honored with a Mass Audubon Volunteer ID card.  This card will grant the card holder to free admission to all Mass Audubon sanctuary sites as well as reduced or free admission to participating cultural institutions.

There will be more specifics regarding the events at the luncheon to follow.  Please be sure to mark the date on your new 2017 calendars!  If you are interested in joining the volunteer team and working toward earning your own Volunteer ID card, learn more here.  Happy Holidays and hope to see you at Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary soon.

Stony Brook Bird Club’s Christmas Stroll, Saturday, December 31st

Ever wonder what birds brave the Northeastern winters?  Would you like to enjoy a leisure walk and learn more about these hardy winter birds with others who share similar interests?  Join the Stony Brook Bird Club who have met at the sanctuary every Saturday following Christmas for over 44 years!

by: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region

Cedar Waxwing by: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region

Walk the sanctuary grounds with members who can point out some of those hardy winter birds by both sound and sight! Bundle up, pack up a thermos of hot coffee and meet at 8:30 am, Saturday, December 31st. Look out for Bill Marland, the Christmas count leader. His stories alone are well worth coming out that morning.  You do not need to be a member of the Stony Brook Birding Club to participate in the Christmas Stroll.

Dark-eyed Junco By Ken Thomas via Wikimedia Commons

Dark-eyed Junco By Ken Thomas via Wikimedia Commons

Please post any photos and comments of the birds that you were fortunate to see on your visit to this blog, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.



Carolina Wren By William H. Majoros (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

Carolina Wren By William H. Majoros (Own work)
via Wikimedia Commons




Want to learn more about some of our more common winter birds?  We hope to see you at the Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary, Saturday, December 31st at 8:30am.

Stony Brook Stewardship Sunday, December 11, 2016

Have the holiday errands got you stressed out and all you want to do is get outside and feel like you are contributing to a greater good?  Thinking about volunteering but cannot commit to a set schedule yet?


Can you find the wheel barrel in the photo under all the invasive plant cuttings?

Come to Stony Brook THIS Sunday, December 11th at 1pm for a drop-in Volunteer Stewardship Day. Work with a staff member and fellow volunteers who will head out onto the trails and make sure that sanctuary guests have a fun and rewarding experience on the trails by removing impediments, clearing invasives, and spreading ground cover.


Volunteer Jessy Billman making repairs to Stony Brook’s Sensory Trail.

If you cannot make this weekend, set your calendars for our next Volunteer Stewardship Day, Sunday, January 8th, 1pm till 3pm.  We hope to see you outside at Stony Brook this Sunday!  Feel free to contact us if you would like to apply for a more regular volunteer experience.  



Volunteer Spotlight: Al and Paula Jesness

Welcome to Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary’s blog! Ever wondered what goes on at the sanctuary when the hum of summer hustle bustle has gone? Wanted to volunteer but not sure if or how you might be able to serve? Let this blog serve as your connection to Stony Brook during these quiet winter months and beyond. Please participate in the blog by leaving a comment or question and we will be sure to answer.

Stony Brook is not the sanctuary it is without the dedication and devotion of its volunteers.  We hope you will enjoy meeting some of the volunteers highlighted in our blog’s Volunteer’s Spotlight posts as you consider how you would like to begin or expand your own volunteer experience.

Al and Paula Jesness are a husband and wife volunteer team that has been profoundly instrumental in facilitating the behind the scenes operation of Stony Brook. Beginning as a volunteer over 25 years ago, Paula has served on the Sanctuary Committee for over 9 years.


Al and Paula Jesness

Paula has participated in the growth and development of the sanctuary’s All Person Sensory Trail and has recruited volunteers like Madeleine Linck, a Purple Martin Society member and advocate for the sanctuary’s current population. Paula’s hard work and organizational skills have also helped to ensure a successful Fall Fair for years by soliciting sponsorship and donations.  Volunteering at the front desk, Paula’s warm and welcoming personality left all she met with a positive and lasting memory of the sanctuary.

Al has worked as a Volunteer Service Day leader, organizing, orienting and inspiring our drop-in summer trail maintenance crew. With an eye for detail and patience to match, Al has also spread the beauty of Stony Brook far and wide, with one of his photos being printed in the March 20, 2014 issue of USA Today. You might want to check out a video of a resident Great Blue Heron’s successful fish hunt Al captured last summer as well. Al’s passion and skills for woodworking have also been put to use when, for the last few years, he hosted a craft table at the Fall Fair and last year ran a public program on building birdhouses.


2014 Stony Brook wintertime landscape photographed by Al Jesness and printed in March 20, 2014 issue of USA Today,”Your Take” section

Even the new deck off the sanctuary building overlooking Stony Brook pond deserves some thanks to Al who put in several 8 hour days to help keep the construction on schedule. No task is too great for these two, and they’re not afraid to get a little dirty as well, as evidenced by their working alongside The Garden Club of Norfolk in the sanctuary’s butterfly garden, offering their own gardening expertise and muscle.

The Jesness family are an example of the difference we can all make if we share our own strengths and passions. Consider joining our volunteer team and take on a sanctuary project.  See what you can do to help Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary.

#OptOutside at Stony Brook

Leave the long lines, crowds, and hunting for a parking spot to others on this Black Friday and join REI and Mass Audubon for our OptOutside campaign, a “Green Friday” of discovery outdoors.

Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary is one of many Mass Audubon locations that will be hosting or setting up self-guided activities this Friday, November 25, 2016.


Education Coordinator Marla Cohen has created a scavenger hunt to add more challenge to your walk along our beautifully groomed, half-mile Pond Loop trail. Look for the scavenger cards and crayon supplies on the porch of the sanctuary building. For those both young and old, Marla has left a trail of “leaves” camouflaged along the path filled with fun activities on your self-guided walk.

Come to Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary this Friday, enjoy your walk with friends and family and share your photos with us by posting to #OptOutside #MassAudubon, on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram

Enjoy your Thanksgiving with friends and family and hope to see you outside!