Category Archives: Staff Highlights

Musings of a Sidewalk Explorer: Bird-A-Thon

Ms. Patti, one of our educators who has been teaching preschool and kindergarten aged children at Moose Hill for 25 years, continues her daily walks around her neighborhood and shares what she sees and a few fun activities and resources for you.

Even though I have worked for Mass Audubon for over 25 years, I’m not much of a birder. I appreciate birds, have taught lots of children’s programs about birds, occasionally get barred owls to answer me during evening programs for adults/families, and can identify many common species by ear; however, even as a professed morning person, getting out early to intentionally seek birds, is not really my passion.  

This year’s Bird-a-thon was re-imagined into a Bird-at-home-a-thon. I really missed spending my annual day of birding with my longtime birding crew (they are the birders, I keep the list and point out anything that flutters). Since this year the rules dictated only birding where you could walk/bike to, I embraced seeking feathered critters along my regular walking routes with the company of my husband. All the while I was remembering that you increase your chances of seeing something if you only look, so I focused on looking up. 

Along with the birds I expected we would see (mockingbirds, robins, crows, chickadees), there were several unexpected sightings: LOTS of chimney swifts (when the trails are open again, check out Moose Hill’s chimney swift nesting structure up by Billings Barn), a spotted sandpiper (this was a really cute bird with a bobbing tail as it walked), a red-tailed hawk that flew by at great speed through our yard as I was looking up at what I’m fairly sure was an eagle, a killdeer protecting her baby chicks, a great blue heron and its shadow as it passed overhead, and two warblers that we were able to correctly identify (a black throated green warbler and a northern parula). What bird sightings have you noticed? 

While the birding, nature activities, and point-earning may be done, Bird-a-thon fundraising is still going strong! We are very thankful to our generous donors who have helped us achieve 90% of our ambitious goal so far. If you haven’t had a chance and want to help push us to that 100% there is still time (20 donors at $25 would push us to the end) – click here to visit our team page and donate today!

So, while remembering to look up once in a while, also remember to look both ways before crossing the street, to look before you leap, to look folks in the eye and smile and wave (even if the smile is hidden under a mask), and most importantly, always look on the bright side of life. Be well and stay safe. 

Musings of a Sidewalk Explorer: Woodpeckers

Ms. Patti, one of our educators who has been teaching preschool and kindergarten aged children at Moose Hill for 25 years, continues her daily walks around her neighborhood and shares what she sees and a few fun activities and resources for you.

The woodpeckers in my neighborhood are announcing themselves to anyone willing to listen by pounding their heads against anything that will produce noise. Some birds have found creative places to drum, as the louder the drumming the more likely to attract a mate or maintain a territory. I actually saw one bird drumming on a chimney cap…it was loud and I can only imagine what it sounded like inside the house. Other possible drumming sites are hollow trees, gutters, transformer boxes, trash cans, siding of homes, phone poles, and tree stumps; basically anything that resonates sound. Find out more about woodpeckers in Massachusetts and what to do if one decides to drum on your house

I then wondered how woodpeckers could continually bang their heads against a hard surface and not become impaired. Turns out nature took care of that with adaptations to protect them: built-in shock absorbers, the actual structure of their skull and beak redirects pressure away from its head, and perhaps my favorite, it can wrap its tongue around its head (internally) to help cushion the blows. Find out more about how woodpeckers can drum without getting brain damage

Have some woodpecker fun: 

How many knock, knock jokes you can tell? 

How many “W” words can you work into a sentence? Here’s my best attempt: “The white woodpecker wilted while waiting for winter to wane.” 

Make a cool woodpecker that moves up and down a string like a real one working a tree. 

Fold an origami woodpecker

Send us your best attempts at woodpecker fun on Facebook or Instagram! 

How to Make a Recycled Nature Journal

Julia is a teacher-naturalist at Moose Hill who has been with Mass Audubon for over two and a half years and at Moose Hill specifically for the last year and a half. Julia is passionate about conservation and protecting the environment so future generations have the same resources that we have today and she loves sharing that passion with people of all ages. With a background in geology and environmental studies and research projects on fluvial features on mars as well as wetland restoration, she can easily teach on the many aspects at Moose Hill, hopefully sparking an interest or love of the environment in children and adults. She particularly loves seeing a child express excitement over something they learned.

