Category Archives: News

Nature in a Minute: I Happen to Be Standing

As our patterns of life have fragmented into a new routine, the ritual of finding solace and comfort in nature – whether it from my living room window while my girls jump on the couch (happening right now as I write), in my yard, or at nearby conservation land – seem all the more important. 

“I Happen to Be Standing” from A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver  

“…While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open,
which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm…”

When the chance allows in the morning, during the days with my kids, or in the late afternoon, I’ve been trying to spend time observing nature and taking photographs to share with you.

With the spring really starting to spring, the Red-winged Blackbird takes center stage.

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird photographed on April 4, 2020. Photo by Sean Kent

You will see Red-winged Blackbirds spending their breeding season in Massachusetts in places like freshwater ponds, fresh and saltwater marshes, and streams. They especially love areas with reedy plant growth. Red-winged Blackbirds will occasionally nest in forests along waterways, sedge meadows, and fallow fields at farms.

For the next few months, you will see males making dramatic displays and calls to defend their territory. Learn more by watching the video below.

Flamboyant Displays: Learn more about the territorial displays of the Red-winged Blackbirds

The song of the Red-winged Blackbird is a constant sign of spring in wetland areas. The song of a male is a creaky conk-la-ree! Listen to it in the following video.

Red-winged Blackbird call

Female Red-winged Blackbird

Photographed in May 2018. Photo by Sean Kent

Blending in is the goal of the female Red-winged Blackbird. She will sit still on her nest, usually built in the reeds with brownish grasslike material. It is imperative that predators overlook her and the nest. Few female Red-winged Blackbirds have arrived in Massachusetts, they usually arrive 2 to 3 weeks after the male Red-winged Blackbirds.

Red-winged Blackbird soaring away

Red-winged Blackbird photographed on April 4, 2020 Photo by Sean Kent

Photos by Sean Kent

Spring by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –          
   When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;          
   Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush          
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring          
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing; 
   The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush 

And remember, be safe, be well, you’re not alone, and we will meet again.

Taking Flight: An International Youth Bird Art ONLINE EXHIBITION featuring Miguel Rodriguez from Bogata, Colombia

We are so inspired by the amazingly talented young bird artists that are exhibiting in this year’s Taking Flight exhibition. Since we all have to be isolated to stay safe, we wanted to bring you a virtual exhibit and a little background about the artists. We still hope to have a physical exhibition of the original art, but we want to share this wonderful work now.

Today, we are featuring Miguel Rodriguez (Age 5), a young artist from Bogata, Colombia

El Pais de los Pajaros [The Country of the Birds]
Miguel Rodriguez (Age 5)

Artist Message

“I live by an Humedal (Wildlife Refuge) in the middle of a big city in the country of birds. My country has the most birds or the most shapes and colours in the world! My country is the country of birds!”

Miguel Creating Art

Enjoy these wonderful photographs of Miguel creating art.

Taking Flight: An International Youth Bird Art ONLINE EXHIBITION featuring students from the Pagosa Peak Open School in Colorado

We are so inspired by the amazingly talented young bird artists that are exhibiting in this year’s Taking Flight exhibition. Since we all have to be isolated to stay safe, we wanted to bring you a virtual exhibit and a little background about the artists. We still hope to have a physical exhibition of the original art, but we want to share this wonderful work now.

Today, we are featuring three young artists from the Pagosa Peak Open School in Colorado. The young artists are Wynnie Buchner (Age 6), Jayelle Lee (Age 5), and Tevye Zissman (Age 8). Learn more about the school in this wonderful news article featured in the Pagosa Springs Sun.

Rocky Mountain Bluebird Family by Wynnie Buchner (Age 6)

Hummingbird by Jayelle Lee (Age 5)

Hummingbird by Tevye Zissman (Age 8)

Students at the Pagosa Peak Open School Creating Art

Enjoy these pictures from the art classes at the Pagosa Peak Open School in the art class taught by artist and art teacher Karla Parker Choat.

