What To Do This Weekend: Dec 8-9

Look for seals, go on a holly walk, make a wreath or ornament, watch a documentary, search for birds, and more at a wildlife sanctuary this weekend.

© Jim Sonia

Greater Boston

Go on a Family Bird Walk to learn how to use binoculars to search for the most common birds found at the Boston Nature Center. Mini-activities along the hike will include singing like a bird, a bird food hunt, and a closer look at feathers, nests, and other bird related artifacts.

Kids can whip up some Winter Lotions and Potions at Stony Brook in Norfolk. Make some Fizzy Bath Bomb Cupcakes, lotion fish, and more as we get into the holiday spirit. (children ages 6-16, registration required)

Watch the documentary Straws at Broadmoor in Natick. Actor and Director Tim Robbins narrates a colorful history of man’s origins and obsession with using straws and marine researchers, citizen activists and business owners discuss how they’re making a sea of change…one plastic straw at a time. (adults, registration required)

Celebrate the start of the holiday season by creating a beautiful and unique wreath to take home during the Wreath Making Workshop at Blue Hills Trailside Museum in Milton. During the workshop, we’ll learn about evergreens and their adaptations to winter. (adults, registration required)

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North Shore

This year, the Geminid Meteor Shower reaches maximum activity on the night of December 13, when as many as 120 shooting stars might be seen each hour under clear skies. Meet at Ipswich River in Topsfield days ahead to discuss the nature of meteor showers, their origins, and the best ways to observe them. (adults and children ages 10+, registration required)

Search out avian activity in the Newburyport/Plum Island area, one of the best year-round birding locations in the country, as part of Saturday Morning Birding. Beginners and birders of all levels are welcome. (adults)

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South of Boston

Take a Seaside Seal Stroll family hike on Gooseberry Island in Westport that is focused on learning about and looking for harbor and grey seals. Learn about their lives, what brings them to our area and proper etiquette for viewing these protected species in their natural habitat. (families, registration required)

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Cape Cod and Islands

Go on a Holiday Holly Hike at Ashumet Holly in Falmouth. Learn about the natural history of the sanctuary’s 50 original hollies propagated by former property owner and Massachusetts’s first Agriculture Secretary, Wilfred Wheeler. (adults and children ages 12+, registration required)

Celebrate Christmas in Edgartown. Felix Neck will host a pop-up natural history museum with live animals, exhibits, and hands-on activities.

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Central Massachusetts

Head to Broad Meadow Brook in Worcester for the Holiday Nature Crafts Open House  to view our tree decorated with imaginative ornaments handcrafted from natural materials, and then make your own.

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An Epic Winter For Nomadic Finches

Every few winters, several bird species abandon their normal wintering areas to our northwest, and move into Massachusetts by the thousands. While distantly related, redpolls, siskins, and grosbeaks all rely on food sources that go through boom and bust cycles, peaking and crashing every 3-6 years. When conifer and birch seeds are scarce in Canada’s boreal forest, these loosely-related species irrupt southwards in search of food.

The core group of these birds are collectively called “winter finches,” and this year will be huge for them!

Species On The Move In 2018:

Evening Grosbeaks

Evening Grosbeak (Creative Commons)

This year, these sunset-yellow, black and white-patterned finches are the stars of the show. It’s been a few years since Massachusetts saw any wintertime movement of Evening Grosbeaks into the state, and the last major irruption was in the 1990s.

Unlike many winter finches, Evening Grosbeaks seem equally happy feeding on several food types—both fruits and large seeds. They’ll come to feeders, but their bulky size means that they prefer large platform feeders and will avoid tube feeders. Their fruit-eating tendencies means that they often move south with two other frugivores, Bohemian Waxwings and Pine Grosbeaks, which may show up in smaller numbers this year.

Common Redpolls

Common Redpoll © Simon Pierre Barrette

These finches specialize in eating birch catkins, and birches are the best place to look for them. Ornithologists predict a big redpoll incursion into the northeast this winter. Redpolls got a slow start in Massachusetts this year, but are starting to show up in larger numbers, especially in the Northern and Western parts of the state.

