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

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.

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.