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.

Eastern Screech-Owl © Amy Powers-Smith

Take 5: Owl Things Considered

It may still be cold and wintery outside, but things are heating up for our breeding owl species. Late winter is the height of the courtship and mating season for most owl species so there’s a good chance you may hear a “hoo’s hoo” of mating calls (although not all owls make “hoo” sounds!) on your next stroll through the forest. Great Horned Owls, for example, are one of our earliest breeders and begin hooting to attract mates as early as December.

Many owls roost in tree cavities during the day and those that do will also lay their eggs in tree cavities, although a roosting cavity is not necessarily also a nesting cavity. Lots of nature photographers love to capitalize on this fact to capture some wonderful photos of “owl peek-a-boo”. Here are five great shots of owls in tree cavities that were entered into our annual photo contest. For your own chance to glimpse one of these gorgeous raptors, join one of the dozens of Owl Prowls happening at our sanctuaries this time of year.

Eastern Screech-Owls © Peter Bartholomew
Eastern Screech-Owls © Peter Bartholomew
Eastern Screech-Owl © Richard Cuzner
Eastern Screech-Owl © Richard Cuzner
Barred Owls © Fred Harwood
Barred Owls © Fred Harwood
Eastern Screech-Owl © Amy Powers-Smith
Eastern Screech-Owl © Amy Powers-Smith
Eastern Screech-Owl © Jeff Martineau
Eastern Screech-Owl © Jeff Martineau
Northern Cardinals © Jason Goldstein

My Funny {Nature} Valentines 2019

Happy Valentine’s Day from Mass Audubon! Send your nature-loving sweetheart one of these special valentines to show them how much you care about them and about protecting nature and wildlife —or better yet, consider making a donation in honor of your someone special.

For this year’s valentines, we mixed things up with a few silly and corny ones as well as a few sweet and heartfelt sentiments. To see even more options, check out our nature valentines from 2018, 20172016, and 2015.

Hey Valentine, How About A Little Peck?
Valentine, You're Otterly Adorable
Valentine, You're Such a Stud Puffin
Valentine, I Love the Life We've Built Together
Valentine, You're An Amazing Parent to Our Little Ducklings
Great Horned Owl

What To Do This Weekend: February 9–10

It’s all about owls at our wildlife sanctuaries this weekend, with lots of owl prowls, owl encounters, and even an Owl Festival, but if owls aren’t your “thing”, you can also find a wine tasting, animal tracking programs for all ages, shinrin yoku “forest breathing”, and more at a sanctuary near you.

Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owl

Berkshires

Search for tracks, scat, and other signs of animals that stay active through the winter during a free Winter Wildlife Tracking program at beautiful Notchview preserve in Windsor. Begin with a discussion indoors then head outside to learn about how animals move and behave through the tracks they leave behind. (families, registration required)

More in the Berkshires

Cape & Islands

Explore the beaches, dunes, and waters of the Outer Cape in search of winter birds including snow buntings, horned larks, sea ducks, loons, and snowy owls during a Birding the Winter Beach program sponsored by Wellfleet Bay in Wellfleet. (adults, registration required)

Gather as a community at the Rosewater Cafe for coffee and conversations about food justice and other local environmental issues during another Climate Cafe hosted by Felix Neck in Vineyard Haven.

More on the Cape & Islands

Central Massachusetts

Learn to connect with the natural world in a healing, calming, grounding, and replenishing way during a Shinrin-Yoku/Forest Breathing Guided Sanctuary Walk at Broad Meadow Brook in Worcester. (all ages, registration required)

Beginner Wildlife Tracking for Adults at Wachusett Meadow in Princeton starts indoors with a one-hour introduction to tracking techniques followed by an outdoor hike to practice putting your new skills to use. (adults, registration required)

More in Central Massachusetts

North Shore

Celebrate the seasonal return of bald eagles to the region with the annual Merrimack Valley Eagle Festival at Joppa Flats Education Center. Visit eagle hot spots on your own or with an expert guide, then head indoors for nature activities and an up-close view of rehabilitated hawks and owls. (all ages)

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and love is in the air at Wine & Lovebirds: A Valentine’s Social at Ipswich River in Topsfield. Enjoy a wine tasting from Mill River Winery of Rowley along with sweet treats and appetizers while taking a lighthearted peek into the beautiful and bizarre truth behind bird courtship and mating. (adults 21+, registration required)