Make your own homemade journal using recycled materials found in your home. Then use it to write and draw about things you see and observe in nature! 


  • Cardboard from a cereal box, soda box, or any other cardboard item 
  • Ruler 
  • Pencil/pen 
  • Hole punch  
  • Scissors 
  • Yarn 
  • 5 sheets of computer paper/any paper you have in your home 


  • Using the ruler, measure 2 pieces of the card board as a 6” by 9” rectangle using the ruler and pen to mark the measurements. 
  • Cut out the 2 measured cardboard pieces. 
  • Fold 5 sheets of 8” by 10” computer paper in half the “hamburger” way. You may use more paper but keep in mind it will be harder to poke holes in it the more paper you have. You may also use any kind of paper you have. 
  • Using the hole punch, punch three holes along the edge of each cardboard piece and the folded packet of paper. Make sure the holes line up with each other. You can use scissors to make the holes if you do not have a hole punch. 
  • Using your yarn, weave through the holes. Put the yarn down through the top hole, up through the middle hole, and down through the bottom hole. 
  • Then weave the yarn back up through the middle hole, and back down through the top hole.  
  • Then tie the two ends together.  

And tada, you have a nature journal! Now get out there and document that nature that is budding in your backyard right now. You can take it another step further and decorate the cover however you see fit so that it is personalized just for you.

We hope you had fun crafting with us today. Be sure to share your findings with us on Facebook or Instagram! We love to see what you come up with.

While the Nature Center, Gift Shop and trails are closed during this time, there are still a number of ways you can support Moose Hill as we prepare for when we once again can welcome everyone back – join Mass Audubon (there’s a new member special for just $32 dollars!); join our CSA, with a regular pick-up worth $27-$32 a week, it’s a guarantee of fresh, organic vegetables this summer; support our partners:

Musings From a Sidewalk Explorer

Ms. Patti, one of our educators who has been teaching preschool and kindergarten aged children at Moose Hill for 25 years, continues her daily walks around her neighborhood and shares what she sees and a few fun activities and resources for you.

I was excited to notice the first buzzing bumblebee bumbling around my yard (it was a bit chilly, so I think that may have been impacting the bee’s flight path). I am sure it was searching for a flower to have a snack; however, to date the only things blooming in my yard are maple trees, daffodils, and a few weedy lawn plants, slim pickings for sure. I am hoping the bumblebee will be back when my blueberry bush is in bloom since bumblebees are blueberry pollinators. Since they are way too big to physically get into a blueberry flower to access the pollen, they use buzz pollination! They grab hold of the flower and vibrate their bodies at the proper frequency so the pollen drops out.  Watch this super cool adaptation! 

Learn about bumblebees (and other bees/wasps) in Massachusetts. 

Learn all about bumblebees. 

Celebrate bumblebees…here’s how: 

  • Enjoy blueberry pie, blueberry muffins, blueberry pancakes, or the fresh fruit unadorned to show your appreciation of bumblebees! 

Let us know your bumblebee (and other pollinator) sightings and activities.  Be well and stay safe. 

Musings From a Sidewalk Explorer

Ms. Patti, one of our educators who has been teaching preschool and kindergarten aged children at Moose Hill for 25 years, continues her daily walks around her neighborhood and shares what she sees and a few fun activities and resources for you.

Neither rain nor snow nor heat nor gloom of night will keep me from my daily walk. While I wait for the heat to arrive (and the snow to depart…really?!) I am reminded of the adage: there is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing choices. This spring has put my wardrobe to the ultimate test, as just when you think it’s safe to put the winter apparel away, it snows (again, really?!)! My rain coat has had a workout as well, including one walk where rain turned to sleet and I watched it bounce off my sleeves. This was the walk that confirmed that I need to invest in some rain pants.  

