Category Archives: News

Nature Notes: Butterflies

Monarch Butterfly overwintering grounds in Mexico

Nature is a production of THIRTEEN for PBS. Throughout its history, Nature has brought the natural world to millions of viewers.

This blog post complements a nature-based STEAM programming about butterflies and their life cycle.

Monarch Butterfly laying an egg on Common Milkweed

Monarch butterfly laying eggs on common milkweed, © Sean Kent

Monarch Caterpillar on it’s host plant Common Milkweed

Monarch caterpillar eating common milkweed, © Sean Kent
Monarch Caterpillar

Engineer a Butterfly Habitat

To engineer a butterfly habitat, you need to think about and create a list of what a butterfly needs to survive during it’s entire life cycle as an (i) egg, (ii) caterpillar, (iii) chrysalis, and (iv) butterfly. The following are a few things to think about when engineering a butterfly habitat.

  • Food 
    • Host plants for caterpillars
    • Nectar 
  • Water
  • Places to shelter or hide

After thinking about how to create a butterfly habitat, design your habitat to contain everything a butterfly needs and draw it on a piece of paper. After drawing your butterfly habitat, if you have a couple of pots for plants, a garden, or another area you could modify, you could engineer your own butterfly habitat.

To attract black swallowtail butterflies, you can plant parsley in your garden.

My Parsley Is Attracting Butterflies - Learn About Attracting ...
File:Black swallowtail caterpillar.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

How to Create a Nature Journal

Get outdoors and record your nature observations in your very own nature journal. You can make one with materials you have at home!

Barry Van Dusen’s Sketchbook Page of a Painted Lady Butterfly

If you’d like to learn about nature drawing, including drawing butterflies, enjoy this wonderful blog post by acclaimed artist Barry Van Dusen about Getting Started with Nature Journaling. Below is a sketch of painted lady butterflies.

Barry Van Dusen’s Sketchbook Page of a Monarch Butterfly

During his artist in residence, Barry Van Dusen visit …. and closely observed Monarch Butterflies. Here is an image of his sketchbook page from that day.

“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.”

~ Barry Van Dusen in Martha’s Vineyard

Nature Notes: May 7, 2020

This blog post complements our weekly virtual lecture called Nature Notes for the residents of Orchard Cove. To learn more about our weekly virtual illustrated lecture series called nature notes, click here.

Support our Bird-A-Thon and Support Our Work at the Museum

Bird-a-Thon is an annual state-wide fundraising and birding event for Mass Audubon that began in 1983. Each spring birders from all over the state raise money to protect the nature of Massachusetts and count as many bird species as they can during a 24-hour period in mid-May. During this challenging time, all the money raised will go directly to supporting our work at the Museum of American Bird Art at Mass Audubon.

Check out Sean Kent’s Bird-A-Thon Page.

Check out Milly the Raccoon’s Bird-A-Thon Page and Blog.

Learn more about Bird Migration

Bird migration is in full swing and many new migrants have been arriving over the past week.

Yellow Warbler photographed on May 3, 2020 in Easton, Massachusetts

Migration Forecasting from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Click here to see amazing migration maps and forecasts at BirdCast
Click here to see the bird migration forecast for May 2020

Study of a Prairie Warbler by Barry Van Dusen

Weather Radar showing Bird Migration over the Florida Keys from February 17, 2020

The Yellow and Green hues represent bird migration being picked up on weather radar.

Annual nocturnal migration patterns from 1995 to 2018

Annual nocturnal migration phenology measured by weather surveillance radar from 1995 to 2018. Measures show the aggregate behavior of hundreds of species.

Click here to see these incredible resources at Colorado State University’s AeroEco Lab that studies Bird Migration, Light Pollution, and more.

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Hi everybody, each week I (Sean Kent – MABA’s education and camp director) deliver a live online illustrated lecture called Nature Notes for the residents of Orchard Cove in Canton. I love nature and am infinitely curious with what is going on natural world. I am an educator, naturalist, accomplished landscape and wildlife photographer, and field biologist with expertise in native bee biology, species interactions, and ecology in general.

This post contains additional resources that correspond with the lecture, but might also be of interest to readers of Taking Flight in addition to the residents of Orchard Cove. Please contact me (skent@massaudubon.org) if you or your organization/residence might be interested in live online illustrated lectures, including lectures on The Secret Life of Backyard Birds and Native Bees and other Pollinators. Be well and safe.

Acting Like a Scientist: Rachel Carson and Creating a Nature Journal

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This blog post corresponds with a program for children and their caregivers by the Museum of American Bird Art at Mass Audubon about Rachel Carson, searching for the signs of Spring, and creating a nature journal to record your observations, questions, drawings, and thoughts.

Nature Story Time: Spring after Spring

How can you observe spring like Rachel Carson? 

