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

loving our local outdoors in partnership with REI

Shop at REI and Support Mass Audubon

REI is awarding grant money to three local nonprofits, including Mass Audubon! But how much we get depends on you.

If you’re an REI member, shop at one of their stores in Massachusetts or Cranston, RI, now through April 8 to cast your vote for us!

The money we receive will go toward building universally accessible trails at our Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary in South Dartmouth and Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary in Natick so everyone can get out and enjoy nature.

© Sarah O'Connor

An Alternative Spring Break

While some college kids will be heading to the beach during Spring Break, Mass Audubon has teamed up with UMass Boston to offer its conservation-minded students another option.

During the first-ever Alternative Spring Break for Aspiring Environmental Leaders, an idea hatched by TerraCorps member Sam Kefferstan, six students will spend six days getting a “crash course” in Mass Audubon, including our work in conservation science and research, advocacy and community engagement, and education.

© Sarah O’Connor

UMass Boston Connection

UMass Boston’s student population reflects the remarkable diversity of its Boston surrounds, with 57% of the student body being students of color and 56% first generation college students. As part of our commitment to becoming more inclusive and equitable, Mass Audubon partnered with UMass Boston to develop the Environmental Career Pathways Program. As part of this program, Mass Audubon will recruit students to employ in a variety of internships, work-study placements, and summer jobs.

The Alternative Spring Break is just another option to give students exposure to the environmental field through hands-on programming where they will actively participate in on-going conservation projects. This program will also provide professional development and networking to students who may not be able to take summer conservation internships due to financial barriers.

The Itinerary

First up is Nantucket where students will conduct deer density monitoring research at Sesachacha Heathlands Wildlife Sanctuary and water quality monitoring at UMass Boston’s field station.

Following the time on Nantucket the group will head to Drumlin Farm and Mass Audubon’s Headquarters in Lincoln, where students will meet with Mass Audubon’s leadership to determine where their skillset and passions could best be utilized.

Last stop is Wildwood, Mass Audubon’s overnight camp in Rindge, New Hampshire. Here, the students will participate in a Leave No Trace trainer course, in which they’ll learn how to enjoy shared natural spaces while preserving their integrity for future generations as well. The course will conclude with a winter hike up nearby Mount Monadnock where students can put their new skills into action.

The Payoff

Sam’s hope (as well as Mass Audubon’s) is that the students who participate in the Alternative Spring Break will come out of this program as more confident, experienced, and qualified job candidates, leaving them better prepared for future careers in conservation.

What To Do This Weekend: March 9-10

Enjoy a pancake breakfast, learn about maple sugaring, go on a calming nature walk, look for winter birds, and more at a wildlife sanctuary this weekend.

Sap to Syrup Breakfast at Drumlin Farm

Greater Boston

Head to Drumlin Farm in Lincoln for their annual Sap to Syrup Breakfast on Saturday or Sunday. Enjoy a breakfast of hearty pancakes with real maple syrup and then see how the syrup gets made! (adults and children, registration required)

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

More in Greater Boston

Central Massachusetts

Connect with the natural world in a healing, calming, grounding, and replenishing way through a guided Forest Breathing Walk at Broad Meadow Brook in Worcester. (adults, registration required)

More in Central Massachusetts

North Shore

Attend a Sugaring Off Tour on Saturday or Sunday at Ipswich River in Topsfield. Observe tapping and sap collection methods, watch the sap being boiled down in the sugarhouse, and get a sweet taste of the final product. (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

South of Boston

Look for Winter Ducks at Allens Pond in South Dartmouth as you hike along the beach loop trail. (adults, registration required)

More in South of Boston

Cape Cod

Now in its 24th year, the annual Cape Cod Natural History Conference features speakers from environmental organizations across Cape Cod discussing a wide array of natural history topics. (adults, registration required)

More on Cape Cod


Destination Spotlight: Armenia

Located in the mountainous Caucasus region bordering Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Iran, Armenia has everything you may want in an exotic trip: history, culture, food, and birds. And this September, you can join Mass Audubon naturalist Amber Carr on a 15-day adventure. Here, a snapshot of what you could experience:

Rich History

Armenia has an ancient and complex history. Among the earliest Christian civilizations, it’s rich with historic and religious sites including Khor Virap Monastery (a pilgrimage site near Mount Ararat) and a dormant volcano just across the border in Turkey.