I hope the weather doesn’t deter you from venturing outside. In full disclosure, I did stay in during a couple of rainy days when it was raining sideways, and also thought it prudent to stay in the day it was so windy that it blew over a tree and the power went out. So, I hope you will explore nature no matter what the weather, within reason. Here’s a few ideas of what to do: 

Let us know how you celebrated spring’s ever-changing weather.  Be well and stay safe!

Musings from a Sidewalk Explorer

Ms. Patti, one of our educators who has been teaching preschool and kindergarten aged children at Moose Hill for 25 years, continues her daily walks around her neighborhood and shares what she sees and a few fun activities and resources for you.

Northern Mockingbird

As I continue to take daily walks as a means to keep active and stay sane, I have noticed an abundance of Northern Mockingbirds along my route.  This slender gray and white bird with flashes of white on the wings when it flies is not shy; I saw one dive bomb a cat years ago and one did a close fly-by of my husband last week. Look for them perched on phone poles, roof tops, and sometimes hiding in the shrubs.

The Mockingbird is a mimic…and an accomplished one too. This morning I would have bet the bird singing was a White-throated Sparrow, but alas, it was the Mockingbird.

Mockingbirds have been known to mimic alarm clocks, frogs, car alarms, and other sounds, including an array of local birds. It will repeat each call two to six times, although I have noticed it is usually in sets of three. So, unless you see a flock of singing birds, it is probably a single Mockingbird. 

Find out more about this bird:

On your next exploration in your neighborhood or yard this weekend, look/listen for the Mockingbird; you don’t have to be an expert birder to identify it. 

Take a lesson from a Mockingbird:

  • randomly choose a word from the dictionary (I suggest “crepuscular” to start) and use it at least three times in a day;
  • learn to count to three (and beyond) in a new language,
  • play the mirror game where one person copies the actions of another.

And, if you want a little extra fun this weekend, why not try one of these activities as you Explore Nature at Home.

Be well and be safe!

Tales from a Wandering Naturalist

Michael, who worked part-time for Mass Audubon for 15 years before joining the Moose Hill team permanently 10 years ago, is our very own wandering naturalist. He is always on the move, notices everything in nature, and has a passion for sharing what he sees. Michael can make anyone see just how amazing nature is – no matter where you find that place – in your town, at the shore, in the mountains. As with all of us, he is enjoying some daily walks on the streets in his town and shares the spring activity that is happening outside now.

Red-shouldered hawk

Across from my house, there is a resident Red-shouldered hawk who wakes us up each morning and just squawks a bit, so I have come to know this call quite well! Learn more about the Red-shouldered hawk and listen to it’s various calls here.

Red-tailed hawk

Yesterday as I was walking down the road in West Stoughton, I noticed a Red-shouldered hawk flying over calling loudly, ‘kiyah, kiyah, kiyah’. THEN it landed on a gray squirrel’s nest high up in an Oak tree.  Within seconds, a Red-tailed Hawk fly out from a nearby tree (making its distinctive call), and the smaller Red-shouldered hawk flew after it.  This is the second time I have seen the Red-shouldered hawk on top of one of those nests (close to the forest edge) too. Learn more about the Red-tailed hawk and listen to it’s various calls here.

Cooper’s hawk

But that wasn’t the end, within a couple of minutes, a Cooper’s hawk called from within this patch of forest. Learn more about the Cooper’s hawk and listen to it’s various calls here.

Quite an amazing few minutes there and definitely some competition for food resources between these 3 species of raptors, not to mention some nesting territory issues which does occur here.  Ah, but if they ONLY knew about the local, Great-horned Owl.

There are SO many things to see and hear in our area during April – what have you seen or heard in your neighborhoods?

Musings from a Sidewalk Explorer

Ms. Patti, one of our educators who has been teaching preschool and kindergarten aged children at Moose Hill for 25 years, continues her daily walks around her neighborhood and shares what she sees and a few fun activities and resources for you.

red maple flowers

Spring has marched onto the scene in the form of an exploded rainbow! As I continue my daily walks I have noticed the colors of spring: red maple flowers sprinkled on the sidewalk; yellow daffodils, dandelions, and forsythia; tiny purple flowers gracing a road edge; a perfect blue sky (finally), and the fresh green of new leaves just emerging. What colors have you noticed?

