What To Do This Weekend: March 25-26

Check out sheep-shearing and maple sugar festivals, watch woodcocks dance, learn how to garden sustainably, and more at wildlife sanctuary this weekend.

Greater Boston

Celebrate spring at Drumlin Farm’s Woolapalooza, an annual festival featuring fiber, food, and fun! Check out a sheep-shearing demonstration, visit the lambs, and see local fiber artisans at work. Note: This is a popular event so plan accordingly!

Join Broadmoor on Sunday, March 26, at The Natick Center for the Arts for this year’s Jean and Henry Stone Memorial Lecture—”Human Health and the Environment“—with Nobel Laureate Dr. Eric Chivian. (adults, registration required)

Go on a Woodcock Walk with Blue Hills Trailside Museum to learn a little about these strange birds that are full of surprises. (adults and children ages 8+, registration required)

Head to Boston Nature Center for Solar Energy Science to learn about the inner workings of solar panels, see some in action, and learn about the features of Boston’s first green building. (adults and children ages 12+, registration required)

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North of Boston

Want a beautiful flower or vegetable garden without using chemical insecticides and herbicides?Sign up for Ipswich River’s Beneficial Bugs, Pollinators, and Your Garden in Topsfield and walk away with new understanding and appreciation for beneficial insects. (adults, registration required)

Celebrate the Sea at Joppa Flats in Newburyport with a full day of indoor activities and exhibits that focus on our ocean giants, such as whales, sharks, and sea turtles. (all ages)

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South of Boston

Participate in a Coastal Waterbird Workday at Allens Pond in Westport and help Mass Audubon’s Coastal Waterbird Project erect fencing that is used to symbolically fence off areas where two beach nesting birds, the piping plover and the American oystercatcher, nest. (adults, registration required)

This program was cancelled. Get the Most Out of Your Smartphone Camera at Stony Brook in Norfolk. Learn how to compose, crop, edit, and share photos and then head out to put those camera phones through their paces. (adults, registration required)

Attend an all-day outdoor Greening Your Garden Workshop in Marshfield and learn how to reduce energy, water usage, and labor for sustainable vegetable, flower and herb gardens. (adults, registration required)

Last chance to take part in Moose Hill’s Maple Sugaring Festival in Sharon. Go on a 90-minute tour and learn about the history of maple sugaring, ending at the sugar shack for a sweet taste. (all ages, registration required)

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Cape Cod

Go Winter Birding Around Pleasant Bay in Harwich to catch a glimpse of  sea ducks and other waterfowl. (adults, registration required)

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Central Massachusetts

Learn to connect with the natural world in a healing, calming, grounding, and replenishing way through a Shinrin-Yoku Forest Breathing Guided Sanctuary Walk at Wachusett Meadow in Princeton. (adults, registration required)

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Connecticut River Valley

Come witness the Dance of the American Woodcock at Arcadia in Easthampton and Northampton. Normally a reclusive forest dweller, the male of this game bird species takes center stage in his springtime dance to attract a female. (adults, registration required)

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What To Do This Weekend: March 18-19

Go snowshoeing, search for beavers, make cheese, learn about maple sugaring, and more at a wildlife sanctuary this weekend.

Snowshoes at Wachusett Meadow


Head to Pleasant Valley in Lenox to Build a Bluebird Nest Box. Assemble pre-cut bluebird nesting box kits and learn where and how to place their boxes in the right habitat. (all, registration required)

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Connecticut River Valley

It’s never too early to start birding. During Family Bird Fun at Arcadia in Easthampton and Northampton learn an aspect of birding and then head outside for practice. (families, registration required)

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Central Massachusetts

Go on a Snowshoe Walk or Winter Hike at Wachusett Meadow in Princeton to see how exceptionally beautiful the winter woods and meadows are exceptionally when hushed by a blanket of snow. Warm-up hot chocolate provided! (adults, registration required)

