Author Archives: Ryan D.

About Ryan D.

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

© Alyssa Waterman

What To Do This Weekend: July 21-22

Go for a leisurely canoe, enjoy a live outdoor concert, join a family fun day at the beach, practice yoga, paint wildflowers in watercolor, and more at a wildlife sanctuary this weekend.

© Alyssa Waterman

© Alyssa Waterman

Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard

Explore Sampsons Island by Kayak to paddle past protected nesting habitat for least terns, piping plovers, and common terns. You’ll learn about Mass Audubon’s Coastal Water Bird program’s work to protect these important habitats. (adults, registration required)

With their striking, long, curved beaks, whimbrels are always an exciting shorebird to observe. Join a naturalist for an afternoon stroll by the bay in search of Whimbrels at Wellfleet Bay along with other wildlife. (adults, registration required)

More in Cape Cod and the Islands

South of Boston

Practice Yoga at Allens Pond in South Dartmouth with nothing but the sounds of birds and nature serving as the backdrop to your practice. (adults, registration required)

Construct some simple homemade bathyscopes (a viewfinder for underwater exploration) and ply the shallows in search of intertidal life with North River Wildlife Sanctuary staff at the 2018 Family Fun Day at Duxbury Beach.

More South of Boston

Greater Boston

Join us for a leisurely Summer Morning Canoe on the Charles at Broadmoor in Natick. Listen to bird songs and watch for Great Blue Herons, turtles, and dragonflies as you paddle during the quiet hours. (adults, registration required)

Start your Saturday morning off right with a fun and knowledgeable Stony Brook teacher on the trails learning about nature with their Tiny Trekkers program.

Bring a picnic dinner, blankets, and chairs to Drumlin Farm on Friday night for part two of their Summer Music Series. Enjoy farm-fresh snacks, sweets, and non-alcoholic beverages as you listen to the dulcet tones of local band Lula Wiles. (all ages, purchase tickets in advance online or at the ticket window the day of)

For younger children (ages 0-3), Boston Nature Center has a morning Nature Story Hour that includes a short walk around the trails to learn about the resident animals and plants that call the BNC home. Older kids (ages 4-18) can stretch their legs and their minds on an afternoon Nature Walk through the forests, meadows, and seasonal wetlands.

More in Greater Boston

North Shore

Meet Beach Creatures at Joppa Flats’s 110-gallon tide pool touch tank. Drop in before the beach, after the beach, or instead of the beach! (families)

Discover summertime wildflowers as you walk through their natural habitats, then return to Joppa Flats to sketch what you found, then paint them with watercolors, all part of the Wildflowers & Watercolors program. (adults, registration required)

More on the North Shore

Central Massachusetts

If you are between the ages of three and five, bring your favorite adult to Broad Meadow Brook’s Preschool Story Hour, including a reading of Denise Fleming’s Beetle Bop, an activity, and a naturalist-led walk. (families, children ages 3-5, registration required)

More in Central Massachusetts

Connecticut River Valley

Explore Laughing Brook Wildlife Sanctuary to see and hear some of the many Insects of the Field and Forest that live there. Watch as a bee pollinates a flower, see how many different types of butterflies you can count, and learn what lives within all that white spittle on the field plants. (families, children ages 5-12, registration required)

More in the Connecticut River Valley

Berkshires

Explore the lower trails at Pleasant Valley with an experienced guide on a Wildlife Ramble. Search for evidence of (and hopefully see!) wild birds and mammals as you hike along the rich pond and stream ecosystems that form the heart of the sanctuary. (all ages, registration required)

More in the Berkshires

Female Northern Flicker © Gates Dupont

Take 5: Northern Flickers

Spotting a Northern Flicker can be truly spectacular. Vocal and conspicuous, flickers may be the most obvious woodpecker in the state of Massachusetts. They don’t visit bird feeders as frequently as their ubiquitous cousins, Downy Woodpeckers, but you may spot one in your backyard or at your birdbath, especially if your yard abuts a wooded area with a mix of trees and open ground. Unlike other woodpeckers, they often feed on the ground, even mixing together with flocks of ground-feeding songbirds, such as robins. Wherever you see one, this handsome bird certainly has unique plumage.

