Author Archives: Mass Audubon

Inspiring Generations of Nature Heroes

You may have noticed some recent changes on our website, within our blogs and social media feeds, and in publications across Massachusetts. Indeed, our look has changed over the past few months.

Most notably, the images in our communications feature more people engaging with the natural world and each other. Our emerging theme, to inspire generations of nature heroes to protect the nature of Massachusetts, will weave together our wonderful and broad mission by sharing stories about the people at its very core.

In print and electronic communications throughout the Commonwealth, you’ll see images of these nature heroes in their element. Whether it is a child falling in love with her natural environment, a parent experiencing the wonder of nature through his or her child’s eyes, or an adult saving an endangered animal or restoring a habitat, the heart of Mass Audubon is its members, volunteers, supporters, staff, and partners. We—and you—all have a role in protecting our precious natural environment. And we want to celebrate nature heroes of all ages and backgrounds in all they do to realize this mission.

To help spread the word, Mass Audubon is reaching out to new audiences with ads across the state. You might see these on MBTA buses and trains, storefronts in Boston neighborhoods, newspapers, or even on digital media (see two examples below).

Our aim is to welcome new nature heroes to our 57 wildlife sanctuaries and connect with them in ways that are meaningful and lasting. We want to share the serenity, exhilaration, escape, and physical benefits that nature can provide with communities that may not otherwise know of Mass Audubon. By reaching out and welcoming newcomers, we hope to learn from them how to best to share this message and enlist their help in protecting our environment.

We’re excited to tell the many stories of Mass Audubon’s nature heroes in the coming months, and we invite you to come forward with stories of your own. We look forward to learning from and with you in this next chapter in protecting the nature of Massachusetts.

Photo: Andy Bakinowski

A Long & Winding Boardwalk

If you’ve ever been to Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary and the Bristol Blake State Reservation in Norfolk, you’ve most likely walked the 525-foot-long boardwalk. When this iconic feature, which takes you to Beech Island, was first installed more than 40 years ago it immediately captured the devotion and enthusiasm of people fascinated by the beauty of the wetlands and the diversity of life that could observe from it.

Over the years the boardwalk has been improved in many ways. Railings on both sides were installed, rotten planks were replaced, and pilings were stabilized. In 2010, Mass Audubon partnered with the Department of Conservation (DCR) and the Student Conservation Association (SCA) to do a major overhaul on the boardwalk with improvements being made along its entire length.

Even with all this attention, winter weather ultimately took its toll and an engineering inspection in March 2016 determined that the boardwalk was too dangerous to remain open. DCR closed the boardwalk.

But it wouldn’t be for long. DCR knew the benefits outweighed the cost of replacement and immediately set out to replace the boardwalk. Their strategy was to not only make it safer for people, but also for the wetlands it traverses. By raising it higher off the water and replacing all of the pilings with smaller helical anchors that provide a stronger support, the impact of the boardwalk will be reduced dramatically. An added benefit: visitors get a higher vantage point to view the wetlands.

Aerial view of the boardwalk renovation. Photo: Andy Bakinowski

For months, we anxiously watched and waited. Fast forward to August 7, 2017. After a final visit, State Inspectors gave their thumbs and tore the caution tape down. The boardwalk is now officially open and we are planning a brief ceremony on Saturday, August 26, at 11 am.

Thanks to everyone for your support, patience, and encouragement. Bristol Blake State Reservation and Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary are open daily from sunrise to sunset. We look forward to seeing you out on the boardwalk soon!

Stony Brook’s campers celebrate the opening of the boardwalk.

— Guest post by Doug Williams, Stony Brook’s Sanctuary Director

Bird-a-thon 2017 in Review

Bird-a-thon, Mass Audubon’s annual birding competition and fundraiser, took place on May 12-13. Here, Mass Audubon’s Director of Important Bird Areas Wayne Petersen, gives a run-down of the birding portion of the event.

Hooded Warbler via Lanny McDowell (Felix Neck Team)

Now that the dust following Bird-a-thon 2017 has settled and spring migration has finally come to a close, it’s time to recap the event, as well as once again thank the 750+ birders and 2,000+ donors who supported this annual fundraising rite of spring.

Missed It By That Much

While every Bird-a-thon is unique in its own way, this season the expression, “missed it by that much!” could not have been truer. First, one of the most impressive spring migration waves in recent memory arrived mid-week, just before the Bird-a-thon took place. Unfortunately, this impressive migration peak virtually shut down the day before our birding event!

