With our first major statewide snowstorm behind us, winter has certainly arrived in Massachusetts. The shoveling, snow blowing, and slippery driving conditions may not be ideal, but there’s nothing like a fresh blanket of snow to bring out the beauty of nature in winter.
As winter closes in, many species of wildlife look to fuel up for the challenging conditions of winter. Fortunately, several plant species take advantage of this in their seed dispersal strategies by producing delicious and nutritious berries that wildlife will eat then excrete, depositing seeds in a new location along with a dose of fertilizer. While many of the fall berries have long since gone by, some varieties last well into winter, providing a larder for the fruit-eating species that are active all winter long.
As you may be dining on plenty of turkey this week, we thought we’d turn our attention away from the domesticated variety that graces many a Thanksgiving table, and instead “show off” that iconic show-off, the Wild Turkey.
Wild Turkey can stand four feet tall, with a large, bulky body covered with bronzy, iridescent feathers. The tom (male) has a reddish-blue head and a hair-like “beard” protruding from his breast. The smaller female is duller in coloration than the male.
In the spring, tom turkeys make their famous gobble in order to lure in females. Courtship begins when the tom spreads its tail, fluffs out its feathers, swells out the facial wattles, and struts in front of the females. This elaborate dance may be entertaining for us, but the (turkey) ladies love it! Males are polygamous and will mate with several females if given the opportunity.
Want to impress your family with a few $5 words this Turkey Day? Brush up on your turkey vocabulary with our handy guide to Wild Turkey Terminology. And enjoy these five photos of toms strutting their stuff for the ladies, all submitted to our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest.
Clever, pugnacious Blue Jays are well-known for their territorial behavior and raucous Jay! Jay! call, but they are actually capable of an amazing array of vocal sounds, including whistles, toots, and wheedle-wheedle calls. Blue Jays can even mimic the scream of a Red-tailed Hawk in order to scare other birds!
Like all blue birds, Blue Jays are not actually, in fact, blue! Most of the vibrant feather colors found in birds, like yellow and red, come from pigments in their food that absorb certain wavelengths of light, but no birds (and almost no species in the entire animal kingdom) are capable of producing blue pigments. Instead, the blue color is the result of light refracting off of tiny, specialized structures in the bird’s feathers.
Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to talk with your mouth full? Apparently, these birds never got the memo. Here are five photos of birds that may or may not have bitten off more than they can chew, all submitted in the past to our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. The 2019 photo contest is closed, but we’ll be announcing the winners soon, so stay tuned!
Things are really looking up these days…or at the very least, these photographers are!
This week’s Take 5 features photos of the forest canopy, all of which were submitted in the past to our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. The 2019 photo contest is now closed, but we’re hard at work judging this year’s submissions and can’t wait to announce the winner, so stay tuned!
You may have spotted a strange little white flower growing in dark parts of the forest—often around beech trees—and mistaken it for a fungi, but Indian Pipe (a.k.a. Ghost Pipe) is actually an amazing kind of plant.
It contains no chlorophyll so, unlike most plants, it is white or pale pink in color instead of green. Without chlorophyll, it can’t make energy from the sun through photosynthesis, so how does this “ghostly” little flower get its food? Indian Pipe is parasitic, stealing its nutrients from certain fungi that in turn have a symbiotic relationship with tree roots.
Because it doesn’t need sunlight for energy, it can often be found in very shady spots on the forest floor and its ephemeral (short) growth cycle means it only appears for brief periods, usually after a rain that breaks a longer dry spell.
With their “ghostly” pallor and “sinister” parasitic appetite, these fascinating flowers make for a great way to celebrate Halloween, don’t you think? Enjoy these five photos from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest and have a happy, spooky Halloween!
This week, we’re taking a look at things from a different perspective…upside-down! In-flight or on foot, these birds are turning things around with either their flexibility or aerial acrobatics on display. Enjoy these five photos from past submissions to our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest (now closed for 2019), but don’t crane your neck in the process. (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)
The Ring-Standard Calendar has been a celebrated tradition for 123 years. Generation after generation, lovers of this unique desktop calendar have found it to be the perfect holiday and New Year’s gift.
This year’s motif was originally made for the 1960 edition by Mary Sage Shakespeare, a former staff illustrator at Mass Audubon. The calendar is made in the USA and printed on recycled paper. Learn more about the history of the calendar and order yours in the Mass Audubon Shop today!
The industrious Eastern Chipmunk spends its days, especially this time of year as the weather is getting colder, gathering and storing food in their burrows, which will sustain them during the winter.
Seeds, berries, nuts, and fruit are the mainstay of the chipmunk’s diet, but they also eat insects, insect larvae, slugs, snails, and earthworms. Occasionally they will eat birds such as sparrows, juncos, and starlings, bird’s eggs, frogs, and small snakes.
Folks who enjoy watching the antics of chipmunks in their yards are all too familiar with their iconic cheeks. Chipmunks possess cheek pouches in which they store food before depositing it in their burrow. Researchers have reported watching a chipmunk stuff nearly six dozen black-oil sunflower seeds into its pouches!
Learn more about chipmunks (including what to do if one accidentally finds its way into your house) on our website and enjoy these five fun photos of chipmunks literally stuffing their faces, all submitted in the past to our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest.