Category Archives: Events

Meet “Fire-throat”

Blackburnian Warbler (male) © Kevin Bolton

“When the low morning sun shines full upon its gorgeous frontlet, backed by the dark recesses of the pines, it flashes out like a burning flame as the bird turns its breast suddenly to the light.”Edward Howe Forbush, 1929

The fiery throat, face, and breast of the breeding Blackburnian Warbler set it apart from its fellows. A boreal forest warbler, most of the species’ breeding range lies in northern New England and eastern Canada. Although Blackburnian Warblers require fairly substantial areas of intact mature forest, they will tolerate some “edge” in that habitat, and have managed to keep their fires burning brightly throughout the past few centuries in Massachusetts.

Trend in Massachusetts

Increasing west of the Worcester Plateau.

Did you know?

The Blackburnian Warbler is the only North American warbler with an orange throat.


Please consider supporting our bird conservation work by making a donation today. Thank you!

Have You Seen a Pine Warbler?

Pine Warbler © Andy Morffew

“The Pine Warbler is the gentle, modest minstrel of the pines…Its sweet monotonous song harmonizes well with the sighing of the summer wind through the branches, while shimmering heat-waves rise from the sandy soil.”Edward Howe Forbush, 1929

As its name suggests, the Pine Warbler typically shuns deciduous woods or high-altitude stands of spruce and fir. Rather, it goes where the pines are, and pre-Colombian Massachusetts certainly had plenty of pines. Tall White Pines, intermixed with resinous Red Pines, covered large portions of the state. Gnarled but venerable Pitch Pines dominated the sandy forests of Cape Cod and the Islands. Of course, after the arrival of colonists, homes and farms sprang up as the trees went down. Even as acres upon acres of pine forest disappeared across the state, Pine Warblers persisted for many years on Cape Cod.

Trend in Massachusetts

The Pine Warbler has had extraordinary success in Massachusetts since our first Breeding Bird Atlas in the late 1970s. Pine Warblers persisted on the Cape and significantly increased in almost all of the rest of the state. The Breeding Bird Survey also indicates an increasing population of this short-distance migrant.

Pine Warbler change in presence between Breeding Bird Atlas 1 and Atlas 2.

Did You Know?

Pine Warblers are one of two warbler species that regularly stick around in Massachusetts in the winter. They can often be seen at suet feeders, so keep an eye out!

Attend our Birders Meeting on March 19 to learn more about warblers.

Please consider supporting our bird conservation work by making a donation today. Thank you!

Warbler of the Week

Hi all,

In anticipation of our warbler-themed Birders Meeting, we’ll be posting about a featured warbler species every week.

This week’s warbler is…

© Davey Walters


Black-and-white warbler (Mniotilta varia)

In the last days of April or in early May, when the buds on deciduous trees are swelling and when tiny, light green leaflets appear on the shrubbery, in sheltered sunny spots we may find a little black and white striped bird hopping along the lower limbs in the woodlands, turning this way and that, searching over the branches from one side to the other, often head downward, closely scanning the bark, silently gleaning the insect enemies of the trees. This is the Black and White Warbler.” – Edward Howe Forbush, 1929

Breeding habitat: partially open mature or second-growth hardwood and mixed forests.

Most warblers are in constant motion, hopping from branch to branch in their search for invertebrates to eat, which makes identifying many species by their behavior alone usually quite difficult. The black-and-white warbler stands apart from its fellows since it forages by creeping along the bark and larger branches of trees, much like a nuthatch. Although the black-and-white warbler remains widespread in Massachusetts, it is beginning to show the first signs of decline. Check out our Breeding Bird Atlas 2 account for more information on this warbler in MA.

The biggest threat to black-and-white warblers is fragmentation of its forested habitat. When forest patches become more and more fragmented there is increased incidence of “edge effects” such as increased chance of predation, brood parasitism by the brown-headed cowbird, and disturbance. “As nocturnal migrants, Black-and-white Warblers are a frequent victim of collisions with glass, towers, and wind turbines; as insectivores, they are vulnerable to pesticide poisoning.” (American Bird Conservancy)


Wayne Petersen and Mass Audubon Tonight at the Hatch Shell

Whaat?!? That’s right folks, tonight, at 7PM,  the Boston Landmark’s Orchestra will be opening their season with Rhapsody in Green. Our own Wayne Petersen will be offering some opening thoughts on bird conservation, and the performance will feature an app for the audience that includes data and maps from our very own Breeding Bird Atlas 2. You can get more information at their website. See you there!