Red-breasted Nuthatches

Red-breasted Nuthatch © Richard Alvarnaz

While technically not a winter finch, this species is nearly as nomadic, and this year is big for them. Their relative, the White-breasted Nuthatch, is a year-round resident and common backyard bird.

Red-breasted Nuthatches made a very early southward movement this year, with many appearing as early as late summer, heralding a major incursion of wandering finches later in the season.

Pine Siskins

Pine Siskin © Terri Nickerson

Siskins are showing up in abundance right now! These small finches with yellow-streaked wings love small seeds. Hang up feeders filled with nyjer or thistle seeds to take advantage of their incursion.

Where To Look

In addition to feeders, groves of spruce trees can be great places to look for seed-eating winter finches like siskins and crossbills. Redpolls are drawn to birch catkins. Fruit-eating finches often take well to ornamental varieties of crabapples, which bear fruit through the winter, so look for grosbeaks and waxwings anywhere large groves of these have been planted—which sometimes means office parks, parking lots, and gardens.

Feeders Up!

Last year was an excellent year for cone crops in Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, leading to increased reproduction for seed-eating birds. This means that while spruce seeds, birch catkins, and mountain-ash berries are scarce in Ontario and Quebec, there will be loads of hungry birds looking for them—and moving into the US in search of food.

Birdfeeders do help birds survive harsh winters when food is scarce (though there’s a some This is a great time of year to put out black-oil sunflower seeds and nyjer seeds—two of winter finches’ favorite staples at birdfeeders.

For a more in-depth look at this year’s incursion of Evening Grosbeaks and their shifting distribution in New England, check out our birding blog.

Digging in to the Latest Climate Report

This year, Thanksgiving weekend was filled with more than just food, football, friends, and family. On Black Friday, the Trump Administration released the Fourth National Assessment on Climate Change (NCA4), Volume 2.

The report, authored by a team of more than 300 federal and non-federal climate experts, focuses on climate change impacts, risks, and adaptations occurring in the U.S. It breaks down the variability of climate impacts across 10 regions, including the Northeast, and looks at 18 national topics, with particular focus on observed and projected risks under different mitigation pathways.

Like previous climate research, NCA4 emphasizes what we already know. Climate change is real, human- caused, and happening now. At this point, we also know a certain amount of warming is likely “locked in,” so adaptation strategies are crucial to the health of our ecosystems and communities. Nevertheless, the faster we reduce emissions from fossil fuel-emitting sources, the less risk we will face.

Changes in the Northeast

The Northeast is unique for many reasons. It’s home to diverse landscapes that support numerous industries, tourism, and ecosystems. It’s also considered the most densely populated region, as well as the most heavily forested region in the United States. Quintessential New England is characterized by beautiful coastal beaches, spectacular fall foliage, and a robust winter recreation industry along our snowy mountains.

Climate change is altering this picture.

Here are the top five takeaways from NCA4 for the Northeast region:

  1. Changing Seasons: Expect milder winters and earlier spring conditions in the coming years. These changes will alter forests, wildlife, snowpack, and streamflow, leading to cascading effects for our region’s rural industries. By 2035, the Northeast is projected to be more than 3.6°F warmer on average than during the preindustrial era. This would be the largest temperature increase in the contiguous United States.
  2. Changing Coasts: Our coasts support commerce, tourism, and recreation — serving as critical economic drivers. Warmer ocean temperatures, sea level rise, and ocean acidification are all expected as a result of climate change. Sea level rise in our region is expected to be the highest in the country.
  3. Urban Areas at Risk: The Northeast’s urban centers are important hubs for cultural and economic activity. Northeast cities and towns are threatened by strong and more frequent extreme weather events and sea level rise, leading to negative economic impacts and the need for extensive financial investment.
  4. Human Health Threatened: More extreme weather, warmer temperatures, lower air and water quality, and sea level rise will lead to increased emergency room and hospital visits, additional deaths, and lower quality of life. These impacts will be felt most heavily by our most vulnerable populations including the elderly and low income residents.
  5. Adaptation is Key & Underway: Communities across the region recognize the severity of climate change and are proactively planning and implementing actions that will reduce the risks posed by climate change. In the past, adaptation efforts have emerged at the microscale, but communities are increasingly seeing a need for larger-scale, multi-benefit adaptation projects.

