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

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.


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


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.


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.

Birdwatching for Beginners

While some activities have been on the decline due to staying close to home, one that has seen a surge in interest is birdwatching! If you haven’t already joined in the fun, there’s no better time to start than during our re-imagined Bird-at-home-a-thon, which takes place May 15-16.

This annual fundraiser prompts teams to spend the day looking for birds and taking part in other nature-based activities, all while supporting our wildlife sanctuaries and programs.

Get in on the action by joining a team and following these easy steps on how to look for birds from Wayne Petersen, Mass Audubon’s Director of Important Bird Area program.

Bird watching.
© Jennifer Johnston

Wake up early. Early in the morning, around 6 am, can be the birdiest time. Birds that migrate overnight are often still active just after dawn so you could see them before they settle into quiet feeding modes for the day.

Listen for bird sounds and watch for movement. Start looking with just your eyes without binoculars. If you spot some movement see if you can get a closer look with your binoculars.

In a wide-open area, scan the far distance with your binoculars slowly to see if there’s anything you’d miss with just your eyes.

Keep your eyes on the sky to look for flying birds, either high or at treetop level.

Take a closer look at groups. If you see several birds together, try to stay with them because there could be several different species in the same area. Birds often forage together in small groups in the same places.

Find nearby thickets or weedy areas. Be sure to check them for any birds that might be hiding or quietly feeding.

Look for exposed bare branches and dead trees for perched hawks or woodpeckers first thing in the morning.

Find a nearby pond or streams, paying special attention to their brushy edges. Birds often like to be near water.

Slowly scan open areas, fields, and marshy areas because there are birds in such areas but they are often inconspicuous.

Be patient and stay still! Birds may not be as active or noticeable if you keep moving. Stand in one place quietly and take in the sights and sounds. Birds will often return to their normal behavior if you stop moving and seem like less of a threat.

A Bird-a-thon checklist will help you keep track of what species you identify. If you have a field guide, keep it with you to check species ID, range maps, and other useful descriptions (like behavior).

There are also online apps, like Merlin, that can help you ID birds. A quick Google search can also help you start to narrow down your options as well (though keep location in mind!).

Good luck, have fun, and hopefully find some birds you may never have seen before!

© Sarah Houle

On This Giving Tuesday Now, Thank You

© Sarah Houle
© Sarah Houle

Today is Giving Tuesday Now, a day to celebrate the many ways that people in our communities and around the world have been helping each other during the global pandemic.

We’d like to thank you—our members and friends—for your unwavering support during these difficult times. You honor and inspire us with your commitment to protecting the wildlife and wild lands of Massachusetts.

Like all nonprofits, Mass Audubon is struggling with serious financial setbacks from lost admissions and program revenue. But thanks to you, our work continues, and is as important and as relevant as ever.

A few examples of what your generosity makes possible include:

  • Our educators are creating new and innovative online learning tools and connecting with teachers, parents, and adult learners. For example, thousands of families across the state took part in our first Virtual April Vacation Week and many programs are now offered online.
  • We are launching several new citizen science projects, and the Coastal Waterbird Program is continuing its critical work protecting endangered birds along miles of Massachusetts coastline.
  • Dedicated staff continue the vital daily work of caring for over 38,000 acres across the state that are home to more than 150 endangered and threatened native species.

Your support today will help ensure that we will emerge even stronger tomorrow.

Thanks again for all you do to protect the nature of Massachusetts for people and wildlife.

Happy Earth Day!

For 50 years the world has gathered on one day to celebrate our environment. Even in these challenging times, when the ways in which we gather have been altered, Earth Day reminds us that we have the power to protect our planet and effect change.

This year, Earth Day’s theme is climate action, urging us to once again use our voices and tackle the current climate crisis. Social distancing has shown us that collective engagement to safeguard our communities is still possible and more important than ever.

