Drawing Inspiration from Nature

How do you inspire generations of nature heroes, especially those who have yet to make a deep connection with the outdoors?

To answer this question, we literally went back to the drawing board. We know that in an increasingly visual world, a captivating graphic can stimulate the imagination. To that end, our talented designer has been hard at work, creating bright, playful illustrations to represent our wildlife sanctuaries as well as all the work we do.

These new designs find inspiration in specific species and spark a sense of wonder for people of all ages. Keep an eye out for these new illustrations on Facebook, in emails, on the website, and in print.

New icons

Bat © Serah Rose Roth

Take 5: Beneficial Bats

Bats, our only flying mammals, are truly remarkable animals. It’s too bad their unwarranted reputation has prevented many people from appreciating how beneficial and unique they are.

All bats found in Massachusetts are insectivores. They feed primarily at night, catching thousands of mosquitoes, moths, and other night-flying insects. It is estimated that an individual bat can eat 600 insects per hour!

Unfortunately, millions of bats have fallen victim to white-nose syndrome since it was first discovered in 2006. Find out what you can do to help.

Here are five photos of bats to celebrate these beneficial little beasts. Learn all about bat behavior, species, and anatomy, plus what you should do if you encounter a bat.

And in case you missed it, we featured a Bats By the Numbers in the fall 2017 issue of Explore member magazine.

Bat © David McChesney

Bat © David McChesney

Bat © Serah Rose Roth

Bat © Serah Rose Roth

Bat in Flight © Jeff Wills

Bat in Flight © Jeff Wills

Bat © Dave Shattuck

Bat © Dave Shattuck

Bat © Justen Walker

Bat © Justen Walker

 

What To Do This Weekend: Oct 14-15

Learn about spiders, visit a cranberry bog, and celebrate pollinators this weekend at Mass Audubon.

Celebrate pollinators at Drumlin Farm

Berkshires

Browse a beautiful collection of nature photography at Art in the Barn in Lenox. Over 4,000 entries were submitted to the Mass Audubon’s Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest and the 2016 winning images will be displayed in the Barn at Pleasant Valley. (all ages)

More in the Berkshires

Connecticut River Valley

The fall colors of Graves Farm are a wonderful backdrop for your nature photography. Photographer and naturalist John Green will teach you how to take advantage of natural lighting and improve your photographs at Photographing Fall Colors at Graves Farm. He’ll also discuss how not to disturb wildlife in their natural setting, which makes getting the perfect picture much easier. (adults, registration required)

The land is a storybook with many chapters. Hike Laughing Brook’s longest trail and look for clues of animal activity and natural history changes, at Reading the Landscape at Laughing Brook in Hampden. (adults, registration required)

Canoe the Arcadia Marsh and explore the surrounding watershed on a leisurely canoe trip, enjoying the fall foliage and learning about the wildlife that inhabits the area and ever-changing landscape. (adults and children ages 9+, registration required)

More in the Connecticut River Valley

Central Massachusetts

Learn All About Fall Fungi at Broad Meadow Brook in Worcester and look for brittle-gills, milk mushrooms, waxy-caps, puffballs, and the honey mushroom. We’ll add our discoveries to the Broad Meadow Brook fungi inventory. (adults, registration required)

Leaf Peepers Family Program is a wonderful opportunity to connect with nature with the kids. Gather colorful leaves on a walk through Wachusett Meadow in Princeton and learn how to identify trees. Back at the Nature Center, there’ll be a fun leaf craft waiting for you. (all ages, registration required)

More in Central Massachusetts

Greater Boston

Celebrate all things pollinator during a visit to Drumlin Farm this Saturday for Pollinator Day. Create a fun pollinator craft to take home and visit vendors showcasing felting, candles, beeswax, lip balm, lotions and more. You’ll also get to meet a beekeeper, learn how to garden for pollinators, and taste honey. (all ages)

They may be creepy, but spiders are also nature’s bug zappers and help to control bug populations. Find out more and investigate the trails in Mattapan at Spider Web Walk. (families with children 5 and up)

Experience Moose Hill’s Vernal Pool Quest and follow clues, find quest markers, and discover the beauty of the trail this weekend. Family Quest Walk is a fun scavenger hunt activity and an engaging way to get outside with the family. (families with children 5+, registration required)

More in Greater Boston

South of Boston

The tart cranberry was a staple of the people of the First Nations, and its cultivation has played an influential part in our local history. Visit an abandoned bog to learn about ecological succession and more at Cranberry Bog Tour and Bake Fest in Marshfield. You’ll finish the in the kitchen to bake an assortment of yummy cranberry treats. (adults, registration required)

