Author Archives: Kelly R.

About Kelly R.

Where: Mass Audubon Headquarters, Lincoln & Metro West Sanctuaries Who: Farm-fanatic, house plant caretaker, and hiking aficionado living in Salem, bringing sustainable practices and outdoor adventures into everyday life. Favorite part of the job: lunch break walks around Drumlin Farm

Boy running across boardwalk at Wellfleet Bay

Hikes to Squeeze in Before the School Year Starts

Thinking about back to school already?! Wasn’t summer just getting started? We get it, we feel it, and we have just the thing to help you savor the last few weeks of precious summer vacation.

Go on a hike, see something new, and discreetly get the kids’ brains back into “learning mode”.

For Late Summers on the Cape

Have one last trip to the Cape planned? Check out Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary in Wellfleet, where you can explore relaxing trails and coastal seascapes. We recommend finding your way to the boardwalk, which winds through the salt marsh to the beach.

In the late summer, you’ll find a wealth of marine life and migrating shorebirds, and fruiting plants that help them refuel for migration. You can learn about the effects of climate change, coastal erosion, and sea level rise. And, at the Nature Center’s learning stations, find out about our wildlife conservation and research programs, including Diamondback Terrapin nest protection, cold-stunned sea turtle rescue, Horseshoe Crab monitoring, and ongoing research on Whimbrel migration.

We call this the “I can see the ocean!” run

For The Berkshires Travelers

Maybe you’re craving more mountains than beach. If so, you’ll love soaking in the summer sunsets from the high elevations at Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Lenox.

Check out the Trail of the Ledges/Overbrook Loop track for an 850 vertical foot hike to the top of Lenox Mountain (2,126 foot elevation). Take in the views of Mount Greylock to the north, the Taconic Range to the west, and the Catskill Mountains of New York to the southwest. 

Ahh, just the high-level life perspective you need before back to school shopping. © Brooks Payne

For a Lesson on Food & Farming

Picture this: the school year is in full swing, there’s homework to be done, and dinner to cook. The last thing you want to do is negotiate eating vegetables. However, you can get ahead of the chaos by teaching healthy eating habits before the school year starts at these farms.

Drumlin Farm in Lincoln and Moose Hill in Sharon are Mass Audubon’s working farms and wildlife sanctuaries, dedicated to growing food sustainably, organically, and without chemical pesticides. Squeeze in a fun visit to either so you can show your family where and how their food is grown, and create a positive connection between them and fresh produce.

On the weekends, stop by the farm stands for a tasty souvenir of your adventures. And if you’re visiting Drumlin Farm, don’t forget to traverse the Farmyard Loop to say hi to our resident barnyard animals⁠—cows, sheep, goats, chickens, pigs, and more!

For Those Last-Minute Summer Reading Logs

Thornton W. Burgess, children’s author most known for his classic bedtime stories and that featured the beloved character Peter Rabbit, was inspired by the wildlife and landscape of present-day Laughing Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Hampden.

It’s not hard to see why—this sanctuary is teeming with life. Burgess’s former home is viewable from Main Street, now on the historic register and currently occupied by staff. Explore the 4 miles of trails that wind through this magical, historic sanctuary, before settling into bed with a classic Burgess tale.

“Peter sat bolt upright with his eyes very wide open. In them was a funny look of surprise as he stared up at Jenny Wren. “What are you talking about, Jenny Wren?” he demanded. “Don’t you know that none of the Rabbit family swim unless it is to cross the Laughing Brook when there is no other way of getting to the other side…”

-The Burgess Animal Book for Children by Thornton W. Burgess

For a Lesson on Reclaimed Outdoor Spaces

The story of our Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary in Plymouth is one that inspires current and future management of outdoor spaces. Once a working cranberry farm, this landscape recently underwent the largest freshwater ecological restoration ever completed in the Northeast. Now, Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary is a 481-acre property that’s home to a vast expanse of cold-water streams, ponds, forest, and woodlands—all permanently protected and open for everyone to enjoy!

Explore the four miles of trails that traverse the reclaimed wetlands of Tidmarsh and keep an eye out for signs of the returning healthy ecosystem, including herons, ducks, turtles, and frogs. A great lesson in biodiversity for budding biologists and ecologists!

