Wellfleet Bay

What To Do This Weekend: Aug 19-20

Calling all weekend adventurers—summer is almost over and there are still things to check off your bucket lists.

Berkshires

Explore the meandering heart of the Berkshires by canoe this Sunday during a Naturalist Guided Canoe Trip. The ecologically rich Housatonic River is teeming with wildlife and waiting for you. (adults and children ages 10+, registration required)

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Cape Cod and Islands

Experience State Beach through the eyes of a Felix Neck naturalist as part of Saturdays at Sengekontacket, filled with hands-on engaging activities. (all ages)

Love oysters but don’t know the first thing about how their raised? Take a Barnstable Oyster Farm Tour this weekend to learn more about shellfish aquaculture—and pick up some delicious oysters for yourself. (adults, registration required)

Discover the best estuary in the Outer Cape for herons and egrets by kayak. Winding tidal rivers, quiet bays, and the scenic marshes of Cape Cod make the Kayak Trip: Nauset Marsh in Eastham one you won’t want to miss. (adults and children 12+, registration required)

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Central Massachusetts

Can you tell the difference between Christmas fern and the hay-scented fern? Do you know what makes ferns unique to other flora and where to find them? Visit Broad Meadow Brook  in Worcester this Sunday for another inquisitive session of Plants Everyone Should Know. (adults only, registration required)

Forests that don’t have a history of logging are rare in Massachusetts. Specialist Bob Leverett will lead you on this Old Growth Forest Walk at Wachusett Mountain to find these special spots, along with some of the oldest red oaks anywhere. (adults, registration required)

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Greater Boston

Boston Area Beekeepers Association’s Open Hives are doing their part to save the bees. Experts on all aspects of honeybee life are here to answer questions, educate, and show off the Boston Nature Center’s collection of beehives in Mattapan. (all ages, registration required)

If your little one loves nature walks, crafts, and activities they’ll love Tiny Trekkers. This Saturday at Stony Brook in Norfolk, we’ll focus on the fun and unique worlds of reptiles and beavers. (families, registration required)

Observe, explore, and appreciate the diverse world around us. Drumlin Farm in Lincoln is a host of different habitats and wildlife just waiting to be discovered on this weekend’s Naturalist Walk. (adults and children age 12+)

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North Shore

Why should kids have all the fun? The Wonder and the Wow trips take you to amazing places with plenty of time to allow a full-immersion nature experience and socialize as a group. This weekend’s destination: Coolidge Reservation and Agassiz Rock. (adults, registration required)

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South of Boston

There’s nothing more relaxing than balancing in tree pose, breathing in fresh air, and listening to the gentle hums of nature all around you. Yoga at the Stone Barn in South Dartmouth brings inner peace to the outside world, allowing you to unwind and exhale. (adults)

Shorebirds are the first fall migrants to stop by Duxbury Beach after leaving their arctic breeding grounds. You’ll learn about magnificent creatures while enjoying quality time together at Family Fun Day on the Beach. (all ages)

More South of Boston

The Great American Eclipse

On Monday, August 21, beginning at 1:30 pm, people in North America can witness a solar eclipse. While you won’t see a total eclipse here in Massachusetts, you can expect to see 60-70 percent totality, Here, Stephanie Majeau, Education Coordinator at Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, shares her first experience witnessing an eclipse and what we can expect on Monday.

The dim, eerie midday light stands out the most in my memory. Beginning from its typical blue hue, the sky darkened to an unusual golden-purple glow. Surrounded by 50 or so of my fellow students on a clear May day in 1994, I excitedly placed a box over my head that I had constructed into a pinhole projector so I could safely view my first partial solar eclipse.

This was one of those rare, magical, and quirky experiences that made me fall in love with science and now, for the first time in my lifetime, a total solar eclipse will pass across the United States on Monday, August 21, from coast to coast.

Annular Solar Eclipse © Takeshi Kuboki

Annular Solar Eclipse © Takeshi Kuboki

 

What Is an Eclipse?

Once viewed as an ill-omen or a portent of bad luck, solar eclipses, especially total solar eclipses, are one of the most spectacular sites you can view in the sky. Still, many people don’t completely understand why eclipses happen, so let’s unpack some of the science.

Due to their relative distances from earth, both the moon and the sun appear to be equally sized when viewed from our planet’s surface. Both the earth and the moon cast shadows from the sun’s light into space and as the earth-moon system orbits the sun, the shadow of one will occasionally fall on the surface of the other. For a solar eclipse, the moon has to be between the sun and the earth, much like it is during the monthly new moon, when we see only the moon’s dark side.

So why don’t we have a solar eclipse every month? Because the moon’s orbit around the sun is tilted. The plane of the earth’s orbit around the sun is called the “ecliptic”; the moon’s orbit is tilted 5º from the ecliptic and only intersects that plane along two lines called nodes. So in order to see a total solar eclipse, a new moon has to happen at the same time the moon is crossing the ecliptic. (A cloudless day is also helpful, of course.)

