Author Archives: Heather

One of four beer labels. Artwork by Allison Tanenhaus.

Aeronauts of a Feather

Aeronaut_For the Birds Brew/ Lee Hatfield
Aeronaut Brewing Co/Lee Hatfield

Nature nerds and avian admirers rejoice: our collaborative brew, For the Birds, with Aeronaut Brewing Co. in Somerville is here, and we’ve got an evening of fun lined up at the brewery to celebrate on Tuesday, September 3!

  • Enjoy a pint of our collaboration beer, “For the Birds”
  • Purchase a limited-release t-shirt, featuring the work of local artist Allison Tanenhaus
  • Mingle with birds of prey at a live raptor demo
  • Have some fun with trivia inspired by our feathered friends

About the Beer

One of four beer labels. Artwork by Allison Tanenhaus.
One of four beer labels. Artwork by Allison Tanenhaus.

“For the Birds” is a 5.6% New England IPA (NEIPA), brewed with malted millet and a variety of four tropical fruity hops. Light, hazy, and fruity, it’s highly drinkable!

Four packs will be available at the brewery for to-go sales as well as at select Massachusetts retails while supplies last.

Event Lineup

6–7:30 pm | Raptor Meet n’ Greet

Don’t miss the chance to see raptors from Mass Audubon’s Blue Hills Trailside Museum up close and learn about their unique adaptations.

From Massachusetts’ smallest falcon to their largest hawk, you never know whoooo you might meet!

8–10:30 pm | Indie Trivia: Bird-Nerd Edition

Birds are everywhere: in music, film, literature; cities, suburbs, at sea—you might be surprised by how much you know!

Come for the winged whimsy and good humor, if you’re lucky you may leave with a special Mass Audubon-awarded prize for best team name!

Location & More Info

Aeronaut Brewing Co is located at 17 Tyler Street in Somerville. For more information, check out the official Facebook Event page.

Why We Love Camp and You Will, Too

Arcadia’s Nature Camp photo: Phil Doyle

Every year parents and campers tell us what they love most about Mass Audubon camps—being with friends, making new discoveries, seeing wildlife up close, and all of the outdoor adventures from hiking and canoeing to experimenting with science and creating nature-themed art.

Campers aren’t the only ones feeling the love. A few of our Camp Directors share what they love most about their role and what they hope campers take away from their summer experience.

Discovery and Confidence

Watching children discover something they have never seen before and gain confidence from trying new things. —Elizabeth Broughton, Wachusett Meadow, Princeton 

Tradition and Stewardship

Camp traditions such as popping jewelweed, touching a frog, running down “Rollercoaster Hill,” and sitting under the “Story Tree”; all of which leads to developing an environmental ethic. —Patti Steinman, Arcadia, Easthampton/Northampton

Growth and Friendship

Seeing everyone, both campers and staff alike, grow and make incredible friendships. —Meredith Dean, Wildwood, Rindge, NH

Magic and Learning

Knowing that every day at camp is different, with “magic” moments and challenging moments—all of which I, too, am able to learn and grow from. — Amy Quist, North River, Marshfield

Wonder and Observation

Teaching campers how to see the wonder in nature and be observant of their surroundings. —Jane Higgins, Habitat, Belmont 

Ability and Leadership

Coming across a camper guiding their parents on hikes to places they visited during the camp day. They get to be the counselor and their family members are their campers. — Scott Santino, Ipswich River, Topsfield  

A Sense of Belonging

Helping campers feel that they belong; that this was the place they could be themselves while learning about nature because it’s their thing. —Melissa Hansen, Broadmoor, Natick

Knowledge and Inspiration

Giving kids the knowledge that they can take home and share with their friends and family about the outdoor world and inspire more people to want to go outside. — Shane Elliott, Blue Hills Trailside Museum, Milton

Curiosity and Love

Knowing that our campers will take away a sense of place, curiosity to go deeper, and a love of the natural world! —Josey Kirkland, Felix Neck, Edgartown

Awe and Encouragement

Sharing the sense of awe and thinking nature is so cool that we all feel every day! —Emily Wolfe, Wellfleet Bay, Wellfleet

Learn more about one of our award-winning 18 day camps and Wildwood, our overnight camp.

Mass Audubon Educators Take Center Stage

NSTA ConferenceThis is an exciting week for our educators, who, after a year of preparation, are representing Mass Audubon at the National Science Teacher Association (NSTA) Conference in Boston—an annual event that brings together 10,000 of the brightest minds in science education for four days of workshops, brainstorming, sharing best practices, and just plain geeking out.

Now through Sunday we’ll be leading workshops on everything from how to engage students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) through hands-on field research, to climate change science, to citizen science and other Mass Audubon School and Group topics. And we even have an interactive exhibit, complete with live animals and a tree!

We excited to share our expertise, learn from other talented teachers, and spread the word about the role of environmental education in getting kids involved in science.

