Author Archives: Hillary T.

About Hillary T.

Where: Mass Audubon Headquarters, Lincoln Who: Massachusetts transplant by way of Florida and New York. Raising two young girls, who she hopes will be budding naturalists Favorite part of the job: Learning something new every day from some of the smartest and most enthusiastic groups of people

Come Play Outside With Us!

You’ve probably heard the stories if not told them. They always start with … “When I was a kid…” and have some variation of … “I’d play outside all day until the dinner bell rang.” Of course, back then (whenever then was), things were different.

The internet was just a kernel of an idea. Television was limited to a few stations. And the amazing options of after school activities were, well, less than amazing. With fewer options, kids would head outdoors for entertainment–building forts, climbing trees, and playing hide-and-seek to name a few.

Sure, that still happens now, but research shows that children today spend less time outside than any other generation before them. 

Girl playing on tree

Why Nature Play Matters

There are endless benefits to playing in the outdoors. Specifically, nature play:

  • Promotes a healthy, active lifestyle 
  • Develops imagination, creativity, and invention 
  • Allows a space for children to navigate risk and problem solving 
  • Supports inquiry-based learning through curiosity and exploration 
  • Provides opportunities to practice adaptability, flexibility, and resilience.

And of course, when children are in nature, they find connections to the natural world. These connections are critical to creating the next generation of nature heroes. Researcher and educator David Sobel notes: “If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it.”

© Lisa Roberts

Introducing Nature Play Days 

As a way to encourage everyone, adults and children, to get out and play in nature, Mass Audubon is launching Nature Play Days. Each season, our team of wildly enthusiastic educators will share Nature Play ideas and activities, all of which can be done in your neighborhood, local park, or wildlife sanctuary. 

You can be someone who supports getting children outside, giving them the freedom to explore (safely of course), and ensuring they get all the benefits that come along with it. 

To start you off, here are 10 fall-themed activities.

Throughout the season, we’ll be posting weekly videos and hand-outs describing these activities on our website and social media. Follow along and share your discoveries with us!

Scott Edwards by James Deshler

In Your Words: Scott V. Edwards

Scott V. Edwards © James Deshler
Scott V. Edwards © James Deshler

Scott Edwards is a Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, Curator of Ornithology in the Museum of Comparative Zoology, and Mass Audubon Council Member. On June 6, 2020, Scott left his home in Concord, Massachusetts, to set off on a cross-country bike trip. He spoke to Mass Audubon’s Hillary Truslow in July from a campsite in Wall, South Dakota.


On Biking Across the Country

The idea for this trip was hatched a long time ago. It’s a wonderful way to see a place—some say it’s the classic American adventure. It’s got a scale that is frankly awesome.

Birding Then & Now

My first introduction to birds was when I was 9 or 10 years old when a neighbor took me birdwatching in Riverdale, New York, where I grew up. The “spark bird” for me was the Northern Flicker, or what we used to call a Yellow-shafted Flicker. I couldn’t believe that something so gaudy and outrageous in a field guide could be in my backyard. On the bike trip so far, I was excited to see a Western Flycatcher, the Upland Sandpipers were super cool, and when I saw Yellow-headed Blackbirds I almost fell off my bike.

A Scene from South Dakota © Scott V. Edwards
A Scene from South Dakota © Scott V. Edwards

Attracting More People to Science

I was fortunate that I could follow my dreams and do what makes me happy. Not everyone has that luxury. We need to ensure that young people can make a living in science and that some of the coolest, weirdest, offbeat people are scientists. It’s not all people in white lab coats spending time indoors. In fact, a major part of my classes is spent outdoors learning biodiversity everywhere from Costa Rica to Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary in Marshfield.

Black in Nature

I consider myself a naturalist and pretty good at outdoorsy stuff like camping. Yet I have never worked on a farm and have very little knowledge of agricultural life. The other day I was fascinated watching a hay baler and posted a video on Twitter. I used #blackinnature mainly to poke fun at myself and to say that this is a totally different world than I am used to.

At the same time, it’s interesting to think of the intersection between African Americans and the natural world. Black Birders Week convinced me that there are lots of young folks out there in this space. And the hashtag is a nice way to say, hey look, there are African Americans interested in nature, that nature is for everyone, and hopefully get even more people of color learning about nature.

Wetlands in South Dakota © Scott V. Edwards
Wetlands in South Dakota © Scott V. Edwards

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 their story—why Mass Audubon and protecting the nature of Massachusetts matters to them. If you have a story to share about your connection to Mass Audubon, email explore@massaudubon.org  to be considered for In Your Words in a future issue! 

Take 5: August Facebook Favorites

Over the course of the 2020 Photo Contest, we will be highlighting 5 photos from the previous month’s entries on Facebook and asking fans to select their favorite. This is just a fun way of sharing some of the amazing entries and doesn’t have to do with the official judging process.

You can pick your favorite by “liking” it on Facebook. Not a Facebook user? Let us know your top pick in the comments. And, there’s still time to enter the contest—the deadline is September 30!

Great Blue Heron © Scott Creamer
© Janet Sharp
© Greg Kniseley
© Caroline Carton
© Will Draxler

Take 5: July 2020 Facebook Favorites

Over the course of the 2020 Photo Contest, we will be highlighting 5 photos from the previous month’s entries on Facebook and asking fans to select their favorite. This is just a fun way of sharing some of the amazing entries and doesn’t have to do with the official judging process.

You can pick your favorite by “liking” it on Facebook. Not a Facebook user? Let us know your top pick in the comments. And, there’s still time to enter the contest—the deadline is September 30!

