What To Do This Weekend: February 23-24

Go for a nature walk, build a nestbox, look for tracks, learn how to work with wool, tap a maple tree, attend a climate cafe, and more at a wildlife sanctuary this weekend.

Eastern Bluerbird

Berkshires

During the hands-on Build a Bluebird Nestbox Workshop at Pleasant Valley in Lenox get crafty while finding out where and how to place the boxes in ideal habitats. (adults and children, registration required)

More in the Berkshires

Connecticut River Valley

Get a perfect introduction to nature during a First Child in the Woods Walk at Arcadia in Easthampton/Northampton. This one-hour hike will enable your child or children to gently discover the natural world around them and give you skills to confidently lead explorations of your own. (families, registration required)

More in the Connecticut River Valley

Central Massachusetts

Learn to identify Wildlife Tracks at Wachusett Meadow in Princeton. Get techniques and track and trail patterns while exploring the sanctuary’s diverse habitats. (families, registration required)

More in Central Massachusetts

North Shore

The theme of this week’s Sunday Morning Science at Joppa Flats in Newburyport is Papermaking & Nature Journals. Meet live creatures and design something “green.” (children ages 7-11, registration required)

Focus on Seabirds on Cape Ann. Look for many species of sea ducks, loons, grebes, and gulls as they feed and seek shelter in the cape’s many coves, inlets, and protected harbors. (adults, registration required)

More on the North Shore

Greater Boston

During the Wonders of Wool class at Drumlin Farm, get familiar with basic needle felting tools and techniques. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you catch on as you create and personalize a felted creation of your own! (adults and children ages 12+, registration required)

Celebrate Maple Sugaring at Boston Nature Center. Tap, collect, and boil down sap from the Maple trees found at the sanctuary. Enjoy a tasty maple treat as well! (adults and children, registration required)

Head to the Museum of American Bird Art in Canton to view works from young artists, part of the juried Taking Flight Exhibition.

Have fun with Animal Footprints at Broadmoor in Natick by looking for tracks and signs of otters, rabbits, deer, coyote and many other animals. (families, registration required)

More in Greater Boston

South of Boston

Attend a free Climate Cafe in Middleborough for an informal conversation on climate change and renewable energy sources . Enjoy some drinks and snacks, share your ideas, engage with your fellow community members, and learn how to how to take action! (adults and children, registration required)

Go Birding by Van with a Tutor in Marshfield. Learn the basics to set you up for a lifetime of birding adventures! (adults, registration required)

Enjoy a Family Adventure Day at Tidmarsh in Plymouth. We may read a story, make a craft, or sing songs but we will always explore the outdoors and have fun! (families, registration required)

More in South of Boston

Crowdsourcing Nature Sightings

Have you ever asked a friend for the ID of a plant or animal you didn’t recognize? Are you the friend who gets asked? Do you ever snap a photo of something you don’t recognize to research later, but you never get to it? Do you have hundreds of pictures on your phone or computer of plants and animals that you wish could be of use to someone? If you answered yes to any of these questions, consider joining iNaturalist!

What is iNaturalist?

iNaturalist is an online platform designed to connect people like you to an entire community of nature enthusiasts). Here, users share sightings of plants, fungi, and animals and in return get identifications on what’s in their images (or audio files). ID’s are consensus-based. This means other users can see your observations, and either agree or disagree with your identifications based on their own knowledge.

An observation becomes “research grade” when the majority of identifiers reach a species-level consensus about the plant, animal, or fungi in your picture. If you think your photo of an insect in your yard isn’t important enough to post, think again! All research grade observations on iNaturalist get added to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, and can then be used in scientific research and publications.

How to Use iNaturalist

One of the best parts about iNaturalist is that everyone can use it–you don’t need to be a scientist or a professional naturalist. All you need is a computer or smartphone and an interest in the natural world around you.

