Author Archives: Ryan D.

About Ryan D.

Where: Mass Audubon Headquarters, Lincoln | Who: A Vermont expat with maple sap in her veins | Favorite part of the job: Exploring sanctuaries with camera in hand.

Starry sky behind an illuminated lighthouse

Take 5: Seeing Stars

Summer is such a fantastic time of year for stargazing. True, you’ll have to stay up later for it to get dark, but at least you can comfortably enjoy the majesty of the night sky without a wool hat, gloves, heavy boots, parka, and half a dozen base layers.

Typically the most-viewed shower of the year, the Perseid meteor shower falls on August 13 (Tuesday). Although the Perseids can spit out 100 meteors per hour at their peak, the moon will be nearly full around the same time, so it may drown out many of the fainter meteors. Still, if the skies are clear tonight and tomorrow, you should be able to see a few “shooting stars”, especially after the moon sets in the early morning hours.

Enjoy these five great astronomy photos from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest, see if there’s an upcoming astronomy program near you, and submit your own amazing astrophotography to the 2019 photo contest!

Starry sky behind an illuminated lighthouse
Night sky and lighthouse © Jason Taylor
Night sky over a beach
Night sky © Bill La Pine
Starry sky over an old jetty on the beach
Night sky © Evan Guarino
A jeep parked on a dirt road by a meadow with a star-filled sky above
Night sky © Bob Levesque
Stars and moon over the beach
Night sky © Ralph Freidin
Hooded Mergansers (male) © Nathan Goshgarian

Take 5: Hooded Mergansers

Thinking about taking a radical step with your next hairstyle? You could take a cue from the Hooded Merganser, a common but striking duck with an over-the-top (pun intended), fan-shaped, collapsible crest atop their heads. Adult males have bold black-and-white crests while females sport a cinnamon-colored version of the ‘do. Either coloring would certainly set you apart in a crowd!

Awkward on land but graceful in the water, Hooded Mergansers are diving ducks, preferring small ponds, rivers, and wetlands where they can dive for fish, amphibians, mollusks, and crayfish. They use their eyesight to hunt below the water surface and even have an extra set of transparent eyelids that act as a natural pair of “swim goggles” to protect their eyes.

Here are five fantastic photos of Hooded Mergansers from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. The entries for the 2019 photo contest are rolling in, so submit yours for consideration soon!

Hooded Mergansers (male) © Nathan Goshgarian
Hooded Mergansers (male) © Nathan Goshgarian
Hooded Merganser (male) © Rob Griffith
Hooded Merganser (male) © Rob Griffith
Hooded Merganser (female) © Michael Rossacci
Hooded Merganser (female) © Michael Rossacci
Hooded Merganser (male) © Sandy Murphy
Hooded Merganser (male) © Sandy Murphy
Hooded Merganser (male) © Kim Nagy
Hooded Merganser (male) © Kim Nagy
© Lucy Allen

Take 5: Simply Sunbeams

Incredible wildlife shots and curiously textured mushrooms certainly make for amazing images, but sometimes great nature photography is as simple as capturing an interesting bend of the light.

This week, we are featuring photographs from our Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest that highlight the beauty of “crepuscular rays”, commonly known as sunbeams. This optical phenomenon occurs when sunlight shines through openings in the clouds or forest canopy, creating columns of brightly lit air molecules or particulates. Interestingly, these rays are actually parallel to one another but can appear to radiate outward from the sun’s location in the sky because of linear perspective—the same visual illusion that makes railroad tracks appear to converge in the distance.

Enjoy these five beautiful images and be sure to submit your own gorgeous landscape photography to the photo contest!

© Robin Palazzolo
© Robin Palazzolo
© Lucy Allen
© Lucy Allen
© Kay Ficht
© Kay Ficht
© Chad Parmet
© Chad Parmet
© Rod Parker
© Rod Parker
Virginia Creeper Sphinx Moth © Andrea White

Take 5: National Moth Week

Moths are one of the most diverse groups of organisms on the planet with scientists estimating there are at least 150,000 species worldwide, a testament to their adaptability, diversity, and success as a group. Their size, coloring, and shapes vary widely, from large, graceful Luna Moths to the sherbet-colored Rosy Maple Moths to the drab but perfectly camouflaged leaf-lookalike Walnut Sphinx Moth.

National Moth Week is celebrated the last full week of July and everyone is invited to observe, enjoy, and even document some of these amazing creatures. Most (but not all) moths are nocturnal, so attracting them can be as simple as leaving an outdoor light on and waiting for your winged guests to arrive.