Total Solar Eclipses

The “path of totality” is where the darkest part of the moon’s shadow (the umbra) passes over the earth. Surrounding the edge of the umbra is the lighter part of the shadow called the penumbra. Stand in the path of the umbra, and you’ll see a total eclipse. Stand in the path of the penumbra and you’ll see the sun partially obscured in a partial eclipse. While some parts of the United States will see a total eclipse, Massachusetts will pass through the penumbra and witness a partial eclipse next Monday.

Eclipse Viewing at Arches © NPS Photo by Neal Herbert

Eclipse Viewing at Arches © NPS Photo by Neal Herbert

Protect Your Eyes

It is important to remember that the only safe time to directly observe the sun with unprotected eyes is during the totality of a total eclipse, when the sun is completely blocked by the moon. To safely view the entire eclipse event, you can make a “pinhole projector” to indirectly view the sun, get a pair of eclipse glasses that are certified ISO 12212-2 “filters for direct observation of the sun” (many public libraries have these available), or use a telescope outfitted with proper filters for direct sun viewing. Improper eclipse viewing can lead to permanent eye damage.

Solar and lunar eclipses occur two to five times a year, but a solar eclipse passing over your corner of the globe is rare. If you are unable to travel to the path of totality, fear not— another total solar eclipse is only seven years away. The path of totality of the next eclipse will cross portions of northern New England on Monday, April 8, 2024.

Photo: Andy Bakinowski

A Long & Winding Boardwalk

If you’ve ever been to Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary and the Bristol Blake State Reservation in Norfolk, you’ve most likely walked the 525-foot-long boardwalk. When this iconic feature, which takes you to Beech Island, was first installed more than 40 years ago it immediately captured the devotion and enthusiasm of people fascinated by the beauty of the wetlands and the diversity of life that could observe from it.

Over the years the boardwalk has been improved in many ways. Railings on both sides were installed, rotten planks were replaced, and pilings were stabilized. In 2010, Mass Audubon partnered with the Department of Conservation (DCR) and the Student Conservation Association (SCA) to do a major overhaul on the boardwalk with improvements being made along its entire length.

Even with all this attention, winter weather ultimately took its toll and an engineering inspection in March 2016 determined that the boardwalk was too dangerous to remain open. DCR closed the boardwalk.

But it wouldn’t be for long. DCR knew the benefits outweighed the cost of replacement and immediately set out to replace the boardwalk. Their strategy was to not only make it safer for people, but also for the wetlands it traverses. By raising it higher off the water and replacing all of the pilings with smaller helical anchors that provide a stronger support, the impact of the boardwalk will be reduced dramatically. An added benefit: visitors get a higher vantage point to view the wetlands.

Aerial view of the boardwalk renovation. Photo: Andy Bakinowski

For months, we anxiously watched and waited. Fast forward to August 7, 2017. After a final visit, State Inspectors gave their thumbs and tore the caution tape down. The boardwalk is now officially open and we are planning a brief ceremony on Saturday, August 26, at 11 am.

Thanks to everyone for your support, patience, and encouragement. Bristol Blake State Reservation and Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary are open daily from sunrise to sunset. We look forward to seeing you out on the boardwalk soon!

Stony Brook’s campers celebrate the opening of the boardwalk.

— Guest post by Doug Williams, Stony Brook’s Sanctuary Director

© Colleen Bruso

Take 5: People in Nature

We love all of the categories in the Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest—landscapes, wildlife, plants & fungi—but it’s the People in Nature category that gets us every time.

Here at Mass Audubon, our mission is to protect the nature of Massachusetts both for wildlife and for people. So it’s beautiful scenes of people getting outdoors and enjoying nature that bring us the most joy.

Here are five photos of folks enjoying the outdoors from past years’ photo contests. If you have a great shot of your own, we’d love to see it! Enter today at massaudubon.org/picturethis.

© Rosemary Sampson

© Rosemary Sampson

© Lisa Roberts

© Lisa Roberts

© Glenn Rifkin

© Glenn Rifkin

© Colleen Bruso

© Colleen Bruso

© Benita Ross

© Benita Ross

What To Do This Weekend: Aug 12-13

Things to look forward to this weekend: a butterfly festival, canoe and kayak trips, a duck derby, nature walks, and more!