More on the North Shore

Greater Boston

Explore the wonders of owls with an owl prowl for adults, a full moon owl prowl for families, or an up-close and personal owl encounter at Broadmoor in Natick at this weekend’s two-day Owl Festival. (audience age varies by program, registration required)

At Boston Nature Center in Mattapan, learn how you can enjoy honey, beeswax, pollen, and the miracle of bees right in your backyard during the Boston Area Beekeepers Association’s Introduction to Beekeeping program. (adults, registration required)

Join a Family Animal Tracking Adventure at Blue Hills Trailside Museum in Milton to become a “Nature Detective” and learn about “stories in the snow” and many other signs that wildlife leave behind as clues to how and where they travel to find food, water, and shelter. (families, registration required)

Take a Sunday Saunter with an expert naturalist through Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in Sharon to look for winter birds and other natural curiosities, then warm up with hot cocoa and coffee back at the nature center. (adults)

More in Greater Boston

South of Boston

During Desserts and Destinations: Trinidad at North River in Marshfield, discover the fascinating bird life and other natural wonders of Trinidad over dessert and learn about the fascinating history of the island’s Asa Wright Nature Centre. (adults, registration required)

Explore Oak Knoll after dark on a Family Owl Prowl at the sanctuary in Attleboro. Start off indoors with an interactive presentation, then head outside for a night hike to listen for evidence of our feathery friends.

More in South of Boston

Indigo Bunting © Amy Powers-Smith

Take 5: 2018 Photo Contest Honorable Mentions

This year, more than 4,000 images were submitted in the Mass Audubon Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest—another record year! It wasn’t easy to determine the winners with so many incredible entries, but thankfully we always allow for a handful of Honorable Mentions outside of the main categories so we can highlight some of our favorites that just barely missed the cut.

Here are five Honorable Mentions that we loved from the 2018 photo contest. See all of the winners and runners-up on our website and get some tips for capturing a winning photo for next year’s contest.

Indigo Bunting © Amy Powers-Smith
Indigo Bunting © Amy Powers-Smith
Lighthouse © Jason Taylor
Lighthouse © Jason Taylor
Orange Bluet Damselfly © Sherri Vanden Akker
Orange Bluet Damselfly © Sherri Vanden Akker
Red Eft © Anna Mitchell
Red Eft © Anna Mitchell
© Melissa Knowles
© Melissa Knowles
Eastern Bluebird © Cheryl Rose

Take 5: Winter Songbirds

Whether you’re briskly pacing across Boston Common or gazing out your kitchen window into a snow-covered suburban backyard, birds can be seen all winter long. The birds featured below are some of the most commonly seen species in winter all across Massachusetts, and many of them will readily come to bird feeders.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but many urban and suburban avian visitors in the winter months will belong to one of the species below. See a longer list of cold-weather Massachusetts birds on our website and enjoy these five beautiful photographs from our photo contest archives.

American Goldfinch © Alex Renda
American Goldfinch © Alex Renda
Cedar Waxwing © Bernard Creswick
Cedar Waxwing © Bernard Creswick
White-breasted Nuthatch © Jonathan Eckerson
White-breasted Nuthatch © Jonathan Eckerson
Tufted Titmouse © Kim Nagy
Tufted Titmouse © Kim Nagy
Eastern Bluebird © Cheryl Rose
Eastern Bluebird © Cheryl Rose
Snowy Park Bench © Priya Ramachanriya Surendranath

Take 5: Falling Snow

There’s something a bit magical about falling snow. Sounds become muted and soft, many winter birds and other wildlife seek shelter to conserve energy, and a gentle hush falls over the natural world.

Here are five photos that capture the soft quietude of a winter snowfall, taken from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. Visit our website to see the recently announced winners of the 2018 contest. We’ll be announcing the dates and locations for the traveling exhibit for the 2018 winners soon, so keep an eye on the blog for details.

Red-tailed Hawk © Christopher Ciccone
Red-tailed Hawk © Christopher Ciccone
Snowy Landscape © Karen Karlberg
Snowy Landscape © Karen Karlberg
Northern Cardinal © Nathan Butler
Northern Cardinal © Nathan Butler
Snowy Park Bench © Priya Ramachanriya Surendranath
Snowy Park Bench © Priya Ramachanriya Surendranath
White Pine cone © Claudia Carpinone
White Pine cone © Claudia Carpinone
Harlequin Duck © Carol Duffy

Take 5: Winter Ducks

Winter is a wonderful time to see some colorful characters around your neighborhood—namely wintering waterfowl. In late fall and winter, the majority of waterfowl species return to wearing their bright and more colorful breeding plumages and with more than 25 species of ducks, geese, and swans that regularly spend the winter in Massachusetts, you’ll have lots to add to your birding list.