  • Create a nature journal and explore your neighborhood
    • Draw leaves, seedlings, flowers, insects, landscapes, branches, and anything that you like in nature
    • Write down or draw how certain things in nature make you feel 
    • Write down other observations, questions, and other notes

Create Your Own Nature Journal and
Observe the Natural World like Rachel Carson

Enjoy the following video created and produced by Dan Boudreau, a Terracorp member serving at MABA as a youth education coordinator.


Trail Camera Scavenger Hunt

Check out our fun Trail Camera Scavenger Hunt on the Taking Flight Blog.

Trail Camera Video from a vernal pool at the Museum of American Bird Art

Rachel Carson and Silent Spring

Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, was instrumental with saving many species of animals, especially birds. Here is a blog post about one of the birds that was saved from extinction, the Osprey.

Who doesn’t love dancing birds!!!
This Bird of Paradise also cleans his room too!

Mass Audubon’s Bird of the Day Videos

Discover a different bird species each day in this video series with Joan Walsh from our Conservation Science team!

American Robin

Northern Cardinal

Hear and learn more about a Cardinal Singing

Macaulay Library Curator, Greg Budney, talks about the brilliant song of the Northern Cardinal.
From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Learn more at: https://academy.allaboutbirds.org/built-to-sing-the-syrinx-of-the-northern-cardinal/

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Nature in a Minute: Trail Camera Scavenger Hunt

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be starting an exciting new activity for kids, families, and all our readers here on the Taking Flight blog: a trail camera scavenger hunt! Every few days, we’ll post videos from cameras around our sanctuary. You’ll get to see cool, close-up views of animals that you might not get to see in person. We might even see some videos of animals that only come out at night! The cameras will be by the vernal pool, our bird feeders, and other places around the sanctuary. Watch closely to find out how many of these things you can see!  

Glowing eye

A splash 

An owl 

A wood duck 

A shaking branch 

A reptile 

A groundhog 

A perching bird 

A raccoon 

A squirrel 

A deer 

A mallard 

A frog 

A flying bird 

A fox 

Here’s the first set of videos: 

Wait for it…

Vernal Pool Mystery

Oh dear…what’s in that tree???

What other cool animals do you think will show up? Check the blog often to find out! 

Nature Notes for Orchard Cove: April 30, 2020

This blog post is complements our weekly virtual lecture called Nature Notes for the residents of Orchard Cove. To learn more about our weekly virtual illustrated lecture series called nature notes, click here.

Signs of Spring: Great Blue Heron Finds Dinner

Great Blue Heron at the Norton Reservoir on April 29, 2020

Useful Links to Learn about Feathers

US Fish and Wildlife Feather Identification Tool

All About Feathers from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Feather Iridescence: Anna’s Hummingbird

Videographer: Larry Arbanas. This video is archived at the Cornell Lab’s Macaulay Library, ML466291.

Feathers: Birds of Paradise

The Vogelkop Superb Bird-of-Paradise. From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology
In the tropical forests of New Guinea, one male is dedicated to making an unforgettable first impression. From BBC Earth

Hi everybody, each week I (Sean Kent – MABA’s education and camp director) deliver a live online illustrated lecture called Nature Notes for the residents of Orchard Cove in Canton. I love nature and am infinitely curious with what is going on natural world. I am an educator, naturalist, accomplished landscape and wildlife photographer, and field biologist with expertise in native bee biology, species interactions, and ecology in general.

This post contains additional resources that correspond with the lecture, but might also be of interest to readers of Taking Flight in addition to the residents of Orchard Cove. Please contact me (skent@massaudubon.org) if you or your organization/residence might be interested in live online illustrated lectures, including lectures on The Secret Life of Backyard Birds and Native Bees and other Pollinators. Be well and safe.

Nature in a Minute: Mystery Plant Challenge #2

Plant ID challenge

Test your skill at identifying plants in winter without the help of colorful flowers and leaves.  Answers will be posted on April 23.

Mystery Plant

Plant Seed Capsules

Julianne Mehegan at Arches NP

Our guest blogger, Julianne Mehegan, is a wonderful friend of MABA, a birder and a naturalist.

Nature Notes for Orchard Cove – April 17, 2020

SUPPORT OUR WORK and Donate to the Museum of American Bird Art

Hi everybody, each week I (Sean Kent – MABA’s education and camp director) deliver a live online illustrated lecture called Nature Notes for the residents of Orchard Cove in Canton. I love nature and am infinitely curious with what is going on natural world. I am an educator, naturalist, accomplished landscape and wildlife photographer, and field biologist with expertise in native bee biology, species interactions, and ecology in general.

