Author Archives: Mass Audubon

In Response to News About Paris Climate Accord

A message from Mass Audubon’s President, Gary Clayton. 

I am extremely disappointed at the news that President Trump is considering withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, which is a massive step backward from confronting the greatest environmental threat to the planet.

As the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, the U.S. should be setting an example for the world in combating increasing global temperatures and the devastating impacts it will cause such as catastrophic weather events, sea-level rise, and rampant disease.

Abandoning the Accord would put America alone with Syria and Nicaragua (the only countries not officially participating in the deal). More disturbing, it turns our back on 194 other nations that remain steadfast to ensuring the Earth’s health and geo-political stability.

Mass Audubon, founded more than 120 years ago by a pair of women who pledged to speak out on behalf of the environment and biodiversity, today honors their legacy in re-asserting our commitment to protect the nature of Massachusetts and America for people and wildlife.

President Trump’s disheartening action will only inspire us to re-double our efforts at the state and local levels of government to combat the ill-effects of climate change.

But we need your help.

Talk about climate change with your friends and family, get involved in your communities, protect open space, and stand with Mass Audubon to advocate on behalf of the environment.

UPDATE: On June 1,  2017 President Trump officially withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord.

How Farm Day Came To Be


On the third Saturday of October, more than 3,000 people visit Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary in Marshfield to attend Farm Day, a beloved South Shore fall festival. Guests of all ages enjoy hayrides, live music, games, farm animals, educational presentations, demonstrations of modern and colonial crafts, and much more on this stunning grassland property.

Farm Day is a wonderful way to enjoy a treasured outdoor space, and also a major fundraiser for Mass Audubon’s South Shore Sanctuaries. But many do not know that this event’s roots reach back to 1980 when the future of the land, then known as Dwyer Farm, was in jeopardy.

Save the Farm

Edward Dwyer decided to sell his dairy farm in the mid-1970s. With its extensive pastures bordered by woodlands, the parcel was considered the most ecologically significant piece of open land on the South Shore, and it carried a hefty price tag of $500,000. Purchase attempts were made by the Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife, and then the Marshfield Conservation Commission, but neither group was able to secure the necessary funding.

Meanwhile, town residents were becoming increasingly concerned about the Farm’s fate. The land had caught the attention of developers, and its neighbors hated the thought of this gorgeous property and its rich history being covered by houses. Marshfield’s Dorothea Reeves led the charge to form The Committee to Preserve the Dwyer Farm, a group of 12 citizens dedicated to raising community awareness about the Farm’s importance, and funding to support its purchase.


The original Save the Farm flag, which still hangs in the barn at Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary.

In 1980, the Committee held the first “Save Dwyer Farm Day,” a fundraising event in the adjacent cemetery featuring jitney rides, hot air balloons, and tours of the Farm. This income, in conjunction with individual donations from over 600 residents from a dozen South Shore towns, brought the total to $200,000.

Dorothea Reeves approached David Clapp, director of the newly opened South Shore Regional Office of Mass Audubon. Through lots of hard work and some strokes of good luck, The Committee and Mass Audubon succeeded in negotiating a purchase agreement, and Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary was established. This special place is enjoyed by people and wildlife year-round, and its environmental importance as both rare habitat and flood protection cannot be overstated.

Carrying on the Tradition

Farm Day continues as an annual celebration of this incredible community success story, as well as a fundraiser for the land’s stewardship. We hope you will check out the site to enjoy the trails and revisit its history, and of course, join us on October 15, 2016, for our 36th annual Farm Day.

– Emily Simmer, Office Manager, Mass Audubon’s South Shore Sanctuaries

Coming Soon to a Mailbox Near You…

Explore Member Newsletter - Fall 2016

Founded in 1896 by two extraordinary women, Mass Audubon has always been at the forefront of bird protection, land conservation, environmental education, and advocacy. Today, as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of establishing our first wildlife sanctuary, the impacts of our work are felt throughout the state, from the protection and management of more than 36,000 acres of land to the 225,000 kids and adults we get outdoors every year.

But we are not finished. We must continue to evolve as we have for the last 120 years. The aspects that make Massachusetts an exciting and dynamic place to live and work will continue to attract new people of all ages and backgrounds. For us, welcoming newcomers as well as longtime residents to Mass Audubon is both an opportunity and an imperative: the future of Massachusetts’ nature depends on our ability to enlist all residents in its protection.