Their tan-brown bodies are patterned with black scalloping or spots, appearing almost polka dotted from a distance. In the East, the undersides of their wing and tail feathers are bright yellow (their Western counterparts have red flight feathers but you won’t see them around here). If you startle one from the ground, you may see a flash of white on its rump. They have a black bib across their breasts, a grey cap with a red nape, and the males sport black “mustache” markings beside their beaks.

These five photos of Northern Flickers were all submitted to our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. The 2018 contest is open now, so submit your spectacular wildlife and nature photography before the deadline of September 30.

Female Northern Flicker © Cheryl Rose

Female Northern Flicker © Cheryl Rose

Male Northern Flicker © Lee Millet

Male Northern Flicker © Lee Millet

Male Northern Flickers © Ken & Judy Proulx

Male Northern Flickers © Ken & Judy Proulx

Male Northern Flicker © Paul Flanders

Male Northern Flicker © Paul Flanders

Female Northern Flicker © Gates Dupont

Female Northern Flicker © Gates Dupont

Beach Scene © Jim McIntyre

Take 5: Beautiful Beach Sunsets

July is here…and it’s HOT! Lots of folks like to cool off by heading to the beach when summer temperatures soar. With “beach season” now in full swing, here are five gorgeous beach sunsets (or sunrises) to get you geared up for that beach life.

These photos were all submitted to our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. Do you have a beautiful landscape photo you’d like to share? The 2018 contest is open now, so submit your nature photographs today!

Beach Scene © Kimberly Nyce

Beach Scene © Kimberly Nyce

Beach Scene © Alison Borrelli

Beach Scene © Alison Borrelli

Beach Scene © Sylvia Zarco

Beach Scene © Sylvia Zarco

Beach Scene © Emily Zollo

Beach Scene © Emily Zollo

Beach Scene © Jim McIntyre

Beach Scene © Jim McIntyre

Melanie Gárate | Coastal Waterbird Education Specialist

In Your Words: Melanie Gárate

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! 


Melanie Gárate

As a native Chilean, my passion for the oceans and their critters began in the vibrant Pacific Ocean. Led by my father’s love of the sea, I spent long summer days on the coast, where we would be the first ones in the water and the last ones out, forced back onto land as the sun nestled under the horizon.

Since my time as a child in Chile and throughout undergrad and graduate school, I have been fortunate enough to travel for research and explore a variety of coastlines—from the pristine coral reefs of marine preserves in Puerto Rico to the dazzling Mediterranean waters of Spain.

These adventures have been juxtaposed with visits to the polluted streams and oceans in Ecuador, the volcanic islands and surrounding waters of the West Indies, and nearby streams in the Greater Boston area. I noticed that where pollution was greatest, there was also a considerable difference between socioeconomic classes and a limited amount of environmental education. These disparate experiences laid the foundation for my path to conservation and urban education, where my interests are very much aligned with the mission at Mass Audubon.

Melanie Gárate | Coastal Waterbird Education Specialist

Today, as part of Mass Audubon’s Coastal Waterbird Program (CWP), I protect endangered shorebirds and their habitat, focusing on educating the diverse urban community of Revere and the metro Boston area. In addition, I’m a teacher naturalist at Mass Audubon’s Boston Nature Center, where we provide positive outdoor experiences and environmental science education for urban youth who would ordinarily not have access to wild and natural outdoor spaces.

Mass Audubon has enabled me to transform my natural curiosity for the oceans and wildlife and passion for reaching underserved populations into my profession. Through my work with Mass Audubon, I am able to conserve the nature of Massachusetts by interacting with and engaging Boston’s urban youth, adults, and families in dynamic and enriching educational opportunities. It’s a dream come true.

