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
© Lisa Roberts
© Glenn Rifkin
© Colleen Bruso
© Benita Ross
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—Wooly Bears are unique for being commonly identified by their larval stage rather than their adult stage.
Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar © Brendan Cramphorn
Brown-hooded Owlet (Cucullia convexipennis) © Ron Verville
Polyphemus Moth Caterpillar © Ingrid Moncada
Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar © Sean Horton
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 © Laurene Cogswell
Virginia Opossum © Paul Silvestri
Virginia Opossum © Chris Lang
Virginia Opossum © Jacqui_McGee
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
Belted Kingfisher © Christopher Ciccone
Great Black-backed Gull © Mike Duffy
Heron (likely Great Blue) © Jennifer Atwood
Osprey © Richard Cuzner
June 20 is National Eagle Day: a day to celebrate our national bird and national animal, the bald eagle—a true conservation success story.
Between 1906 and 1989, no bald eagles bred in Massachusetts. Their decline was largely due to hunting and a pesticide called DDT that caused their egg shells to become thin and break. New laws were passed to protect eagles and DDT was banned in 1972.
Reintroduction programs like the one co-led by Mass Audubon and the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife successfully reestablished breeding populations. Now, the federal government has changed them from “endangered” to “threatened” status, and they fly free across the state.
Here are five photographs of the majestic bald eagle that were submitted to our annual photo contest. The 2017 Picture This: Your Great Outdoors Photo Contest is now open so submit your beautiful nature photography today!
Learn more about these amazing raptors with our Bald Eagle Quick Guide and in the Nature & Wildlife section of our website.
Bald Eagle © Joseph Cavanaugh
Bald Eagle in Flight © Ronald Grant
Bald Eagle © Sue Purdy
Bald Eagle in Flight © Ramkumar Subramanian
Bald Eagles © Nancy Hebert
Take a stroll along a residential street this time of year and you are almost sure to see the iconic white (and occasionally pink) blossoms of the flowering dogwood (Benthamidia florida). Flowering dogwoods are actually native to Massachusetts, existing here since before European colonization.
Unfortunately, finding native flowering dogwoods in the woods has become less and less common since the 1980’s, due to a fungal disease called “dogwood anthracnose”. As a result, many of the flowering dogwoods you’ll see planted in yards and along streets are disease-resistant cultivars of the native shrub.
A few other species of dogwood shrubs are native to Massachusetts—such as red-osier, silky, and alternate-leaved dogwood—and though not as showy as flowering dogwood, they are just as important for supporting healthy biodiversity because they provide habitat and food sources for many times more native wildlife species than non-native plants—particularly our beloved pollinators!
Here are five beautiful photos of flowering dogwoods to celebrate these exceptional shrubs. Once you know what to look for, you’re sure to see them everywhere! Keep an eye out for white or pink flowers with four wide petals, each with a characteristic “notch” in the end. Does it have pointy tips instead of notches? Then it’s likely a non-native Kousa dogwood (Benthamidia japonica).
Flowering Dogwood © Liz Froment
Dogwood Flower © Alan Yen
Pink Dogwood © Mackenzie Lannon
Flowering Dogwood © Mass Audubon
Flowering Dogwood © Mass Audubon
Did you know that ospreys eat a diet almost entirely made up of fish? Also called fish hawks, ospreys are one of only a few raptors that regularly dive into the water to catch food. And they can carry prey up to 25% of their body weight!
These amazing creatures are known for the large stick nests they build, often on structures like telephone poles or nesting platforms built specifically for ospreys. Look for them throughout Massachusetts, but especially near rivers, ponds, marshes, and bays in the southeast region and the Cape and islands.
Want more? Check out an osprey program at one of our wildlife sanctuaries!
Osprey In Flight © Nathan Goshgarian
Osprey Nest Construction © Linda Fuller
Osprey and Moon © Paul Rifkin
Osprey Close-Up © Carleen Loper
Osprey Feeding Chicks © Steve Flint
The recent weather in Massachusetts may have lots of us feeling like we’re on a wild rollercoaster ride, but don’t despair—spring is coming!
The sights, smells (looking at you, Skunk Cabbage), and sounds of spring—from the sweet fee-bee call of the late-winter chickadee to the spring peeper’s chorus of chirps—are popping up everywhere. Here are five signs of spring you can look for in the coming weeks to usher in the milder days of the season.
What signs of spring have you seen so far? Which do you look forward to every year?
Black-capped Chickadee © Laura Mysliwiec
Bloodroot © Maili Waters, 2016 Photo Contest Winner
Spring Peeper © Jana Trusz
American woodcock © Anna Jarosinski
Skunk Cabbage © Mass Audubon/Rene Laubach
The searing heat of the dog days of summer has finally passed, and cool autumn weather is upon us. Some much-needed rain has perked up sun-scorched grasses and with each passing day, more and more trees are displaying their radiant fall splendor.
To celebrate the turning of the seasons, here are five great photos of birds in fall, all past submissions to our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors Photo Contest.
Barred Owl © Cheryl Rose, Photo Contest 2013
Canada Geese © Harold Dubnow, Photo Contest 2012
Golden-crowned Kinglet © Mary Keleher, Photo Contest 2013
Blue Jay © Davey Walters, Photo Contest 2014
Black-capped Chickadee © Rich Lewis, Photo Contest 2014
September is National Mushroom Month and a perfect time to spot the fruiting bodies of fungi as they flourish in the cooling temperatures.
What are fungi, anyway? Fungi are neither plants nor animals. They may appear to be similar to plants, but they contain no chlorophyll and so cannot make their own food through photosynthesis. They get their food by absorbing nutrients from their surroundings. Many fungi play a crucial role in decomposition (breaking things down) and returning nutrients to the soil.
To learn about the crucial and sometimes astonishing roles these fascinating life forms have in the ecosystem and some methods for identifying mushrooms and other fungi in the field, join us for a Fungi Walk!
Here are five fabulous fungi photos (say that three times fast!) to inspire you to get out with your camera and take some shots of your own. The 2016 Picture This: Your Great Outdoors Photo Contest closes on September 30 so get your photos in today!
Deepest thanks to Bill Neill of the Boston Mycological Club for helping with the tricky task of identifying the fungi below.
Amanita flavoconia © Lena Mirisola, Photo Contest 2011
Amanita guessowii © Virginia Sands, Photo Contest 2013
Amanita rubescens © Sarah Sindoni, Photo Contest 2013
Xerula furfuracea © Sarah LaPointe , Photo Contest 2013
Exsudiporus frostii © Ruby Sarkar, Photo Contest 2013