Butterfly Festival at Broad Meadow Brook

Cape Cod and Islands

Head to State Beach for Saturdays at Sengekontacket, a one-hour program run by a Felix Neck naturalist that explores the nature of Sengekontacket Pond on Martha’s Vineyard. (all ages)

Take an Early Morning Bird Walk at Wellfleet Bay. From pine woodlands and freshwater pond to salt marsh and beach, Goose Pond Trail’s diverse natural communities offer diverse bird sightings. (adults, registration required)

Go on a Shorebird Kayak Exploration in Barnstable to witness the beginning of the fall migration on one of the Cape’s most beautiful barrier beaches, Sandy Neck. (adults, registration required)

More on the Cape and Islands

South of Boston

The Allens Pond annual Duck Derby takes place on Saturday in South Dartmouth. After the duck race, head to the sanctuary for a festival complete with great food, music, and a silent auction. Can’t make it but still want to try and win dinner anywhere in the world? The deadline to purchase a duck online is Friday at 5 pm. (all ages)

Construct some simple homemade Bathyscopes, a viewfinder for underwater exploration, at Duxbury Beach. (all ages)

More South of Boston

Greater Boston

Join Drumlin Farm on a field trip to Plum Island in Newburyport to see Swallows and Shorebirds at Sunset. (adults and children ages 14+, registration required)

Go on a guided Nature Walk at Boston Nature Center to discover in the forests, meadows, and seasonal wetlands. Ask questions and learn about the biodiversity in an urban setting. (adults and children ages 4+, registration requested)

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North Shore

Paddle to Thacher and Milk Islands, off the coast of Rockport, to visit an active nesting colony of herring and great-black backed gulls, and observe the behavior of young birds, from nestlings to fledglings. Then we’ll walk the mowed paths of the island to the North Tower lighthouse and climb the stairs to the top. (adults, registration required)

Bring the family for an Ocean Web Cruise aboard the Yankee Clipper for an exciting exploration of the lower Merrimack River ecosystem. We’ll also look for seabirds, seals, and waterfowl. (families, registration required)

More on the North Shore

Central Massachusetts

Celebrate butterflies during the 10th Annual Barbara J. Walker Butterfly Festival at Broad Meadow Brook in Worcester. On tap: Caterpillar Lab, nature walks, face painting, music, plant sale, and more.

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Berkshires

Explore the coves and marshes of one of the Berkshires’ most beautiful lakes on a Naturalist Guided Canoe Trip. Paddle across Lower Goose Pond to pristine Upper Goose Pond in search of eagles, herons, ravens, and a variety of songbirds. Eat a snack onshore and search for interesting plant and animal life. (adults and children ages 10+, registration required)

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Bird Feeder Sale is On!

Buffet Window Bird Feeder

Buffet-Style Window Feeder – On Sale Now in the Audubon Shop

It’s time for the annual August Feeder Sale in the Audubon Shop! All month long, enjoy 20% off all seed, suet, and hummingbird feeders in the Audubon Shop, both in store and online.

Here are a few of our best sellers:

Squirrel Buster Seed FeederSquirrel Buster Seed Feeder

The patented “Squirrel Buster” technology in this feeder includes a weight-sensitive cage that closes the seed ports when a squirrel grabs hold but is also a great surface for birds like nuthatches and woodpeckers that prefer to cling to the cage rather than perch.

Original Price: $59.95

Sale Price: $47.96

Shop all Seed Feeders >


Classic Hummingbird Feeder

Classic Hummingbird Feeder

Classic Hummingbird Feeder

A gardener’s favorite, this classic pinch-waist hummingbird feeder has a glass bottle and four bright feeding “flowers” to attract hummingbirds to the nectar inside.

Original Price: $15.95

Sale Price: $12.76

Shop all Hummingbird & Oriole Feeders >

 


Suet Feeder with Tail Propq

Suet Feeder with Tail Prop

Suet Feeder with Tail Prop

Made from recycled materials, this suet feeder is great for attracting both songbirds and woodpeckers, who will appreciate the extra support from the tail prop.

Original Price: $22.95

Sale Price: $18.36

Shop all Suet Feeders >

Pick a July Facebook Favorite

Each month, as part of our Photo Contest, we select 5 images from the previous month’s entries for you to pick as your favorite on Facebook. All you need to do is click an image and “like” it. Not on Facebook? Tell us your favorite in the comments below

© Amy Severino

© Amy Severino

© Alan Nelson

© John Martello

© John Martello

© Yingna Cai

© Yingna Cai

© Michael Rossacci

© Michael Rossacci

Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar © Sean Horton

Take 5: Caterpillar Craze

What on earth are caterpillars, anyway?

“Caterpillar” is a common name for the “larval” (immature) stage of insects of the order Lepidoptera, a.k.a. butterflies and moths.

Finding caterpillars in nature is not easy! The easiest way is to look on their preferred host plants. Monarch butterfly caterpillars, for example, prefer to eat milkweed plants, so that’s where you’re most likely to find them hanging out.