Blue-winged Warbler © John Randell
© Julianne Schwarzer
Marshfield © Tom McManus
© Paula Kubisek
Gloucester © Alison Leedham

Received Unsolicited Seeds in the Mail? Don’t Plant!

As if 2020 events couldn’t get any stranger, people across the country are receiving packets of seeds in the mail they did not order.

Example of unsolicited seeds via Washington State Department of Agriculture
Example of unsolicited seeds via Washington State Department of Agriculture

If you happen to receive unsolicited seeds, whatever you do, do not plant them. Instead, report and send them to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (if not in Massachusetts, send to your state’s plant regulatory official).

There is still much to learn about who is sending them and what they are, but the current thinking by is that they could be invasive plants. The USDA is collecting the seeds to better understand what they are and their impact on the environment.

If you’re looking for something to enhance your garden, consider native plants that attract pollinators.

Short-eared Owl by David Morris

Take 5: June 2020 Facebook Favorites

Over the course of the 2020 Photo Contest, we will be highlighting 5 photos from the previous month’s entries on Facebook and asking fans to select their favorite. This is just a fun way of sharing some of the amazing entries and doesn’t have to do with the official judging process.

You can pick your favorite by “liking” it on Facebook. Not a Facebook user? Let us know your top pick in the comments. And, there’s still time to enter the contest—the deadline is September 30!

Great Blue Herons © Michael Stefanik
Green Sweat Bee © Matthew Delligatti
Red Squirrel © Maryann Fortier
Short-eared owl © David Morris
red Fox © Craig Bretton

Finding Sanctuary at Mass Audubon

In 2015, internationally-recognized nature artist Barry Van Dusen started a statewide residency at the Museum of American Bird Art (MABA), in which he would visit, paint, and draw at all of Mass Audubon’s wildlife sanctuaries.

Painted Turtle at Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Norfolk by Barry Van Dusen

Four and a half years later, the fruits of his labor (and very great enjoyment) can be discovered in his first book, Finding Sanctuary: An Artist Explores the Nature of Mass Audubon.

This beautiful 192-page book–which features over 250 watercolors, sketchbook studies, and commentary–celebrates the richness, beauty, and ecological diversity of Massachusetts and the Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuary system and provides fascinating insights into his artistic process.

American Kestrel at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton and Northampton by Barry Van Dusen.

To celebrate the launch of the book, you can join Van Dusen, along with renowned artist/author Julie Zickefoose, on a virtual book launch party on Wednesday, June 24, from 7:00-8:00 pm. There will be a lively discussion, a preview of some of the watercolors, and an opportunity to ask questions.

Register for the event and purchase a copy of the book.

How We’re Spending Juneteenth

Today is Juneteenth, a day that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. This year, we will honor the day by learning, reflecting, and actively listening.

One of our goals at Mass Audubon is to make our wildlife sanctuaries more welcoming and safer spaces for everyone. In order to accomplish this, we need to better understand the challenges that Black and Brown people face when trying to experience, celebrate, and enjoy the outdoors.

We hope you will join us today by taking time to watch, listen, and read some of the following stories.

Watch

Birding While Black Livestreams Session 1 and Session 2: As part of Black Birders Week, National Audubon hosted two livestream candid conversations.

Listen

Being ‘Outdoorsy’ When You’re Black Or Brown: NPR’s Code Switch podcast explores what it means to be a person of color outdoors and the organizations and individuals pushing the boundaries of what “being outdoorsy” looks like.

Read

Birding While Black: J. Drew Lanham’s 2016 essay on race, belonging, and a love of nature.

It’s Time to Build a Truly Inclusive Outdoors: Corina Newsome speaks to National Audubon on the difficult conversations the birding community must face.

I’m a Black Climate Expert. Racism Derails Our Efforts to Save the Planet: Ayana Elizabeth Johnson’s op-ed in the Washington Post on why stopping climate change is hard enough, but racism only makes it harder.

Being Black While in Nature: You’re an Endangered Species: The Guardian’s Poppy Noor shares the defense mechanisms Black nature-lovers have to employ.

Read Up on the Links Between Racism and the Environment: The New York Times provides a list of essential reading.

Black Women Who Bird Take the Spotlight to Make the Presence Known: As part of Black Birders Week, women are sharing their love of the outdoors and the challenges they face in them via National Audubon.

Robin eggs

On the Robin Watch

During on walk at Boston Nature Center on May 4, Preschool Director Claire Harris stumbled (literally) across an American Robin’s nest perched in the gate of the Clark Cooper Community Gardens.

She took the opportunity to take a photo of the nest containing four perfectly blue eggs and then backed away quickly. After observing from a distance, she watched as the robin returned.

Claire spent the next few weeks watching and photographing from a safe distance, reporting back to her preschoolers who have been learning remotely. On May 20, she came back to discover the robins had successfully fledged (ie left the nest).

Since baby birds can capture the hearts of preschoolers and grown-ups alike, we wanted to share her observations far and wide.

Robin Eggs
May 4, 2020
May 10, 2020
Robins Day 2
May 11, 2020
May 16, 2020
May 17, 2020
May 18, 2020

And they’re off

May 20, 2020
We Welcome All

We Welcome All

We Welcome All

The outdoors is one place where we can all come together. When we share our passion for the sweet song of the chickadee, a sighting of a red fox, or a delicate Lady’s Slipper in bloom, the differences among us disappear.

We should all feel safe to explore nature free of harassment or prejudice and we are deeply troubled and saddened by what Christian Cooper experienced while birding in New York’s Central Park on May 25. Incidents of this kind must end so that everyone can find joy and wonder in the outdoors.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are fundamental values at Mass Audubon and we will do everything we can to ensure that our programs, our trails, and open spaces are open to everyone without fear or bigotry.