 


Melanie Gárate is a Coastal Waterbird Education Specialist and Teacher Naturalist at Mass Audubon’s Boston Nature Center.

Common Garter Snake © Catherine Luce

Take 5: Garter Snakes

The Common Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis), one of the most commonly seen snakes in Massachusetts, is also the official state reptile. They sport long, yellow stripes down the length of their bodies, which are typically green, brown, or even black, and average about 20-22″ in length, but can grow up to 54″ long.

You may be startled to encounter one while out for a walk in the woods, basking in a patch of warm sunlight, but there’s no need to worry; garters are non-venomous and generally shy. More than likely, it will quickly dart away into the brush to escape. This quick retreat can make it difficult to differentiate a Common Garter Snake from the much rarer Eastern Ribbon Snake, which has additional burgundy stripes and a white eyespot, but if you’re unsure, garter snakes are much more common, and likely your best bet.

Garter snakes eat amphibians, fish, small mammals, earthworms, and sometimes insects. People often mistakenly call this snake a “garden snake,” because it can sometimes be seen in gardens. However, the name “garter snake” comes from the old fashion of wearing garters—strips of fabric that hold up stockings.

Here are five photos of our state reptile from past entrants to our Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. The 2018 photo contest is now open, so submit your beautiful nature photography today!

Common Garter Snake © Carole Rosen

Common Garter Snake © Carole Rosen

Common Garter Snake © Evan Morley

Common Garter Snake © Evan Morley

Common Garter Snake © Dominic Poliseno

Common Garter Snake © Dominic Poliseno

Common Garter Snakes © Michael Onyon

Common Garter Snakes © Michael Onyon

Common Garter Snake © Catherine Luce

Common Garter Snake © Catherine Luce

Bird and Moon Comics

Q&A With Rosemary Mosco of Bird and Moon Comics

Rosemary Mosco is a naturalist, science communicator, and cartoonist

Photo by Adrianne Mathiowetz

Rosemary Mosco is a naturalist, science communicator, and the brilliant cartoonist behind Bird and Moon science and nature cartoons. (She’s also a former member of Mass Audubon’s Marketing team, so you may recognize her name from past posts on this blog!)

We had the pleasure of chatting with Rosemary recently about her artwork, inspiration, and brand new book, Birding Is My Favorite Video Game: Cartoons about the Natural World from Bird and Moon, which shows the funny side of nature (yes, there is one!) and why comics and science are natural allies. Read on to hear more from Rosemary about making unloved creatures lovable, fashion tips from nature, and finding the humor in everything.

To meet Rosemary in person, join us at the Drumlin Farm Nature Center in Lincoln on Thursday, June 21, from 7:30–8:45 pm for an Author Talk & Book Signing. The event is free to Mass Audubon members ($5 for nonmembers) and copies of the book will be available for purchase through the Mass Audubon Shop.


How long have you been drawing comics and when did you start intertwining nature topics and humor?

I can’t remember when I started drawing comics, but I must have been pretty young. I had piles of newspaper comic books—lots of Bloom County, Cathy, For Better Or For Worse, Calvin and Hobbes. I’d draw my own strips about people, politics, and the embarrassing bands I liked to listen to.

I was always obsessed with nature, but I had an epiphany about blending nature and humor when I was at a nature-based summer camp. A guy from the local natural history museum came by to give a lecture, but he didn’t stand in front of us and talk. He put a huge drawing pad on the floor and we clustered around it. He talked about dinosaurs and drew pictures of them at the same time and did funny voices! I thought, “Wait, this is a career option?” His jokes helped me remember the important facts. I was hooked.

Where does your inspiration come from? How do you choose your subjects?