Attleboro Springs comes alive at night at their fun, non-scary, Halloween Spooktacular. Walk through pumpkin lit trails to see forest inhabitants that share natural history facts through fun skits and stories. Check out the games station and bake sale for more fun and treats. (all ages, registration required)

More in South of Boston

Cape Cod and the Islands

John Kricher, author and Professor of Biology at Wheaton College, will be presenting a wide-ranging talk at Long Pasture in Barnstable. Among other things The Trade Off will contrast the lives, ecology, and natural history of long-distance migrant passerine birds, the orioles, tanagers, thrushes, flycatchers, and wood-warblers, with passerines that are permanent residents of lowland tropical forests. (adults, registration required)

Get ready for Thanksgiving with native cranberries that you pick! The Hunt for Red October at Sandy Neck beach will have you searching through the dunes for freshwater cranberry wetlands. Learn about wetland ecology and have an opportunity to pick some for yourself. (adults and children ages 6 and up, registration required)

More in Cape Cod and the Islands

North Shore

All spiders spin silk, but not all make webs to catch their prey. How does a spider spin a web and not get caught in it? Come and find out the other ways these fascinating little animals use their magic threads during Spooky Spiders. (adults and children ages 3+, registration required)

The Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island attracts an amazing variety of migrating birds. Learn to identify species by field marks, behavior, vocalizations, and habitat at Fall Migrant Birds of Plum Island. (adults, registration required)

More in the North Shore

Following the Sun at Arcadia

A new, tilting, rotating solar panel is going online at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton and Northampton. Like other photovoltaic (PV) panels, it generates clean, renewable electricity from sunlight.

But unlike other static arrays, this panel uses a tracker that follows the sun across the sky. It adjusts to the height of the sun above the horizon as it changes during the day and throughout the seasons, harnessing 45% more power than fixed panels.

Statewide, Mass Audubon generates more than 37% of electricity from solar, and we purchase the rest of what we need from renewable sources. With this new panel, Arcadia will generate even more electricity than it uses, feeding the excess back into the electrical grid. That reduces the need to generate electricity from sources that emit heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

This particular solar panel at Arcadia highlights the importance of donations to Mass Audubon’s mission. Contributions from two exceptionally generous community members—Brian Adams and Morey Phippen—and Northeast Solar made this possible. The care and generosity of others is what empowers us to address climate change and continue to set an example for the rest of New England.

You can help fight climate change and reduce your own greenhouse gas emissions. Find out how >

Sanctuary Director Jonah Keane contributed to this post. 

Crow © Steve DiGiandomenico

Take 5: Clever Crows

Crows have long suffered under the reputation of being “bad.” Crows raid crops, frequently steal eggs and chicks from other bird nests, and have been known to steal shiny objects such as articles of jewelry from people.

Yet, these vocal black birds are among the most intelligent. Crow are said to be able to count (to a point) and they are also known to be very discriminating in their abilities to identify specific objects.

Here are five photos of crows* from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. Notice a theme with our Take 5 posts? All this month, leading up to Halloween, we’re spotlighting wildlife that’s “spooky,” “creepy,” and goes “bump” in the night. BOO!

Crow © Michele Moore

Crow © Michele Moore

A crow and a red-tailed hawk face off in mid-air © Jim Higgins

A crow and a red-tailed hawk face off in mid-air © Jim Higgins

Crow © Matt Filosa

Crow © Matt Filosa

Crow © Steve DiGiandomenico

Crow © Steve DiGiandomenico

Bird silhouetted against the moon © Greg Saulmon

Bird silhouetted against the moon © Greg Saulmon*

*Okay, we’ll admit: this bird is not actually identifiable from just a silhouette, but it looks so perfectly spooky we had to include it anyway!

What To Do This Weekend: Oct 7-8

Make a collage, visit a bird banding station, tag monarchs, attend a Fall Fair, enjoy a paddle, and more, this weekend.