Try a few colorful experiments:

  • Mix a few drops of food coloring in glasses of water and see what happens.
  • Make “fireworks” in a bowl of milk (one of my favorite experiments)…find out how to make Color Changing Milk from Steve Spangler Science.
  • Create an art project with every crayon in the box and share your picture with us! 
  • Have a family color sing-down; it’s easy…divide into teams and take turns singing snippets of songs that include a color.  For example, “Somewhere over the rainbow blue birds fly.”
  • Of course, if you can venture onto area sidewalks, you can always search for your favorite color while outside.

And, enjoy another great story from Shawn – A Finnish tale about the Northern Lights

Be well and be safe!

Critter of the Week: American Robin

Ms. Patti, one of our educators who has been teaching preschool and kindergarten aged children at Moose Hill for 25 years, sent a fun little update to her Knee High Naturalists and we thought we would share it with you – fun for the young ones, but fun for adults too!

Miss Patti exploring the fields with her Knee High Naturalists

Hello, I hope you are noticing the arrival of spring.  Even with the current situation, I walk daily and have been delighted to see spring’s arrival from my neighborhood’s sidewalks.  Trees and daffodils are blooming, birds are chirping spring songs, and at some point the temperatures will warm.

Look for robins working any lawn.  They run, run, run and then stop.  As they tilt their heads they are actually looking for worms/insects since their eyes are on the sides of their heads.  Play the “robin game” in your yard…it’s easy.  Run about and when the caller says “stop” look at the ground to see what you can notice.  What’s hiding in the grass?  Is it easy being a robin? Below is some great information about robins.  Or check out Mass Audubon’s website for additional information about this and other birds:

Critter of the Week:  American Robin: the American Robin is a familiar sight pulling up worms on suburban lawns. Although it’s at home breeding in deep, mature forests, the robin is the most widespread thrush in North American thanks to a tolerance for human-modified habitats.

Description: a large thrush, back and wings gray, underparts red, dark head with white eye crescents. These birds are between 20-28 cm (8-11 in), weigh about 77 grams (2.72 oz) , and have a wingspan of 31-40 cm (12-16 in). If you measured your outstretched arms from fingertip to fingertip – what would your wingspan be?

Sex Differences: sexes look similar; female paler, especially on head.

Sound: song a musical whistled phrase, “cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up.” Call note a sharp “chup.” Also a very high-pitched thin whistling note. Click here to listen to the sounds of the robin from the The Cornell Lab.

Conservation Status: populations appear stable or increasing throughout its range. Because the robin forages largely on lawns, it is vulnerable to pesticide poisoning and can be an important indicator of chemical pollution. You can help scientists learn more about this species by participating in the Celebrate Urban Birds! project.

Cool Facts:

  • Hundreds of thousands of American Robins can gather in a single winter roost. In summer, females sleep on the nests and males congregate in roosts. As young robins become independent, they join the males in the roost. Female adults go to the roosts only after they have finished nesting.
  • The American Robin eats both fruit and invertebrates. Earthworms are important during the breeding season, but fruit is the main diet during winter. Robins eat different types of food depending on the time of day; they eat earthworms early in the day and more fruit later in the day.
  • An American Robin can produce three successful broods in one year. On average, though, only 40 percent of nests successfully produce young. Only 25 percent of those fledged young survive to November. From that point on, about half of the robins alive in any year will make it to the next. Despite the fact that a lucky robin can live to be 14 years old, the entire population turns over on average every six years.
  • Although the appearance of a robin is considered a harbinger of spring, the American Robin actually spends the winter in much of its breeding range. However, because they spend less time in yards and congregate in large flocks during winter, you’re much less likely to see them. The number of robins present in the northern parts of the range varies each year with the local conditions. For a discussion of how snow cover affects wintering robins, based on Great Backyard Bird Count data.