To get started, create a free account at iNaturalist.org or via the smartphone app. Then, upload identifiable pictures or audio with a location and a date and give it your best ID (if you have no clue, the platform will often suggest what it thinks is in your photo). Within minutes or hours, other users will see your observation and will help to identify it.

iNaturalist and Mass Audubon

Mass Audubon is launching an iNaturalist initiative to compile a catalog of the biodiversity present at our wildlife sanctuaries. All of our sanctuaries are now a “Project” that you can contribute to. Make sure to scroll through the leaderboard to see the standing of your favorite sanctuary. Then get outside, enjoy the outdoors, and start observing!

— Nick Tepper, TerraCorps

Eastern Screech-Owl © Amy Powers-Smith

Take 5: Owl Things Considered

It may still be cold and wintery outside, but things are heating up for our breeding owl species. Late winter is the height of the courtship and mating season for most owl species so there’s a good chance you may hear a “hoo’s hoo” of mating calls (although not all owls make “hoo” sounds!) on your next stroll through the forest. Great Horned Owls, for example, are one of our earliest breeders and begin hooting to attract mates as early as December.

Many owls roost in tree cavities during the day and those that do will also lay their eggs in tree cavities, although a roosting cavity is not necessarily also a nesting cavity. Lots of nature photographers love to capitalize on this fact to capture some wonderful photos of “owl peek-a-boo”. Here are five great shots of owls in tree cavities that were entered into our annual photo contest. For your own chance to glimpse one of these gorgeous raptors, join one of the dozens of Owl Prowls happening at our sanctuaries this time of year.

Eastern Screech-Owls © Peter Bartholomew
Eastern Screech-Owls © Peter Bartholomew
Eastern Screech-Owl © Richard Cuzner
Eastern Screech-Owl © Richard Cuzner
Barred Owls © Fred Harwood
Barred Owls © Fred Harwood
Eastern Screech-Owl © Amy Powers-Smith
Eastern Screech-Owl © Amy Powers-Smith
Eastern Screech-Owl © Jeff Martineau
Eastern Screech-Owl © Jeff Martineau
Red Fox Pups © Janet MacCausland

What To Do This Weekend: Feb 16-17

Look for wildlife after dark, go on a nature walk, learn about animal tracks, see a nature documentary, and more at a wildlife sanctuary this weekend.

Red Fox Pups © Janet MacCausland
Red Fox Pups © Janet MacCausland

Greater Boston

Head to Broadmoor in Natick for a Full Moon Family Owl Prowl to search and listen for our resident Screech, Barred and Great Horned Owls. (families, registration required)

Travel with Trailside Director and raptor researcher Norman Smith to several Massachusetts locations in search of Winter Raptors. (adults, registration required)

Take a Naturalist Walk at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln to explore the sanctuary’s different habitats. (adults and children ages 12+)

Go on a Winter Nature Walk at Boston Nature Center to observe the tracks left by animals and spot birds in their wintering plumage. (families, registration required)

More in Greater Boston

South of Boston

Once dusk has settled take a Snow Moon Hike at Tidmarsh in Plymouth. Stop, look, and listen for creatures that awaken with the setting of the sun. (adults and children ages 10+, registration required)

More in South of Boston

Cape Cod

Watch the PBS Nature film Fox Tales In Wellfleet for an intimate views of red foxes’ lives–from inside a den with fox kits; young foxes wrestling for dominance; and even the view from inside a garbage can as a fox makes a raid. (tickets required)

More on the Cape & Islands

North Shore

Go Saturday Morning Birding in the Newburyport/Plum Island are — one of the best year-round birding locations in the country. Beginners and birders of all levels are welcome. (adults)

More on the North Shore

Central Massachusetts

During the Nature of Your Backyard at Broad Meadow Brook in Worcester, meet some common animals such as a fisher, skunk, turtle, fox, or even a flying squirrel. (families, registration required)

More in Central Massachusetts

Connecticut River Valley

Go on a Winter Nature Walk for Families at Arcadia in Easthampton and Northampton to look for animal tracks and signs and play a few games to learn about winter wildlife survival. (families, registration required)

