Author Archives: Ryan D.

About Ryan D.

Where: Mass Audubon Headquarters, Lincoln | Who: A Vermont girl with maple sap in her veins | Favorite part of the job: Exploring sanctuaries with camera in hand.

Red-tailed Hawk © Nathan Goshgarian

Take 5: High-Flying Hawks

‘Tis the season…the season of fall hawk migration, that is! Each year in late summer and early fall, thousands of hawks and their young move through the state from northern breeding grounds to wintering areas often far to the south. While the majority of broad-wing hawks depart by late September, now’s your chance to see the best variety of migrating hawks, as well as several species of falcons and late-moving ospreys, eagles, and northern harriers.

Enjoy these five fantastic photographs of hawks from past years of our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest and check out our How to Hawk Watch guide—then get out there and hawk watch like pro!

This year’s photo contest closes on September 30, so be sure to enter your nature photographs today!

Red-tailed Hawk © Nathan Goshgarian

Red-tailed Hawk © Nathan Goshgarian

Cooper's Hawk © Lee Fortier

Cooper’s Hawk © Lee Fortier

Red-shouldered Hawk © Richard Alvarnaz

Red-shouldered Hawk © Richard Alvarnaz

Broad-winged Hawk © Joseph Cavanaugh

Broad-winged Hawk © Joseph Cavanaugh

Cooper's Hawk © Mary Anne Doyle

Cooper’s Hawk © Mary Anne Doyle

Photo by Brett Melican, 2015 Photo Contest Winner in "Other Wildlife - Under 18"

Take 5: Youth Photographers

While we are amazed by many of the submissions to our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest, we are always particularly impressed with the photographers in the Under 18 age category.

These youth photographers demonstrate, year after year, that they have an eye for composition and a thirst to master the full range of photographic techniques. Sometimes a “fresh perspective” leads to dazzling creativity…and it’s hard to argue with the results! Here are five entries to past photo contests from some very talented young photographers.

Are you or someone you know a budding photographer? Enter our photo contest today for a chance to win some great prizes and be featured in Mass Audubon’s Explore member newsletter!

Photo by Joel Eckerson, 2015 Photo Contest Winner in "Birds - Under 18"

Photo by Joel Eckerson, 2015 Photo Contest Winner in “Birds – Under 18”

Photo by Nick Sarfaty Jackson, 2013 Photo Contest Winner in "Landscapes - Under 18"

Photo by Nick Sarfaty Jackson, 2013 Photo Contest Winner in “Landscapes – Under 18”

Photo by Davey Walters, 2015 Photo Contest Winner in "Mammals - Under 18"

Photo by Davey Walters, 2015 Photo Contest Winner in “Mammals – Under 18”

Photo by Brett Melican, 2015 Photo Contest Winner in "Other Wildlife - Under 18"

Photo by Brett Melican, 2015 Photo Contest Winner in “Other Wildlife – Under 18”

Photo by Jackson Kealey, 2013 Photo Contest Winner in "People - Under 18"

Photo by Jackson Kealey, 2013 Photo Contest Winner in “People – Under 18”

Red Eft (Eastern Newt) © Dawn Puliafico

Take 5: Neat Newts

Shy, secretive salamanders can be hard to find. But on rainy days, hikers and forest walkers may just spot a particular orange amphibian crawling through leaf litter—and it’s not the least bit bashful!

The creature commonly called the red or orange “eft” is actually the Eastern newt (Notophthalmus viridescens) in the second of its three lifecycle phases. It begins as a fully aquatic creature with gills, then enters the “eft” stage where it is most commonly encountered by hikers due to its bright red or orange skin. Eventually, it will return to the water as an adult and assume a more demure yellow and green color palette.

Efts aren’t just showing off with their bright, flashy colors. Their orange skin sends a signal to would-be predators: “Warning! Extremely poisonous!” So while they seem to stick out like a sore thumb on the forest floor, they are far from defenseless. Learn more about salamander behavior and life cycles on our website.

Here are five photos of red efts from past editions of our Picture This photo contest. The 2017 contest is open now, so enter your wildlife and nature photographs today!

Eastern Newt/Red Eft © Dawn Puliafico

Eastern Newt/Red Eft © Dawn Puliafico

Eastern Newt/Red Eft © Roberta Dell Anno

Eastern Newt/Red Eft © Roberta Dell Anno

Eastern Newt/Red Eft © Patricia Wolfe

Eastern Newt/Red Eft © Patricia Wolfe

Eastern Newt/Red Eft © Ladislav Honsa

Eastern Newt/Red Eft © Ladislav Honsa

Eastern Newt/Red Eft © Amy Harley

Eastern Newt/Red Eft © Amy Harley

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.

© 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

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 >

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

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

Take 5: Catch of the Day

Summertime and the fishing is good! Check out these five photos (all submitted in past years to our annual photo contest) of birds chowing down on the catch of the day, including everything from fish to frogs to spiny crustaceans!

Have you taken a great photo of wildlife chowing down on a good meal? Submit your nature photos to the 2017 Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest today!

Green Heron © John Harrison

Green Heron © John Harrison

Belted Kingfisher © Christopher Ciccone

Belted Kingfisher © Christopher Ciccone

Great Black-backed Gull © Mike Duffy

Great Black-backed Gull © Mike Duffy

Heron (likely Great Blue) © Jennifer Atwood

Heron (likely Great Blue) © Jennifer Atwood

Osprey © Richard Cuzner

Osprey © Richard Cuzner

In Your Words: Vasha Brunelle

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.


Vasha Brunelle © Frank Brunelle

Vasha Brunelle © Frank Brunelle

Growing up in Connecticut, most of my free time was spent outdoors, usually in the woods or swamps. As an adult living on Martha’s Vineyard, I returned to the woods for long walks and started painting local birds.

About 12 years ago, a friend suggested I get involved at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary. Since then, I have monitored horseshoe crabs for their citizen science project, painted several signs and murals, and served as the secretary for the Felix Neck sanctuary committee. But, perhaps, the most exciting and challenging opportunity came when I began volunteering with the sanctuary’s Coastal Waterbird Program in the spring of 2013, monitoring a pair of American oystercatchers nesting in my neighborhood.

Being new to nest monitoring, I needed help. The coastal waterbird coordinator at Felix Neck patiently showed me how and when to observe the birds, and what information to record. I was delighted the first time I saw a clutch of eggs in an oystercatcher scrape (a sandy, shallow nest dug by oystercatchers), horrified when a nest was lost to storm surge washover during a nor’easter, and ecstatic to see for the first time a chick emerging from the grasses.

American Oystercatcher © Phil Sorrentino

American Oystercatcher © Phil Sorrentino

Since those first couple of years, I’ve learned so much more about the threats to these birds, particularly predators, weather, and disturbances from beachgoers and dogs. But the birds’ admirable resolve to breed and reproduce despite these challenges has inspired me. I’ve become adept at speaking to people I meet while out observing—answering questions or gently reminding them to be cautious in a restricted area.

It’s gratifying to observe and record data, knowing that all of this information serves an important purpose: to help us understand population trends and factors for reproductive success so we can adjust our strategies to provide the birds the best chance of survival. This summer, I will be monitoring a second oystercatcher nest, a tern colony, and a pair of osprey. If you see me out and about, stop and say hi!


Vasha Brunelle is a longtime volunteer with Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary’s Coastal Waterbird program, which you can learn more about on their webpage.