Turtle on a rock at Waseeka Wildlife Sanctuary

5 Hidden Gems in the Metro West

You never know what you’ll find when exploring Boston’s Metro West. Mass Audubon Metro West Wildlife Sanctuaries—Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, Habitat in Belmont, Broadmoor in Natick, and Waseeka in Hopkinton—host miles of trails meandering through wetlands, fields, animal exhibits, and a few surprises. Don’t miss these hidden gems on your next visit.

1. For When You Want to Go on an Adventure

This hidden gem isn’t off the main parking lot at Habitat Education Center & Wildlife Sanctuary in Belmont. You’ll need to follow Lees Way trailhead off of Somerset Street in Belmont to the Weeks Trail area. Along Lees Way, look for what’s known to staff as “The Tree of Resilience”—a tree whose main trunk is dead and hollowed out, but still has two branches very much alive growing outside of it.

Continuing down the trail, you’ll come across Weeks Pond, where you may find a mother duckling leading her young, bullfrogs peeking through the tiny floating leaves, or damselflies skimming the surface. In the meadow, you may even catch our small herd of goats grazing.

2. For When You Need to Relax

With more than 600 acres, Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary in Natick is filled with spots that, when you find them, make the rest of the world melt away.

The red circled binoculars indicate where this hidden gem is. See full the full trail map here.

Relax on the log bench perched on top of a rock outcropping overlooking the Indian Brook Marsh. When entering through the parking lot, cross the boardwalks, and turn right at signpost #3, instead of hopping onto one of the main loop trails.

This spur trail, made specifically for this scenic outlook, offers a wonderful view of Indian Brook Marsh. Look and listen for Belted Kingfishers, Wood Ducks, Red-tailed Hawks, Great Blue Herons, and more. The longer you linger, the more you’re likely to see.

3. For When You’re Feeling Mysterious

While not on Drumlin Farm’s property, and definitely not natural, if you travel to the outskirts of the crops fields where we grow our food, you can find yourself next to one of Lincoln’s most mysterious and unexplainable pieces of local lore. Ponyhenge—as it’s known to the locals—is a collection of broken-down rocking horses, plastic ponies, and other horse figurines that have spontaneously started holding court along Old Sudbury Road, since sometime in 2010.

How did all these ponies get here?

The collection has grown steadily since then, and stranger still, their configurations are known to change periodically, as if by magic. You may visit and see them in a circle, lined up like racehorses, or strewn about haphazardly. To see for yourself, take the Boyce Field Loop trail down to Old Sudbury Road. Along the way, you’ll see where Drumlin Farm’s CSA and farmstand vegetables are grown.

*Please note Ponyhenge is on private property but can be viewed from the fence on Drumlin Farm’s edge. Please stay on the trails and do not walk through growing fields during your adventure.

X marks the spot! Follow the Boyce Field Loop through our crop fields to Ponyhenge. See the full trail map here.

4. For When You Need a Turtle Fix

There is a place in the Metro West where turtles can go to just get away from it all. Understandably, sometimes you just want soak up the sun, and our turtle rafts at Habitat do just that. Take the Pond Loop Trail around the aptly named Turtle Pond for a glimpse at these sunbathing reptiles.

Painted Turtles sunbathing on a log at Turtle Pond ©Justin Miel

In reality, they’re doing more than just lounging about—sun-basking serves many purposes, including helping to promote muscle activity and digestion, encouraging leeches and other parasites to drop off, and triggering the production of vitamin D, which is essential for strong shells. A pair of snapping turtles were recently at the pond, a new sighting among all the more usual painted turtles that enjoy their favorite basking spot.

5. For When You Want to Take the Trail Less Traveled By

Have you been to Waseeka Wildlife Sanctuary in Hopkinton before? This little-known sanctuary offers all the benefits that come with being off the beaten path: limited trail traffic, spectacular views, and the ability to take your time and make your own adventure. The sanctuary features a hidden pond with standing dead trees and snags that provide nesting sites for Eastern Bluebirds, Pileated Woodpeckers, Great Blue Herons, Ospreys, and the occasional Great Horned Owl.

View of the Pond at Waseeka Wildlife Sanctuary, Hopkinton

Unlike the other Metro West wildlife sanctuaries, this site can be easy to miss. Look for the small parking lot along Clinton Street in Hopkinton, on the right about 2 miles up from turning onto it via Route 135.

What’s your favorite hidden gem at one of our Metro West wildlife sanctuaries? Share in the comments.