Among the sites you will see is Selim Caravanserai. Built in 1332 by Prince Chesar Orbelian to accommodate travelers between China and Europe, it’s one of the few artifacts left from the Silk Road.

Birds!

Bearded Vulture © Francesco Veronesi

Armenia’s country list includes 349 species of birds. Armenia lies on the main migration route between the Northern and Southern hemisphere, with species flying from as far away as South Africa.

So many of the great birding spots are near historic sites that date as far back as the 8th century BC: you’re likely see raptors near Geghard Monastery (a UNESCO world heritage site) and various species of larks near the Selim Caravanserai. Highlights include: Pied Avocet, Squacco Heron, Red-crested Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, Bearded Reedling, Long-legged Buzzard, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, and Bearded Vulture (aka Lammergeier).

A Varied and Stunning Landscape

© Clay Gilliland

Visit a semi-desert gorge occupied by a colony of Eurasian Griffons; a 500 year old juniper woodland that is home to birds such as Sombre Tit and Fire-fronted Serin; a spectacular canyon of the Azat River where cliffs are formed by basalt columns and called the “Symphony of Stones;” and drive to the highest elevations to see Alpine Accentor and Cinereous Vulture.

Food & Drink

Every day you will taste the delicious fruits grown in Armenia, including grapes, figs, pomegranates, apricots, and apples, as well as vegetables, nuts, and locally produced honey.

A variety of meat dishes as well as breads such as lavash (a thin flatbread) will fill your dinner table. Plus see how Armenian Brandy (the favorite drink of Winston Churchill) is made. You will also learn how Armenian wine is made in Areni, where the tradition dates back 6,100 years.

Adventure!

On her last visit to Armenia, Mass Audubon Council Member and frequent traveler Roxanne Etmekjian recalls one excursion that was so awe-inspiring that it was added to our tour’s itinerary. Waking up pre-dawn, you will head up the alpine mountain of Gndasar in a 4X4 to look for the elusive Caspian Snowcock in the early morning light.

View the full itinerary or contact Mass Audubon’s Travel Team to learn more.

What To Do This Weekend: March 2-3

Go maple sugaring, attend the Birders Meeting, learn how to raise chickens, go birding, look for animal tracks, and more at a wildlife sanctuary this weekend.

Greater Boston

Get a Behind the Scenes Look at Maple Sugaring at Moose Hill in Sharon Friday night. Try maple syrup, Mead made with our own honey and maple syrup, see our reverse osmosis machine, and get an up close tour of the evaporator in action. (adults, registration required)

As part of Magnificent Mysterious Mammals at Blue Hills Trailside Museum in Milton, have a close encounter mysterious and sometimes misunderstood resident mammals, the Striped Skunk. There will also be a story and a craft. (families, registration required)

Find out how to raise Backyard Chickens at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln. Topics covered in this hands-on workshop include feeding, checking for egg laying, and any other chicken questions that come up. (adults and children ages 12+, registration required)

Winter is a great time to look for signs of animals as they forage for food and shelter at Broadmoor in Natick. During an Adult and Family program, learn to identify the tracks, chews, scat, burrows and other clues left by many creatures including deer, otter, and coyote.