If you happen to be at the conference be sure to stop by! We’ll be the ones with the sound of wood frogs coming from our booth.

Wellfleet Bay Educator to Present at Boston Sea Rovers on March 9

Amy FleischerWellfleet Bay’s Education Coordinator Amy Fleischer wants to know: What ignites a person’s passion to become a lifelong learner, active conservationist, or part of the scientific process?

For Amy, as a young child, it was Dr. Eugenie Clark—a pioneering female scientist known as “The Shark Lady.” Dr. Clark is world-famous for having founded the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, FL, among other accomplishments, and was a marine biology professor at the University of Maryland for 32 years. Four species of fish have been named after her and she received the esteemed Explorers Club Medal.

So you can image Amy’s delight when, in 2009, she joined Dr. Clark on a research expedition to the Flores Sea in Indonesia to study a new species of sand diver fish, Trichonotus elegans.

“Dr. Clark’s driving curiosity and passion for the ocean blasted through the boundaries that existed for female scientists, and paved the way for me,” explains Amy. “To be able to learn first-hand from her, to dive with her, was one of the highlights of my life.”

tricky fishOn March 9, Amy will present Dive into Science: In Search of “Tricky Fish” in the Flores Sea with Dr. Eugenie Clark at the Boston Sea Rovers’ Annual Clinic in Danvers. In addition, she will lead a hands-on sea turtle activity for children at the show.

The Boston Sea Rovers is a nonprofit volunteer organization dedicated to increasing awareness and appreciation of the marine environment and is one of the oldest and most distinguished underwater groups in America. This year’s clinic will include presentations and films from some of the top marine life experts, filmmakers, and photographers (including National Geographic Photographer Brian Skerry).

“As a science teacher, I want to create these connections that help to motivate action, whether that means inspiring people to work in the sciences or to be an informed citizen,” says Amy.

Come find what inspires you! To learn more about the Boston Sea Rovers event and to purchase tickets, visit

Why You Should Admire Spiders (Even if You Don’t Like Them)

Even if the thought of spiders makes you want to run shrieking in the opposite direction, you have to admit—they’re pretty amazing. Not only does their silk have more tensile strength than steel, their webs literally are the stuff of legends.

Ancient Greek mythology holds that spiders get their namesake from a village girl named Arachne, who challenged the goddess Athena to a weaving contest only to be turned into a spider when her work was deemed superior.

Nature’s master weavers, different spiders use different webs for different reasons (and some don’t even use them). So, what kinds of spiders are you likely to see in and around your home, and what do their webs look like? Ipswich River Property Manager Richard Wolniewicz helps unravel the mystery.

Ticks in Fall

Now that summer is over you can stop worrying about ticks, right? Think again.

While summer in New England is a prime time to spot deer ticks (the chief culprits of Lyme disease—a potentially serious bacterial infection), many don’t realize that they can still pose a serious threat in the fall. This is especially true for those who love a good old-fashioned roll in a leaf pile.

Keep these pesky (and dangerous) little critters from ruining your autumn adventures by following these tips:

  • Know Where They Hide Contrary to popular belief, ticks do not jump or fall from trees; in fact, they’re blind and find their hosts by crawling to the top of low-lying vegetation, such as grass and shrubs, where they wait for passersby to latch onto. And, since tick bites are usually painless, most people don’t even know when they’ve been bitten.
  • Keep a Tidy Yard At home, keep your lawn mowed short and your yard clear of leaves and other brushy debris. If your property abuts a wooded area, adding a three-foot-wide wood chip or gravel border around the edge of your yard can help prevent tick migration.
  • Watch Where You Walk Stick to wider trails and avoid overgrown pathways in their preferred habitat: wooded or bushy areas where the ground is covered in high grass or leaf litter.
  • Dress Right Don light-colored socks, pants, and a long-sleeved shirt and tuck in everything (pants into socks, shirt into pants). While this look isn’t likely to win a fashion awards, it will allow you to spot ticks, which can be as small as a poppy seed.
  • Bring On the Bug Juice To help repel ticks and other creepy crawlers, like chiggers, use a DEET-based product on areas of exposed skin. (Just remember to follow the label instructions when applying insect repellent!)
  • Perform “Tick Checks” Upon heading indoors, perform a full-body “tick check,” taking special care to inspect the areas between your toes and the backs of your knees, as well as your groin, armpits, neck, hairline, and ears. Remember to check your children, pets, and gear, too!

Been Bitten?

If you discover an embedded tick, use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to your skin’s surface as possible and pull straight out with steady, even pressure. If you wish to have it tested for Lyme, immediately place the tick in a sealable plastic bag. Cleanse the bite area with rubbing alcohol and wash your hands with soap and water. Make a note of the date as well as the location on your body where the tick was discovered and call your doctor to determine next steps.

