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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Wood Ducks…Nature in a minute

As a flock of robins “swarmed” in the pine grove, bright red male cardinals sung from the tallest trees, and fairy shrimp emerged from the vernal pool, a flock six wood ducks flew into the maple, oak, and pine trees above our vernal pool on the morning of February 28. Nature can be so wonderful!

I was fortunate enough to have my camera with me and I was able to capture a few pictures and one short movie of these amazing creatures. Enjoy this brief glimpse into the hidden world of the wildlife in our sanctuary.

Watch and listen to the wood ducks chattering to one another high up in the trees.


The following are more photos of the wood ducks in the wildlife sanctuary. 




Spotlight on Wild at Art Camp: Whooooo loves Owls!!!

Give your child the chance to experience the transformative power of art and nature! Our unique camp setting—part wildlife sanctuary, part art museum and studio—inspires creativity, promotes well-being, and enhances connections to nature. We provide a safe, fun-filled camp experience specially designed to foster a child’s creativity, sense of wonder, and bond with nature. During the spring, we will be highlighting different camp sessions. First, this post highlights our Owl week, which will bring two different live Owls into camp from Mass Audubon’s Trailside Museum.

Highlighted Session: That’s Wild Clay-mazing Owls, August 6 to August 10

Do you love owls! Do you want to see live Owls up close and learn all about these amazing animals? Check out the look on the faces of campers from last summer when they see a Great Horned and Barn Owl in our museum.

Owls soar into camp again this summer! Spend the week on the prowl for owls; it’s sure to be a hoot and filled with “owly” puns.

See live owls up close, learn about their special adaptations, and create art based on the different species found in Massachusetts. You will learn different handbuilding techniques, including slipping, scoring, coiling, and more.

Free Illustrated Lecture and Book Signing “Arthur Singer: The Wildlife Art of an American Master”

Join us on Saturday March 10, 2018 at 3 pm for a free illustrated lecture and book signing by Paul and Alan Singer on their new book Arthur Singer: The Wildlife Art of an American Master. Arthur Singer emerged in the 1950’s as one of the world’s finest illustrators and painters of birds and helped redefine the concept of the bird guide with his 1966 release, The Golden Field Guide to Birds of North America. The lecture will be followed by a book signing. Light refreshments will be served. Before and after the event visitors can enjoy an exhibit of 11 selected works of art and field guide illustrations by Arthur Singer on display at the museum.

Signs of Spring…Nature in a Minute

Over the past weekend, male red-winged blackbirds have returned to set up and defend breeding territories, the evening displays and buzzing songs of the male woodcock have brightened up evening hikes, and flocks of robins have descended in our pine sanctuary “vacuuming” up insects emerging as the world warms and sun shines just a little bit longer each day.


This post is a short video and photo essay of one of our earliest signs of spring, the emergence of eastern skunk cabbage. Since late January, these spring sentinels have been emerging by the Pequit Brook in Canton and next to a wetland near the meadow by the museum.

Pequit Brook

As I’ve looked closer at skunk cabbage, I’ve been amazed at the diversity of color exhibited by skunk cabbage and wanted to share that with you. Enjoy the following photos and videos of skunk cabbage emerging at the Pequit Brook.

Skunk Cabbage and the Babbling Pequit Brook

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Discovering, exploring, and creating: Wild at Art Vacation programs are soaring

We have had a wonderful February Vacation Week of programs and wanted to share our programming with you though these brief videos.

Tuesday February 20, 2018

We had an absolutely wonderful day on Tuesday. The weather was spectacular. We created lots of art and explored in our wildlife sanctuary, including hiking to the brook, marbling paper (sumingashi), creating nature journals, making landscape art near the brook, creating clay birds, and more.

Wednesday February 21, 2018

The weather on Wednesday was amazing and we spent lots of time outside and the rest of the day creating art. Today, we hiked to our “eagle’s nest” in the pine grove, learned about tracking deer, and everybody was challenged to create their own bird’s nests, they were spectacular. We also created lots of art, including a paper bag city, ate snack and lunch outside, and did a lot of exploring.

Thursday February 22, 2018

Although the weather has changed back to winter on Thursday, we had a fantastic day. We leaped into the world of printmaking with collagraph prints and silk screens of a fox. We hiked to the brook and create with nature in the pine grove in the center of our sanctuary. We create lots of art and sketched in the museum and had lots of fun.