Second, despite this perversity of nature, the teams collectively managed to record a grand total of 270 species statewide, missing the highest ever total species count of 271 registered in 2009 by just one. More to the point, 270 represents a significant percentage of the approximately 325 species annually recorded in Massachusetts.

And The Winners Are…

Moose Hill Team

Of the 24 sanctuary and program teams competing for the coveted Brewster Cup (most species recorded), Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary stole the gold with a blazing 229 species. Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary placed second with 226 species and walked away with the Forbush Cup.

A new award created this year—The County Cup—saw nine teams competing for the highest percentage of species recorded as compared to a previously set “birding par value” (a par value was created for every county in the Commonwealth). The County Cup was awarded to the Joppa Flats Education Center for finding 184 species in Essex County, a score that represented 88.7% of the birding par value set for the county.

Where The Birds Were

A list of the many fine birding areas that were covered during Bird-a-thon by the various teams statewide is too long to mention in total, but suffice to say that the roster includes National Wildlife Refuges, Department of Conservation & Recreation properties, Massachusetts State Parks and State Forests, Wildlife Management Areas, a National Seashore, a National Marine Sanctuary, numerous Massachusetts Land Trust properties, several private cemeteries, and of course many Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries.

Despite any dearth of migrants, dedicated observers managed to find a rich variety of unseasonal lingerers and locally uncommon species. Among the late-lingerers recorded were:

  • King Eider
  • Rough-legged Hawk
  • Iceland Gull
  • Glaucous Gull
  • Common Murre

Recorded species on the state list of Endangered or Threatened Species included:

  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • American Bittern
  • Least Bittern
  • Bald Eagle
  • Northern Harrier
  • King Rail
  • Common Gallinule
  • Piping Plover
  • Upland Sandpiper
  • Roseate Tern
  • Short-eared Owl
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Northern Parula
  • Vesper Sparrow
  • Grasshopper Sparrow

And bona fide rare or otherwise unusual recorded species were:

  • Pacific Loon
  • White-faced Ibis
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Stilt Sandpiper
  • Ruff
  • Black-headed Gull
  • Little Gull
  • Chuck-will’s-widow
  • Prothonotary Warbler
  • Kentucky Warbler
  • Blue Grosbeak

2018 Here We Come

May next year see a great warbler wave on Bird-a-thon weekend (scheduled for May 11-12, 2018), and may every team’s species total in 2018 soar like the money you helped us raise this season for nature conservation, education, and advocacy!

In Response to News About Paris Climate Accord

A message from Mass Audubon’s President, Gary Clayton. 

I am extremely disappointed at the news that President Trump is considering withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, which is a massive step backward from confronting the greatest environmental threat to the planet.

As the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, the U.S. should be setting an example for the world in combating increasing global temperatures and the devastating impacts it will cause such as catastrophic weather events, sea-level rise, and rampant disease.

Abandoning the Accord would put America alone with Syria and Nicaragua (the only countries not officially participating in the deal). More disturbing, it turns our back on 194 other nations that remain steadfast to ensuring the Earth’s health and geo-political stability.

Mass Audubon, founded more than 120 years ago by a pair of women who pledged to speak out on behalf of the environment and biodiversity, today honors their legacy in re-asserting our commitment to protect the nature of Massachusetts and America for people and wildlife.

President Trump’s disheartening action will only inspire us to re-double our efforts at the state and local levels of government to combat the ill-effects of climate change.

But we need your help.

Talk about climate change with your friends and family, get involved in your communities, protect open space, and stand with Mass Audubon to advocate on behalf of the environment.

UPDATE: On June 1,  2017 President Trump officially withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord.

How Farm Day Came To Be


On the third Saturday of October, more than 3,000 people visit Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary in Marshfield to attend Farm Day, a beloved South Shore fall festival. Guests of all ages enjoy hayrides, live music, games, farm animals, educational presentations, demonstrations of modern and colonial crafts, and much more on this stunning grassland property.

Farm Day is a wonderful way to enjoy a treasured outdoor space, and also a major fundraiser for Mass Audubon’s South Shore Sanctuaries. But many do not know that this event’s roots reach back to 1980 when the future of the land, then known as Dwyer Farm, was in jeopardy.

Save the Farm

Edward Dwyer decided to sell his dairy farm in the mid-1970s. With its extensive pastures bordered by woodlands, the parcel was considered the most ecologically significant piece of open land on the South Shore, and it carried a hefty price tag of $500,000. Purchase attempts were made by the Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife, and then the Marshfield Conservation Commission, but neither group was able to secure the necessary funding.

