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

Young woman and man birding

Crowdsourcing Advice for New Birders

We posed a simple question to our Facebook followers: “If you could give one piece of advice to a beginning birder, what would it be?” With over 170 replies, here’s just a sample of what they said.

Patience is Key

“Walk slowly. And when you think you are walking slowly, walk slower.”

“Patience, learn common birds first and their songs or calls. Expand your bird vocabulary slowly. I stress patience, it can take years to become proficient, but it is well worth it.”

“Learn to be quiet and patient in one spot — take the time to watch and listen to what is happening around you.”

Binoculars & Cameras

“Get a good camera and take photos. You will want to capture the experiences and variety of birds for later.”

“Listen, watch and take notes and always have your binoculars and/or camera ready.”

“Get the best pair of binoculars that you can afford. Also, get a field guide and/or a bird ID app.”

Field Guides & Apps

“Get the Merlin app from the Cornell Ornithology Dept. You can id the bird from a photo, sound, or just what you see. There are different packs to download depending on where you are in the world. It is really cool to find and record a bird.”

“Buy a good field guide, learn what birds are in your area, a good field guide will help you learn what to look for (wing bars, bill shape/length etc). Learn from others, bird walks are great.”

“Buy (or borrow from a library) a physical field guide like Sibley. Read the useful introductory materials, but also just page through it. Get a sense of the different groups of birds. Apps are nice and handy but they don’t let you browse and compare the field guides do­ — and they don’t tell you anything about useful field marks.”

Browse bird books and guides from the Mass Audubon Online Shop.

Tips & Tricks

“Behavior and location are at least as important as color for identifying a bird, if not more.”

“Find a bird you love and let that be your anchor. For me, it’s Red-tailed Hawks. Spending time watching them has allowed me to learn about other birds, too.”

“Listening is much more important than seeing. Learn a few basic bird calls and you’ll be better off than memorizing pictures of birds you often only hear.”

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

“Talk to those around you (especially the ones with big scopes and nice cameras). I find the birding community is very friendly and happy to share their knowledge and any pointers.”

“I love birding alone. The solitude and being immersed in nature is healing. However, I think I learn as much in one morning with experienced birders as I do alone in 6 months.”

“For a new birder look everywhere as you walk along the trails, back roads, and even in your own backyard. The birds are not always in the open so keep looking up and down. You will be surprised by what you will see. And also go with a friend so you have multiple eyes to search with. Also Mass Audubon is always there to help with classes walks and to answer questions.. as my Father always said look, listen, and enjoy nature!!!”

Learn About the Bigger Picture

“Learn which birds are native and which are introduced invasive species. Learn why some species are now threatened and how you can help by making changes in your yard (native plants and reduce/eliminate pesticides).”

“Plant native plants! Specifically, host plants for moths and butterfly caterpillars. Caterpillars = baby bird food. A study that Doug Tallamy cited is that one clutch of chickadees ate 6,000 caterpillars. If you want birds in your yard, plant native trees, shrubs, and plants.”

“If you plant it, they will come. Consider planting native plants!”

“Don’t use insecticide, weed killer, rodent killer. They’re harmful to predator birds.”

Take an Introductory Program

“Join a bird walk — Mass Audubon often sponsors these as do local bird clubs. In the beginning, you will learn the most being with others that will give you pointers and help you with the basics. Or go with a friend that knows more than you do. Once you know what’s common in your area you can strike out on your own. I started as a child and I studied bird ID cards and field guides for hours and hours. As an adult, though, I think being part of a group would be most helpful.”

“Take Mass Audubon’s Intro Series!”

Check Out Mass Audubon’s signature online Beginner Birdwatching Series begins September 23. Or, browse upcoming in-person Mass Audubon bird walks.

Don’t Give Up!

“Birding is a lifelong learning process and is filled with delight. Persist! AND behave as if the birds’ lives depend on you, because they do.”

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!