Massachusetts Leading the Way

Recently, legislation was passed at the State House that helps protect public health, public safety, and the economy from the impacts of climate change, and allows communities to more readily adapt to the changes they are already seeing.

And the state’s Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program fosters climate adaptation practices at the local level and supports communities’ ability to prioritize actions and create a more resilient future. Learn more about what Massachusetts is doing to address climate adaptation here.

What Can You Do?

You can be part of the solution by reducing your own carbon footprint. The top five actions you can take are:

  • Switch to clean, renewable energy sources. Find out how >
  • Reduce the amount of time you spend in a single-occupied vehicle
  • Alter your diet so you are less reliant on energy-intensive animal products
  • Talk about it! The more we talk about climate change, the more we can build capacity in our community to address the problems we are already facing.
  • Help your community develop plans to adapt to the greatest impacts of climate change via the MVP process, the local planning board, or your conservation commission

The old adage is true: Decisions are made by those who show up. It’s on us to show up and fight for climate action now!

— Alexandra Vecchio, Mass Audubon’s Climate Change Program Coordinator

Woodchuck © Alyssa Mattei

Take 5: Where Did All the Woodchucks Go?

Woodchucks (also known as groundhogs) are among the few “true hibernators” found in Massachusetts. In late summer they begin to put on weight in preparation for the move to their winter dens, often located in wooded areas. From October through March, woodchucks settle in for a long snooze and turn their metabolisms waaaaay down to burn as little energy as possible. While hibernating, a woodchuck’s body temperature drops from 99°F to 40°F, and its heartbeat drops from 100 beats per minute to 4 beats per minute! Visit our Nature & Wildlife pages to learn more about woodchucks.

They may not be conscious to appreciate it, but here are five photos of woodchucks from our Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest for you to enjoy.

Woodchuck © Alyssa Mattei

Woodchuck © Alyssa Mattei

Woodchuck © David Zulch

Woodchuck © David Zulch

Woodchuck © Diane Lomba

Woodchuck © Diane Lomba

Woodchuck © Ronald Vaughan

Woodchuck © Ronald Vaughan

Woodchuck © M Leach

Woodchuck © M Leach

 

What To Do This Weekend: Dec 1-2

Go on a hike, brush up on your photography, draw hawks, search for birds, learn about feathers, and more at a wildlife sanctuary this weekend.

Eastern Bluebirds

Eastern Bluebirds

Greater Boston

Go on a Saturday Morning Hike at Moose Hill in Sharon. Along the way, find out about the changing season, local geology, conservation at Moose Hill, and Mass Audubon Quests. (adults and children, registration required)

Get the Most of Your Digital Camera at Broadmoor in Natick. This workshop is designed to help you understand the features of digital cameras, and, if nature allows, use the sanctuary to practice techniques to help improve your photography. (adults, registration required)

During Winter Backyard Birding and Crafts at Boston Nature Center learn how to use binoculars, identify different bird species, and create seed and fruit art for the birds to enjoy. (families, registration encouraged)

Help with an Autumn Cleanup at Habitat in Belmont by raking, cutting firewood, hauling brush, and using hand tools, (adults and children, registration required)

Draw Hawks and Falcons at the Museum of American Bird Art in Canton. See hawks and falcons close up and discover more about these birds of prey while you learn to draw them from life with pencil and paper. (adults, registration required)

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North Shore

As part of Fascinating Feathers at Ipswich River in Topsfield, discuss molt, pigmentation, and different feather types and function. Following an indoor presentation, walk the sanctuary looking for few feathers on the ground to identify. (adults, registration required)

Search out avian activity in the Newburyport/Plum Island area, one of the best year-round birding locations in the country, as part of Saturday Morning Birding. Beginners and birders of all levels are welcome. (adults)

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South of Boston

Go on a Twilight Owl Prowl at Allens Pond in South Dartmouth. Hear the three species of owls that nest on the sanctuary on a one mile walk without flashlights. (adults, registration required)

Explore the different habitats found around Oak Knoll in Attleboro as part of a Family Habitat Day. Look for interesting animals, plants, and see what has visited the sanctuary. (families, registration required)

Head to the Holiday Open House at North River in Marshfield for cider and snacks while shopping for unique and locally handmade gifts! Plus, watch woodturning and bird carving demonstrations by local artisans.