Taking Flight: An International Youth Bird Art ONLINE EXHIBITION featuring Eleanor Smith

We are so inspired by the amazingly talented young bird artists that are exhibiting in this year’s Taking Flight exhibition. Since we all have to be isolated to stay safe, we wanted to bring you a virtual exhibit and a little background about the artists. We still hope to have a physical exhibition of the original art, but we want to share this wonderful work now.

Today, we feature Eleanor Smith and her artwork, Northern Harrier. She is 16 and lives in Utah.

Artist’s Message

“Without a doubt, there are relatively few animals more majestic than birds of prey. Whenever I watch Northern Harriers fly overhead, I am captivated by their graceful beauty. I wanted to convey this power and gracefulness in my piece, ‘Northern Harrier’.” ~ Eleanor Smith

Eleanor Smith (Age, 16)

I’ve been making art since I was just little, but I didn’t really get serious about it until middle school. One of my favorite things about art is exploring new media.

I love to experiment with new and unconventional art forms like paperclay sculpture or block printing. 

Growing up in Utah has given me access to a unique natural environment. I love being outdoors, and most of my art is influenced by the nature around me. I especially love drawing birds; when I was in elementary school, I would spend hours walking around the lake near our house and looking for sandhill cranes and pheasants. My dad, an avid birder, would help me identify different birds, and I would use field guides to draw the birds I saw. Even today, I’m fascinated by the diversity and beauty of wildlife.

Taking Flight: An International Youth Bird Art ONLINE EXHIBITION featuring Mackenzie Casto

We are so inspired by the amazingly talented young bird artists that are exhibiting in this year’s Taking Flight exhibition. Since we all have to be isolated to stay safe, we wanted to bring you a virtual exhibit and a little background about the artists. We still hope to have a physical exhibition of the original art, but we want to share this wonderful work now.

Today, we feature Mackenzie Casto and her artwork, Blue Majesty. She is 14 and lives in Massachusetts. Learn more about Mackenzie at her website and facebook page.

Blue Majesty by Mackenzie Casto (Age 14)

Artist Message about Blue Majesty

“I find the Boat-billed Heron fascinating! I love how the Boat-billed Heron has such vibrant blue-blackish colored feathers. This bird is unusual because it is one of very few birds that are nocturnal. This bird also has a powder down special type of feather that never molts and grows continuously! For all these reasons this is one of my favorite birds!” ~ Mackenzie Casto

Artist Statement

I believe that art has the magic of bringing people together and making them happy. Even though I am only fourteen years old, I feel that I can make a positive difference in life through my artwork. I think the most important thing for me to do as an artist is to give people a feeling of strength when they look at my artwork and a feeling of being taken away from their troubles even if just for a minute. I like to paint animals because I think animals are full of love and are really interesting. I hope to someday help animals and people with my artwork.” ~Mackenzie Casto

Taking Flight: An International Youth Bird Art ONLINE EXHIBITION

We are so inspired by the amazingly talented young bird artists that are exhibiting in this year’s Taking Flight exhibition. Since we all have to be isolated to stay safe, we wanted to bring you a virtual exhibit and a little background about the artists. We still hope to have a physical exhibition of the original art, but we want to share this wonderful work now.

Today, we are featuring Caroline Pollan and her artwork, Resplendent Quetzal. Caroline has had her excellent artwork exhibited in Taking Flight for the past three years.

Resplendent Quetzal by Caroline Pollan

Caroline Pollan (Age 14)

Artist’s Message: “One of my favorite species of bird is the Resplendent Quetzal. These birds, who are native to Central and South America, are considered one of the most beautiful in the world. And though their bright green plumage may stand out in captivity, they are extremely well camouflaged in their forest home. I used colored pencils to get the detail of the feathers and to have the amazing colors of the quetzal in my artwork for the bird itself. For the sky in the background I used acrylic paint.”

Artist Profile: Caroline Pollan

Enjoy these photographs of Caroline making art.

Where’s Milly on a Rainy Spring Day???

As the vernal pool thaw, Milly is gearing up to start searching for spotted salamanders and wood frogs. Look for Milly at the Vernal Pool tomorrow.

Vernal Pool in February
Wood Frogs being Wood Frogs
A Spotted Salamander being a Spotted Salamander

Bird and Nature Drawing Resources for Young Artists

Secretary Bird, Noah Chan (Age 8)

The Museum might be closed, but we’re still accepting submissions for Taking Flight, our youth bird art exhibition. Not sure where to get started with drawing birds? We’ve got you covered!