Curiosity, inquiry, STEAM, and excitement

We are extremely excited to announce a wonderful suite of programs that infuse pottery, nature, and science into our homeschool classes at the Museum of American Bird Art. Our classes are full of fun, active learning, curiosity, and laughter. Learn more and register for our homeschool programs in Late February and March. During February, we have also had an amazing three week long class on Drawing Owls and other birds, check out the following videos from two of the classes.

Week 1: Drawing Owls at the Trailside Museum

Week 2: Drawing Owls from Live in the Museum of American Bird Art

In late February and March, we will be offering a Nature Photography Class, Winter Ecology and Art Class, and Ceramics Class. Class sizes are small so sign up early to reserve your spot. If you have any questions, would like to register, or qualify for a multiple child discount please call Sean Kent at 781-821-8853 or email skent@massaudubon.org.

Learn more and register for our homeschool programs in Late February and March.

Winter Ecology and Art

Conduct ecological experiments in our living laboratory, investigate amazing adaptations, and reinforce scientific concepts by creating art! Under the guidance of a trained field biologist and Massachusetts licensed science educator, students will explore the winter ecology of plants and animals. Topics that we investigate will vary and will incorporate the interests of students enrolled in the program.

Homeschool Program: Pottery, ceramics, and sculpture

The pottery, ceramics, and sculpture homeschool program is designed to introduce and excite children working with clay. Each student will learn and use different hand-building techniques and the pottery wheel to create unique animal sculptures, vessels, and functional pieces such as plates, bowls, and mugs. While in this class, students will learn basic ceramics terminology, techiques, and processes. In addition to art making students will be able to explore the sanctuary’s trails, meadow, and museum to use as inspiration. During the pottery class, families not attending the program will have a comfortable space to sit, relax, use free wifi, or hike on our 121 acre wildlife sanctuary.

Zooming in on Nature with Digital Photography

Develop the skills needed to capture nature’s beauty through the lens of a camera. Learn the key elements of digital photography while taking photos that convey the magnificence of our natural world. Please note: Participants will need their own digital camera.

Learn more and register for our homeschool programs in March.

The otters of Trowel Shop Pond

You never know what you will see when you are lucky enough when nature revels itself. At the beginning of February, three otters have been quite visible during the day at Trowel Shop Pond in Sharon, which is about 5 minutes away from the Museum of American Bird Art.

Trowel Shop Pond, Sharon

What started off as a big black blob on the ice as Sean Kent, the education coordinator, drove home from work on Friday, February 2nd, and turned the car around on the hunch that the blob was an otter, has turned into a magical window into the hidden lives of otters. Enjoy this photo essay that gives you a glimpse into the lives of these three otters that have been at Trowel Shop Pond during the week of February 2 to February 9, 2018.

Otter hauled out on the ice. Notice the distinct pattern of water on the ice. These ice holes and freshly frozen areas are characteristics of otters. Look for them on ponds near you that have flowing water.

Smile, I’m ready for my close up. This otter just finished eating a blue gill, but was having trouble getting it down.

Fresh Catch!

Otter hauled out eating a sunfish

All three otters playing in the snow

FINISH LINE, part 3: happy ending!

August 24, 2017

Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, Edgartown

It’s my final day on Martha’s Vineyard, so I get up early, say my good-byes to the Murtha’s, and head out for another day’s work.   Hoping to get better (i.e. closer) looks at some of the shorebirds I had seen at Felix Neck, I drive to the Joseph Silvia State Beach, which lies just across Sengekontacket Pond from the sanctuary.   This is a popular tourist spot, but I arrive early and find a place to park near “The Jaws Bridge”.

The JAWS Bridge

This bridge connects the north and south sections of the State Beach, and spans a breach that allows the ocean waters to flow in and out of Sengekontacket Pond.  Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary is just across the pond, and Sarson’s Island is closer from this vantage.

I scope the Island and see the same enticing selection of birds I had seen from Felix Neck, but they are still abit too far away for meaningful drawing.  Luckily, there are also shorebirds on the near shore, and with binoculars I pick out oystercatchers, turnstones, dowitchers, black-bellied plovers, yellowlegs, willets and one stilt sandpiper.

Ruddy Turnstone

To get closer to these birds, I hike north up the shore of the Pond.   It’s nearly high tide, and the sun is at my back – favorable conditions for field sketching!

The oystercatchers are wary.  Although I got a close look at the crippled bird two days ago at Felix Neck, these healthy birds are keeping me at a distance.   (Later I learned that wariness is a widely recognized attribute of this species.)  Realizing that I’m as close as they will allow, I set up my scope and work from afar – make some smaller drawings in my sketchbook.