I spend time reading a lot of journal articles and field guides, I go to lectures, and I hike a lot. Nature is endlessly inspirational. The really hard part is coming up with jokes. I just sort of have to wait until I come across a funny idea. Sometimes it can take a long time!

I love drawing colorful birds, but I also try to talk about animals that people don’t like. I want to encourage people to love the unloved critters—bacteria that live on your skin, vomiting vultures, mucus-covered hagfish, stinky snakes, etc.

Birding is My Favorite Video Game by Rosemary MoscoYou use several different illustration styles in the book—where/when did you learn to draw and how did you develop your unique style(s)?

My comic output is pretty slow. I drew this book’s comics over the past 15 years! That’s a long time and my style has changed considerably. Most of that is because I’ve been experimenting. I’ve had training in writing but not in illustration. I’ve taken a few painting classes and other art classes over the years.

I just try different things and see what works. I’m always learning. I try to make each critter look relatable, with big eyes or smiles or familiar expressions. But I include important field marks, too.

How do you strike a balance between engaging meaningfully with a topic and avoiding difficult-to-understand jargon?

It’s a balancing act, and I feel like I’m always learning. A science writer once told me, “We tend to underestimate our readers’ intelligence and overestimate their vocabulary.”

Sometimes scientists and science writers use huge words, and when people don’t understand us, we assume it’s because they’re not smart. But people can understand any concept you throw at them if you use the right words. That’s why I try to avoid jargon unless I’m speaking to a scientific audience or I want people to learn a fun new word.

Do you have any favorites from the book?

I’m really proud of Fashion Tips From Nature. Animals have the weirdest appendages for courtship or protection from predators and I love the idea of people exploiting those styles—wearing a shirt that looks like poop, for example, so that nobody will approach them.

A few years ago, a museum in Ithaca called PRI’s Museum of the Earth did an exhibit on my comics, and they had a fashion corner where people could try on weird animal-inspired clothes. It was ridiculously fun.

Any advice for young naturalists looking to approach nature and science from a new angle?

Everyone has their own unique style and perspective. We’ve all got something special to offer. If you think about what you love and how to convey it, you’ve already taken the most important step!

Also, try to find the humor in everything. Nature is full of ups and downs, joys and heartbreaks. Laughter will help keep you going.


To learn more and have a few good laughs with Rosemary, join us at the Drumlin Farm Nature Center in Lincoln, on Thursday, June 21, from 7:30–8:45 pm for an Author Talk & Book Signing.

Monarch Butterfly © Rachel Bellenoit

Take 5: National Pollinator Week!

June 18–24 is National Pollinator Week and we’re celebrating these wonderful and critical creatures that provide a much needed and under-appreciated service to us and to the natural world. The vast majority of flowering plants on earth need help from pollinators to reproduce; we need pollinators for our food supply and to support healthy ecosystems.

Enjoy these five photos of pollinator butterflies you’re likely to see in Massachusetts and learn what you can do to support pollinators.


Monarch Butterfly © Rachel Bellenoit

Monarch Butterfly © Rachel Bellenoit

 

Eastern Tailed Blue © Nanci St. George

Eastern Tailed Blue © Nanci St. George

 

Baltimore Checkerspot © Brendan Cramphorn

Baltimore Checkerspot © Brendan Cramphorn

 

Black Swallowtail © Amy Dahlberg Chu

Black Swallowtail © Amy Dahlberg Chu

 

Pearl Crescents © Kristin Foresto

Pearl Crescents © Kristin Foresto/Mass Audubon

Goldfinch at Birdbath © Paula Stephens

Take 5: Bath Time!

“Splish, splash I was takin’ a bath…”

Today’s Take 5 is all about birdbaths! Many folks are taking advantage of the warm weather this time of year to spruce up their yards; landscaping to attract birds and wildlife is a fun way to make your home more welcoming for both animals and people.