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 will be accepted until June 15, 2020. Click here for more information.

Sandpiper, Maris Van Vlack (Age 16)

Getting Started With Nature Drawing

Advice for Young Bird Artists from Barry Van Dusen

Barry Van Dusen at Felix Neck, Martha’s Vineyard (Photograph by Sean Murtha)

As part of our annual Taking Flight youth bird art exhibition, Barry Van Dusen – an international acclaimed wildlife artist and a former artist in residence at MABA – has a wonderful blog post offer advice on how to get started for budding young artists.

Advice and guidance for artists from John Muir Laws

John Muir Laws has written several books on nature drawing. Here’s his introduction to drawing birds, from his blog. This is a great place to learn about drawing realistic, detailed birds.

Let’s Draw Birds with John Muir Laws

How to Draw a Bird with Oil Pastels for Kids

It’s springtime, so we’re always on the lookout for bluebirds. Here’s a video that’ll show you how to draw one with oil pastels.

How to Draw Birds for Beginners with Watercolors

Itching to pick up a paintbrush? This video has some beginner-friendly ideas for how to get started painting simple birds with watercolors.

Taking Flight: An International Juried Youth Bird Art Exhibition: ONLINE EXHIBITION

We are so inspired by the amazingly talented young bird artists that are exhibiting in this year’s Taking Flight exhibition. Since we all have to be isolated to stay safe, we wanted to bring you a virtual exhibit and a little background about the artists. We still hope to have a physical exhibition of the original art, but we want to share this wonderful work now.

Enjoy learning about each artist in this series of blog posts. Our first artists are sisters, Iris Rosenhagen (age 14) and Cayla Rosenhagen (age 14). This post contains their artwork and why art is important to them.

Spotted Sandpiper by Cayla Rosenhagen

Artist’s Message: “On one of our frequent family birding outings, we were lucky enough to find this Spotted Sandpiper, hunting for food, on the rocky North Shore of Long Island. These birding adventures are such an important part of our lives. As they bring us closer as a family, they also bring us closer to nature. The search for rare, new, beautiful birds to spot, while being in the serene company of the untamed scenery around us is just such a powerful thing. A great wish of mine is that everyone could experience and enjoy this marvel, not only for their personal experience, but for the world. If everyone was out enjoying the beauty of nature, they would see more and more reasons to protect and conserve it.”

Crow and the Pitcher: Iris Rosenhagen

Artist Message: “From the blue jays in our yard that have trained me to feed them peanuts daily, to watching the tender courtship of a pair of crows, Corvids have always captivated me. More and more studies are showing that this family of birds possess remarkable intelligence that rivals that of apes. They exhibit an amazing memory, can recognize people’s faces, utilize tools, form strong social bonds, and even teach each other complicated tasks. One scientific study involved the use of a contraption that dispensed treats. Ravens were given a stone to drop into it and as a result, a treat dropped out. One raven figured out how to hack the experiment. He wedged twigs into the machine (removing the need to be given a stone) to receive an endless supply of treats. This raven had to be excused from the experiment because the scientists were afraid he’d teach the other participants.”

Artist Profiles: Iris and Cayla Rosenhagen

Cayla Rosenhagen and Iris Rosenhagen
Cayla Rosenhagen

Why Art is Important to Me

“My art gives me an outlet to express my love of nature and share it with the world. I’ve always been inspired to draw the amazing wildlife around us, especially birds. Birds have always been such an important part of my life. Watching and drawing them gives me such peace.” ~ Cayla Rosenhagen

Why Art is Important to Me

Iris Rosenhagen

“I have loved both art and birds for as long as I can remember. The beauty and diversity of birds enchant me and warms my spirit. Similarly, watching birds fulfills me, just as art does. Take a walk among nature through the eyes of an artist and you will see that birds, along with all flora and fauna, are living pieces of art.” ~ Iris Rosenhagen

Iris and Cayla Creating an Ocean Mural

Thank you so much for reading this post and be on the look out for more coming soon!