Nature in a Minute: The Caterpillars Count!

The Museum of American Bird Art and Mass Audubon has partnered with UNC Chapel Hill to participate in a Citizen Science Project called the Caterpillars Count. Caterpillars Count! is a citizen science project the measures seasonal variation (phenology) and abundance of important food sources for birds, primarily arthropods like caterpillars, beetles, and spiders found on the foliage of trees and shrubs.

We have a wonderful team of two volunteers and Sean Kent, the education and camp director, taking data on a weekly basis. So far we have monitored over 1,500 leaves for arthropods. Stay tuned!

 

Nature in a minute: Highlights from Bird-a-thon

Getting Started With Nature Drawing: Advice for Young Bird Artists from Barry Van Dusen

As part of our annual Taking Flight youth bird art exhibition, different acclaimed bird artists will offer advice to budding young artists. The goal of the Taking Flight exhibition is to create a greater awareness, conservation, and appreciation for birds while fostering the development of young artists and sharing their work with the public. Submissions accepted March 1–June 15, 2018. Click here for more information.

Our first post is by internationally recognized wildlife artist, Barry Van Dusen, who was recently an artist in residence at the Museum of American Bird Bird and meet with the young bird artists in the 2017 Taking Flight exhibition.

 

If you’re serious about becoming a good naturalist and a good artist, start keeping a nature journal/ sketchbook to record your observations.

A young artist looking closely and sketching what she notices

Learn to look carefully and NOTICE what you see.

Young artists sketchbook

It’s more important to OBSERVE carefully and RECORD your discoveries than it is to make pretty pictures in your sketchbook.   Try to LEARN SOMETHING NEW each time you use your sketchbook

Young artist’s sketchbook in winter

Make WRITTEN NOTES along with your drawings to help you remember what you observe.

When you’re just beginning, practice drawing leaves, twigs, pinecones, seashells, crab shells, dead insects and other natural object you find outdoors.   These things do not move, so you can take your time to look at and draw them.

Draw the plants and flowers you find in a garden.

Try to draw the SHAPES you see with simple line drawings.  Drawing accurate shapes takes lots of PRACTICE!   Artists call these “contour drawings”.

Visit museums to observe and draw the stuffed animals, skeletons, and other specimens.

It may sound gross, but drawing from freshly dead birds (window strikes or birds hit by cars), is also a great way to practice drawing and to learn about animals.  (Give the birds a proper burial after you draw them.)

You can practice drawing subjects like birds from photographs, too.  Start with sketchy lines to block out the bird.

Notice the proportion of the head to the body, and the different angles made by the bill, tail, wing and legs.   The birds in the photographs don’t move, so you can take your time.

There are lots of places where you can get close to live animals and try drawing them:

Bird feeders…

Farms…

Frog Ponds…

Parks and Duck Ponds…

Zoos and Nature Centers…

Fish Hatcheries and Aquariums…

and Butterfly Conservatories…

…to name just a few.

Most important is to HAVE FUN and enjoy learning about Nature! 

The goal of the Taking Flight exhibition is to create a greater awareness and appreciation for birds while fostering the development of young artists and sharing their work with the public. Submissions accepted March 1–June 15, 2018. Click here for more information.

 

Nature in a minute…wood duck selfie from our trail camera

Nature in a minute to start off the week of April 9, 2018. We’ve had wood ducks spotted at the vernal pool 4 times over the past week. Here are a few wonderful new trail camera videos showing the wood ducks. They spent over three hours in the vernal pool on Saturday morning, April, 7, 2018. If you listen closely to the black and white video (it’s take at dawn ~5:15 am) you can hear the wood ducks talking to one another, it sounds a little bit like zippers opening and closing. Enjoy the following three videos.

 

 

Wood ducks in our vernal pool…Nature in a minute

Our vernal pools have been bursting with life this spring. Spotted salamanders and wood frogs have migrated into our vernal pools in the last week or two.

Wood frog in our main vernal pool calling and looking for mates.

Last week, I placed a trail camera on the edge of the vernal pool trying to record spotted salamanders visiting the pool during big night, which is the night – usually after or during a rainfall – that most salamanders migrate to the vernal pool to mate and lay eggs. I didn’t capture any video of the spotted salamanders, but I was able to photograph spotted salamanders in the pool the following morning.

 The trail camera did pick up some really really exciting activity, a pair wood ducks on April 2 and April 3 using the vernal pool and checking out the wood duck. Enjoy the videos. I really love the one from 4:50 am on April 3 because of all the beautiful bird songs, fog, and serene sense of solitude that dawn always brings in the spring.

Wood Ducks on April 3, 2018

Wood Ducks on April 2, 2018

 

Wood frogs of our vernal pool…Nature in a minute

As winter ends, low lying areas and woodland hollows fill up with snow melt and rainwater to create temporary isolated woodland ponds called vernal pools. The wildlife sanctuary at the Museum of American Bird Art has 5 vernal pools on the property with our largest vernal pool only a 5 to 10 minute walk from the museum’s parking lot. These pools provide critical breeding habitat for several amphibian and invertebrate species with life cycles that have adapted to these rich, temporary phenomena.

As winter slowly turns into spring, I eagerly anticipate walking up the first hill on the main loop trail. Before the vernal pool is visible, I know spring has arrived when I hear a characteristic “quacking” that isn’t from ducks, but from the wood frog (Rana sylvatica). When they emerge from their winter slumber, they quickly make their way to vernal pools to breed. I heard the first wood frogs in the vernal pool on March 26, 2018 and was able to take the first pictures today.

Characteristic dorsal-lateral ridges on the back of the wood frog.