For more information on ticks, the diseases they carry, and how to avoid them, visit our website or the Center for Disease Control’s tick website. For information on Lyme disease, visit the CDC’s Lyme website or check out the special “Living with Lime” series produced by WBUR.

Photo via United States Department of Agriculture/Wikimedia Commons

How to Buy Binoculars

You’re ready to take the plunge and buy a pair of binoculars and you might think to yourself, “How complicated can it be?” That is, until you start to notice the dizzying array of available brands, features, and prices. Before you get overwhelmed, check out this basic primer on what you need to know before buy (and learn how to save 15 percent!).

Binoculars are marked with a set of two numbers that indicate their power of magnification and the diameter of their objective lenses (we’ll get to this in a minute). If a pair of binoculars is marked “8×42,” the first number indicates that they will magnify the object you’re looking at eight times larger than its actual size.

A common mistake made by first-time buyers is thinking that bigger is better. While it’s true that greater magnification provides a larger image, it can also make it difficult to maintain a steady view of what you’re looking at. The average birder uses a magnification power of 8 to 10, which affords a good amount of detail without the shakiness experienced at higher magnification levels.

If magnification determines how much detail you see, the diameter of the objective (aka front) lenses determines how well you see it. Think of it like this: the wider the objective lenses, the greater the light-gathering ability, which ultimately translates to greater detail and clarity.

You can identify the size of the objective lenses on a pair of binoculars by looking at the second number in our 8×42 example, which refers to the diameter of each objective lens in millimeters.

Field of View (FOV)
This measurement tells you how wide the area is that you can see through your binoculars. Of course, the more you can see, the easier it is to follow a fast flying bird, or catch movement off to the side.

Field of view is measured either in degrees or in feet per thousand yards and, like magnification and brightness, is usually marked right on the binoculars.

Eye Relief
For those who wear eyeglasses, this may be one of the most important features to consider when selecting binoculars.

Eye relief refers to the distance (in millimeters) between your eyes and the part of the binoculars you look through at which you can still maintain a full field of view. Since eyeglasses necessitate a space between the eyes of the user and the binoculars, those with glasses will want to look binoculars with at least 15mm of eye relief. If it’s not on the box, ask the salesperson.

Not all lenses are equal. High-quality lenses are made from superior glass and prisms and have better optical coatings that maximize the amount light directed to your eyes, making images appear brighter and clearer. The quality of the coating on binocular lenses is actually one of the things that distinguish top-of-the line optics brands from others.

Above all, your binoculars should “feel right” to you. Take a minute to focus on objects near and far. How easily are you able to make adjustments? Can you hold them up to your eyes for a minute or two without feeling overly fatigued? Can you carry them with ease? Binoculars are an investment that can be enjoyed for a lifetime, so take the time to choose what’s right for you!

Still have questions? Contact us at the Audubon Shop.

Ready to start shopping? Be sure to swing by The Audubon Shop’s Optics Fair at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln this Saturday, September 15, where representatives from the top optics companies will be on hand. Plus, Mass Audubon members will receive 15 percent off all binoculars and scopes!

Nature’s Gold Medalists

The Summer Olympics are in full swing, and we’ve got competition on the brain! As our favorite athletes take to the world stage, we couldn’t help but wonder who might give them a run for their money in the natural world. Our resident wildlife expert, Linda Cocca, shares her thoughts on some potential gold-medalists.

Diving: Long-tailed Ducks
Found in the coastal waters of Massachusetts during winter, the long-tailed duck can dive as far as 200 feet underwater. It uses its specially adapted wings to plumb the depths in search of food, including mollusks and crustaceans.

Gymnastics: Gray Squirrels
Able to climb trees, shimmy down poles, hang from their toes, and otherwise reach a food source in a single, 10-foot bound, these resourceful mischief-makers earn their medal.

Weight Lifting: Ants
Nature’s little powerhouses, ants can lift and carry more than three times their own body weight in order to build and feed their colonies. Not too shabby for something smaller than a thumbtack!

Long Jump: Fleas
Though they may be despised, there’s no denying that fleas have a remarkable jumping capabilities—they’re able to leap 800 times their body length!

Sprints: Cottontail Rabbits
Cottontail rabbits, which can be found throughout the state, can reach speeds of 18 mph when fleeing from danger. They use this speed and a zigzag-patterned gait to elude their many predators.

Boxing: Praying Mantis
The praying mantis uses its large, lightning-fast front legs to snatch up its prey, including moths, crickets, and other praying mantises. In fact, this predatory jabbing motion is so fast that it’s difficult to see with the naked eye.

Sailing: Flying Squirrels
Southern Flying Squirrels—the most common flying squirrels in Massachusetts—can glide through the air a distance of 200 feet using a wing-like membrane that extends from their wrists to their ankles. About the size of a baked potato, these little squirrels don’t flap but let the wind carry them aloft for smooth sailing.

Are we missing any? Share your favorite athletic animal in the comments and find more interesting facts at Living with Wildlife.

Photo via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service