During Tracking and Animal Signs at Laughing Brook in Hampden learn to read the tracks and signs left by animals that live in our area. (families, registration required)

More in the Connecticut River Valley

Berkshires

Strap on snowshoes (or microspikes, depending upon conditions) and enjoy a Snowshoe Hike at Pleasant Valley in Lenox. Track wildlife and watch for animal activity around ponds, streams, meadows, and woodlands. (adults, registration required)

More in the Berkshires

Barn swallows © Mark Landman

It’s Time To Talk About Climate Change

Let’s talk about why we need to talk about climate change. Recent surveys from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication show that Americans understanding that climate change is happening and is human caused are at an all-time high. Yet, people are still so hesitant to talk about this important topic for a variety of reasons.

Barn Swallows © Mark Landman

Reason 1: You Think You Don’t Know Enough About The Science

We know most people aren’t climatologists and trying to know all the facts and figures is just overwhelming. However, our lack of confidence has led to a silent culture and that’s a real problem. When 97% of climate scientists agree that climate change is happening and is caused by human activity, we actually don’t need more people getting into the weeds on the data. The scientific consensus is there, and frankly if that was all we needed, this problem would have been solved a long time ago.

What we need are people focused on solutions. As odd as it sounds, scientific data alone doesn’t change people’s minds, but talking about shared values and personal observations can help people connect and understand an issue. The more you are able to tell a story that resonates with your audience, the easier the conversation will be.

Reason 2: You Think Talking About Climate Change Is Depressing

Most of the time, the news on climate change is all doom and gloom and that can cause people to shut down. Not to mention, human beings don’t like change, and what we are seeing today are growing changes that threaten our communities, livelihoods, and natural areas that we love. Constantly delivering bad news is an exhausting position to be in.

BUT! Remember what we said? People need to hear about solutions, not data infused with fear. You can’t scare people into caring. Solutions to this problem do exist and often times lead to many other co-benefits: job creation, improved health, and increased geo-political stability. Those are all good things, so focus your attention there and avoid blaming or shaming people.

Reason 3: You Don’t Like Talking About Politics

There is actually a lot more consensus on climate change than people presume. As we know, the most renowned scientists have been in agreement for a while, as demonstrated through the recent IPCC report. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of Americans even know about that overwhelming scientific consensus.

Plus, while liberals are generally more conscious of climate change, there is still bipartisan consensus at all levels of our government. Last November, in Congress, there was bipartisan legislation introduced for the first time in a decade to reduce carbon pollution and spur innovative solutions. At the state and local levels, the examples of bipartisan action are even more prolific. The only way to bring this issue to the forefront of all political debates is by talking about it more often with lots of different people.

Reason 4: You Aren’t Sure You Can Actually Make A Difference With a Problem This Big

Climate change is a global problem with local solutions. The truth is, there are many things you can do to reduce your own carbon footprint, and even help increase policies that lead to more collective action. If you are looking for one thing you can personally do to address climate change after reading this, the answer is probably fairly obvious- talk about it!

By talking about this topic with people you care about, you’re increasing awareness and socially validating climate change as a worthwhile topic. Adding your voice to the conversation, driven by your values (whatever they are), helps people find comfort in numbers.

Ready to Talk?

Follow these tips, and you’re well on your way to a successful conversation:

  • Meet people where they are, not where you think they should be
  • Stay out of the details and focus on solutions
  • Shared connections and values matter- people make decisions with their heads AND their hearts
  • Talk in the present tense- people understand the here and now
  • The goal is to have a conversation, not decide who is right or wrong
  • Be kind and remember you are speaking to another human being

Need more information? Check out these resources:

Sign the Pledge

Take the pledge to talk about climate change and let others know that we have solutions to address this challenge. Sign the pledge >

From Girl Scout to Board Chair

This past December, Beth Kressley Goldstein took over as Mass Audubon’s Board Chair. Here, she shares her Mass Audubon story and her ideas for the future of the organization.