Bird-a-thon Pointers and Predictions


bird-a-thon-logo-2016_medium_landscapeAbout this time every spring, I’m approached with questions pertaining to when, where, or how to locate certain bird species during Bird-a-thon and requests for Bird-a-thon predictions.  Needless to say: I’m no clairvoyant. Nonetheless, I have seen a lot of Bird-a-thons in my day, so I can at least bring experience to bare on the subject.  Here are a few thoughts:

*Based upon the progression of spring so far this year, it would appear that migration is on track. In fact, a few migrants seem slightly ahead of schedule. This suggests that by Bird-a-thon weekend, most of the expected species should likely be on hand.

*High water in many wetlands right now seems to be limiting the location of certain species that are more dependent on lower water levels or muddy edges for foraging.


Red-throated Loon, John Sill.

*The prevalence this past winter of many more seabirds in inshore waters off Cape Cod (e.g., alcids) than is often the case suggests that there might be a better chance of finding lingering seabirds during Bird-a-thon this year. Also, sooty shearwaters have already arrived offshore, several weeks ahead of their typical arrival.

*From a strategic perspective, play the birding odds (i.e., cover traditionally good birding areas thoroughly), follow last-minute bird reports to take advantage of the known presence of less common species, and tackle varied habitat.

*Make sure your team and its supporters recognize the significant effect funds raised as part of Bird-a-thon have on Mass Audubon’s sanctuaries and programs ability to continue their important work.

Northern Saw-whet Owl, John Sill

Northern Saw-whet Owl, John Sill

*You or your team should have specific localities in mind to look for less common or seasonally lingering species (e.g., freshwater ducks and sea ducks, red-necked grebe, great cormorant, cattle egret, American coot, purple sandpiper, Wilson’s snipe, northern saw-whet owl, Acadian flycatcher, white-eyed vireo, cliff swallow, golden-crowned kinglet, vesper sparrow). Don’t leave the finding of these species to chance!

*Team up your more experienced birders with newer birders to maximize the fun and the effectiveness of the team’s effort!

*Be sure to refer to the previously produced Tips for Bird-a-thon Birding and Bird-a-thon Birding in the Rain.

Have a Great Day Birding and Appreciate the Miracle of Spring Migration for What it is- Be a Part of Bird-a-thon!

Bird-a-thon is Mass Audubon’s annual birding competition and fundraiser where teams of birders spend 24 hours trying to spot the most species of birds in Massachusetts. Bird-a-thon 2016 begins May 13 at 6 p.m.

Join a team: To bird with a team, contact a team captain. Birding rosters are finalized 4 days before the event, so act quickly. Fundraise in honor of your participation by creating an online fundraising page and/or collecting cash and checks.

Be a Bird-a-thon Booster: Raise money for your favorite team. No birding required (but some Bird-a-thon Boosters bird for fun!). To fundraise, create an online fundraising page and/or collect cash and checks.

Donate: Support a participant, a team, or the event in general. Consider supporting the Bird Conservation Team!

24th Birders Meeting Focused on Seabirds


The 2016 Birders Meeting took place on March 13 at UMass/Boston, a first-time venue for this always popular yearly event.  Nearly 275 attendees – a zenith for the event – were treated to a smorgasbord of talented and engaging speakers including both local talent and others from as far away as California.  The theme, Seabirds: Divers and their Drivers, framed the all-day meeting that included presentations ranging from the general to the specific, and from the scientific to the visually stimulating.

BM2016_seabirdsAn opening presentation by artist/author Sophie Webb placed seabirds in a global context by focusing on their diversity, structure, and behavior.  David Wiley, researcher from the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, introduced the audience to the variably abundant and somewhat mysterious sand lance, the small baitfish that seasonally sustains so many of the seabirds and marine mammals that regularly inhabit waters in the Gulf of Maine.  National Audubon’s Stephen Kress and the Boston Globe’s Derrick Jackson jointly related the remarkable saga of the re-establishment of the Atlantic Puffin as a breeding species to the Gulf of Maine.