Meanwhile, town residents were becoming increasingly concerned about the Farm’s fate. The land had caught the attention of developers, and its neighbors hated the thought of this gorgeous property and its rich history being covered by houses. Marshfield’s Dorothea Reeves led the charge to form The Committee to Preserve the Dwyer Farm, a group of 12 citizens dedicated to raising community awareness about the Farm’s importance, and funding to support its purchase.


The original Save the Farm flag, which still hangs in the barn at Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary.

In 1980, the Committee held the first “Save Dwyer Farm Day,” a fundraising event in the adjacent cemetery featuring jitney rides, hot air balloons, and tours of the Farm. This income, in conjunction with individual donations from over 600 residents from a dozen South Shore towns, brought the total to $200,000.

Dorothea Reeves approached David Clapp, director of the newly opened South Shore Regional Office of Mass Audubon. Through lots of hard work and some strokes of good luck, The Committee and Mass Audubon succeeded in negotiating a purchase agreement, and Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary was established. This special place is enjoyed by people and wildlife year-round, and its environmental importance as both rare habitat and flood protection cannot be overstated.

Carrying on the Tradition

Farm Day continues as an annual celebration of this incredible community success story, as well as a fundraiser for the land’s stewardship. We hope you will check out the site to enjoy the trails and revisit its history, and of course, join us on October 15, 2016, for our 36th annual Farm Day.

– Emily Simmer, Office Manager, Mass Audubon’s South Shore Sanctuaries

Coming Soon to a Mailbox Near You…

Explore Member Newsletter - Fall 2016

Founded in 1896 by two extraordinary women, Mass Audubon has always been at the forefront of bird protection, land conservation, environmental education, and advocacy. Today, as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of establishing our first wildlife sanctuary, the impacts of our work are felt throughout the state, from the protection and management of more than 36,000 acres of land to the 225,000 kids and adults we get outdoors every year.

But we are not finished. We must continue to evolve as we have for the last 120 years. The aspects that make Massachusetts an exciting and dynamic place to live and work will continue to attract new people of all ages and backgrounds. For us, welcoming newcomers as well as longtime residents to Mass Audubon is both an opportunity and an imperative: the future of Massachusetts’ nature depends on our ability to enlist all residents in its protection.

To engage a broader constituency, we will reach out in ways that are relevant and compelling. Presently, we directly connect people with nature at our wildlife sanctuaries and by way of varied and extensive programs, forging bonds that instill a lifetime of environmental stewardship. But to inspire people to get involved, we must show, rather than simply tell, what we do.

This brings me to our member newsletter. You will notice several changes to this publication. The new name, Explore, invites physical discovery of nature. It also encourages exploration of the mind and continuous learning about our environment. The new design is intended to evoke strong connections to the inspirational landscapes, wildlife, and people that are central to our mission. And the content of our redesigned newsletter is more focused on you, our members and supporters, and how you can get involved.

I welcome you to dig into Explore! I look forward to engaging existing members and new constituents more meaningfully in our wonderful and critical work.


Gary Clayton

7 Ways to Zip to Mass Audubon Wildlife Sanctuaries

Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, Easthampton/Northampton © Phil Doyle

Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, Easthampton/Northampton © Phil Doyle

Have you heard? We’ve teamed up with Zipcar to make it easier to get to our wildlife sanctuaries! Here’s the deal: Now through the end of the year, Mass Audubon members can join Zipcar at half price, and Zipcar members can join Mass Audubon at a special rate, too!

The perks of this partnership don’t stop there: through August 15, take a Zipcar to our staffed wildlife sanctuaries and claim $10 in driving credit toward future adventures. And for Zipcar members who want to check out our wildlife sanctuaries before becoming members, here’s a free ticket to a staffed wildlife sanctuary of your choosing.

Now that we’ve got all of the explaining out of the way, here are 7 ways to make the most of your Ziptrip to our wildlife sanctuaries:

1. Pick a Destination

We have 56 wildlife sanctuaries just waiting to be explored! Whether you’re renting a Zipcar for the weekend or just an afternoon jaunt, we have a wildlife sanctuary close by.

2. Pack for a Hike

With more than 160 miles of trails to explore, you’ll definitely want to bring a pair of comfortable shoes. Also, some of our wildlife sanctuaries are located off the beaten path, so bring a snack!