Take a moment and enjoy a story from another one of our education coordinators and our camp director, Shawn, about how the robin got it’s red breast. Listen here.

We hope that you find time everyday to look for the many signs of spring in your own yard, or in your neighborhood – draw a picture, keep a journal of your observations, write a poem, take a picture – and then share those things with us! We’d love to hear from you.

Summer camp for all ages of kids. Yes even the older ones.

Congratulations to our Camp Director, Shawn, on his appointment to the American Camp Association New England board! And now a message from Shawn as you continue your plans for a summer of fun and learning!

Shawn at the ACANE offices in Lexington, MA

It is now May, and summer camp is right around the corner. Only 6 weeks until camp begins on June 17. I got to spend Wednesday May 1 at the American Camp Association New England (ACANE) offices in Lexington at a new board member orientation. It is a wonderful honor to be accepted to the board of ACANE because I started my camping career in New England, and my first conference presentation was at an ACANE event when I was in my early 20’s. It was great to meet other camp professionals from CT, ME, and MA and to hear all about their programs and some of the reasons they also got into camping.

As I finish up hiring for the summer, work on staff training plans, and work out summer program details, most of everyday is spent thinking about camp for at least several hours. Not a bad way to spend the day. And each day I get a little more excited about the start of camp. I am so happy that we have about an 80% staff return rate this summer, we have a couple of new Junior Staff who have been long time campers and Leaders-in-Training, and we have new staff who are going to be great!

Day camp here at Moose Hill Nature Camp is different than many other programs. We don’t use a lot of equipment, we don’t have a pool or a lake. We do have great staff, 25 miles of trails, and just under 2000 acres of property. And we have nature. Nature can be an amazing teacher for us, and every summer I learn more about the world around us. But our camp is not just for younger kids. Parents are often surprised when I tell them that our day camp goes up to 15 years of age in many of our different programs. Many people think that day camps are only for young campers and that kids over the age of 10 will find nothing to do at a day camp – that is simply not true!

taking a moment to stop, think about what we are seeing, and explore the nature all around us at Moose Hill

In our Nature Camp, programs starts at age 3 with our Peepers program and goes up to 12 years old in our Investigators program. The Investigator program has campers from age 9 to age 12. These campers get to explore farther and more in-depth than our younger campers. The staff that work with them know how to engage them on their level and not as little kids.

For those kids who want something a little different, we have our selection of Specialty Camps: Art, Science, Adventure, Shoots Garden, and Nature Adventure camps all focus on our older campers. These specialty camps each have their own unique focus and are still grounded in nature – we have some new offerings in our specialty camps this summer.

  • Art Camp (9-13 yrs old) – we have added 2 weeks of Theatre camp, a Nature Journaling week, and a Special Effects Make-Up week.
  • Science Camp (10-13 yrs old) – two new weeks in our Animal Adaptations and Slime Science weeks. 
  • Adventure Camp (11-14 yrs old) – heading out all over Massachusetts and even into New Hampshire to explore the amazing natural wonders of our state.
  • Shoots Garden Camp (10-12 yrs old) – tending and harvesting from our new garden over at the Farm House, plus receiving a share from our CSA to cook with each week.
  • Nature Adventure Camp (12-15 yrs old) – it’s back and the campers will be exploring even more areas of the property and learning more outdoor skills while gaining some awareness skills too.
  • Leadership Camp (13.5-16 yrs old) – for campers who want to be in a program where they will learn skills of leadership that they can use anywhere and they will have the chance to use some of our new Team-building elements.  
  • Leaders in Training program or Nurturing Experiences for Staff Trainees (N.E.S.T) ages 14-16 – this is the top of the list, for our oldest campers who are looking to grow and thinking about skills for the future.

All of these specialty programs work with our older campers and provides them a chance to learn more about their own gifts and passions and gives them opportunities to share those gifts and talents with others. And if your older camper(s) are ready, and you are too, Mass Audubon has a wonderful overnight or resident camp at Wildwood in Rindge NH.