Following lunch and much enthusiastic spending in a merchandise-rich vendor area, program attendees were treated to a visually stunning array of Peter Flood’s seabird images of species characteristic of the seldom visited continental shelf-edge. The rest of the day’s program offered a series of concurrent presentations by Blair Nikula on the behavior of storm-driven seabirds in Cape Cod Bay; satellite tagging and tracking of Great Shearwaters by Kevin Powers; a primer given by Steve Arena on how to identify seabirds regularly occurring in Massachusetts waters; and citizen science opportunities for people interested in a seabird monitoring project sponsored by the Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary given by Anne-Marie Runfola.

bbd823f3c4a9f59e_800x800arAn additional highlight of this year’s Birders Meeting was the participation at no charge of nearly 25 young birders made possible by the generous sponsorship of our major sponsor Zeiss. Members of the Massachusetts Young Birders Club (MYBC) were in attendance and able to publicize the club in the vendor area. Special thanks to Zeiss for this “investment in the future.” Overall the event was deemed a fine success.

We hope that you will join us next year for our 25th Birders Meeting in March 2017!


Members of the MYBC, staffing their table in the vendor area. Young birders were able to attend the Birders Meeting free thanks to generous sponsorship from Zeiss.

Birders Meeting- Early Bird Registration Closing!

Leach's Storm-petrel by Jon Sill.

Leach’s Storm-petrel by Jon Sill.

Mass Audubon’s 24th Birders Meeting is taking place on March 13th at UMass Boston. Tickets are selling fast! Early Bird prices run until February 28, so register soon to save $10. The theme of the meeting is Seabirds: Divers and Their Drivers. The program will focus on seabirds and their remarkable characteristics, adaptations, behaviors, and varied forms and functions.

A star-studded lineup of speakers will include keynote speaker, Dr. David Wingate (savior of the Bermuda Petrel), in addition to Dr. Steven Kress and Derrick Jackson (restoration of the Atlantic Puffin in the Gulf of Maine), and Sophie Webb (acclaimed artist and author).

Other speakers will discuss seabird identification techniques and research and monitoring efforts right here in Massachusetts. Don’t miss out – Register Now!

Other Birding Events

Our friends at The Connecticut Ornithological Association (COA) are hosting an event on Saturday the 19th of March in Middletown, CT. The 32nd Annual Meeting is a great opportunity to join CT’s birding community and spend the day learning from speakers including: Brad Winn “Understanding Shorebird Migration to Help Direct Conservation Action”, Neil Hayward “An Accidental Big Year” and Cameron Cox “Seawatching: The Identification of Waterbirds in Flight”. Visit the COA website for more information.

Plight of the Grassland Birds Showing

originalDr Jon Atwood recently moderated a showing of New Hampshire Public Television’s Plight of the Grassland Birds film in Keene, NH. The showing was co-sponsored by the Harris Center for Conservation Education, the Monadnock Conservancy, and Keene State College.

The event was well attended with over 50 people in the audience. Attendees consisted not only of birders and conservationists, but also members of the farming community of southwest New Hampshire.

Jon described Mass Audubon’s current work aimed at supporting The Bobolink Project’s efforts to connect conservation donors with farmers willing to delay their harvesting schedules for the sake of nesting grassland birds.

Birders Meeting Registration Open!

Merchandise with this design will be available to purchase on the day, by Kristin Foresto.

Merchandise with this design will be available to purchase on the day, by Kristin Foresto.

Registration for Mass Audubon’s 24th Annual Birders Meeting is now open! The 2016 meeting will take place on Sunday March 13th at UMass Boston, 100 Morrissey Boulevard Boston.

The theme of the meeting is SEABIRDS: DIVERS AND THEIR DRIVERS. Following last fall’s dramatic concentration of seabirds off Cape Cod, the program will focus on seabirds and their remarkable characteristics, adaptations, behaviors, and varied forms and functions. Special emphasis will be given to the factors that influence their distribution and ecology, along with some of the outstanding conservation efforts being directed at protecting seabirds in a rapidly changing world.

A star-studded lineup of speakers will include keynote speaker, Dr. David Wingate (savior of the Bermuda Petrel), in addition to Dr. Steven Kress and Derrick Jackson (restoration of the Atlantic Puffin in the Gulf of Maine), and Sophie Webb (acclaimed artist, author, and veteran student of seabirds). Other speakers will discuss seabird identification techniques and research and monitoring efforts right here in Massachusetts.