To engage a broader constituency, we will reach out in ways that are relevant and compelling. Presently, we directly connect people with nature at our wildlife sanctuaries and by way of varied and extensive programs, forging bonds that instill a lifetime of environmental stewardship. But to inspire people to get involved, we must show, rather than simply tell, what we do.

This brings me to our member newsletter. You will notice several changes to this publication. The new name, Explore, invites physical discovery of nature. It also encourages exploration of the mind and continuous learning about our environment. The new design is intended to evoke strong connections to the inspirational landscapes, wildlife, and people that are central to our mission. And the content of our redesigned newsletter is more focused on you, our members and supporters, and how you can get involved.

I welcome you to dig into Explore! I look forward to engaging existing members and new constituents more meaningfully in our wonderful and critical work.


Gary Clayton

7 Ways to Zip to Mass Audubon Wildlife Sanctuaries

Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, Easthampton/Northampton © Phil Doyle

Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, Easthampton/Northampton © Phil Doyle

Have you heard? We’ve teamed up with Zipcar to make it easier to get to our wildlife sanctuaries! Here’s the deal: Now through the end of the year, Mass Audubon members can join Zipcar at half price, and Zipcar members can join Mass Audubon at a special rate, too!

The perks of this partnership don’t stop there: through August 15, take a Zipcar to our staffed wildlife sanctuaries and claim $10 in driving credit toward future adventures. And for Zipcar members who want to check out our wildlife sanctuaries before becoming members, here’s a free ticket to a staffed wildlife sanctuary of your choosing.

Now that we’ve got all of the explaining out of the way, here are 7 ways to make the most of your Ziptrip to our wildlife sanctuaries:

1. Pick a Destination

We have 56 wildlife sanctuaries just waiting to be explored! Whether you’re renting a Zipcar for the weekend or just an afternoon jaunt, we have a wildlife sanctuary close by.

2. Pack for a Hike

With more than 160 miles of trails to explore, you’ll definitely want to bring a pair of comfortable shoes. Also, some of our wildlife sanctuaries are located off the beaten path, so bring a snack!

3. Bring Binoculars

Hawks, foxes, turtles—there’s no telling what you might see! If you don’t have binoculars, simply enjoy New England wildlife from a distance. Give the wildlife sanctuary a call beforehand —many of them have loaners!

4. Visit the Nature Center

Many of our 20 nature centers have art galleries, interactive exhibits, and very helpful staff that can tell you the ins and outs of the wildlife sanctuary.

5. Reconnect with Nature

During the work week, it can be hard to find a moment’s peace! Take a moment during your visit to totally disconnect from everything and reconnect with nature: listen to the birds, take in the views, and breathe in the fresh air.

6. Soak (Almost Of) It All In

Summer in New England doesn’t mess around. Bring sunscreen and bug spray!

7. Show Us Your Adventure

Tag your location and use #massaudubon so we can see how your day of exploration went!

The Most Notable 2016 Bird-a-thon Sightings

More than 700 birders on 24 teams participated in Bird-a-thon 2016 this May, recording a total of 270 species of birds. That’s only 1 species away from the Bird-a-thon all-time best total of 271 species in 2009!

Highlighted below are some notable sightings as determined by Wayne Petersen, Director, Important Bird Area Program. (See the master list of species recorded.)

The birding may be over, but you can still support Bird-a-thon by making a donation to your favorite team or participant. Bird-a-thon is Mass Audubon’s largest fundraiser, providing important support to wildlife sanctuaries and programs across the state. See Bird-a-thon 2016 results and award winners

If You Give a School a CSA

Guest post by Emma Scudder, Drumlin Farm’s Food and Farm Educator

At Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, the mornings are bustling with activity. Starting at 6 am, the crops team is hard at work, harvesting produce to share with our customers. For years, this harvest has been distributed to individuals through farmer’s markets, a farmstand, a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and wholesale deliveries to more than 30 Boston-area restaurants. But this spring marked an exciting new addition to our distribution list: school cafeterias.


A Fresher Salad Bar

In May, Drumlin Farm and Somerville Public Schools began a pilot farm-to-school CSA. Each week, the farmers deliver a mystery box of fresh produce to Somerville schools, meeting the students and staff in the process (after the first delivery, the farmers came back to the farm feeling like celebrities due to the warm welcome they received!).

This seasonal variety is incorporated into the salad bars in 10 schools across the city, serving students from Kindergarten through 12th grade. So far, the schools have received spinach, arugula, radishes, spring turnips, and lettuce.

Getting to Know Your Food

This pilot is an excellent extension of Drumlin Farm’s Know Your Food programs, year-round experiences for people of all ages to learn about, prepare, and appreciate seasonal, local produce on the farm.