Enjoy these five photos of moths in honor of National Moth Week and submit your own moth photos to the Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest!

Waved Sphinx Moth © Gary Wise
Waved Sphinx Moth © Gary Wise
Cecropia Moth © Suzette Johnson
Cecropia Moth © Suzette Johnson
Hummingbird Clearwing Moth © Susumu Kishihara
Hummingbird Clearwing Moth © Susumu Kishihara
Luna Moth © Jane Morrisson
Luna Moth © Jane Morrisson
Virginia Creeper Sphinx Moth © Andrea White
Virginia Creeper Sphinx Moth © Andrea White
Indigo Bunting © Amy Powers-Smith

Take 5: Indigo Buntings

Take a walk through a weedy meadow or shrub-filled forest edge and there’s a chance you might spot a flash of brilliant jewel blue singing boisterously from a treetop or telephone wire.

Not only are male Indigo Buntings gorgeous in their azure plumage, but they are also prolific singers and may whistle their high-pitched songs from dawn until dusk. Individual notes are often clustered in pairs and pairs often come in threes (“what what, where where, here here?“) but songs can vary widely from one individual to the next—young males learn their songs not from their fathers but from their nest neighbors, creating distinct “song neighborhoods”.

Fascinatingly, Indigo Bunting feathers contain no blue pigment. Like all blue birds, their coloring comes from the microscopic structure of the feathers that refracts and reflects blue light and absorbs other colors. Females are plain brown but may occasionally have a slight hint of blue on their wings, while immature and molting males have splotchy blue and brown patches.

Here are five photos of male Indigo Buntings from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. The 2019 contest is open, so submit your nature photography today!

Indigo Bunting © Yunzhong He
Indigo Bunting © Yunzhong He
Indigo Bunting © Davey Walters
Indigo Bunting © Davey Walters
Indigo Bunting © Amy Powers-Smith
Indigo Bunting © Amy Powers-Smith
Indigo Bunting © Amy Severino
Indigo Bunting © Amy Severino
Indigo Bunting © Jaymie Reidy
Indigo Bunting © Jaymie Reidy
An osprey perched on a power line with an American flag flying in the background

Take 5: America the Beautiful

What is it that makes America so beautiful? Our breathtaking lands and wildlife, of course!

To celebrate our nation’s 243rd birthday this week, here are five photos from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest, each of which includes an appearance by the American flag as well as some wildlife and scenic habitats from the lands we hold so dear.

Learn more about our work to conserve our most precious land here in Massachusetts and submit your own photos to the photo contest today!

A wild turkey walks through a field of grass filled with small American flags
Wild Turkey © Marie Riva
The American flag flies in the foreground over a tidal flat with kayakers in the mid-ground and the ocean in the background.
© Greg Stokinger
A Red-tailed hawk perches on a rock in the garden of a home with an American flag in the foreground and patriotic bunting behind it.
Red-tailed Hawk © Gail Sartori
The American flag flies over a green tractor in a field of sunflowers
© Jen Shepherd
An osprey perched on a power line with an American flag flying in the background
Osprey © Steve DiGiandomenico
Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly © Christine St. Andre

Take 5: Beloved Butterflies

What creature so embodies the bright, warm, joyous season of summer quite like the butterfly? Although we typically picture butterflies flitting about in colorful fields of wildflowers—and rightly so!—these fascinating insects live in a broad spectrum of habitats including forests, heathlands, bogs, swamps, even salt marshes—anywhere, in fact, where their caterpillar food plants and sources of nectars for adults are found.

June is National Pollinators Month! Habitat loss, pesticide use, and other factors threaten many of the butterfly species we love and cherish, along with many of our other native pollinators. Learn about creating a pollinator garden and other ways you can help pollinators, including butterflies, on our website.

To honor some of nature’s most colorful and celebrated pollinators, here is a collection of gorgeous butterfly photographs from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. The 2019 photo contest is now open, so submit your nature photos today!

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly © Christine St. Andre
Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly © Christine St. Andre
Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly © Jessie Fries
Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly © Jessie Fries
Eastern Comma Butterfly © Lena Mirisola
Eastern Comma Butterfly © Lena Mirisola
Black Swallowtail Butterfly © Mike Lowery
Black Swallowtail Butterfly © Mike Lowery
Painted Lady Butterfly © Sophia Sobel
Painted Lady Butterfly © Sophia Sobel
Flavio Sutti holding binoculars at Arches National Park in Utah

In Your Words: Flavio Sutti

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 his or her 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 explore@massaudubon.org to be considered for In Your Words in a future issue! 