Whether you are a seabird junkie or not, you will be after attending this event! Don’t miss out, Register now!

Your Gift to Birds: A List Motivated by The Messenger

The_Messenger_Website-001Mass Audubon recently hosted a screening of the film The Messenger, a new documentary describing the challenges faced by migratory songbirds. The film is sweeping in scope, beautifully filmed, and touches themes resonant to all who love nature.

The film paints a vivid portrait of the struggles birds face every day while they are simply trying to stay alive and reproduce in today’s rapidly changing world. Bird populations are declining due to multiple threats (habitat loss, cat predation, collisions with buildings, hunting, and pesticides) and the film is informative in its exploration of the leading causes of bird mortality. With all of these threats, viewers may be left wondering, how can we help?

Here are recommendations, some big, some small, but all designed to help save and protect the nature of Massachusetts.

Go Outside and Play! Take the time to go outside every day, even for just a few minutes. Listen for birds, identify their calls, make notes, watch a bird feeding, flying, building a nest, take your children or grandchildren on a nature walk and make a bird list. Visit the open space in your town, in your neighborhood, or by your office, and share your love of birds. Take a birding program at a Mass Audubon Nature Center – we’d love to have you. The closer your daily connection is to nature, the happier you will be and the stronger advocate you will become for protecting open space right here in Massachusetts.

logoBuy Bird-Friendly Coffee and Paper. Shade-grown and reserve-grown coffee each have real benefits for resident tropical birds as well as “our” North American species that winter in the tropics. Two great options are Birds and Beans and Café Solar. Smithsonian also certifies bird-friendly coffee, and a list of their vendors  can make ordering easy. Look for paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), for your home and office. This is from well-managed forests, and your purchase can help to drive better forest management as demand for FSC certified products increases.

Keep Your Cat Indoors. We love our pets, and we love your pets too. Indoor cats live longer and healthier lives. Cat predation in the US and Canada alone annually causes the death of at least 2 billion wild birds – adults and nestlings. Cats are not native to North America, and our wild birds did not evolve with them as predators. If your current cat is an outdoor cat, shift them to an indoor life style, or at least take the pledge for your next pet to be indoors-only. We recognize that this concept may take years to catch on, but please do your part by keeping your cat indoors.

Green Your Electricity. Range changes due to climate change could imperil nearly half of U.S. make-the-switch-logo_medium_landscapebirds within this century. Switching to green energy is one of the most effective ways to reduce your impact on the environment. Mass Audubon’s Make the Switch campaign can help you take meaningful action against climate change. Share this with your neighbors and friends. Investing in green power will pay dividends to the next generation, think of it as your gift to them.

Reduce Your Consumption of Meat. Meat, particularly red meat, is one of the most energy intensive, and land consuming foods we buy – about 270 pounds per person, per year. Production of meat is fuel-intensive, water intensive, and can cause long-term damage to the landscape. Much of this “hoof print” occurs as hay and corn are grown and harvested to feed or “finish” cattle. It takes about 6.7 pounds of grain or forage to make ¼ pound of beef. You can reduce your carbon, water, and land-use footprint today by choosing a meat-free meal a few times a week – boost the value of this by buying vegetables locally. No, your doctor did not tell us to include this, but we think he or she will approve.

Reduce Bird Window Collisions. Over 600 million birds are estimated to be killed by window strikes each year. The majority of these become fatally disoriented by artificial light from skyscrapers during migration. Mass Audubon works with The City of Boston to run Lights Out Boston which reduces energy and helps save migratory birds. Learn more and sign up. You can also help at home by installing decals or other treatments to ensure your windows do not reflect foliage or sky.

Support Bird Conservation Programs. Supporting local conservation, through local land trusts, will help to keep your great outdoors an open playground for the animals that thrive there, and give you and your family and friends a place to recharge and build memories. On a larger scale, projects like Boreal Birds Need Half are leading the way in conserving the “lungs of the planet”. Help them save the boreal bird nursery, and the important CO2 sink that has the added benefit of fueling our songbird migrations.

Mass Audubon is here to help protect the birds of Massachusetts, forever. Since 1896 we have worked to identify and measure challenges to birds, and to build innovative solutions while we educate the next generation of conservation leaders. With your support, we will continue to address the challenges to birds and to all of the Nature of Massachusetts.

Please Donate to Bird Conservation!