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North of Boston

Head to Ipswich River in Topsfield for an evening Owl Prowl to look and listen for barred, great horned, and screech owls. Before we head out on our nocturnal adventure, we’ll learn fun owl facts in our cozy Barn using real owl mounts, feathers, and talons. (all, registration required)

Enjoy Saturday Morning Birding around the best year-round birding locations in the country: the Newburyport/Plum Island area. Beginners and birders of all levels are welcome. (adults)

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Greater Boston

During Drumlin Farm’s Simple Cheesemaking Workshop in Lincoln, learn to make and sample several different cheeses, including yogurt cheeses, paneer, mozzarella, and fresh goat cheese. (adults and teens 14+, registration required)

Learn About Spring at Boston Nature Center with a scavenger hunt, a nature art project, and a garden activity. We will also learn about the importance of the equinox, and how the amount of daylight affects animals’ activities and appearances. (families, registration requested)

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South of Boston

Journey back in time to enjoy the time honored tradition of turning sap to syrup at Moose Hill’s Maple Sugar Festival in Sharon. Go on a 90-minute guided tour, meeting costumed characters from the past, and visit the “sugar shack” where we turn sap into authentic maple syrup. All will get to taste! (all, registration required)

Hike along Attleboro Spring’s accessible Reflection Trail using your senses to investigate natural wonders as part of a Sensory Exploration. (all, registration required)

Explore Stony Brook in Norfolk after dark to search for Beavers at Night. Start the evening with a short discussion of their natural history and some hot chocolate before heading out on the trails. (adults and children ages 6+, registration required)

During Tracking: Footprint Mysteries and Telltale Signs at North Hill Marsh in Duxbury, uncover what animals have been active at the sanctuary. (adults and children ages 10+, registration required)

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Cape Cod

Go In Search of Winter Waterfowl with Wellfleet Bay. Ducks, loons, and grebes are plentiful on open water throughout the winter and early spring. Bring binoculars; we’ll provide a scope. (adults, registration required)

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The Nor’easter Climate Connection

Song sparrow © Rhonda Wiles

The forecast for tomorrow looks like a doozy. It’s possible it may be one of the biggest March storms in New England history. With lots of snow, wind, and a wintry mix, plan to stay safe and off the roads if at all possible.

It’s counterintuitive that a warming world would bring more intense snowstorms to New England, but that may very well be the case. In fact, storms considered severe nor’easters by today’s standards may become the norm in the near future.

How can that be?

To understand how this works, we need to look at where nor’easters, and storms in general, get their gusto. Nor’easters gather energy when cold, dense air from Canada meets warm, moist air coming off the Atlantic Ocean on the Gulf Stream. The colliding air masses give the atmosphere everything it needs to make a major storm: moisture, warm temperatures to loft air upward, and dense cold air to stir it all up.

As our oceans warm, we’ll see more moisture and more heat energy stored in the southern Atlantic Ocean. That means nor’easters will be more common and more potent. As long as air temperatures over Canada remain cold enough to bring snow, we could have more snowstorm stories to tell over the next few decades.

Beyond 2050, the outlook is less certain. We may see nor’easters remain strong, become more frequent, but bring heavy rains instead of snow. But there is also a chance that temperature will warm faster over Canada than the Atlantic bringing us more storms but fewer nor’easters.

For now, keep the shovels handy, a deck of cards at the ready, and the cupboard stocked with canned food.

Written by Daniel Brown, Mass Audubon’s Climate Change Program Coordinator

How to Help Turtles

Go out for a nature walk on a sunny day and there’s a good chance you’ll spot a turtle basking in the sun. If something is so common, it probably doesn’t need our help, right? Not so fast. Turtles may be found in our ponds, streams, rivers, and oceans, but they still need our help.