With locally-sourced fresh vegetables in Somerville’s cafeterias, Know Your Food lives up to its name. Students will know where their food came from (a farm 15 miles away), when it was harvested (that morning!), and the farmer who grew it.


See You in Somerville

This latest collaboration with the Somerville Public Schools furthers our connection to the city. Drumlin Farm is in Somerville every Saturday selling produce at the Union Square Farmers Market, and twice a week we deliver to restaurants around the city. So even when the kids are not in school, they can still enjoy what’s growing at Drumlin Farm.


Teamwork in Action

Special thanks to Karyn Novakowsi at Somerville Farm to School Project, Simca Horowitz at the Massachusetts Farm to School Project, Drumlin Farm’s Matt Celona (Crops Manager), Jessica Wiley (Restaurant Coordinator), Sarah Lang (Assistant Farmer), and the whole crops team for making this partnership happen!

Good and Bad News on the Pipeline Front

This week one of the major proposed natural gas pipelines in Massachusetts suspended its work. Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct (NED) pipeline is halting development as it has been unable to find enough major customers to merit moving forward with the project. Fierce opposition by Mass Audubon, community activists, and politicians compounded their challenges.

While this is great news, there is more work to be done defending open space and important conservation land from other pipelines. Several other projects are still in the works including the Kinder Morgan Tennessee Gas Pipeline Connecticut Expansion and Spectra Energy’s Access Northeast project.

The decision by Kinder Morgan to halt NED may actually help these other pipeline projects that we actively oppose. As the Boston Globe reports:

“…the decision could provide a big boost to the other large pipeline construction project proposed for New England, Spectra Energy Partners’ Access Northeast, which has the financial backing of utilities Eversource Energy and National Grid.”

Learn more about our advocacy against new pipelines, along with our position statement on the major proposed projects.

Proposed Pipelines Put Conservation Land at Risk

Mass Audubon opposes several proposed natural gas pipeline projects in Massachusetts, and we have been actively involved in the project review process.

Most recently we submitted an amicus brief to the Berkshire Superior Court in support of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, for their defense against the Kinder Morgan Tennessee Gas Pipeline Connecticut Expansion. This proposed natural gas pipeline project is attempting to remove protections on state land designated for permanent conservation.

The land in question is a large parcel of Article 97 conservation land in Otis State Forest in Sandisfield. Among its many valuable features are a 425-year-old eastern hemlock old growth forest, rare plant and animal species, mature deciduous woodlands, rolling meadows, and the entire 62-acre Lower Spectacle Pond.

Lower Spectacle Pond in Sandisfield

Lower Spectacle Pond in Sandisfield

Mass Audubon is committed to the permanent protection of this land. We were heavily involved in its acquisition when we purchased and preserved it as conservation land, then conveyed it to the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

We previously submitted testimony to the Massachusetts State Legislature in opposition to the transfer of Article 97 protections from this land for access to the Tennessee Gas Pipeline through legislation. We have also submitted comments from Mass Audubon to the Baker Administration.

In addition to the Connecticut Expansion project, Kinder Morgan has proposed the Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline, which would pass through Mass Audubon’s West Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary in Plainfield.

A third proposed project involving Mass Audubon land is Spectra Energy’s Access Northeast pipeline, which would cut across Mass Audubon’s 100-year-old Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in Sharon. We will continue to oppose all three projects.

Learn more about our position and steps we have taken >

The 8 Most Difficult Birds to Spot During Bird-a-thon

On May 13 at 6 pm, teams across the state will begin a 24-hour effort to record the most bird species in Massachusetts as part of Bird-a-thon, an annual fundraiser that raises money to support our sanctuaries and programs.

Last year, Team Drumlin Farm squeaked out a win over Team Moose Hill by just one species. Such close competition makes spotting a rare species all that much more enticing. Enter the Elusive 8, eight species, which due to rarity, nesting behavior, preferred location, and/or being difficult to identify, are the most challenging to spot (or hear) during Bird-a-thon.

Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk via USFWS

Northern Goshawk via USFWS

Most likely to be found in Western Massachusetts, the northern goshawk is very uncommon and nests in the interior forest. The largest and most seldom-seen accipiter in Massachusetts, it is swift, strong, tenacious, and often aggressive near a nest.

King Rail

King Rail via USFWS

King Rail via USFWS

Massachusetts is near the northern limit of the king rail’s breeding range. These rare and local freshwater marsh breeders are more often heard than seen.