Monarch tagging at Allens Pond

Connecticut River Valley

At an elevation of 1,800 feet, Hawley Bog resembles the cold bogs of Canada, despite being conveniently located in northwestern Massachusetts. During Hawley Bog in the Fall visit the pristine peatland and present opportunities to see three types of Massachusetts carnivorous plants: sundew, pitcher plant, and bladderwort. (adults, registration required)

Do you enjoy the forest but wish you knew more about the trees? Then you’ll enjoy learning how to identify our native oaks by their leaves, acorns, bark, and growth habits as part of Introduction to the Oaks at Arcadia in Eathampton. (adults, registration required)

More in the Connecticut River Valley

Central Massachusetts

Beavers are busy this time of year, prepping lodges and dams for the winter and starting to cache food. Paddle Wachusett Meadow’s Wildlife Pond in Princeton to look for evidence of their handiwork, learn some beaver ecology, and see if you can spot them on the pond during Beavers by Canoe. (families with children ages 5+, registration required)

Explore the sanctuary grounds in search of birds during Saturday Morning Bird Walk for casual and novice birders alike. Discover the immense variety of birdlife that exists at Broad Meadow Brook’s large urban wildlife sanctuary in Worcester. (adults, registration required)

More in Central Massachusetts

North Shore

If you’re inspired by the beauty of nature and are looking for a unique way to express yourself artistically, you’ll love the Landscape Collage Workshop at Ipswich River in Topsfield. Each participant will create a collage that can be matted and framed, made into a card, or placed in a scrapbook, using papers of varying colors, patterns, and textures. (adults, registration required)

Sunday is Family Day at the Bird Banding Station on the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Newburyport. Watch Mass Audubon scientists capture, measure, weigh, examine, and release migrant songbirds. Learn about migration, habitat use, and scientific research at a real field station. (families with children ages 6+, registration required)

More in the North Shore

Greater Boston

Celebrate Fall this weekend at Stony Brook’s 39th Annual Fall Fair and Wood Duck Derby in Norfolk. You’ll explore a field full of crafters selling their handmade wares, see animal presentations, listen to music, and more. (all ages)

Fall-blooming native wildflowers are the swan song of the growing season with their explosion of asters, goldenrods, and many others. Wildflowers of Fall with Drumlin Farm at Garden in the Woods in Framingham is your chance to get a quick introduction to these seasonal favorites. (adults, registration required)

This year, the Blue Hills Trailside Museum’s Annual Fall Festival & Yard Sale‘s theme is “change”. See the changes that occur in nature as the days get shorter and leaves change color, while making apple cider, enjoying art exhibits, crafts, and food trucks at this fun event for the whole family. (all ages)

Coyotes now reside in almost every U.S. state and can even thrive in large cities like Boston. During Howl do you do?  learn about these playful creatures and how to coexist with them peacefully at the Boston Nature Center. (adults and children ages 5+, registration required)

From telephoto lenses to macro to wide angle, there are so many options for you to capture the beauty of fall foliage. Fall Colors Photography Workshop at Broadmoor in Natick is a great chance to work on your nature photography skills with the pro Ethan Gordon, award winning photojournalist. (adults, registration required)

Send your kids on a butterfly art safari in the Museum of American Bird Art’s meadow and pollinator garden as part of Claymazing Butterflies and the Wildflower Meadow. Learn about butterflies, look at a caterpillar chrysalis under a digital microscope, and explore the meadow looking for caterpillars and butterflies. After, we’ll return to the pottery studio to create a flower and butterfly out of clay. (children ages 7-10, registration required)

More in Greater Boston

South of Boston

At Saturday Morning on the Pond  at Daniel Webster in Marshfied, use dip nets to catch dragonfly nymphs, discover the unique adaptations of caddisfly larva, and help conduct water tests to learn what the pond environment needs to stay healthy. (families with children ages 4+, registration required)

Oak Knoll’s Family Nature Hike in Attleboro highlights fall foliage. This guided hike is a great way to learn about local flora and fauna and answer all of your nature questions. (adults and children ages 3+, registration required)

Monarch Tagging at Allens Pond in South Dartmouth will give you a closer look at these delicate creatures and their migratory patterns. (adults and children ages 5+, registration required)

Go on a Kayak Exploration and paddle the extensive tidal creeks of Duxbury Marsh. The focus will be on saltmarsh ecology and coastal birds as we wind our way through this essential ecosystem. (adults, registration required)

More in South of Boston

Cape Cod

During Bird Research in Action! at Wellfleet Bay, meet James and the rest of the bird banding team to learn about banding methods and the information gathered from this research. You will likely get to see live birds up-close and observe the banding process. (adults and children ages 8+, registration required)

More on Cape Cod

A Butterfly Boom

Bees swarm. Locusts swarm. Butterflies, not so much. But at the moment, many thousands of painted lady butterflies are filling gardens and roadside stands of fall wildflowers at the end of a long flight from Southwestern deserts.

Painted Lady © Gillian Henry

There are two species of very similar “Lady butterflies” that occur in Massachusetts. The American lady is a common resident species that flies throughout the warm seasons and overwinters in the pupal stage or as an adult butterfly. The life cycle of the painted lady is considerably more dramatic.