Painted turtles © Tammy Vezin

Of the 10 species of freshwater turtles found in Massachusetts, 6 are listed as Endangered, Threatened, or Special Concern under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. And the five sea turtles found in U.S. waters are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Read on to find out when to take action, when to let nature take its course, and what you can do to ensure turtles have a home in Massachusetts for future generations.

On the Road

Snapping Turtle

In late spring and early summer, adult female turtles cross roads in search of nest sites. People, with best intentions, mistakenly attempt to return a turtle to water, take it home, or, take it somewhere that seems safer and release it. The best thing to do is leave it alone. The turtle knows where it wants to go.

If a turtle is in danger of being hit by cars, it can be moved in the direction it was headed, to the other side of the road. Snapping turtles can be dangerous and should not be handled. They are surprisingly fast for their size and can extend their necks the length of their carapace. Never pick up a snapping turtle by the tail because you could seriously injure it. If you need to intervene, you can try to safely block traffic or use a very long stick to nudge it in the right direction.

In Your Backyard

Turtles looking to lay eggs frequently wander into yards, especially those near ponds, lakes, and rivers. These animals should not be disturbed, but can be observed from a distance.

People often ask whether they should protect a turtle’s nest with fencing. This is not an easy question to answer. Predators that seek turtle eggs are usually a natural part of the environment. If you wish, you may flag the site in order to locate it in the fall and possibly observe the hatchlings.

On the Beach

Wellfleet Bay’s Sea Turtle Patrol © Esther Horvath

In late fall, early winter sea turtles begin the journey south to warmer, tropical waters. Often, young sea turtles will get trapped in Cape Cod Bay and “cold-stunned,” making the turtles too cold to eat, drink, or even swim. When this happens, they often wash up along the beach.

Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary coordinates a volunteer operation each year to rescue these turtles and transport them to the New England Aquarium, where they can be treated and eventually released. Learn more and find out how you can volunteer >

In Your Everyday Life

Sometimes, it’s the little things that make the biggest impacts. A few tips to keep in mind:

  • Properly dispose of balloons and plastic bags to keep these deadly items out of waterways, where they can be consumed by turtles and other wildlife.
  • Don’t take a wild turtle home as a pet. Well-meaning folks may take a wild turtle home, realize it needs special care, and then release it. Its chances of surviving after captivity are not good.
  • Don’t release a pet turtle into the wild. Turtles found at pet stores are typically not-native and may be invasive. If released into the wild, they can crowd out our native populations.
  • Protect turtle habitat by supporting local land conservation efforts. Get involved in your town Conservation Commission to protect critical local wetlands and find out more on what your town is doing.

What To Do This Weekend: March 11-12

Experience owls day and night, maple sugaring, outdoor meditation, nature walks, and more at a wildlife sanctuary this weekend.

Screech Owl at Owls Live

Greater Boston

Enjoy the wonders of owls during Owls Live Festival at the Museum of American Bird Art in Canton. See live owls from Blue Hills Trailside Museum, find out what makes owls unique, and which owls you can find in your own backyard!

Got a hankering for pancakes? Head to Drumlin Farm on Saturday or Sunday for their Sap-to-Syrup Farmer’s Breakfast. Enjoy freshly made pancakes, see how sap is collected, and learn about Native American sap-to-syrup sugaring techniques. (registration required)

At Habitat’s Sugaring Celebration in Belmont, learn how maple syrup is made from sugar maple trees, try few sugaring activities, hear stories, and visit our tapped sugar trees. We’ll boil down a little of our sap and taste! (registration required)

Go on a Full Moon Family Owl Prowl at Broadmoor in Natick.  Learn about owl calls, behavior, and habitat while searching for our resident screech, barred, and great horned owls. (families, registration required)

Are you stressed out? Join Boston Nature Center for a guided Outdoor Meditation Walk around the sanctuary. The natural world will be our setting for reflection and stillness. (adults, registration required)

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North of Boston

Ipswich River in Topsfield is hosting two days of Sugaring Off Tours. Learn how to identify a sugar maple, observe tapping and sap collection methods, watch the sap being boiled down in the sugarhouse, and get a sweet taste of the final product. (all, registration required)

Looking for something to do with your kids this weekend? Join Joppa Flats’ Miss Lisa for free ocean-related programs at Boston Sea Rovers Kids Day in Danvers. Family presentations about whales and the world of penguins, tide pool touch tanks, and much more.