This post contains additional resources that correspond with the lecture, but might also be of interest to readers of Taking Flight in addition to the residents of Orchard Cove. Please contact me (skent@massaudubon.org) if you or your organization/residence might be interested in live online illustrated lectures, including lectures on The Secret Life of Backyard Birds and Native Bees and other Pollinators. Be well and safe.

Learning and Understanding Bird Songs

During our Nature Notes from April 10, several participants in the lecture expressed interest in learning more about how to identify bird songs. Here are a few references that will help with to learn bird songs this spring.

How To Listen To Bird Song—Tips And Examples From The Warbler Guide from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This article contains the three questions to ask about a song: (1) What Is The Sound Quality Of The Song?, (2) What Is The Pitch Of The Song?, and (3) How Many Sections Does The Song Have? It’s a really great introduction to learning bird songs along with great visualizations of bird songs.

How to Start Identifying Birds by Their Songs and Calls from National Audubon

Start Using Spectrograms to ‘Read’ Bird Songs and Calls by National Audubon

Buzzy Song – Prairie Warbler

Located on Youtube – © 2010 Lang Elliott musicofnature.org

For more bird songs and visualizations, please go to the bottom of the page.

Lyrid Meteor Shower

The Lyrid Meteor Shower will peak on April 21 and April 22. Here is more information from NASA.

Osprey

Enjoy our Nature in a Minute about an Osprey catching lunch.

Osprey Eggs laid at the end of March 2020

From YouTube: Cornell Lab of Ornithology – Watch live at www.allaboutbirds.org/savannahospreys

Live Osprey Camera from Savannah, Georgia

From YouTube: Cornell Lab of Ornithology – Watch live at www.allaboutbirds.org/savannahospreys

Bird of the Day from Mass Audubon: American Robin

Bird of the Day from Mass Audubon: The Northern Cardinal

Eastern Phoebe Natural History

From YouTube: Dominique Lalonde Films Nature

Eastern Phoebe Sonogram

Located on YouTube: Avian Vocal Behavior by Bruce Byers and Donald Kroodsma in the Handbook of Bird Biology 3rd Edition from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Wiley Publishing. http://birdbiology.org Recordist: Wilbur L. Hershberger. Courtesy of Macaulay Library/Cornell Lab of Ornithology/ID100741

Eastern Towhee

Located on Youtube – © 2010 Lang Elliott musicofnature.org

Eastern Towhee Song

Located on YouTube: Avian Vocal Behavior by Bruce Byers and Donald Kroodsma in the Handbook of Bird Biology 3rd Edition from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Wiley Publishing. http://birdbiology.org Recordist: Wilbur L. Hershberger. Courtesy of Macaulay Library/Cornell Lab of Ornithology/ID85179

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Sam and Dave Dig a Hole: A Spectacular Nature Story Time from the Museum of American Bird Art

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We are excited for our third installment of our Nature Story Time video series, so even in times where we need to be isolated, we can still be together. We hope to bring you a nature story time each week along with a little art project or nature exploration that you can do at home.

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole — Book Page Interior.jpg
Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klaussen. Candlewick Press in Somerville, Massachusetts

Please comment and let us know what stories you’d like to hear, what you like about the program, and most importantly how we can improve. If you missed it, our second nature story time was a Curious Garden. If you missed it, our first nature story time was Little Bird.

Our third story is Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klaussen. During these times of being isolated, it is restoring to go on nature adventures and find the spectacular and little treasures in nature right outside your door, on the sidewalk, and in your neighborhood. Enjoy the story.

Meet Mac Barnett and Jon Klaussen

Art Project

Make a Mole that Loves Digging Holes

Today we’re going to make an art project all about an animal that loves to dig: moles! Moles eat all kinds of insects that live underground. To find those insects, they dig. A lot! Some moles dig up to 150 feet of new tunnels every day.  

To do all that digging, moles need big, powerful front paws. They use them like shovels. Where are the eyes? Moles do have eyes, but they’re black and very small. Their fur is also very dark. That makes it very hard to see their eyes.  

Here’s what you’ll need to make your own mole: 

  • One piece of sturdy white paper 
  • Watercolors, a palette or plastic plate (for mixing), a brush, and clean water 
    • Note: You can use any art materials to make the mole, it doesn’t have to be watercolors. You could use crayons, markers, collage scraps of paper, or anything that you have with you.
  • A white crayon 
  • Scissors 
  • A pencil
  • Glue 

Step 1: Prepare your paper 

Cut your piece of paper in half. It doesn’t need to be perfect. We’re going to cut the mole body out of one half and the paws and nose out of the other.

Step 2: Make the body 

Use a pencil to draw the body of the mole on one of your pieces of paper. Moles have big, powerful shoulders to help them dig, so the body should be wide. Cut out the body. 