This masked frog looks somewhat like a much larger spring peeper, but look for the ridges running down the sides and no pattern on the back.

Notice the characteristic eye mask right next to the eye

True to its name, it lives in forests, breeding in temporary, or vernal, pools. It attracts mates with a quacking call, and the female lays large masses of eggs.

Listen carefully for the characteristic quacking coming from the vernal pool right next to where this wood frog is sitting.

Learn even more about vernal pools in the Spring 2018 issue of Explore.

Spotlight on our Spring Homeschool Classes

To learn or sign up for our spring homeschool classes, click here.

In an environment infused with science, nature, and art, our homeschool classes are exciting and filled with laughter and fun. Each class is thoughtfully designed to foster confidence, awareness, and curiosity for the natural world, science, and art. Homeschool classes are designed by Sean Kent, a dedicated field biologist, curious naturalist, accomplished photographer, and passionate science educator with has been teaching science for 15 years. Furthermore, he has conducted ecological research in Massachusetts, Arizona, and Belize on native bees, the monarch butterfly, interactions between plants and animals and much more. This spring we are offering classes in field biology, nature journaling, and photography, including a build your own camera digital photography course.

This spring we will be offering

  • Pottery, ceramics, and sculpture
  • Drawing Owls from life
  • Spring Ecology and Art
  • Nature Journaling
  • Build a digital camera and learn the art of photography

To learn or sign up for our spring homeschool classes, click here.

This spring picture your homeschool student:

  • Conducting experiments in our native plant meadow, near our vernal pool, and throughout our wildlife sanctuary. Check out this wood frog that was heading to our vernal pool on March 28, 2018.

  • Looking closely at wood ducks, wood frogs, and fairy shrimp in our vernal pool and learning more about their ecology and biology

  • Recording and analyzing scientific data that they collected
  • Creating art inspired by science and nature

Check out these pictures of homeschool students actively involved with conducting research and setting up our experimental native plant meadow.

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  • Conducting surveys of amphibian populations that thrive in our wildlife sanctuary
  • Getting up close with wildlife and possibly holding yellow-spotted salamanders, turtles, or wood frogs that live in our wildlife sanctuary

Check out a few photos of homeschool students closely observing wildlife

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  • Increasing their confidence by creating art infused with science and nature
  • Focusing and closely observing nature

Check out a few pictures of homeschool students sketching and observing nature closely in the field

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  • Making friends in a warm and caring environment
  • Exploring different art mediums

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  • Observing and learning about all the amazing wildlife we have living in our 121 acre wildlife sanctuary

Check out a few of the animals and plants that have been observed over the past year in our wildlife sanctuary

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To learn or sign up for our spring homeschool classes, click here.

Drawing Owls from Life on Saturday April 7

Have you wanted to look closely at and draw a live Great Horned Owl or Barn Owl? Our Drawing Owls from Live program is a unique opportunity to learn about these amazing creatures in an intimate and beautiful setting. This program will take place in the Museum of American Bird Art from 10:30 am to 12:00 pm on Saturday, April 7th. 

Check out this video from a similar program for homeschool students that took place in February 2018. This will give you a good sense of how close you will be to the Owls, how the program is organized, and our beautiful museum space where the program will take place.

During this class, you will sketch live owls in our beautiful Museum of American Bird Art. Discover more about these amazing creatures from a trained Mass Audubon naturalist, while you learn to draw owls from life with pencil and paper in this hands-on workshop led by a trained Mass Audubon art educator. You will explore methods for developing your owl sketch, as well as techniques for capturing depth, volume, and texture. This program will take place in the Museum of American Bird Art from 10:30 am to 12:00 pm on Saturday, April 7th. 

Owls Live Festival on March 24, 1-4pm

Join us on Saturday, March 24, from 1-4 pm, for an afternoon filled with fun activities and a chance to see live owls from Mass Audubon’s Blue Hills Trailside Museum. Find out what makes owls unique and which owls you can find in your own backyard!

There will also be crafts, owl cookies to decorate, face painting, an outdoor owl quest, art projects, refreshments, and more. And don’t forget to enter a drawing for a chance to win toys, a Mass Audubon membership, a bird print, or a free week at camp.

Proceeds of this fundraiser provide scholarships for our Wild at Art! summer camp.

Please Note

  • All ages are welcome.
  • Registration not required.
  • Parking will be available across the street at Canton High School (900 Washington Street, Canton, MA 02021).
  • Event will take place rain or shine. 

 

The splendor and solace of snow…nature in a minute

Although spring is right around the corner, winter is hanging on with three Nor’easters in the past two weeks. After all the shoveling and arduous cleanup (huge thanks to our property manager Owen Cunningham), we took an hour to snowshoe the wildlife sanctuary and enjoy the quiet and calm that always seems to follow a large storm. The trees were blanketed with a thick snow and everywhere you looked the wildlife sanctuary was painted white.

The meadow was blanketed with nearly two feet of snow and only one set of snow shoe tracks. 

The start of the main loop trail.

This trail leads to our vernal pool. In less than a month, as you walk up the hill you will be treated to an auditory sensation as a loud chorus of wood frogs welcomes spring. It is amazing how quickly nature turns in the spring. In two months, the pine forest floor will be covered with pink lady’s slippers that will be using the snow melt to thrive in May.

This is the spot that the wood ducks frolicked less than two weeks ago.

The vernal pool on our main loop trail.

Snow weighing down the saplings growing in our pine grove.

Who will use this cavity in spring? Maybe a chickadee or hairy woodpecker?

The pine grove. Deer recently walked by this scene.

A snow covered Pequit Brook.

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