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South of Boston

Enjoy a members-only Family Exploration of Stony Brook in Norfolk. Bring your camera, binoculars, and curiosity for an enjoyable walk to learn about the natural history of our area as well as some of the animals and plants that can be found at the sanctuary. (families, registration required)

Bring the kids to Oak Knoll in Attleboro for Roots & Shoots, a program that helps to place the power and resources for creating practical solutions to big challenges in the hands of the young people. (children ages 8-13, registration required)

No bird is better to ring in the breeding season than the American Woodcock.  Join Allens Pond in South Dartmouth for a Wild, Wild Woodcock Walk to witness their courtship ritual at dusk. (adults, registration required)

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Cape Cod

Wellfleet Bay is hosting the 22nd Cape Cod Natural History Conference, a full day of talks on a diversity of natural history topics from presenters across Cape Cod. (adults, registration required)

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Central Massachusetts

Go on a a Family Owl Prowl at Wachusett Meadow in Princeton. First, we’ll read Owl Moon by Jane Yolen and examine owl pellets. After, we” head outside to take a walk in search of owls. (families, registration required)

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5 Tips for Attracting Butterflies

Sure butterflies can be found frolicking in open meadows on warm, breezy summer days, but these exuberant and colorful insects can also be found in your own backyard—if you play your cards right! What does it take to bring the flutter closer to home?

Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary Conservation Coordinator Martha Gach weighs in on the top 5 ways to attract butterflies.

Plant so that your yard has flowers blooming all season long


Why Between March and October, over 100 different butterflies can be found in Massachusetts, but not all at the same time. Mourning cloaks are seen mainly early spring, mid-summer, and fall; swallowtails are present late May to September and monarchs June to October. If you have the right kind of flowers, butterflies will come.

How Nothing blooms all season long, but by choosing plants that flower at different times you can attract a constant stream of butterflies. For spring, think dandelions and chives. Mid-season beauties include milkweeds, butterfly bush, zinnias, verbena, and blazing star. Asters, sunflowers, and Joe-Pye weed attract late-season butterflies.

Did you know? Over 60 different insects, including monarch butterflies, need milkweed to complete their life cycle. These insects not only have adapted to potent chemicals in milkweed, but some use them to repel predators.

Keep caterpillars in mind

Why Baby butterflies are picky eaters. Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed, fritillaries like violets, spicebush swallowtails eat … well, spicebush (as well as sassafras).

How Your yard should include a variety of host plants and trees to support butterfly caterpillars. In addition to the several kinds of milkweed, consider willow, poplar, cherry, sassafras or spicebush, parsley or dill, and pussytoes to feed and shelter baby butterflies during their growing season.

Did you know? Early instar swallowtail and viceroy caterpillars are camouflaged to look like bird droppings. Late instar swallowtails have big spots that resemble snake eyes. When threatened, these caterpillars will rear up “eyes” first and the “snake” scares the predator away.

Make a “Puddle”

Common wood nymph

Why Dirt contains salts and minerals that butterflies need to supplement their nectar-rich diet. Butterflies sip, so they need mud or small puddles to get their mineral fix.

How A sandy area or one covered with small gravel works well as a “puddling spot.” Just keep it damp and watch for butterflies hanging out, poking in the dirt with their straw-shaped proboscis (kind of like a tongue).

Did you know? Butterflies that gather at puddles are mostly males, which need the additional nutrients for reproduction. Drive slowly down sunny dirt roads and look for butterflies hanging out on the edges. They are probably “puddling”!