The elusiveness of the oystercatchers, while frustrating, will not prevent me from painting them later.  My time observing these birds has left me with some strong impression and firm mental images that I can carry with me back to the studio…

Here’s a large watercolor painted in my studio after my return from the island.

American Oystercatchers on Martha’s Vineyard, watercolor on Arches coldpress, 14″ x 22.5″

Oystercatchers really are ODD birds, and I wanted to capture their strangeness in this portrait.  The strong legs and feet of these birds are especially expressive – there’s nothing delicate about them.   In color and in form, they remind me of bubble gum fresh out of the wrapper!

And here’s another odd feature of these birds:  when I have had opportunities to observe them at close range, I have noticed that some of the birds have a lop-sided or irregularly shaped pupil.

detail showing eye fleck

Checking on-line, I found references to “eye flecks” in American Oystercatchers, caused by areas of black pigmentation on the bird’s iris.  Even more interesting was a recent study that indicates a link between eye flecks and sex.  Birds with eye flecks are usually females!   Male and female oystercatchers are difficult to tell apart, and this feature may be useful for determining the sex of these birds in the field.  Presumably, my painting shows a male on the left, and a female – with an eye fleck – on the right.

Thankfully, some of the other shorebirds at the state beach are more cooperative for field sketching.  A turnstone and a willet allow close approach, but more alluring to me is a small, tight flock of sanderlings, settling down to wait out the high tide at the water’s edge.   The seven or eight birds are all adults, in various stages of molt.

Sketchbook studies of sanderlings, pencil and watercolor, 9″ x 12″

Some have nearly completed their transition into winter plumage and their upperparts sport the overall pearly gray tones of winter.   Others show dark patches of summer plumage mixed in with the newly emerging winter feathers, giving them a rather motley, unkempt aspect.  On the heads and breasts of some birds are patches of rust– also a remnant of their breeding dress.   In winter, sanderlings are the palest of our shorebirds, and some of these birds have gleaming white heads and snowy white breasts and undersides.  I revel in these variations and get to work recording them in my sketchbook.

Sketchbook studies of sanderlings, pencil, 9″ x 12″

This sketchbook page of the sanderling flock is deceiving – the birds look serene and settled.  In fact, the birds were continually in motion – standing up or sitting down, or shifting positions in an intricate game of musical chairs. Drawing the group required a good deal of patience and improvisation, the arrangement owing more to serendipity than to calculation and planning.

Late Summer Sanderlings, watercolor on Winsor & Newton coldpress, 12.5″ x 22.5″

My studio painting of the scene is more deliberately conceived and composed, but you can easily pick out all the poses I had recorded in my sketchbook.   I’ve tried to show the variations in plumage I observed at the State Beach.  Can you find the two birds that have molted completely into their winter plumage?


This is what I would characterize as a “high key” painting.  Most of the painting is composed of values in the lighter end of the value range, with just a sprinkling of the darkest values.  I wanted to convey the light-filled environment of a sandy beach in summer.   The darkest accents are the bird’s bills and eyes, which form a repeated rhythm across the middle of the composition.

With such good models to work with at the State Beach, the morning passes quickly and it’s soon time for lunch, which I enjoy on the breakwater next to the Jaws Bridge – my feet dangling in the clear ocean water while jellyfish float by on the tide.

Driving through Tisbury on my way to the ferry, I stop to use a restroom at the town library.  As I walk through the butterfly gardens around the front entrance, I am distracted by a flurry of motion.

Sketchbook page of Monarchs, pencil and watercolor, 9″ x 12″

On one liatris plant, I count eight Monarch butterflies – a phenomenal concentration of these handsome migratory insects, whose populations have been down in recent years.  There’s just time enough to do some sketches before I leave to catch the ferry at Vineyard Haven.

From the upper deck of the Woods Hole boat, I watch Martha’s Vineyard receding on the horizon.  I sit back and reflect on my travels over the past two and a half years, visiting all 57 of Mass Audubon’s public properties.  In that time, I’ve accumulated a wealth of experiences and impressions – some recorded in my watercolors, sketchbooks and blog journal, and others preserved as indelible memories.

I hope you’ve enjoyed following my travels around Massachusetts, and to YOU READERS – my sincere THANKS for your attention and words of encouragement!  With the completion of my sanctuary visits, the purpose of this blog has been realized, and my postings will become less regular and less frequent in the months ahead, but I will, from time to time, post updates when they relate to the residency project.  PLEASE STAY TUNED!

With the project completed, I will NOT stop visiting Mass Audubon sanctuaries – there is still so much more to observe and enjoy!   Maybe I’ll meet you on a sanctuary trail someday soon…