Flavio Sutti holding binoculars at Arches National Park in Utah
Flavio Sutti at Arches National Park in Utah

Growing up in the Italian Alps, I spent most of my time on my grandparents’ farm. The animals and the surrounding forests and fields provided a magical and safe place to explore nature, learn how to care for animals and crops, and understand the intricate connection between humans and the landscape they inhabit.

As an adult, most of my life experiences have had animals as a key component. In Italy, I had many jobs: working in a natural history museum, as a wildlife biologist conducting environmental impact statements, as a researcher with universities, and as a wildlife rehabilitator, where I came to know the stories of individual animals and greater realize the importance of educating people.

My first introduction to the U.S. began in 2003 when I spent several semesters interning at the Glen Helen Nature Preserve and Raptor Rehabilitation Center, part of Antioch College in Ohio. I met and married my wife in the pine forest in Glen Helen. Our ring bearer was an imprinted Barred Owl (a bird that had become habituated to humans such that it couldn’t survive in the wild) I’d trained at the raptor center, who was carried down the aisle on my mentor’s arm.

Flavio (right) on his wedding day with his mentor, Bet Ross, and his ring bearer owl, Grinnell
Flavio (right) on his wedding day with his mentor, Bet Ross, and his ring bearer owl, Grinnell

In 2006, settled in a new state, my first official job was as a teacher naturalist at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln. When I think back, what drew me to Drumlin Farm must have been the familiar combination of farm and wildlife, both of which so strongly impacted me as a child. I was, and continue to be, impressed with the ways in which Mass Audubon’s mission is so in line with my values. Those same values brought me back to Drumlin Farm in 2013 to run the Wildlife Care Center after earning my master’s and doctoral degrees in Wildlife Biology at the University of Vermont.

My work at Drumlin Farm feels more important every day as I see my own daughter grow up and connect with the animals and nature. Now that we’re embarking on a renovation of the Wildlife Care Center, I’m looking forward to using my experiences to make Drumlin an even better place for animals and education. I believe that we can profoundly help wildlife by inspiring people to take better care of the natural world.

Flavio holding a millipede and showing it to children as part of a school program in Lowell.
Flavio leading a school program in Lowell

Flavio Sutti is the Wildlife Program Coordinator at Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary.

Wild Turkey poults perched on a deck chair © Barbara Berresford

Take 5: Poult Following

Wild Turkey poults have hatched and can be found foraging for nutritious insects in fields with their mother hen. By the time they are three weeks old, turkey poults can fly into a nearby tree or shrub at a command from the hen at the first sign of potential danger. As they grow into adulthood, their diet will shift from mainly insects to mainly plant materials like nuts, berries, and seeds.

Here are five adorable photos of turkey poults in all their fluffy, awkward cuteness. Learn more about what’s happening in nature right now with our Outdoor Almanac and submit your fantastic nature photography today to the 2019 Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest.

Wild Turkey Poult © Ronald Grant
Wild Turkey Poult © Ronald Grant
Wild Turkey poults perched on a deck chair © Barbara Berresford
Wild Turkey Poults © Barbara Berresford
Wild Turkey Poults with Hen © Elizabeth Fabiano
Wild Turkey Poults with Hen © Elizabeth Fabiano
Wild Turkey Poult © Cheryle Yankun
Wild Turkey Poult © Cheryle Yankun
Wild Turkey Poults © Judith Montminy
Wild Turkey Poults © Judith Montminy
Clouds © Wendy Wolfberg

Take 5: Cloud Nine

For something that we don’t tend to give much thought, clouds are pretty amazing. Made up of tiny water droplets or ice crystals suspended in the air, clouds are categorized and named based on their shape and how high they are in the atmosphere. They can be important indicators of shifts in the weather, help protect us from the sun’s intense rays, and are a great source of entertainment—after all, what’s more relaxing on a warm, sunny day than lying in the grass, gazing at cloud formations and trying to spot familiar shapes in their seemingly random formations?

Here are five fantastic photos of clouds from our Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest, which is now open for submissions for 2019. Submit your weather photography or other nature shots now!

Clouds © Karen Gardner
Clouds © Karen Gardner
Clouds © Wendy Wolfberg
Clouds © Wendy Wolfberg
Clouds © Nick SJ
Clouds © Nick SJ
Clouds © Megan O'Leary
Clouds © Megan O’Leary
Clouds © Joanne McKinnon
Clouds © Joanne McKinnon