Skip Insecticides

Why Many insecticides are general and kill everything, including beneficial insects such as ladybugs (which eat aphids) and butterfly caterpillars. Insecticides can also stay in the environment for many years.

How Learn which bugs are destructive and hand-pick them off your plants (whatsthatbug.com and bugguide.net are good online ID guides). If you absolutely must, use gentle and effective insecticidal soap.

Did you know? That striped caterpillar chowing down on your parsley will someday become a beautiful black swallowtail butterfly!

Leave the Leaves

Mourning Cloak

Why Unlike monarchs, not every butterfly migrates before cold weather hits. Many spend the winter as caterpillars or chrysalids dormant in leaf litter or just under the soil. If you rake up all your leaves, you could be disposing of the next summer’s butterflies.

How Leaves under your shrubs and along fences are a whole ecosystem unto themselves. Avoid the urge to rake until early June, when caterpillars have woken up and moved out.

Did you know? Mourning cloaks, one of our earliest butterflies, overwinter as adults, hidden under loose bark and under logs (and perhaps in the walls of your home). They emerge before the flowers, nectaring on tree sap.

Want to know more?

For more information on attracting butterflies:

In Your Words: Butterfly Garden Team

In Your Words is a regular feature of Mass Audubon’s Explore member newsletter. Each issue, a Mass Audubon member, volunteer, staff member, or supporter shares his or her story—why Mass Audubon and protecting the nature of Massachusetts matters to them.

The Butterfly Garden at Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary

The Butterfly Garden at Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary

The Butterfly Garden Team began in 2012 with the mission of creating outdoor spaces that welcome and nourish butterflies and other pollinators. When Jessica Watson, Stony Brook’s Volunteer Coordinator, presented us with the opportunity to restore the butterfly garden at the Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary, it gave us a chance to do something we love right in our hometown. For us, Stony Brook has been a peaceful refuge from the stresses of work, a place to meet friends, and a way to get up close and personal with the local wildlife.

The Stony Brook garden was planted in the 1990s, but was in need of attention. Invasive vines and grasses and aggressive perennials had taken over most of the nectar and host plants.
With a lot of elbow grease and help from Stony Brook staff and volunteers, we renovated the garden section by section. We added two new types of milkweed for monarchs, as well as a variety of other nectar and host plants, mostly donated or started from seed. The walkway was cleared, widened, paved in crushed stone, and made universally accessible.

Butterfly Garden Team of the Norfolk Garden Club at Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary

Butterfly Garden Team of the Garden Club of Norfolk at Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary

In 2016, we received a grant from the Massachusetts Master Gardener Association and used the funds to replace a hedge of invasive honeysuckle with native and pollinator-friendly perennials and shrubs. The garden is now a Certified Butterfly Garden and Monarch Waystation.

We love this little “sanctuary within a sanctuary,” and the butterflies and other pollinators seem to enjoy it, too. A variety of butterflies, moths, bees, and birds join us as we weed, water, dig, plant, and mulch. We’ve even seen monarchs return!

Monarch Butterfly spotted at the Stony Brook Butterfly Garden

Monarch Butterfly spotted at the Stony Brook Butterfly Garden

Best of all, the garden is now serving its original purpose: providing information about gardening, butterfly habitat conservation, and natural history, and serving as a quiet haven where people can relax and observe the flowers and their visitors.

When we started this journey, we never imagined all we would gain in return. Working in the garden has brought us friendships, wonderful partnerships with Stony Brook staff and volunteers, and a sense of purpose and pride that comes from hard work and a beautiful garden.

Written by Members of the Butterfly Garden Team of the Garden Club of Norfolk: Martha Richardson, Stephanie Markham, Emily Nicodemus, and Michelle Noonan

More Resources:

Love Mass Audubon? Vote For Us!

Are you a Boston Globe print or digital subscriber? Or do you know someone who is?