If you love butterflies and caterpillars, you’re in luck! The 10th Annual Butterfly Festival at Broad Meadow Brook in Worcester is this Saturday, August 12. There will be activities for kids including face painting, an obstacle course, a story tent, and nature-themed arts and crafts, as well as a Caterpillar Lab with caterpillar expert Sam Jaffe.

To celebrate these cute, crawly creatures, here are five caterpillar images from our Picture This: Your Great Outdoors Photo Contest. The 2017 photo contest is open now, so enter today!

Isabella Tiger Moth Caterpillar (a.k.a. "Wooly Bear") © Callie Bucchino

Isabella Tiger Moth Caterpillar (a.k.a. “Wooly Bear”) © Callie Bucchino—Wooly Bears are unique for being commonly identified by their larval stage rather than their adult stage.

Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar © Brendan Cramphorn

Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar © Brendan Cramphorn

Brown-hooded Owlet (Cucullia convexipennis) © Ron Verville

Brown-hooded Owlet (Cucullia convexipennis) © Ron Verville

Polyphemus Moth Caterpillar © Ingrid Moncada

Polyphemus Moth Caterpillar © Ingrid Moncada

Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar © Sean Horton

Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar © Sean Horton

What To Do This Weekend: August 5-6

Look for dragonflies while paddling, run a 5k, try your hand at science experiments, practice yoga, and more with a wildlife sanctuary this weekend.

Berkshires

During the Loon Moon Canoe Trip on Buckley Dunton Lake in October Mountain State Forest look for herons, loons, beavers, and owls at twilight. When the moon is high, we’ll raft up or go ashore to share snacks and beverages while we listen for nocturnal sounds of wildlife. (adults, registration required)

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Central Massachusetts

Connect with yourself as you connect with nature during Yoga at Wachusett Meadow in Princeton. This class is appropriate for all levels, from complete beginners to advanced, as several options/modifications will be given for each pose (asana). (adults, registration required)

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North Shore

Enjoy Saturday Morning Birding with Joppa Flats. Join beginners and birders of all levels to search out avian activity in the Newburyport/Plum Island area. (adults)

More on the North Shore

Greater Boston

Enjoy a leisurely Summer Morning Canoe on the Charles in Natick. Listen to bird songs and watch for great blue herons, turtles, and dragonflies as we paddle during the quiet morning hours. (adults, registration required)

Explore Spiders on the Pond at Blue Hills Trailside Museum. Take a closer look at webs and the spiders that create them as you explore around the edges of Trailside’s pond. (families, registration required)

We all know about solids, liquids, and gases, but what is oobleck? Find out during Boston Nature Center’s Science Experiments. (families, registration required)

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South of Boston

Get to know Bats at Moose Hill in Sharon. After the talk, we will head out on the trails in search of bats. (families with children ages 10+, registration required)

Participate in the Annual Ducky Dash 5k road race to benefit the Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary. Run, walk, or roll (strollers are allowed) along the most gorgeous scenic course that starts at the sanctuary and runs flat and fast to Gooseberry Island and back. (adults and children, registration required)

Search for Horseshoe Crabs on Duxbury Beach as part of North River’s free Family Fun on the Beach days.

More South of Boston

Cape Cod and Islands

Spend the day at Long Pasture in Barnstable Getting to Know Your Digital Camera Part 2. (adults, registration required)

Head to State Beach for Saturdays at Sengekontacket, a one-hour program run by a Felix Neck naturalist that explores the nature of Sengekontacket Pond on Martha’s Vineyard. (All ages)

Take an Early Morning Bird Walk at Wellfleet Bay. From pine woodlands and freshwater pond to salt marsh and beach, Goose Pond Trail’s diverse natural communities offer diverse bird sightings. (adults, registration required)

More on the Cape and Islands

Take 5: Awesome Opossums

Opossums may sometimes look fierce and unlovely (especially when “playing dead” to deter predators), but they’re actually very clean, non-destructive animals that tend to keep to themselves.

And even better, they LOVE ticks. As they wander the forest, they pick up ticks like most mammals do. But their excellent grooming habits, strong immune systems, and affinity for munching on the disease-prone parasites allow them to kill more than 95% of the ticks that try to feed on them. By some accounts, up to thousands per week!

To show our appreciation for opossums’ important role in protecting our health, take a look at five opossum photos from our Picture This: Your Great Outdoors Photo Contest.

Have a great wildlife shot of your own? Enter the 2017 Photo Contest today!

Virginia Opossum © Simeon Wood

Virginia Opossum © Simeon Wood

Virginia Opossum © Laurene Cogswell

Virginia Opossum © Laurene Cogswell

Virginia Opossum © Paul Silvestri

Virginia Opossum © Paul Silvestri

Virginia Opossum © Chris Lang

Virginia Opossum © Chris Lang

Virginia Opossum © Jacqui_McGee

Virginia Opossum © Jacqui_McGee