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Connecticut River Valley

Enjoy the woods and meadows found at Arcadia’s 700-plus acres in Easthampton and Northampton as we explore the sanctuary at a relaxed pace during a Signs of the Season Walk.

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Rescuing Sea Turtles on Cape Cod

As winter approaches, the water temperature of Cape Cod Bay slowly drops, and sea turtles should make their way south to warmer tropical waters. However, each year since the late 1970s, some juvenile turtles do not make the journey in time. Trapped by the hook of the Cape, the turtles become disoriented. When the water reaches about 50° by mid-November, the turtles are too cold to eat, drink, or swim, and become “cold-stunned.”

Maureen Duffy, a member of the Wellfleet Bay Turtle Team, monitors a rescued Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle.

And every year, staff and volunteers from Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary patrol the beaches, rescuing these turtles. This year is no different. Since the season began earlier this fall, Wellfleet has encountered more than 630 cold stunned sea turtles.

During the Thanksgiving freeze, when temperatures plummeted overnight, more than 220 endangered sea turtles stranded on Cape Cod. Wellfleet Bay’s dedicated team of rescuers patrolled the beaches day and night in search of cold-stunned turtles trapped in the surf, and had to deal with the full force of the weather for more than 48 hours straight.

Of the 220, only approximately 50 were alive when rushed to the wildlife sanctuary’s turtle intake unit for weighing, measuring, and assessment. Volunteer drivers were lined up to transport the turtles to the Animal Care Center in Quincy operated by the New England Aquarium, Mass Audubon’s partner in this important rescue-and-rehabilitation mission.

Typically, cold-stunned turtles rescued in November are still alive with a very good chance of recovery. But the unusual cold-snap produced conditions more common in late December when most of the turtles that strand are dead.

Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary Director Bob Prescott, who has been monitoring sea turtles for more than 35 years, notes climate change is causing more and more strandings. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, the water in the Gulf of Maine was too cold for sea turtles. But warming ocean temperatures have allowed sea turtles to enter the Gulf of Maine and some cannot get out before the water temperature drops.

There’s still several months left in the season and the team on the Cape will be hard at work. Be sure to follow Wellfleet Bay on Facebook for the latest information. You can also learn more about sea turtles and how to support the Sea Turtle Rescue Project.

Red-bellied Woodpecker © Leigh Scott

Take 5: Peek-a-boo!

This week’s Take 5 is a fun roundup of animals playing peek-a-boo with the camera. Whether they’re curious or camera-shy, these cute critters sure do make great hide-and-seekers.

Thank you to everyone who has submitted images to our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. We’ll be announcing the winners of the 2018 contest soon, so stay tuned!

Barred Owls © Fred Harwood

Barred Owls © Fred Harwood

Painted Turtle © Michael Ross

Painted Turtle © Michael Ross

Weasel © Steve Flint

Weasel © Steve Flint

Otter © Amy Severino

Otter © Amy Severino

Red-bellied Woodpecker © Leigh Scott

Red-bellied Woodpecker © Leigh Scott

© Glenn Rifkin

Take 5: Bottoms Up!

Waterfowl exhibit a whole host of different feeding behaviors, like diving, grazing, or foraging. The most common, however (or at least the most commonly recognized) is “dabbling” or “tipping”. Dabbling ducks like the Mallards pictured below will simply “tip up” in shallow water to forage on the aquatic plants along the bottom. Swans, geese, and teals also display this behavior, although their varying neck lengths allow each species to access food at different depths. It’s a perfectly practical adaptation but one that can certainly be amusing to watch.

Here are five photos of Mallards dabbling away for your amusement. All of these photos have been submitted to our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. Bottoms up, duckies!