3. Bring Binoculars

Hawks, foxes, turtles—there’s no telling what you might see! If you don’t have binoculars, simply enjoy New England wildlife from a distance. Give the wildlife sanctuary a call beforehand —many of them have loaners!

4. Visit the Nature Center

Many of our 20 nature centers have art galleries, interactive exhibits, and very helpful staff that can tell you the ins and outs of the wildlife sanctuary.

5. Reconnect with Nature

During the work week, it can be hard to find a moment’s peace! Take a moment during your visit to totally disconnect from everything and reconnect with nature: listen to the birds, take in the views, and breathe in the fresh air.

6. Soak (Almost Of) It All In

Summer in New England doesn’t mess around. Bring sunscreen and bug spray!

7. Show Us Your Adventure

Tag your location and use #massaudubon so we can see how your day of exploration went!

The Most Notable 2016 Bird-a-thon Sightings

More than 700 birders on 24 teams participated in Bird-a-thon 2016 this May, recording a total of 270 species of birds. That’s only 1 species away from the Bird-a-thon all-time best total of 271 species in 2009!

Highlighted below are some notable sightings as determined by Wayne Petersen, Director, Important Bird Area Program. (See the master list of species recorded.)

The birding may be over, but you can still support Bird-a-thon by making a donation to your favorite team or participant. Bird-a-thon is Mass Audubon’s largest fundraiser, providing important support to wildlife sanctuaries and programs across the state. See Bird-a-thon 2016 results and award winners

If You Give a School a CSA

Guest post by Emma Scudder, Drumlin Farm’s Food and Farm Educator

At Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, the mornings are bustling with activity. Starting at 6 am, the crops team is hard at work, harvesting produce to share with our customers. For years, this harvest has been distributed to individuals through farmer’s markets, a farmstand, a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and wholesale deliveries to more than 30 Boston-area restaurants. But this spring marked an exciting new addition to our distribution list: school cafeterias.


A Fresher Salad Bar

In May, Drumlin Farm and Somerville Public Schools began a pilot farm-to-school CSA. Each week, the farmers deliver a mystery box of fresh produce to Somerville schools, meeting the students and staff in the process (after the first delivery, the farmers came back to the farm feeling like celebrities due to the warm welcome they received!).

This seasonal variety is incorporated into the salad bars in 10 schools across the city, serving students from Kindergarten through 12th grade. So far, the schools have received spinach, arugula, radishes, spring turnips, and lettuce.

Getting to Know Your Food

This pilot is an excellent extension of Drumlin Farm’s Know Your Food programs, year-round experiences for people of all ages to learn about, prepare, and appreciate seasonal, local produce on the farm.

With locally-sourced fresh vegetables in Somerville’s cafeterias, Know Your Food lives up to its name. Students will know where their food came from (a farm 15 miles away), when it was harvested (that morning!), and the farmer who grew it.


See You in Somerville

This latest collaboration with the Somerville Public Schools furthers our connection to the city. Drumlin Farm is in Somerville every Saturday selling produce at the Union Square Farmers Market, and twice a week we deliver to restaurants around the city. So even when the kids are not in school, they can still enjoy what’s growing at Drumlin Farm.


Teamwork in Action

Special thanks to Karyn Novakowsi at Somerville Farm to School Project, Simca Horowitz at the Massachusetts Farm to School Project, Drumlin Farm’s Matt Celona (Crops Manager), Jessica Wiley (Restaurant Coordinator), Sarah Lang (Assistant Farmer), and the whole crops team for making this partnership happen!

Good and Bad News on the Pipeline Front

This week one of the major proposed natural gas pipelines in Massachusetts suspended its work. Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct (NED) pipeline is halting development as it has been unable to find enough major customers to merit moving forward with the project. Fierce opposition by Mass Audubon, community activists, and politicians compounded their challenges.

While this is great news, there is more work to be done defending open space and important conservation land from other pipelines. Several other projects are still in the works including the Kinder Morgan Tennessee Gas Pipeline Connecticut Expansion and Spectra Energy’s Access Northeast project.

The decision by Kinder Morgan to halt NED may actually help these other pipeline projects that we actively oppose. As the Boston Globe reports:

“…the decision could provide a big boost to the other large pipeline construction project proposed for New England, Spectra Energy Partners’ Access Northeast, which has the financial backing of utilities Eversource Energy and National Grid.”

Learn more about our advocacy against new pipelines, along with our position statement on the major proposed projects.