Category Archives: Pollinators

Selected artwork from Taking Flight: our juried youth bird art exhibition (Part III)

We are extremely excited to display a selection of art from our first annual juried youth bird art exhibition. This annual exhibition is open to any children and young adults age 4 to 18 years old. All selected entries will be on display at the Museum of American Bird Art from September 23 to December 11th. Entries for our second annual exhibition will open in early 2017.

Iris Rosenhagen, Burrowing Owls, Age 11

Burrowing owls are one of my favorite birds because I’ve studied owls a lot and they are very unique. Instead of living in tree cavities, they live in burrows. They are also diurnal as opposed to nocturnal like most other owls. Something very interesting about them, is if they feel threatened in their burrow, a Burrowing Owl will make a rattlesnake buzz sound to scare off predators. Sadly, Burrowing Owls are losing habitat due to construction. I am an avid conservationist and the creator of C.A.R.E., Community for Animal Respect and Education. C.A.R.E. provides opportunities for people to learn about the challenges animals face in today’s world, and inspires people to get involved to help them. I hope to spread awareness about the plight of the Burrowing Owls by submitting my artwork.


Iris Rosenhagen, Burrowing Owl, Age 11

Iris Rosenhagen, Burrowing Owl, Age 11

Iris Rosenhagen, B95 Rufa Red Knot

“The Rufa Red Knot is one of my favorite birds because of an inspiring book I read Moonbird by Phillip Hoose. It was about one Red Knot who has lived over 20 years and has amazingly migrated from South America to the Arctic so many times that the distance would be from here to the moon and halfway back. The tag, B95 on his leg allows him to be identified in different places he has flown. I learned a lot of interesting facts about Red Knots. One of the coolest, is that they lose their gizzards when they have a really long flight to make during migration so that they weigh less. When they stop over in Delaware Bay to eat horseshoe crab eggs, they grow it back to digest the food they need for energy to continue their long flight north where they mate.”

Iris Rosenhagen, Red Knot, Age 11

Iris Rosenhagen, Red Knot, Age 11

European Starling, Cayla Rosenhagen, Age 11

“I feel many people don’t appreciate the outer and inner beauty of the European Starling. The amazing iridescence of the starling’s plumage combined with its history of being an immigrant coming to the New World with its plucky, perseverant personality make this bird one of my favorites. The European Starling reminds me of my ancestors coming through Ellis Island, having so much to offer, but not always seen for all they were. People flock to the United States from all over the world…pun intended. Just as the murmuration of the European Starling is so remarkable, the same holds true for all who come to our land in search of a new life.”

Cayla Rosenhage, European Starling, Age 11

Cayla Rosenhage, European Starling, Age 11

Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Cayla Rosenberg, Age 11

“Pollination and patience. Those are the two qualities that make Ruby Throated Hummingbirds one of my favorite birds. Unfortunately, we have seen such a decline in pollinators such as honeybees and monarch butterflies. We’ve tried to do our part by planting native flowering plants and by encouraging others to do so. But it takes patience to heal the Earth. It also takes patience to spot a Ruby Throated Hummingbird! I’ve been fortunate to see them a handful of times and it brings me such excitement to watch them feeding on the nectar of flowers, my heart seems to beat almost as fast as theirs, over a thousand times in a minute while they feed. Patiently I await the next Ruby Throated Hummingbird who comes to do his part in healing the Earth as he pollinates.”

Cayla Rosenhagen, Age 11, Hummingbird

Cayla Rosenhagen, Age 11, Hummingbird

Spice is nice: Nature Notes from the Sanctuary

Wow, it’s been a hot, dry summer at the Museum of American Bird Art, yet, life keeps on living in our streams, pine forests, and meadows. Animals explore our meadow, monarch caterpillars chomp on milkweed growing in our fields, and fishers saunter through our pine forest. Here are a few highlights from the past couple of months.

A coyote drops by for a quick visit



Every morning, hundreds of bumblebees and native bees buzz through our recently planted native plant meadow collecting pollen and nectar from partridge pea, great blue lobelia, sunflowers, and much more. Last year, no bees buzzed or goldfinches ate seeds because the meadow was a mowed lawn. _SMK5573In April 2016, we removed all the lawn in front of our bird and photography blind and planted approximately 26,000 native plant seeds and 72 native plant seedlings. The new meadow should also greatly improve the photography opportunities at our blind because of  increased cover for birds visiting the feeders. For example, this past week, we had over 50 migratory sparrows, including Chipping Sparrows and Song Sparrows, feeding on the abundant seeds in the newly planted meadow.

Check out a few pictures of our meadow in the making, with help from our homeschool classes too!