I came to love nature as many adults did—through my childhood. When I was a kid growing up in the suburbs of Allentown, Pennsylvania, the only activity was little league baseball and girls weren’t allowed to play. So I played outside with whoever was around, damming up streams, climbing trees, and skating on frozen lakes until my dad rang the bell for dinner. My summers were spent at Girl Scout camp in the Pocono Mountains, hiking, canoeing, and enjoying the outdoors. It was simple, wholesome good fun–we learned about the natural world without even knowing we were learning.

As an adult, being outdoors remains a huge part of my life. When my husband and I, along with our then three young children, moved to Massachusetts some 15 years ago, good friends gave us a gift membership to Mass Audubon so we could take the kids to Drumlin Farm in Lincoln. Our first visit was to Drumlin’s annual Tales of the Night Halloween event, followed by many other family programs and camps over the years.

I relished attending those family programs with my son as they brought me back to my childhood. One cold rainy day, we arrived wearing our slickers and rain boots. A fire was going inside the Pond House and the teacher naturalist, Edie Sisson, was talking about geology. After examining some rocks with a magnifying glass, Edie handed each kid a beat-up coffee can with a lid and sent us all outside to collect some more. With our cans full of rocks, we marched and chanted through the woods until we came upon a tee-pee made of branches. We were wet, muddy, noisy, and happy.

Taking the Next Step

I loved what was going on at Drumlin and, inspired by Edie, I wanted to get involved. I had worked in business, strategy, and marketing and wanted to give back to an organization that had meaning to me. I got my chance when I met the Sanctuary Director at the time, Christy Foote-Smith, and she soon welcomed me as a member of Drumlin’s Advisory Committee.

I valued my time working with Drumlin Farm, but after a few years I felt I still had more to give. So I asked what else I could do. After some conversations with Board members, I was invited to take the next step by joining Mass Audubon’s Board of Directors.

I soon discovered something extraordinary. What I fell in love with at Drumlin Farm—the devotion to nature, land, and people—was not just at Drumlin but at every wildlife sanctuary I encountered as well as the team at Mass Audubon’s headquarters. 

I’ve been on the Board for 10 years now and I’m honored to be given the chance to lead as the Chair. I have such deep respect for my Board and staff colleagues who bring strong skills and commitment to Mass Audubon.

In Harriet’s and Minna’s Footsteps

As a woman leading an organization with the kind of history that Mass Audubon has (being founded by two women in 1896), it’s exciting to do my part to support and grow the organization by following in their footsteps. I would include former president Laura Johnson along with founding mothers Harriet Hemenway and Minna Hall on the list of strong leading women.

One of my roles as Chair of the Board is to think about the combined skills and perspectives of our Board members. I want to make sure that the Board is balanced across a number of dimensions, from gender to cultural background to life and professional experiences. The Board needs to represent the full range of residents of the Commonwealth to be effective in its work. While we still have work to do in that respect, I’m excited to think about where Mass Audubon is heading.

We just wrapped up an exceptional year, meeting and exceeding our goals and growing our impact across the state. With mounting pressures on the natural world, we know that we need to build on that success in meaningful new ways.

Planning for the Future

Over the next 10 years, I would like to see us protect more open space and connect more people to nature, engaging and welcoming the full complement of people in the Commonwealth. I want to ensure that our work remains based in science and that we continue to advocate for the environment at local, state, and federal levels. And I believe it’s important to help Massachusetts lead in the response to climate change, now more than ever.

My personal passion is educating kids in nature. I know kids don’t have the same opportunities I had. Things are more structured today. There is more fear. It’s something we need to counteract every day—and fortunately there are many people at Mass Audubon like Edie, inspiring kids like my son, who still remembers the day at Drumlin that he discovered how new life can emerge from a fallen tree. 

It’s that simple but incredible connection—that inspired my son, that inspired me, and that inspired our founding mothers—that I hope to share with everyone in Massachusetts and beyond to create a lifeblood of conservation.