Birdbaths are a great addition to your yard for a variety of reasons: they attract birds to your yard that don’t typically eat seeds (meaning you might not see them visiting your feeders), they provide a supply of fresh water for drinking, bathing, and cooling off in hot weather, and—as you’ll see from some of the photos below—they can also attract a variety of other fascinating wildlife.

A few things to bear in mind: Most birds prefer water shallower than 2”, so if your birdbath is deeper you can make it more welcoming by adding stones or gravel to the bottom or providing a larger rock or branch to perch on. Window collisions are always a concern near buildings, so either place your birdbath well away from windows or close enough so they can’t pick up enough speed to injure themselves should they collide with the glass after taking flight.” Learn more about choosing a good birdbath (or making your own!) on our website. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has some great information on safe placement of birdbaths and feeders.

The five photos below were all submitted to past years of our Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest, which is now open for 2018! Send us your best shots of wildlife, plants, landscapes, and people in nature for consideration.

Eastern Bluebird at Birdbath © Pam Anderson

Eastern Bluebird at Birdbath © Pam Anderson

Raccoon at Birdbath © Lisa Gurney

Raccoon at Birdbath © Lisa Gurney

Northern Cardinal at Birdbath © Jack Bakker

Northern Cardinal at Birdbath © Jack Bakker

Albino Squirrel © Paula Sheehan Gaudet

Albino Squirrel © Paula Sheehan Gaudet

Goldfinch at Birdbath © Paula Stephens

Goldfinch at Birdbath © Paula Stephens

Eastern Box Turtle © Kevin McCarthy

Take 5: Turtle Takeover

There are 10 species of turtles in Massachusetts, ranging from the tiny bog turtle, which measures 3-4” long, to the prehistoric-looking snapping turtle, which can grow up to 19” long. In addition, five sea turtles visit our shores, occasionally becoming stranded on beaches. Although many turtle species live in the water, all must breathe air and lay eggs on land.

With so much variety, it’s hard not to love these impressive, ancient reptiles, so here are five photos of native turtle species from past entries to our Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest.

Please remember, although it’s wonderful to observe and appreciate turtles from a distance, it’s usually best to leave them to their business, especially those species that are protected by state or federal endangered species acts. Learn more about what to do in various turtle encounters on our website.

Snapping Turtle © Jim Morelly

Snapping Turtle © Jim Morelly

Wood Turtle © Jim Morelly

Wood Turtle © Jim Morelly

Painted Turtle © John Aberhart

Painted Turtle © John Aberhart

Eastern Box Turtle © Kevin McCarthy

Eastern Box Turtle © Kevin McCarthy

Diamond-backed Terrapin © Alyse Roe

Diamond-backed Terrapin © Alyse Roe

Magnolia Warbler © Jim Sonia

Take 5: Wild for Warblers!

May is peak warbler migration season in Massachusetts, heralding the return of these small, often brightly colored songbirds. Each spring, thousands of warblers fly north from their southern winter homes to breed and raise their young.

Because warblers are quick and often elusive, they can be tricky to see in the field. Listen for the dawn chorus and watch treetops and shrubbery at sunrise and sunset for a flash of bright color and sweet song. The best way to learn to identify warblers is to go on bird walks with more experienced birders. Mass Audubon sanctuaries offer hundreds of bird-watching programs each year, so there’s sure to be one nearby that suits you.

Below are five photos of beautiful, bright warblers from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. The 2018 contest opens soon, so keep those sharp birder’s eyes out for the announcement!

Chestnut-sided Warbler © Gregory S. Dysart

Chestnut-sided Warbler © Gregory S. Dysart

Yellow Warbler © Larry Warfield

Yellow Warbler © Larry Warfield

Magnolia Warbler © Jim Sonia

Magnolia Warbler © Jim Sonia

Blackburnian Warbler © Brian Lipson

Blackburnian Warbler © Brian Lipson

Prairie Warbler © Cameron Darnell

Prairie Warbler © Cameron Darnell