Arctic Tern

Arctic tern via USFWS

Arctic tern via USFWS

Massachusetts represents the southern edge of the breeding range for the Arctic tern, and those few individuals that breed in the Bay State (typically less than 3 nesting pairs annually) are state listed as a Species of Special Concern. Non-breeding Arctic terns are sometimes found adjacent to common tern colonies but are frequently misidentified.

Long-eared Owl

Long-eared owl via Matt Knoth/Flickr

Long-eared owl via Matt Knoth/Flickr

The long-eared owl is a rare breeder in Massachusetts with very few known breeding locations. The species presents a particular challenge by being completely nocturnal and is often much quieter than other owl species. In recent years, the long-eared owl has been the least frequently recorded species during Bird-a-thon.

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher via Budgora/Flickr

Olive-sided Flycatcher via Budgora/Flickr

There are only a few places in the Bay State today where the olive-sided flycatcher may be reliably encountered. Plum Island is a good place to look for these late migrants in late May through early June.

Bicknell’s Thrush

Bicknell's Thrush via Aaron Maizlish/Flickr

Bicknell’s Thrush via Aaron Maizlish/Flickr

Due to its close resemblance to the gray-cheeked thrush, Bicknell’s thrush is a difficult species to identify correctly in the field. It’s also a rare migrant to Massachusetts: In recent years, Bicknell’s thrush has been one of the least recorded species during Bird-a-thon.

Golden-winged Warbler

Golden-winged Warbler via Kent McFarland/Flickr

Golden-winged Warbler via Kent McFarland/Flickr

Most likely extirpated as a breeder in Massachusetts and a rare migrant, the Golden-winged Warbler is a hard box to check on the Bird-a-thon species checklist; Try looking for it where Blue-winged Warblers nest. In recent years, the Golden-winged Warbler has been one of the least recorded species during Bird-a-thon.

Cerulean Warbler

Cerulean Warbler via USFWS

Cerulean Warbler via USFWS

This bird’s fondness for the canopy heights, as well as its rarity in the state, makes it one of the most difficult breeding warblers to find and observe.  A local breeder, the cerulean warbler does have several well-known nesting sites and is usually a persistent songster.

A Note on Birding Etiquette

Remember, always bird respectfully, and take special care not to disturb these species! Bird-a-thoners should acquaint themselves with the Bird-a-thon rules, including Bird-a-thon etiquette, prior to the event. Of course, if encountered during your team’s normal birding activity, consider yourselves lucky and proudly check these species off your list!

Join the Flock! Be a part of Bird-a-thon

There’s still time to be part of Bird-a-thon!  You can join a team, fundraise for a team, or donate to the event, team, or team member. Get the details >

Protect the Bobolink

By Lindall Kidd, Bird Conservation Associate

With spring officially here, one of the world’s most impressive songbird migrants, the bobolink, will be returning to Massachusetts.  Bobolinks travel some 6,000 miles to South America for winter, with some returning to breed in Massachusetts hayfields. Over their lifetime, a bobolink can travel over 100,000 miles—that’s about halfway to the moon!

The Problem

Bobolink eggs

Bobolink eggs

Sadly, bobolink populations are declining in Massachusetts, New England, and beyond. Part of this decline is caused by the intensification of agriculture. Bobolinks build their nests on the ground in hayfields; in the northeast, agriculture is the only widespread land use that maintains the open land that they depend upon for breeding.

However, financial pressures force farmers to mow their fields during the weeks that bobolinks are nesting. Nestlings hatch in June, which is when farmers typically harvest their first—and most valuable—cut of hay. Haying the fields when bobolinks are nesting typically results in a complete loss of eggs and nestlings.

A Solution

copyright Martha Akey

copyright Martha Akey

A promising solution to this is The Bobolink Project, which helps farmers and birds by financing bird-friendly mowing practices. There are many hay farmers in New England who are willing to delay mowing for the sake of nesting grassland birds, but to do so costs money: late season hay is less valuable than early season hay.

The Bobolink Project “buys time” for grassland birds to successfully nest on working farms by providing financial support, collected from conservation donors, which is paid to farmers who are willing to manage their fields for grassland birds.

In 2015, approximately 550 young fledged from fields enrolled in The Bobolink Project. These hayfields also supported other declining grassland bird species such as savannah sparrows, eastern meadowlarks and northern harriers.

This year, Mass Audubon has joined forces with Audubon Vermont and Audubon Connecticut to help expand The Bobolink Project and we need your help! Pass this information to your friends, farmers or donors, and ask them to tell their friends, too. For 2016, we need the support of both farmers and donors by April 22.