Northern Cardinals © Jason Goldstein

My Funny {Nature} Valentines 2019

Happy Valentine’s Day from Mass Audubon! Send your nature-loving sweetheart one of these special valentines to show them how much you care about them and about protecting nature and wildlife —or better yet, consider making a donation in honor of your someone special.

For this year’s valentines, we mixed things up with a few silly and corny ones as well as a few sweet and heartfelt sentiments. To see even more options, check out our nature valentines from 2018, 20172016, and 2015.

Hey Valentine, How About A Little Peck?
Valentine, You're Otterly Adorable
Valentine, You're Such a Stud Puffin
Valentine, I Love the Life We've Built Together
Valentine, You're An Amazing Parent to Our Little Ducklings
Great Horned Owl

What To Do This Weekend: February 9–10

It’s all about owls at our wildlife sanctuaries this weekend, with lots of owl prowls, owl encounters, and even an Owl Festival, but if owls aren’t your “thing”, you can also find a wine tasting, animal tracking programs for all ages, shinrin yoku “forest breathing”, and more at a sanctuary near you.

Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owl

Berkshires

Search for tracks, scat, and other signs of animals that stay active through the winter during a free Winter Wildlife Tracking program at beautiful Notchview preserve in Windsor. Begin with a discussion indoors then head outside to learn about how animals move and behave through the tracks they leave behind. (families, registration required)

More in the Berkshires

Cape & Islands

Explore the beaches, dunes, and waters of the Outer Cape in search of winter birds including snow buntings, horned larks, sea ducks, loons, and snowy owls during a Birding the Winter Beach program sponsored by Wellfleet Bay in Wellfleet. (adults, registration required)

Gather as a community at the Rosewater Cafe for coffee and conversations about food justice and other local environmental issues during another Climate Cafe hosted by Felix Neck in Vineyard Haven.

More on the Cape & Islands

Central Massachusetts

Learn to connect with the natural world in a healing, calming, grounding, and replenishing way during a Shinrin-Yoku/Forest Breathing Guided Sanctuary Walk at Broad Meadow Brook in Worcester. (all ages, registration required)

Beginner Wildlife Tracking for Adults at Wachusett Meadow in Princeton starts indoors with a one-hour introduction to tracking techniques followed by an outdoor hike to practice putting your new skills to use. (adults, registration required)

More in Central Massachusetts

North Shore

Celebrate the seasonal return of bald eagles to the region with the annual Merrimack Valley Eagle Festival at Joppa Flats Education Center. Visit eagle hot spots on your own or with an expert guide, then head indoors for nature activities and an up-close view of rehabilitated hawks and owls. (all ages)

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and love is in the air at Wine & Lovebirds: A Valentine’s Social at Ipswich River in Topsfield. Enjoy a wine tasting from Mill River Winery of Rowley along with sweet treats and appetizers while taking a lighthearted peek into the beautiful and bizarre truth behind bird courtship and mating. (adults 21+, registration required)

More on the North Shore

Greater Boston

Explore the wonders of owls with an owl prowl for adults, a full moon owl prowl for families, or an up-close and personal owl encounter at Broadmoor in Natick at this weekend’s two-day Owl Festival. (audience age varies by program, registration required)

At Boston Nature Center in Mattapan, learn how you can enjoy honey, beeswax, pollen, and the miracle of bees right in your backyard during the Boston Area Beekeepers Association’s Introduction to Beekeeping program. (adults, registration required)

Join a Family Animal Tracking Adventure at Blue Hills Trailside Museum in Milton to become a “Nature Detective” and learn about “stories in the snow” and many other signs that wildlife leave behind as clues to how and where they travel to find food, water, and shelter. (families, registration required)

Take a Sunday Saunter with an expert naturalist through Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in Sharon to look for winter birds and other natural curiosities, then warm up with hot cocoa and coffee back at the nature center. (adults)

More in Greater Boston

South of Boston

During Desserts and Destinations: Trinidad at North River in Marshfield, discover the fascinating bird life and other natural wonders of Trinidad over dessert and learn about the fascinating history of the island’s Asa Wright Nature Centre. (adults, registration required)

Explore Oak Knoll after dark on a Family Owl Prowl at the sanctuary in Attleboro. Start off indoors with an interactive presentation, then head outside for a night hike to listen for evidence of our feathery friends.