Mallards © Glenn Rifkin

Mallards © Glenn Rifkin

Mallards © Nicole Mordecai

Mallards © Nicole Mordecai

Mallards © Kris Bates

Mallards © Kris Bates

Mallards © Keith Gerrard

Mallards © Keith Gerrard

Mallards © Denise Cote

Mallards © Denise Cote

Snowy Owl © David Morris

Thank You To All The Nature Heroes

Snowy Owl © David Morris

Snowy Owl © David Morris

Today, at a Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuary near you, you helped to save something truly extraordinary. You did it last week, and the week before that. In fact, you did it every day this year.

And you are in the very best of company: your friends, neighbors, and 125,000 like-minded people all across the state are also taking action to protect the nature of Massachusetts.

On Giving Tuesday (November 27), we’ll share some stories about how your support is making a difference for wildlife, wild lands, and people. We hope you’ll be encouraged by what’s possible when we all work together and are inspired to make a gift to Mass Audubon.

Your donation will have double the impact thanks to two wonderful supporters who have pledged to match all donations made for Giving Tuesday dollar-for-dollar, up to $20,000!

Prefer not to wait until next Tuesday? Make your gift today! (And don’t worry — it will still count towards the match.)

We need you. Nature needs you. And now, more than ever, we all need nature.

Turkeys

What To Do This Weekend: Nov 17-18

Talk turkey, make an evergreen wreath, go birding, try nature journaling, set out on an owl prowl, create herbal lip balm, and more at a wildlife sanctuary this weekend.

Turkeys

Central Massachusetts

Make a Holiday Evergreen Wreath at Wachusett Meadow in Princeton using greens, winterberry, seed pods, and ribbon—a perfect gift for the holiday season! (adults, registration required)

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Connecticut River Valley

As part of Terrific Turkeys and Fall Harvest at Laughing Brook in Hampden, learn about wild turkeys, go for a hike, and look for evidence of these impressive birds, all the while scouting for autumn’s woodland harvest.

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Berkshires

Relax into the beauty of the woods, waters, and trails of Pleasant Valley in Lenox while Nature Journaling. Guided writing and sketching deepens observations and expands creativity. (adults, registration required)

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North Shore

During Birding for Beginners at Ipswich River in Topsfield find out how to choose the right binoculars and what to look for in a field guide. Then head out onto the sanctuary and learn what to look and listen for to help identify these beautiful creatures. (adults, registration required)

Go Birding in the Newburyport/Plum Island Area with Joppa Flats. Watch seabirds migrating, ducks as they feed and seek shelter, and a wide variety of land birds, which stop in the area to feed and rest before continuing their southward migration. (adults, registration required)

More on the North Shore

Greater Boston

As part of Afternoon Chores at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, feed chickens and collect eggs, then bring hay to the sheep, goats, and cows. After finishing, we’ll treat ourselves to a farm snack. (families, registration required)

Join in on an Owl Prowl Family Adventure at Broadmoor in Natick to learn about owl calls, behavior, and habitat as you search and listen for our resident screech, barred, and great horned owls. (families, registration required)

Learn how to Make Herbal Lib Balm at Boston Nature Center using herbal infused olive oil along with cocoa butter and natural beeswax. (adults, registration required)

During Fantastic Fossils at the Museum of American Bird Art in Canton, kids will listen to a story about dinosaurs and then go on a short nature hike to gather leaves and other natural materials to then imprint in pieces of air dry clay to make their own “fossils.” (children, registration required)

Birders and non-birders of all ages and skill levels are invited to join Habitat in Belmont for a free HIP Morning Walk. (adults and children)

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South of Boston

Get in the holiday spirit with Walkin’ and Talkin’ Turkey at Tidmarsh in Plymouth. Walk a former cranberry farm and learn all about the stars of many a Thanksgiving table, turkeys!  (adults and children ages 10+, registration required)

Oak Knoll in Attleboro is also Talkin’ Turkey. Tell turkey facts from turkey myths and go on a hike to look for some on our trails. (adults and children, registration required)

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