Category Archives: Nature in a minute

Nature in a minute…The restorative power of Spring

Although it remains mysterious to science how nature calms and restores our brain, it never ceases to amaze me how a brief respite walking through a garden to watch seedlings emerge after a long winter or sauntering through a woodland and hearing the songbirds sing for the first time in many months revitalizes the spirit.


Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit
on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds,
until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost
unhearable sound of the roses singing.


― Mary Oliver, How I go to the Woods

The woods and meadows at the Museum of American Bird Art are alive with sounds, sights, and spirit of spring – renewal and rebirth.

The wood frogs and spotted salamanders have come and gone from the vernal pools, leaving tens of thousands of eggs that will soon hatch. The young tadpoles and salamander larvae that emerge are tenacious. In their struggle to survival and transform, their tiny bodies expend so much energy that the pond is constantly full of tiny ripples that are visible only when you slow down, look closely, and remain still. Oh, what joy these splendid little puddles in the woods bring after a long winter.

Wood frog male calling on April 1, 2019 in our main vernal pool on the main loop trail at the Museum of American Bird Art

Spotted Salamander in our main vernal pool on April 1, 2019
A wood frog playing peek-a-boo in an interior vernal pool at the Museum of American Bird Art
A few amphibian eggs on a leaf in our wildlife sanctuary on April 1, 2019. I still wondering if they hatched when we had a few good rainfalls…

While the vernal pool awakes, it’s bounty will nurture the nearby woods and the Barred Owl eagerly watches and waits…

Barred Owl watching over the vernal pool on the main loop trail. April 17, 2019

Whooos woods are these…Nature, Awe, and Wonder in a Minute

Rarely does the moment arrive when everything seems to fit together perfectly and converges at just the right moment, but that’s probably why transcendent moments are so rare and special and our vacation campers had this type of moment this morning.

Over the past few weeks, we have been keeping tabs on a pair of Great Horned Owls and a single Barred Owl that have been very active in our wildlife sanctuary. For one week, a Barred Owl has been roosting during the day in the same tree in our pine grove, but was not there today. Alas, I thought our vacation campers wouldn’t get to see this amazing owl.

Barred Owl from February 7, 2019

BUT the reason it wasn’t in it’s daytime roost was because it had taken up residence in a nest that was in perfect view of the trail in our pine grove. This is the first Barred Owl nest we have ever found on the sanctuary.

So with the snow sparkling in the mid morning sun, an owl resplendent in it’s nest, the first people to see it were our vacation program campers and the look on their faces just tells it all, so much more than words could.

“ Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”


― Mary Oliver

Nature in a Minute: Whose woods these are…

On January 1, 2019, Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening entered into the public domain and I have been pondering the lines from that poem, especially

Whose woods these are…

Robert Frost, 1923

as I take people on programs through the wildlife sanctuary – like high school photography students, develop STEAM curriculum inspired by our natural world, and continue to learn about our amazing natural world right here in Canton. Whose woods are these…

A Great-horned Owl has taken up residence in our pine grove.

As I quietly walked through our wildlife sanctuary, through a grove of tall, spindly white pines and oaks looking for the aforementioned great-horned owl, a white-tail flashed and a “herd” of deer bounded away my foot steps. My attention was draw to a quieter, subtle sound of faintly rustling leaves and breaking twigs gave away the location of a no longer resting coyote.

Coyote, January 8, 2019

Here is a video from our trail camera of four white-tailed deer bounding across the pine grove late one afternoon this new year.

Four deer bounding through the pine grove

Here is a trail camera video from the past week of a single coyote a little past dawn moving through the pine grove.

Coyote in the pine groove

Since the New Year, our wildlife sanctuary has been bursting with activity fueled by an eruption of pine cones. Each day there is a cacophony of squirrels, both red and grey, and seed eating birds, like red-breasted and white-breasted nuthatches, brown creepers, tufted titmouse, black-capped chickadees, and more. The ground is covered with pine cones, including this pile near a vernal pool on the property.

A cache of pine cones. January 8, 2019.

A red squirrel moved frenetically – both eating pine seeds and remaining vigilant for predators – like the coyote and great horned owl that have both taken up residence in the pine grove.

A red squirrel frenetically collects and eats pine seeds

As a raptor hunted near by and blue jay’s mobbed the bird, a grey squirrel hung tightly to the trunk of a tree and tried to blend in until the danger passed. Whose woods are these…

Robert Frost reading Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Art, Nature, and Photography

Sticks cracked, boots splashed in the stream, and the sanctuary burst with life as students from Canton High got into position to take the perfect photograph of our natural world. On December 11, Patricia Palmer’s photography class from Canton High School visited the wildlife sanctuary to take nature photographs. We spent time exploring near our vernal pool, pine, maple, and oak forest, and Pequit Brook.

Along the photography hike, we encountered lots of birds, including red-breasted nuthatches, a fisher (Martes pennanti), an extremely rare sighting, and a raccoon all curled up in a tree hole along the vernal pool trail. Special thanks to the Marilyn Rodman Council for the Arts for supporting these wonderful programs. 

A fisher ambled up a large white pine while we hiked to the brook. It spent most of the afternoon in the late fall sun high up in the tree.

The light and reflections of the ice were wonderful. Enjoy these photos of the trip.

Student photographing reflections on the ice
A raccoon all curled up in a tree by the vernal pool. It spent over 7 hours curled up in this spot right along the trail
Students photographing ice, water, and nature at the Pequit Brook

Nature in a Minute: Cedar Waxwings

As the leaves have dropped to the meadow and forest floor, the beautiful fall color has not migrated from the wildlife sanctuary, but has transformed with color radiating from the birds and fruit that are ever-present in the fall and winter. The bright red berries, from cherries, crabapples, and dogwoods, have been attracting hundreds of birds each day, including cedar waxwings. We have been fortunate to photograph large flocks of waxwings on the sanctuary.

We hope you enjoy these photographs of the Cedar Waxwings from the past two weeks.

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

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.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.