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

Birders Meeting Goes Virtual

Every March since 1992, birders from around New England have come together to attend Mass Audubon’s annual Birders Meeting. This year’s event, which will take place virtually over four days, is focusing on “The Bird Next Door: Birding Your Patch.”

Ruby-throated Hummingbird © Christine St. Andre

What is Patch Birding?

Simply put, “patch birding” means focusing your efforts on one local area to develop a deep knowledge of the place and its birds. Your patch can be your yard, your neighborhood, the swamp down the street, your apartment balcony, or any place you visit regularly.

Patch birding is taking off because it helps us focus closely and see birds in a new light. It can also lead to exciting discoveries, from easily-overlooked hotspots to unreported patterns in species migrations and distribution. Patch birding also reinforces the value of parks and greenspaces, and, perhaps most importantly, reduces climate-altering CO2 emissions from travel.

Schedule and Speakers

The Birder’s Meeting will take place March 7, 8, 14, & 15. You can choose to sign up for individual sessions or the whole series. 

Sunday, March 7 • 7:00-8:30 pm ET

125 Years of Conservation with David O’Neill and The Value of Birding Your Patch with Heather Wolf, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Mass Audubon President David O’Neill will kick off this year’s Birders Meeting with a short presentation on Mass Audubon’s impressive history in conservation and his vision for the organization going forward. Learn more about our 125th >

Join birder, author, and photographer Heather Wolf as she shares her ongoing urban patch birding adventure under the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, where she has documented over 170 bird species over the years.


Monday, March 8 • 7:30-8:30 pm ET

A Sense of Place with Susannah Lerman, USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station

For many of us, we had our first experiences with the natural world in our backyards and neighborhood parks. These natural history sparks often ignite a life-long appreciation for birds and other wildlife. Susannah Lerman will present research on how aesthetics (e.g., color and bird song) influence human-wildlife interactions and how public interest of backyard birds compares with ecological dynamics in residential landscapes.


Sunday, March 14 • 7:30-8:30 pm ET

Nature’s Best Hope with Doug Tallamy, University of Delaware

Recent headlines about global insect declines and three billion fewer birds in North America are a bleak reality check about how ineffective our current landscape designs have been at sustaining the plants and animals that sustain us. Author Doug Tallamy will discuss simple steps that each of us can—and must—take to reverse declining biodiversity and will explain why we, ourselves, are nature’s best hope.


Monday, March 15 • 12:00-1:00 pm ET

Birding at the Speed of Slow with Scott Edwards, Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University

How we bird, and how we move through the landscape, is as important as what we bird. Scott Edwards will share how birding a local patch repeatedly or moving slowly through seasons and soundscapes allows us to see details of song, behavior and migration that reveal birds’ annual cycles—when and how their lives change over time.

Three Land Projects Worth Celebrating

Mass Audubon has been protecting important places in the Massachusetts landscape for almost a century now. Working with land owners, public and private conservation partners, and supporters, we use best available science to identify high-priority parcels of land and pursue their permanent conservation for the benefit of people and wildlife.

And we are off to a great start in 2021! We have already ensured 80 acres will be permanently protected from development.

Patten HIll field in Shelburne
Patten HIll in Shelburne

The Last Piece of the Puzzle in Shelburne

Thanks to the efforts of many—including over 300 donors—the remaining land of the Patten Hill Farm Trust in Shelburne Falls has been permanently protected. Mass Audubon purchased the lands from the Patten Hill Farm Trust to be added to our High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary—initially established by gift of Ellsworth “Dutchy” and Mary Barnard in 1970.

This addition strengthens the connection between High Ledges, the undeveloped 574-acre Shelburne Falls Fire District land (a public water supply property), and the 221-acre Davenport Farm. Joining all these protected properties creates a largely unfragmented land corridor of more than 1,000 acres. See why this matters >

A Sanctuary Grows in Canton

Pequit Brook
Pequit Brook

At the end of January, Mass Audubon received a donation of 2.73 acres of land next to the Museum of American Bird Art at Mass Audubon (MABA) in Canton, MA. The new addition—donated by Bill Carroll and the Carroll Family—features a lovely series of rapids, or cascades, of Pequit Brook that runs along the Main Loop Trail.

Most of the land is a vibrant red maple swamp teeming with various species of native plants and animals. Learn more >

A Partnership in Marshfield

Thanks to a collaboration between the Town of Marshfield and Mass Audubon, 13 acres of land abutting our North River Wildlife Sanctuary has been protected. The Town purchased the property from the MacLarey family using Community Preservation Act funds, and Mass Audubon acquired a permanent Conservation Restriction (CR) on the land.

A CR is a legally binding agreement held by one entity (in this case, Mass Audubon) that permanently protects important conservation values of a property owned by another entity (in this case, the Town of Marshfield) .

This land ranked as one of our highest priority parcels identified for protection in the area and allows for passive recreation including the right to build a small parking lot for a new trailhead. Learn more >

Black-capped Chickadee at a Feeder

Why Cleaning Bird Feeders Matters

Enjoying watching birds visit your feeder? Great! Make sure the birds that visit stay healthy by keeping your feeder clean.

Black-capped Chickadee at a Feeder
Black-capped Chickadee at a Feeder

Why a Clean Feeder is a Happy Feeder

High concentrations of birds in close proximity to one another can contribute to the spread of disease at bird feeders. The four diseases that most frequently affect birds that use feeders are: salmonella, trichomoniasis, aspergillosis, and avian pox.