More in South of Boston

Take 5: Central Colombia Birding Tour

A paradise for birders, Colombia has the highest bird species count of any country in the world, with well over 1,900 species. Mass Audubon’s Bertrand Chair of Ornithology Joan Walsh and ornithologist, author, and artist David Sibley recently led 11 travelers on a 12-day Mass Audubon Natural History Travel adventure through the mountains and rainforests of Central Colombia, where they saw a total of 400 species.

Enjoy a few photos from the trip and see where we’re headed next.


Crimson-rumped Toucanet
A lake in the Central Andes, near the Los Nevados National Park.
Masked Trogon
Chestnut-napped Antpitta eating out of guide David Sibley’s hand.
Spectacled Owl

What To Do This Weekend: Feb 2-3

Look for tracks, hike a mountain, go on an owl prowl, make a fairy house, build a birdhouse, and more at a wildlife sanctuary this weekend.

Eastern Bluebird

Berkshires

Understand Animal Tracks and Signs at Canoe Meadows in Pittsfield. Discover new whodunit mysteries that take place out in nature while we’re typically warm inside our homes. (adults and children ages 8+. registration required)

Strap on snowshoes (or microspikes, depending upon conditions) and Hike to the Summit of Lenox Mountain. Track wildlife, identify trees by their bark, and take in a 50-mile view (on a clear day) from the top. (adults, registration required)

More in the Berkshires

Connecticut River Valley

Learn the basics of tracking and what wildlife does in winter during Tracking Family Fun at Arcadia in Easthampton and Northampton. Start inside learning what to observe while tracking, and then go outdoors to find tracks in forest and field. (families, registration required)

More in the Connecticut River Valley

Central Massachusetts

As part of Winter Tracking and Ecology at Broad Meadow Brook in Worcester walk with our expert guide to uncover and understand stories in the snow, and warm up afterwards with hot coffee and cocoa. (adults, registration required)

More in Central Massachusetts

North Shore

Take part in a Youth Outdoor Shelter Survival Challenge at Ipswich River in Topsfield. Look at real examples of animal homes, learn some different shelter types, discuss shelter safety, and make our own full-size shelters. (children ages 9-14, registration required)

Go Saturday Morning Birding in the Newburyport/Plum Island are — one of the best year-round birding locations in the country. Beginners and birders of all levels are welcome. (adults)

More on the North Shore

Greater Boston

Go on a Saturday Morning Hike at Moose Hill in Sharon to learn about local geology, conservation at Moose Hill, and Mass Audubon Quests. (adults and children, registration required)

Take part in Backyard Sugaring at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln. Find out everything that you need to know—tree identification, required equipment, tapping, weather, boiling, finishing, and storing—to get started on this sweet project. (adults, registration required)

Bring your outdoor photography skills to the next level during a Winter Photography Workshop at the Boston Nature Center. Topics include equipment as well as exposure, lighting, and composition techniques. (adults, registration required)

Build a Backyard Birdhouse at Stony Brook in Norfolk. identify the housing needs of several species of birds and then build a birdhouse to take it home. (families, registration required)

More in Greater Boston

South of Boston

Seek out resident screech and great horned owls, explore some owl adaptations, and work up your appetite as part of Owls and Omelets at North River in Marshfield. After the early morning prowl, head indoors for a full breakfast. (adults, registration required)

Go on an Owl Prowl Adventure at Tidmarsh in Plymouth to stop, look, and listen for “whooooo” might be out there! (adults and children ages 14+, registration required)

During a Fairy House Workshop at Oak Knoll in Attleboro, hike to learn about the legends of the fairies and trolls that live at the sanctuary, Then build your very own fairy house back at the nature center. (adults and children, registration required)

More in South of Boston