The butterflies involved in the present “irruption” presumably originated in the deserts of northern Mexico. Triggered by poorly understood conditions on the wintering grounds, Painted Ladies emerge in enormous numbers (think locusts) and disperse northward occasionally reaching as far as New England.

If, as sometimes happens, the irruption occurs in spring or summer the species can reproduce here, but cannot overwinter at this latitude. So unless there is another mass migration next year, you may see no painted ladies at all in Massachusetts next year.

A sense of the enormity and drama of the largest of the Lady irruptions is given in this 1869 account by S. B. J. Skertchl from the Sudanese desert:

Three painted ladies © Lucy Merrill-Hills

“Our caravan had started for the coast, leaving the mountains shrouded in heavy clouds, soon after daybreak. At the foot of the high country is a stretch of wiry grass, beyond which lies the rainless desert as far as the sea. From my camel I noticed that the whole mass of the grass seemed violently agitated, although there was no wind. On dismounting I found that the motion was caused by the contortions of pupae of V. cardui, which were so numerous that almost every blade of grass seemed to bear one…Presently the pupae began to burst and the red fluid that escaped sprinkled the ground like a rain of blood. Myriads of butterflies, limp and helpless, sprinkled the ground. Presently the sun shone forth and the insects began to dry their wings, and about half an hour after the birth of the first the whole swarm rose as a dense cloud and flew away eastwards towards the sea. I do not know how long the swarm was, but it was certainly more than a mile, and its breadth exceeded a quarter of a mile.”

Want to witness this butterfly irruption?

You may have to travel no farther than your garden. Like many butterflies, the painted lady isn’t especially picky about which flowers to nectar on. Or head for coastal areas where they tend to concentrate and seek out patches of late-blooming wildflowers such as goldenrods and asters.

For more information on this fascinating butterfly, check out Mass Audubon’s Butterfly Atlas, which includes data collected between 1986 and 1990.

 

Common Garter Snakes © Michael Onyon

Take 5: Sublime Snakes

Snakes tend to get a bad rap, but they’re actually fascinating creatures that can help control pests like rodents and slugs thanks to their carnivorous diet. Plus, the vast majority of snakes that you’ll find in the Northeast are not dangerous.

In fact, of the 14 snake species found in Massachusetts, only two are venomous—the northern copperhead and timber rattlesnake—both of which are extremely rare (endangered, in fact) and they tend to avoid suburban and urban areas. Snakes prefer to avoid people, and will generally only bite when they are picked up, stepped on, or otherwise provoked. Fortunately, snakes do not carry diseases that are transmissible to humans.

Interestingly, snakes never stop growing, and every now and then, they must shed the skin that they’ve outgrown. Sometimes you can find these papery, scaly skins left behind on the trail—keep an eye out on your next hike!

Below are five photos of snakes that you might see in Massachusetts, submitted to our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. Learn about all the native snake species on our website.

Eastern hognose snake © Dominic Casserly

Eastern hognose snake © Dominic Casserly

Northern water snake © Brenda Bradley

Northern water snake © Brenda Bradley

Common garter snakes © Michael Onyon

Common garter snakes © Michael Onyon

Smooth green snake © Patrick Randall

Smooth green snake © Patrick Randall

Eastern hognose snake © Patrick Randall

Eastern hognose snake © Patrick Randall

What To Do This Weekend: Sept 30-Oct 1

Go birding, practice yoga, tag monarchs, enjoy a foliage paddle, learn how to grow mushrooms, and more at a wildlife sanctuary this weekend.

North Shore

Search for birds in one of the best year-round birding locations in the country. Newburyport and the surrounding vicinity make Saturday Morning Birding a program you won’t want to miss. (adults)

Dead in Good Company: A Celebration of Mount Auburn Cemetery is a collection of short essays, poems, and photographs by well-known local authors, birders, and dignitaries who describe the history and their special connections to this beautiful Cambridge cemetery. Co-editors John Harrison and Kim Nagy will be presenting at Ipswich River in Topsfield on how the book came to be, and the resident wildlife living in the area.  (adults, registration required)

More in the North Shore

Greater Boston

Have a teen interested in wildlife care and conservation? They can gain hands-on experience working with the Wildlife Care staff as a member or Drumlin Farm’s Wildlife Biologists Club in Lincoln. Explore habitats, collect data, and work on real protection projects, while having fun and making friends at the same time. (teens, registration required)

Join Broadmoor in Natick this weekend for a Fall Foliage Morning Canoe on the Charles. You’ll travel on one of the most beautiful stretches of the Charles River and watch for wildlife found all along the edges. (adults, registration required)