All of these diseases are transmitted from one bird to another at feeding stations, especially when overcrowding occurs. Birds are also susceptible to mites and lice. There are many steps you can take to help keep feeder birds and people safe and healthy.

How to Keep Birds Healthy

  • Clean feeders monthly using one part bleach to nine parts warm water. Soak the feeder in the solution for a few minutes, rinse, and air dry.
  • If uneaten food is accumulating in or under feeders, consider using less food or switch to a seed more to the birds’ liking.
  • If birds are fighting over space at a feeder, consider adding more feeders to alleviate the congestion that can potentially be responsible for the rapid spread of disease.
  • Store seed in airtight containers to prevent spoilage.
  • Avoid throwing large amounts of food on the ground or alternate ground feeding areas so that uneaten food does not accumulate and develop bacteria or mold.
  • If dead birds are found, stop feeding for a few weeks and thoroughly clean feeders and areas under feeders. Use disposable gloves when handling dead birds.

Learn More

Get answers to bird feeding frequently asked questions. Still have questions? Ask our wildlife experts.

Boston Traffic / Robbie Shade - Flickr

Massachusetts signs on to TCI. Here’s What That Means

On Monday, December 21, leaders from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia officially signed on to the Transportation Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P). This bold agreement, which is the first of its kind in the nation, will significantly reduce regional carbon emissions, improving air quality and reducing pollution.

“Mass Audubon applauds Governor Baker and his staff for their leadership on TCI-P. This program is urgently needed to address the largest sector of greenhouse gas emissions in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region—the transportation sector,” states David J. O’Neill, President of Mass Audubon. “In the implementation of the TCI, we also will advocate vigorously for increasing funds to mitigate air pollution and provide more affordable and just transportation options for communities who are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.” 

Boston Traffic / Robbie Shade - Flickr
Boston Traffic via Robbie Shade / Flickr Creative Commons

The TCI program raises funds through a cap-and-invest program that requires large fuel suppliers to purchase allowances for the pollution caused by the combustion of fuels they sell. These funds will be invested into clean transportation options, including public transit and electric vehicles.

The TCI-P also seeks to address decades of inequitable practices that disproportionately impact Brown, Black, and low-income communities. The TCI Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) commits a minimum of 35 percent of the proceeds be dedicated to communities underserved by the transportation system and overburdened by pollution. This is a start, but we know it is not enough to ensure that frontline communities benefit equitably from clean transportation projects and programs.

The involvement of environmental justice communities is essential in the creation of climate change policies that have lasting economic and public health impacts. While we are pleased to see a commitment to investing in our most climate vulnerable communities and to the Equity Advisory Boards outlined in the MOU, we are disappointed the process that led to the agreement was not an inclusive one.

TCI represents the significant strides needed to tackle the climate crisis for both people and wildlife. Given the indisputable science, we cannot afford to miss this opportunity to reduce transportation emissions and invest in clean, equitable mobility solutions. 

A Year to Remember

The past year has been one like no other. While there have been many challenges, there have also been triumphs. Take a look at just a few highlights that you made possible, and help us accomplish even more next year.

712

Land protected on Cuttyhunk Island

Additional acres protected this past year, thanks to the support of generous individuals, foundations, families, businesses, communities, and public and private conservation partners. This brings total acres protected by Mass Audubon to 38,713 acres.

300,000+

Record numbers of visitors to our wildlife sanctuaries seeking nature as an important respite from the challenges we have faced. To provide even more access to nature, we’re opening new trails so people of all ages and abilities across Massachusetts can explore and enjoy the outdoors.

400

Boston Nature Center’s Youth Climate Summit

Young people brought together through six Youth Climate Summits across the state. These action-oriented climate immersion programs offer students the opportunity to learn about climate change, network with experts, and implement youth-led climate action solutions throughout their schools and communities.

6th

Edition of Losing Ground published. Losing Ground: Nature’s Value in a Changing Climate analyzes land use patterns in Massachusetts, highlights the value of forests, farmlands, and wetlands for climate resilience.

3,275

Campers that safely attended in-person camp this summer at 11-day camps across the state. An additional 122 campers took part in our virtual Nature Inside Out Camp.

18,000

Pounds of vegetables and over 600 dozen eggs that Drumlin Farm donated to our hunger relief partners, thanks to donor contributions of over $67,000 to cover the cost of the program.

$350,000

The record-breaking amount raised during our reimagined-for-COVID-safety Bird-a-thon (which became Bird-at-home-a-thon). Not only did it raise more money for our wildlife sanctuaries and conservation work than previous competitions, it also welcomed more participants than ever before.

900

Participants at attended a Shaping the Future of Your Community Program, which works with cities and towns on smart land use and resiliency planning.

6

Preschoolers (photo taken pre-COVID)

Number of licensed Mass Audubon Nature Preschools across the state, including the newest at Long Pasture on the Cape. Through hands-on activities, exploration, movement, and play, we support children’s curiosity and wonder using our wildlife sanctuaries as outdoor classrooms.

214

Pairs of Piping Plovers protecting by the Coastal Waterbird Program, up 13% compared to the previous summer.

Piping Plover © Mark Landman

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 [email protected]  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.