Join Mass Audubon on Earth Day and beyond for climate action, inspiration, and community by:

  • Making the switch to green power to add more renewable energy into your electricity supply.
  • Driving less and carpooling, biking, walking, or taking public transportation whenever you can.
  • Asking your legislators to fight for strong environmental policies on Beacon Hill and Capitol Hill.
  • Making a gift to Mass Audubon to support our collective climate fight and protect people and wildlife across the state.

In honor of the Earth Day’s 50th anniversary, a generous donor has stepped up with a dollar-for-dollar match that will double the impact of your gift if you donate today.

Thank you for all you do to protect the Earth and the nature of Massachusetts. Visit our website to learn more about Mass Audubon’s climate action work and how we can fight climate change together!

What To Do This Weekend: March 7-8

Take part in maple sugaring, attend a pancake breakfast, go on an owl prowl, take a night hike, and more at a wildlife sanctuary this weekend.

North Shore

Take a Sugaring Off Tour at Ipswich River in Topsfield to learn how to identify a sugar maple, observe tapping and sap collection methods, watch the sap being boiled down in the sugarhouse, and get a sweet taste of the final product. (adults and children, registration required)

Meet Backyard Birds at Joppa Flats in Newburyport. Bird Banding Station Manager Ben Flemer presents demonstrations on bird research and banding. You’ll learn about your own backyard birds and why they’re here while watching scientific research in action.

More on the North Shore

Greater Boston

Celebrate one of New England’s historic staple crops—maple sugar—during the Sap-to-Syrup Breakfast at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln. Enjoy a hearty breakfast, then get a hands-on lesson about the sap-to-syrup process in our sugar maple grove. (registration required)

Head to Habitat in Belmont for a Maple Sugaring Celebration. Hear stories, learn to identify our local maples, and taste sap right from the tree before boiling down a little of our own to taste! (adults and children, registration required)

During Magnificent Mysterious Mammals at Blue Hills Trailside Museum in Milton, get a close encounter with the Striped Skunk during a live animal presentation. (families with children, registration required)

Boston Nature Center is also getting into Maple Sugaring. Try your hand at tapping the tree and enjoy some fresh sap! Learn about the different techniques and equipment used across New England and why Sugar Maples are so unique. (adults and children, registration required)

Bring the whole family to Broadmoor in Natick for Owl Prowl Adventures Under the Moon to learn about owl calls, behavior and habitat as we search and listen for our resident Screech, Barred, and Great Horned Owls. (families with children, registration required)

More in Greater Boston

South of Boston

Once dusk has settled over the marsh head out on a Full Worm Moon Hike at Tidmarsh in Plymouth. Stop, look, and listen for creatures that awaken with the setting of the sun. (adults and children, registration required)

Stewart Ting Chong has spent countless hours photographing Piping Plovers at Duxbury Beach. Check out some of his outstanding photos during the Opening Reception of Plover Photography Exhibit at North River in Marshfield.

More in South of Boston

Cape Cod

Go on a Children’s Owl Prowl at Wellfleet Bay. Learn about the amazing adaptations of our local owls and enjoy a story and head out on an evening hike searching for these mysterious nocturnal creatures. (families with children, registration required)

More on Cape Cod and Islands

Central Massachusetts

Discover the immense variety of bird life that exists at Broad Meadow Brook in Worcester on a Saturday Morning Bird Walk. Learn the basics of bird identification and bird watching during this easy-to-moderate walk. (adults, registration required)

More in Central Massachusetts

Connecticut River Valley

Get an Introduction to Arcadia and Mass Audubon’s work in the Valley. Sanctuary Director Jonah Keane will share overview of how we protect the nature of Massachusetts, what’s so special about Arcadia, and how you can get involved. (adults, registration required)

More in the Connecticut River Valley

Porcupine © Kati Seiffer

What To Do This Weekend: Feb 29-Mar 1

Go birding, look for animal tracks, see maple sugaring in action, take a winter nature hike, and more at a wildlife sanctuary this weekend.

