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
With summer winding down and fall approaching, you may start to hear the sound of a friendly neighbor or two, knocking on your door (or drainpipe, or siding, or trees). Woodpeckers!
Each fall, woodpeckers excavate roosting holes in preparation for the coming winter, utilizing a behavior called “drilling.” When woodpeckers drill, they actually chip out wood and create cavities as potential sites for nesting or roosting.
A similar behavior, but for a different purpose, is “drumming,” which a woodpecker does to attract a mate or mark its territory by alerting the competition. Drumming occurs most commonly in spring.
Learn more about the species of woodpeckers found in Massachusetts, how they manage to peck without brain injury, and what to do if a woodpecker is drilling on your house.
Got a great picture of a woodpecker at work? Submit it to our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors Photo Contest by September 30!
Red-Headed Woodpecker © Ken Lee, Photo Contest 2012
Pileated Woodpecker © Daniel Tracey, Photo Contest 2014
Red-bellied Woodpecker © Bette Robo, Photo Contest 2013
Northern Flicker © Jim Walker, Photo Contest 2011
Downy Woodpecker © Jacob Mosser, Photo Contest 2013
If you’ve ever enjoyed a day at the beach, no doubt you have been entertained by the antics of a few fleet-footed shorebirds as they scurry about in the waves, looking for morsels of food buried in the sand. As summer begins to wane, migratory shorebirds begin their long, annual journey south for the winter, and mid-August is the perfect time to catch the height of the annual shorebird migration at beaches and tidal wetlands along the Massachusetts coast.
Look for sandpipers, plovers, and sanderlings, among others, at many of our wildlife sanctuaries, including Joppa Flats in Newburyport, Long Pasture in Barnstable, and Felix Neck in Edgartown. Check our program catalog to find an upcoming shorebird migration program at these any many other locations.
Here are five terrific photos of common shorebirds you can look out for on their long trek south. And don’t forget to submit your own photos to our annual photo contest by September 30!
Piping Plovers © David Peller, Photo Contest 2014
Semipalmated Sandpiper © Scott Martin, Photo Contest 2015
Sanderlings © Denise Hackert Stoner, Photo Contest 2015
Greater Yellowlegs © Susumu Kishihara, Photo Contest 2015
Dunlins © Paul McCarthy, Photo Contest 2015
It’s common knowledge that beavers build dams, but do you know why? It’s so they can survive the cold of winter! Beavers build dams to form ponds that are deep enough that they won’t freeze at the bottom. That way, the beavers can store a cache of edible branches on the floor of the pond, which they can access from their cozy lodges by way of underwater entrances.
Beaver dams actually benefit other species (including people), as well. By building dams and flooding woodland swamps, beavers play an important part in the restoration of lost wetlands, providing habitat and food for a wide variety of plants and animals.
To learn more about beavers (which are easily confused with their cousin the muskrat, by the way), beaver dams, and how to deal with various beaver-related issues, check out the Nature & Wildlife page here.
If you’ve got some great wildlife shots of your own, we’d love to see them! Enter the 2016 Picture This: Your Great Outdoors Photo Contest today!
Beaver © Martin Espinola, Photo Contest 2013
Beaver © John Kloczkowski, Photo Contest 2014
Beaver © Sandra Taylor, Photo Contest 2014
Beaver © David Zulch, Photo Contest 2015
Beaver © Karen Riggert, Photo Contest 2015
Take a scroll through your Instagram or Facebook feed, and there’s a good chance you’ll see a lot of pictures of food. Be it soulfully-prepared, home-cooked meals, fancy restaurant plates with artfully-drizzled sauces, or indulgent, cheesy diner dishes, it seems we can’t help but be captivated by food.
We’re not the only ones! Our friends in the animal kingdom have appetites just as healthy as our own, so today we’ve lined up five photos of professional eaters in action, from honeybees to herons. If you’ve got great pictures of your own of hungry wildlife in action, enter the 2016 Picture This: Your Great Outdoors Photo Contest. Bon appétit!
Baby Mallard © Nathan Goshgarian, Photo Contest 2014
Very Hungry Caterpillar © Alyssa Mattei, Photo Contest 2015
Eastern Chipmunk © Colleen Bruso, Photo Contest 2015
Honey bee © James Engberg, Photo Contest 2015
Black-Crowned Night-Heron © Derrick Jackson, Photo Contest 2015