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Monarch Caterpillars

If you walked through our meadow on a daily basis, it would seem that the monarch population was hurting in Canton because I only saw two monarch butterflies this entire summer. However, we’ve had lots of sneaky monarch butterflies because we’ve had lots of caterpillars chowing down on the milkweed in the sanctuary. Check out these pictures.

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Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly

Spicebush Swallowtail

Spicebush Swallowtail


Not a snake, but a spicebush swallowtail caterpillar

The Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly is a fascinating creature that belongs to an extremely diverse group of butterflies, including the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and Black Swallowtail you may see flying around or munching on the parsley in your garden (black swallowtail caterpillar).

Sam Jaffe's photograph of a Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Top), Black Swallowtail (Middle), and Spicebush Swallowtail (Bottom). Learn more at:

Sam Jaffe’s photograph of a Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Top), Black Swallowtail (Middle), and Spicebush Swallowtail (Bottom). Learn more at:

As an adult, the spicebush swallowtail will drink nectar from many plant species. Caterpillars eat leaves from plants in the Laural family (Lauraceae). The two species in Massachusetts are it’s namesake Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), which typically grows in wet habitats, and Sassafras (Sassafras albidum). 


This spring and summer we were extremely fortunate to have many Spicebush Swallowtails gliding through the dappled light of our pine forests. During our summer camp, many kids collected and cared for spicebush caterpillars and watched their development from egg to butterfly.

Spicebush caterpillars have amazing adaptations to scare or deter predators. They secrete chemicals from their horns (osmeteria) that have been reported to deter ants (Eisner and Meinwald 1965).  Spicebush caterpillars also mimic bird droppings as early instar caterpillars and mimic snakes and tree frogs during their late instars to deter bird predation. Enjoy a few photos from this past summer.

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To learn more about this amazing species, you can find a species description from Mass Audubon and a fantastic indepth article by the University of Florida’s entomology department. 

Beautiful Wildflowers

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Amazing Insects

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Eisner T, Meinwald YC. 1965. Defensive secretion of a caterpillar (Papilio). Science 150: 1733-1735


Monarch Butterflies at the Museum of American Bird Art

Monarch butterflies arrived in the middle of July and taken up residence in the meadow at the Museum of American Bird Art. So far, I’ve counted 4 adults in the meadow at once, with one or two butterflies present on most days. They have been laying lots of eggs on common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and these have been hatching over the past two weeks. I’ve counted around 20 or so eggs and found 6 caterpillars munching away on milkweed. Monarch caterpillars only eat plants in the milkweed genus (Asclepias) and common milkweed is by far their most important host plant. Approximately 90% of migrating North American monarchs eat common milkweed as caterpillars. I will post updates on monarchs periodically, but wanted to share photos and time lapse videos about the monarchs at MABA. Further, some background information about their migration and conservation can be found at end of this post, including two tremendous Mass Audubon resources.

Monarch Butterfly Eggs

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Look at the beautiful sculpturing that is present on this teeny tiny egg. Once the caterpillars hatch, voracious consumption of milkweed ensures. Check out these time lapse videos.

Adult Monarchs Nectaring At Joe Pye Weed

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Current Status of the North American Monarch Butterfly

In North America, monarch butterfly populations have dramatically declined over the past 20 years, with the population hitting their lowest total ever in the winter 2013-2014. However, Chip Taylor, professor at University of Kansas and founder of Monarch Watch, is guardedly optimistic about this years monarch population.

Where do Monarch Butterflies Spend the Winter?

The majority of North American Monarch Butterflies spend the winter in the pine and oyamel trees located at the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve on the border of Michoacan and Mexico State, Mexico. Monarch butterflies in the Pacific Northwest typically overwinter in trees along the California Coast and there is some evidence that Monarch Butterflies in the Northeastern United States also overwinter in Cuba in addition to Mexico. Check out this fantastic video by of the forests in Mexico where monarchs will spend the winter before migrating back North.


Citizen Science Opportunities:
Check out this map of 2015 monarch butterfly and caterpillar sightings. Here are MABA, I report our sightings to this organization to be part of this national citizen science project. Email me, [email protected], if you’d like more information.

Resources to learn more about Monarch Butterflies:

Top Moments from Discovering Pollinators Camp Session: Week 4 of the Wild at Art Camp

Here at the Wild at Art Camp, everybody has been having a lot of fun learning about pollinators, playing nature games (pin the antenna on the butterfly and the pollinator game created by counselor Amanda), and creating art inspired by nature. We have a few spots open for our last two sessions of camp. Check out some of the top moments from the week:

Moment #1: Creating nature journals

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Moment #2: Creating an Eric Carle inspired basket of fruits that need pollinators

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Moment #3: Using water and dye (sumagashi) to create amazing swirling paintings

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Moment #4: Exploring in the sanctuary

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Moment #5: Playing lots of games and cooling off on hot days

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Moment #6: Learning watercolor techniques by painting an apple (needs pollinators)!