Porcupine © Kati Seiffer
Porcupine © Kati Seiffer

Greater Boston

During Digital Photography for Beginners at Moose Hill in Sharon, get to know your camera better. Learn about lenses, composition, lighting, depth of field, and more. (adults, registration required)

Go Backyard Birding at Boston Nature Center. Learn how to use binoculars, go on a bird hike, and create some seed and fruit art for the birds to enjoy. (families with children, registration required)

New to birding, or looking to sharpen your skills? All skill levels are invited to Birding for Beginners at Habitat in Belmont. (adults, registration required)

Look for Signs of Animals as they forage for food and shelter at Broadmoor in Natick during the cold winter months. Learn to identify the tracks, chews, scat, burrows and other clues left by many creatures including deer, fisher and coyote. (adults and families, registration required)

More in Greater Boston

North Shore

Take a Sugaring Off Tour at Ipswich River in Topsfield to learn how to identify a sugar maple, observe tapping and sap collection methods, watch the sap being boiled down in the sugarhouse, and get a sweet taste of the final product. (adults and children, registration required)

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

More on the North Shore

Connecticut River Valley

Leap into a Winter Ecology Walk at Graves Farm in Williamsburg to look for animal tracks, winter birds, and other signs of wildlife. Identify winter plants and look for winter spiders, springtails, stoneflies, and more. (adults, registration required)

More in the Connecticut River Valley


Take a two-mile Richardson Brook Hike in Tolland to explore the sanctuary’s secretive hemlock forests in search of snowy specialties like hemlock, fisher, porcupine, and moose. Note: this trail is very uneven and rocky. (adults, registration required)

More in the Berkshires

South of Boston

During Family Habitat Days at Oak Knoll in Attleboro look for interesting animals, plants, and see what has visited the sanctuary. (families, registration required)

More in South of Boston

Eastern Screech-Owl © Linda MacMillan

What To Do This Weekend: Feb 22-23

Practice yoga, go on an owl prowl, take a nature walk, look for animal tracks, build a bluebird nest box, and more at a wildlife sanctuary this weekend.

Eastern Screech-Owl © Linda MacMillan
Eastern Screech-Owl © Linda MacMillan

Greater Boston

Experience Yoga and Mindfulness at Habitat in Belmont. After a 45-minute slow and gentle yoga class indoors, head outside to explore the trails. (adults, registration required)

Go on a Family Owl Prowl at the Museum of American Bird Art in Canton. Learn some owling tips and all about owl ecology as we approach nesting season and create your very own owl print to take home. (families, registration required)

During Tracks and Signs at Boston Nature Center in Mattapan, hike the sanctuary to search for signs animals left behind while learning life histories through observation. (adults, registration required)

Take a free Sunday Stroll around Stony Brook in Norfolk. See what is happening on the sanctuary and stop to enjoy any interesting and unusual sights we come upon. (members only, all ages, registration required)

More in Greater Boston

North Shore

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

Head to Ipswich River in Topsfield for Sunday Morning Yoga. Soothe your mind, body, and soul with mindful breathing and meditation for a feeling of overall peace and well-being. (adults, registration required)

More on the North Shore

Central Massachusetts

During Snow Tracking and Winter Animal Activities at Broad Meadow Brook in Worcester learn to use snow tracks and other clues to explore the winter landscape. (adults, registration required)

More in Central Massachusetts

Connecticut River Valley

Explore the changing nature and beauty of Arcadia in Easthampton and Northampton with your young child as part of First Child in the Woods. Gain the skills to confidently lead explorations of your own. (families with children ages 0-5, registration required)

More in the Connecticut River Valley


Take part in a Bluebird Nest Box Building Workshop at Pleasant Valley in Lenox. Build the pre-cut kit together, learn the best way to place it, and take your box home to welcome birds to your backyard. (adults and children, registration required)

More in the Berkshires

South of Boston

Find out the Mysteries of the Great Shearwater during a family friendly presentation in Plymouth. Peter Trull from the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary will explain the satellite tagging process as well as the ecology and natural history of this fascinating pelagic species. (all ages, registration requested)

Learn all about electricity and magnetism during a Family Explorations at Oak Knoll in Attleboro. (families, registration required)

More in South of Boston