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.
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, 2017, 2016, and 2015.
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.
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)
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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com to be considered for In Your Words in a future issue!