Step 3: Draw the whiskers and paint the body 

Use your white crayon to draw whiskers on the mole’s face. You won’t be able to see the whiskers yet, but when you paint the body, they’ll show up white. This is because watercolors don’t stick to crayon wax. Mix up a nice, dark brown with your watercolors. I used the darkest brown on my palette and added just a little black. Paint the body with long, wide strokes. Don’t worry if the paper curls up a little! Mine did when I first painted it, but it flattened out as it dried. Set the body aside to dry. 

Step 4: Make the snout and paws 

Take the other half of your paper. Use your pencil to draw a triangle for the snout. I made the corners of mine round. Draw a big paw with five long claws. You can draw your second paw now, or cut out the first paw and trace it to make the second. It’s up to you! I traced so that the two would be exactly the same.

Step 5: Paint the snout and paws 

Use your watercolors to mix up a light pink. Paint your paws and snout. Set them aside to dry. 

Step 6: Assemble! 

Use a glue stick to glue on your paws and snout. I used a thin black pen to add nostrils on the snout and some details on the paws. You’re all done! What sorts of cool things do you think moles find underground? 

 

Art Project Video by TerraCorp Service Member Dan Boudreau

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Taking Flight: An International Youth Bird Art ONLINE EXHIBITION featuring London Peterson from Oklahoma

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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 London Peterson (Age 15), an artist from Eufaula Oklahoma.

Feathered Rainbow by London Peterson

Artist Message about Feathered Rainbow

Birds have become an unconscious part of peoples’ daily lives. The average person may occasionally acknowledge the presence of an obvious or interesting bird, but the memory will quickly fade into the recesses of the person’s mind, failing to spark the desire to uncover the bird’s many fascinating secrets. The person must be willing to drag himself out of his own busy thoughts, slow down, and allow his natural curiosity to win over if he really wants to peer into the secret life of a bird; he will find that its natural beauty warms his soul. I chose this bird, the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, because it is a little-known but startling bird that sparked curiosity in me and, I hope, will in the viewers of my painting.

London creating Art

For me, art is more than a hobby- it’s the way I get away from daily routine and immerse myself in a completely different life. This life is founded on a ceaseless admiration of the natural world, and my own attempts to do it justice. I don’t think there is any joy like that of pouring your whole heart into a painting and then feeling immense satisfaction when it correctly reflects the vision in your head. To accurately portray one of God’s creatures brings me utter delight, and I strive to do it better every time I lift my paintbrush.

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MABA’s Benefactor: Mildred Morse Allen

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MILDRED MORSE ALLEN—artist, filmmaker, conservationist and philanthropist—made the Museum of American Bird Art possible through her generous bequest. And it is her combined passions for art and nature, especially birds, that drive the work of MABA today.

Mildred Vining Morse was born in 1903, the granddaughter of the two most prominent men in Canton: James L. Draper of the Draper Brothers woolen mills, and Elijah Morse, founder of the Rising Sun Stove Polish Company. Rising Sun was extremely successful: in 1881, 17 years after its founding, the daily output of the factory was 30 tons or 165,000 packages, of stove polish. A lumber mill and box factory worked day and night to supply its needs. Morse was a pioneer in outdoor advertising, renting space on buildings, barns, boulders, and even cliffs. His product was sold around the world. Mildred was the sole heir of the Rising Sun fortune.

She studied painting at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Passionate about birds, in 1961 she first borrowed bird skins from Mass Audubon to paint from. Eventually she painted 100 watercolor bird portraits, all now in Mass Audubon’s collection.

George Lockhart Allen became Mildred’s suitor in the 1920’s. She was very close to her widowed mother, and so it was to be a very long courtship. Mildred and Lock married in 1962, after her mother’s death.

Her interests later turned to filmmaking. She wanted to better capture the liveliness of the natural world, and she wanted to use the most current, compelling medium possible to spread the word about the importance of protecting the environment. Her short nature films received awards both nationally and internationally, and were shown across the country on public television. Her film, Nature Remains, won the Grand Award at the International Film & TV Festival 1966 in New York.

She thought of her property in Canton as a wildlife sanctuary. She once wrote: “My woods are ideal for a sanctuary: fields, hardwood sections, pine groves, one large swamp with a brook running through the center, two smaller swamps that dry up late in the season but are still popular, used for nesting by song sparrows and yellow throats.” At one time she had 53 bird houses throughout her property, and in the woods there were two feeders with a capacity of 100 pounds of seed, and two with a 20-pound capacity.

She died in 1989. Two years later, after her husband’s death, her 121-acre property and a generous endowment came by bequest to Mass Audubon. Today Mildred’s passions are perpetuated through MABA’s mission: to celebrate the beauty and wonder of birds and nature, inspiring inquiry and creativity, and expanding knowledge about humanity’s relationship with nature.

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