Expand your stock of home grown food by learning simple and advanced techniques for growing your own gourmet mushrooms. Boston Nature Center’s Growing Food: Mushrooms in the Garden covers three different types of mushroom cultivation and best practices. In the end, you’ll go home with an inoculated log or bag, which will go on to yield tasty, homegrown treats. (adult, registration required)

Blue Hills Trailside Director Norman Smith will lead a day hike of hawk watching and banding, while sharing stories and natural history knowledge accumulated during his 40 years of research. Hawk Migration at Chickatawbut Hill is a perfect opportunity to observe raptors without travelling far from the city. (adults, registration required)

More in Greater Boston

South of Boston

How do you tag a delicate monarch butterfly for research? Come to Monarch Tagging at Allens Pond in South Dartmouth to find out, along with more information about these beautiful creatures and the scientific investigations that go into understanding their migration. (adults and children 5+, registration required)

More in South of Boston

Cape Cod and the Islands

Mass Audubon’s Betrand Chair of Natural History and Field Ornithology Joan Walsh addresses sea level rise, forest communities, migration timing, insect populations, and more in State of the Birds 3: The Effects of Climate Change Presentation at Wellfleet Bay. (adults, registration required)

More in Cape Cod and the Islands

Central Massachusetts

Peaceful and beautiful Wachusett Meadow is the perfect back drop for relaxation and grounding. Connect with yourself and nature at this weekend’s all levels Yoga at Wachusett Meadow class. (adults, registration required)

More in Central Massachusetts

Connecticut River Valley

High Ledges in Shelburne contains more than 400 species of hardwood plants within the diverse habitats of forest, open fields, beaver ponds, and ledge outcrops found onsite. Explore the new Wolf Den Trail and savor peak foliage season with spectacular views of Mount Greylock and the Deerfield River Valley at Autumn at High Ledges. (adults, registration required)

Enjoy the fall foliage while paddling at Canoeing the Arcadia Marsh, Connecticut River, and Mill River. You’ll also learn about the wildlife that inhabits these areas and the ever-changing landscape. (adults and children ages 9+, registration required)

More in the Connecticut River Valley

Berkshires

Hike to the summit of Lenox Mountain at this next installment of the Berkshire Summit Hiking Series. You’ll follow trails through northern hardwood and hemlock forests while looking for signs of wildlife and learning about the native trees and shrubs. From the top, you’ll take in a 50-mile view, at an elevation of 2,2126 feet. (adults, registration required)

More in the Berkshires

Children enjoying the trails at Boston Nature Center

In Your Words: Patricia Spence

In Your Words is a regular feature of Mass Audubon’s Explore member newsletter. Each issue, a Mass Audubon member, volunteer, staff member, or supporter shares his or her story—why Mass Audubon and protecting the nature of Massachusetts matters to them.


In Your Words: Patricia Spence

Patricia Spence at Mass Audubon’s Boston Nature Center

My love for exploring nature probably originated from summers spent on Cape Cod with my grandparents. Days were filled investigating my grandfather’s vegetable and flower gardens, catching frogs, swimming, and going on Cape trips.

As a single mom raising two boys in Dorchester, I wanted my sons to know the fun and excitement of all things “nature”—discovering salamanders under rocks, hiking the Blue Hills, and learning about birds, bugs, and bees. I also wanted them to understand that they are the stewards of our planet. So off they went to classes at Mass Audubon’s Boston Nature Center (BNC). There, they experimented and explored in a wonderful outside-classroom setting.

The BNC connection led to more nature experiences at other Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries, including the Blue Hills Trailside Museum, Drumlin Farm, Allens Pond, Ipswich River, Broadmoor, and Moose Hill, as well as at Wildwood overnight and family camps.

While they took classes, I spent time reconnecting with nature by volunteering at BNC. Through these experiences, I gained a deep appreciation for the director, staff, youth leaders, and all of the committees. The wildlife sanctuary continues to passionately seek ways to involve diverse families from all walks of life from across the city and region.

Children enjoying the trails at Boston Nature Center

Children enjoying the trails at Boston Nature Center

My boys are now men, but I will always remember the BNC programs that opened an entire world of nature for us, our family, and our friends. BNC has been a critical path to nature and the environment for folks living in the city that would not normally experience nature programs, wildlife, and the joy of birds, butterflies, and other small critters.

I love the space, the serenity, and the beauty of nature right in my own backyard at the Boston Nature Center, and I encourage all who live near and far to come visit.


Pat Spence is a Mass Audubon Council member, former chair of the Boston Nature Center Sanctuary Committee, and Mass Audubon member since 2000.