Here are five species of ducks you may spot hanging around lakes, ponds, rivers, and ocean-side viewpoints, depending on their preferred habitat. Learn more about wintering waterfowl in the winter issue of Explore member magazine and find an expert naturalist-led winter birding trip hosted by a wildlife sanctuary near you.

All of these photos were submitted to our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. Check out the recently-announced winners of the 2018 contest today!

Harlequin Duck © Carol Duffy
Harlequin Duck © Carol Duffy
Red-breasted Merganser © David Peller
Red-breasted Merganser © David Peller
Ring-necked Duck © Lea Fiega
Ring-necked Duck © Lea Fiega
Common Eider © David Sheehy
Common Eider © David Sheehy
Northern Pintail © Roger Debenham
Northern Pintail © Roger Debenham
Other Wildlife Under 18 Winner © Francis Morello

Take 5: 2018 Photo Contest Winners (Under 18)

There are a lot of talented young people taking beautiful nature photographs and we were lucky enough to have many of them submit their work to the 2018 Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest.

We highlighted the 18 and Over photo contest winners a couple weeks ago, so now let’s appreciate some of the winners of the Under 18 categories. You can browse through all the winners from this year and past years on our website.

Other Wildlife Under 18 Winner © Francis Morello
Other Wildlife Under 18 Winner © Francis Morello
Mammals Under 18 Winner © Jordan Kanes
Mammals Under 18 Winner © Jordan Kanes
Plants & Fungi Under 18 Winner © Sean Henderson
Plants & Fungi Under 18 Winner © Sean Henderson
People in Nature Under 18 Winner © Nicole Nelson
People in Nature Under 18 Winner © Nicole Nelson
Birds Under 18 Winner © Davey Walters
Birds Under 18 Winner © Davey Walters

In Your Words: Camper Mia Papazian

Fourteen-year-old Mia Papazian loves hip-hop, dance, Spanish class, ice hockey, and camp. She has attended Boston Nature Center (BNC) Summer Camp in Mattapan since she was five. Here, this nature hero tells us what keeps her coming back every summer.


Mia Papazian
Mia Papazian

I have always been “into” nature, even though my family never camped before. I like the smell of the breeze and the fresh air, looking at plants and animals and bugs… there’s nothing I don’t like about being outdoors.

That’s why I started coming to camp at BNC. There are so many parts of camp I love, it’s hard to pick a favorite! Some of my best memories are the sleepovers—staying overnight at camp with my friends, sleeping in tents, learning how to build a fire, and making s’mores.

I really enjoy the nature walks. Before I came to camp, I used to be afraid of bugs. But during these walks we learned a lot about plants and insects. Now, I would never kill a bug, and if I see one inside, I bring it outside.

Mia (third kayak from right) paddling while volunteering at Wildwood, Mass Audubon’s overnight camp.

The counselors are also amazing. They’re really nice and I feel like I can trust them because I’ve known most of them for years, including Rebecca, Kim, and Zimmie. To me, a “nature hero” is somebody that’s passionate about nature and excited to learn, and that’s what the camp counselors are like.

This past summer was my first year as an LIT (Leader-in- Training), and it was so fun. I loved working with the Owls (the youngest camper group). They’re really cute. I got to read stories to them and take them on nature walks. I hope that they had fun, too, and learned to love and respect nature, each other, and the counselors, like I do.


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! 

Birds 18 and Over Winner © Kim Caruso

Take 5: 2018 Photo Contest Winners (18 and Over)

The votes are in and the judges have made their picks—the 2018 Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest winners are in!

The entries this year were beyond impressive, especially in the oft-overlooked People in Nature category. Your birds, mammals, insects, landscapes, and portraits really wowed us.

See five of the 18 and Over winners from this year’s contest below and browse through all the winners from this year and past years on our website.

Grand Prize/Landscapes 18 and Over Winner © Evan Guarino
Grand Prize/Landscapes 18 and Over Winner © Evan Guarino
Mammals 18 and Over Winner © Victor Zigmont
Mammals 18 and Over Winner © Victor Zigmont
Birds 18 and Over Winner © Kim Caruso
Birds 18 and Over Winner © Kim Caruso
People in Nature 18 and Over Winner © Diana Chaplin
People in Nature 18 and Over Winner © Diana Chaplin
Plants 18 and Over Winner © Matt Cembrola
Plants 18 and Over Winner © Matt Cembrola