Author Archives: Mass Audubon

Help With A Breeding Songbird Forest Survey  

Mass Audubon is looking to get a better understanding about the health of our forests by determining the state of breeding songbird populations at several of our wildlife sanctuaries including Graves Farm (Williamsburg), Pleasant Valley (Lenox), and Wachusett Meadow (Princeton).

Scarlet Tanager

For this pilot study, we’re looking to: 

  • assess a new approach to breeding bird surveys using smartphone technology
  • broaden the accessibility of birding through smartphone apps
  • understand the relationship between birds and other elements of forest biodiversity

Who Can Participate 

Anyone from “advanced” beginners to experts are welcome to participate. You need to be comfortable traveling off-trail on uneven terrain and must be adept with current technology for navigation and data collection purposes. All participants need a smartphone with the free Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Merlin ID app, eBird, and ArcGIS Field Map downloaded. Advanced birders can help us evaluate the accuracy of the Merlin ID app, while beginners have an opportunity to train their birding skills and contribute to conservation science at the same time.

What Volunteers Will Do 

During the month of June, volunteers will bushwhack off-trail to forest sampling locations for about 2-3 miles in total in pairs once per week to listen for birds for 10 minutes. When at the sampling location, volunteers will use the Merlin app to identify and record species’ sounds.

Once all surveys have been completed, each species recording will be checked against pre-recordings of its known calls to double check results. After the check is completed, the findings will be recorded in the eBird app.  

How to Sign Up 

If you’re interested in volunteering, you will be required to attend a training session (May 31, 8:30-11:30 am, for Graves Farm; tbd for Pleasant Valley and Wachusett Meadow). To sign up, please email [email protected]

Ditch the Lawnmower This Spring

Studies show that letting grass grow longer increases the abundance and diversity of native insects, so a change in how we approach mowing helps our native bees, butterflies, and other pollinators get a good start to the season.

Fostering early growth allows flowers to fully bloom, letting native plants like heal-all and white yarrow, and even non-natives like dandelions and common daisies become food sources for these beneficial species. An early boost helps pollinators be successful through their most active time of the year.  

high grass with small butterfly

No Mow May

The “No Mow May” movement began in the United Kingdom by Plantlife, an organization aimed at making a positive change for wildflowers, plants, and fungi. This initiative has since spread around the world, including to North America. Pollinators across the US face habitat loss, due in part to over-mowing and non-native planting. By letting native plants grow, we can play a vital role in building up the resiliency of native species.

Mowing less is a key approach for the Mass Audubon program we’re calling ’Nature by the Yard’.

For the month of May (or beyond) refrain from mowing, and let your lawn evolve into a pollinator friendly habitat. Can’t commit to the full yard? Choose a smaller section to start!

Not only does mowing less benefit our pollinators, but it also limits the use of gas-powered mowers, cuts down on the time used to maintain your lawn, and reduces water use by encouraging hardier species with deeper root systems to grow.

Other Ways to Help the Pollinators

When you give your lawn a break this spring, enjoy watching the pollinators make their way to your yard to visit the colorful blooms. You can also take action by reducing chemical use, limiting artificial lighting, reducing exotics and invasive species, leaving the leaves in the fall, and encouraging your neighbors to do the same.

Seemingly small changes add up to make a big impact. Read more about how to help our native pollinators, including a list of native and beneficial plants and pollinators you might find in your backyard.