Then you can help Mass Audubon get free advertising in the Globe through their GRANT (Globe Readers and Nonprofits Together) program! Keep reading…

How to Help

  1. Visit the Globe GRANT website.
  2. Enter your Boston Globe subscriber number. If you don’t know it, you can email grant@globe.com or call customer service at 1-888-694-5623.
  3. Type in Mass Audubon* and then select “Mass Audubon Society, Inc.” as your favorite nonprofit from the list.
  4. Tell your friends!

*Please don’t write in a specific wildlife sanctuary, as only the registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization is eligible.

Why Choose Mass Audubon?

By designating us as your preferred nonprofit, you can help us spread the word about the vital work we are doing, including:

• Nature education, so kids can play outside while learning at the same time.
• Land conservation, so people and wildlife can enjoy the nature of Massachusetts.
• Environmental advocacy, so we can protect endangered species and plan sustainable development.
• Wildlife protection, so we relocate snowy owls, track monarchs, and rescue cold-stunned sea turtles.
• Climate change research, so we can help our landscapes and habitats become more resilient.

Thank you for considering us!

What To Do This Weekend: March 4-5

Enjoy maple sugaring, owl prowls, harbor seals, winter birds, bees’ wax, and more at a wildlife sanctuary this weekend.

Greater Boston

During Maple Sugaring for All at the Boston Nature Center, tap, collect, and boil down sap while learning the history of maple sugaring. (all, registration required)

Update: This program was cancelled. Go on an Family Owl Prowl Adventure at Broadmoor in Natick to search for our resident screech, barred and great horned owls. (families, registration required)

At Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, find out how bees make wax  and learn how humans have used it in the past and present during Busy Bees’ Wax. We’ll make candles and decorations to take home, and have a buzz of a time. (families, registration required)

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North of Boston

During Harbor Seals and Hot Chocolate at Joppa Flats in Newburyport, we’ll head over to Salisbury Beach State Reservation with thermoses filled with hot chocolate to watch these charismatic creatures through our scopes and binoculars. (families, registration required)

Ipswich River’s Sugaring Off Tours continue this Saturday and Sunday. On our naturalist-guided tours, learn how to identify a sugar maple, observe tapping and sap collection methods, watch the sap being boiled down in the sugarhouse, and get a sweet taste of the final product. (all, registration required)

More North of Boston

South of Boston

Join Tidmarsh Farms’ owners and Mass Audubon naturalists for a Guided Walk around Tidmarsh Farms, the site of the largest freshwater wetlands restoration in Massachusetts and potential new Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuary. (all, registration required)

Head to the Stone Barn Farm at Allens Pond in South Dartmouth to Build and Install Eastern Bluebird Nest Boxes and learn more about cavity-nesting species and what you can do to help them. (all, registration required)

Explore Oak Knoll in Attleboro after dark on a Family Owl Prowl. Start indoors with an interactive owl presentation. After, we will head out on the trail to listen for evidence of our feathery friends. (all, registration required)

Learn how to impress your friends on your next walk during Tree Identification Made Easy at Stony Brook in Norfolk. Examine the clues including bark patterns, twigs, buds, and fruit to identify many common plants in your back yard. (adults, registration required)

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Cape Cod

Go In Search of Winter Waterfowl with Wellfleet Bay. Ducks, loons, and grebes are plentiful on open water throughout the winter and early spring. Bring binoculars; we’ll provide a scope. (adults, registration required)

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Central Massachusetts

Enjoy a Saturday Morning Bird Walk at Broad Meadow Brook in Worcester. We’ll teach you the basics of birding and bird identification during an easy-to-moderate walk along the trails. (adults, registration required)

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Connecticut River Valley

Do you wonder what Mass Audubon is doing to protect habitat and how local wildlife populations are affected by our efforts? Join Mass Audubon staff for a free Arcadia Ecological Update to find out about the management of wildlife habitat and the results of numerous biological surveys. (adults)

More in Connecticut River Valley