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, registration required)

More in Greater Boston

Central Massachusetts

The Birders Meeting is this Sunday in Worcester and the theme is The Beauty of Birds. Among the speakers: Pulitzer Prize-nominated evolutionary biologist and ornithologist Richard Prum. (registration required)

Go on a Saturday Morning Bird Walk at Broad Meadow Brook in Worcester to discover the immense variety of birdlife as you explore its trails with an expert guide. (adults, registration required)

Connect with the natural world in a healing, calming, grounding, and replenishing way through a guided and gentle Forest Breathing Walk at Wachusett Meadow in Princeton. (adults and children, registration required)

More in Central Massachusetts

North Shore

Attend a Sugaring Off Tour on Saturday or Sunday at Ipswich River in Topsfield. Observe tapping and sap collection methods, watch the sap being boiled down in the sugarhouse, and get a sweet taste of the final product. (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

Connecticut River Valley

Get an Ecological Update at Arcadia in Easthampton and Northampton to find out what Mass Audubon is doing to protect habitat and how local wildlife populations are affected by our efforts. (adults, registration required)

More in the Connecticut River Valley

South of Boston

Head to Oak Knoll for a Family Habitat Day and explore the different habitats found around the sanctuary. Look for interesting animals, plants, and see what has visited the sanctuary. (families, registration required)

Discover the beauty of tree Buds and Bark in the Winter. Guided by local experts learn to identify local trees by their winter characteristics. (adults, registration required)

More in South of Boston

Meet the TerraCorps Crew

This year, Mass Audubon has been fortunate to welcome four members of TerraCorps to our team. TerraCorps partners with AmeriCorps to pair emerging leaders with land-based organizations in Massachusetts. The TerraCorps service members gain valuable, real-world experience, and Mass Audubon benefits from their energy, enthusiasm, ideas, and hard work.

Say “hello” to the team and read a little bit about what they are working on.

Nick Tepper

Hometown: Stow, MA
College: B.S. in Wildlife Biology from University of Vermont
Interests: Birding, reading, photography, canoeing, and breakfast food.
Working on: Creating an iNaturalist platform for Mass Audubon, estimating deer density via a citizen science camera trapping effort at Moose Hill, normalizing amphibian cover-board monitoring throughout the sanctuaries, and pioneering a window strike initiative for Boston.
Hopes for the position: Hope to make connections, and get experience in my field.
What’s next: Travel to see more of the US/world, and eventually go to grad school

Sam Kefferstan

Hometown: Andover, MA
College: B.S. in Natural Resource Conservation & B.A. in Sociology from UMass Amherst
Interests: Backpacking, fishing, baking, and photography
Working on: Incorporating best practices to facilitate diversity and inclusion at Mass Audubon, leading an Alternative Spring Break program for UMass Boston students, volunteer coordination for sugaring at Moose Hill, developing a boundary monitoring protocol for Mass Audubon sanctuaries, and pioneering a window strike initiative for Boston.
Hopes for the position: Professional networking and exposure to ecological restoration/dam removal efforts in Massachusetts.
What’s next: I would love to live out West for a few years and then serve in the PeaceCorps somewhere in South America.

Sara Semenza

Hometown: Tewksbury, MA
College: University of Rhode Island College: University of Rhode Island
Interests: Spending time outside, birding, running, playing and watching sports
Working on: Helping to standardize Mass Audubon’s nest box data collection,  updating Salt Marsh Science Project data and web content, analyzing losing ground satellite imagery providing by Boston University, and pioneering a window strike initiative for Boston.
Hopes for the position: Gaining real-life experience, setting up a study design, collecting data, and networking. I hope to continue meeting new people and expanding my knowledge of nature and conservation. I am not taking anything for granted and trying to make the most out of my experience here.
What’s next: Work for a couple of years to continue to gain experience. Then go back to school to get my masters, maybe in California. Then head home to New England.

Nicole Wilhelmi

Hometown: Grafton, MA
College: Becker College
Interests: Travel, hiking, and photography
Working on: Nature Lovers Trivia Night at Central Sanctuaries, Climate Cafe, Butterfly upcycle art project.
Hopes for the position: To make an impact to my community.
What’s next: Continue my contribution within another local nonprofit.

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

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

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.

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