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Moment #7: Being collaborative like bees and painting!!!!

Ready to be inspired and amazed? The Caterpillar Lab is coming to the Wild at Art Summer Camp

The Caterpillar Lab is Coming!!!

We have exciting news for this summer’s Wild at Art Camp…The award winning, innovative, engaging, and awe-inspiring Caterpillar Lab is coming to camp during the Natural Connections 1  (July 6 to 10) and Taking Flight (July 13 to 17) week.

By incorporating a visit from the Caterpillar Lab with the Wild at Art Camp experience, campers will have a strong foundation to experience powerful moments of discovery throughout the year in their own backyards and daily life. In addition, this experience should infuse them with the confidence to create and express themselves more confidently through art. Only a few spots remain, so sign up today so that camper in your life won’t miss out!

During each week, the Caterpillar Lab will allow campers to get up close and personal with many different species of native caterpillars and learn about their adaptations.

Mother and daughter at a live caterpillar show seeing a cecropia moth caterpillar for the first time.  © Samuel Jaffe

Mother and daughter at a live caterpillar show seeing a cecropia moth caterpillar for the first time. © Samuel Jaffe.


Campers will:

  • Learn more about many fascinating species of native caterpillars
  • Discover native caterpillars at the wildlife sanctuary and at home
  • Create art inspired by these amazing natural creatures
  • Become excited about discovering their natural world and sharing it with others


Week 1: Natural Connections (July 6 to July 10)

For the first week, campers will learn about how these caterpillars interact with plants, like how the monarch caterpillar is able to consume milkweed and turn the toxins in the milkweed into a defensive weapon.

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Week 2: Taking Flight (July 13 to July 17)

For the second week, campers will learn how caterpillars are adapted against birds. Because, unless they are “told otherwise”, birds view caterpillars as big, juicy snacks. For example, the caterpillars of the spicebush swallowtail butterfly look likes snakes, which is an adaptation that scares birds and saves the caterpillar from being lunch. We have lots of spicebush in the wildlife sanctuary and are optimistic that campers will be able to find these caterpillars on the property.

Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar

Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar. Creative Commons License.

Do you know a creative kid or a nature detective…then open up a world of exploration, imagination, and investigation this summer by signing them up for the Wild at Art Summer Camp in Canton.

Sailors of the Atmosphere: Queens of Spring

In this blog, I will touch on happenings around the Museum, exhibitions, conservation, natural history, the wildlife sanctuary, and much more. One of my main passions and areas of interests in addition to birds, education, and art is with pollinators, especially our diverse and amazing species of native bees (did you know there are more than 360 species of native bees in Massachusetts alone). First, I’d like to talk a little bit about the humble bumble bee.


Common Eastern Bumble bee visiting goldenrod. Photo credit: Sean Kent

“Sailor of the atmosphere;
Swimmer through the waves of air;”

Emerson: The Humble-bee

As spring slowly turns into summer, the fragrant flowering trees and their gently falling flowers wash winter away and signal an end to our hibernation from 7 feet of snow. As the streets buzz with activity and people eagerly greet the sun’s warm rays, my daughter eagerly points out, the

Bloom apple flowers at the Museum of American Bird Art. Photo Credit: Sean Kent

Bloom apple flowers at the Museum of American Bird Art. Photo Credit: Sean Kent

streets buzz not only with people, but with one of the first and most important native wild pollinators to emerge. The furry, booming bumble bees.

Bumble bees are in the genus, Bombus, which means “booming”, and captures the cacophonous and frenzied pace of a bumble bee racing from flower to flower. It’s called flight of the bumble bee for a reason.

In the spring, you’ll probably notice that the bumble bees are much larger than you would see in the summer because the bumble bees flying around, searching for a nest site, and collecting nectar and pollen at cherry, apple, or holly flowers – to name a few – are queen bees, beginning their epic quest to start their own colony.

Once queens emerge from hibernation (dormancy), they need to stock up on nectar and pollen and find a suitable nesting site to form a colony. However, it can be really cold in the spring and life is very precious for newly emerged queens. Bumble bees can warm themselves up and get moving on cool spring days.  Check out this fantastic BBC video narrated by Sir David Attenborough and watch the thermal images of a bumble bee on a cold spring morning:

To Learn More: