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.

River otter © Joseph Cavanaugh

Take 5: Otter Overload

River otters were once a rare sight in Massachusetts, but thanks to better wetland conservation, pollution reduction, and habitat creation thanks to those industrious beavers, their numbers are on the rise. And thank goodness for that! With their playful, athletic nature, otters can be a lot of fun to watch as they body-surf down icy hills and generally use nature as their personal playground.

These semi-aquatic carnivores love marshes, lakes, rivers, swamps, and estuaries that provide an ample supply of fish—the foundation of their diet. Otters have been spotted at numerous Mass Audubon properties, including Broadmoor, Canoe Meadows, Barnstable Great Marsh, Stony Brook, Tidmarsh, and more, and although they are active day and night, your best chance to spot them is around dawn or dusk.

Here are five photos of river otters from our Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. The 2018 contest opens in early summer, so keep your eyes peeled for updates!

River otter © Joseph Cavanaugh

River otter © Joseph Cavanaugh

River otter © Ashley Gibbs

River otter © Ashley Gibbs

River Otter © Sarah Hatton

River Otter © Sarah Hatton

River otter © Allison Coffin

River otter © Allison Coffin

River otter © Jim Renault

River otter © Jim Renault

Least Tern © Dennis Durette

Take 5: Splish Splash

Remember the simple joy of splashing in mud puddles or the bathtub when you were a kid? You may still partake of this simple pleasure, particularly if you have kids or grandkids of your own! Our wildlife friends may or may not splash about for pleasure, but it sure does look like fun.

Here are five fun photos of animals making a big splash from submissions to our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. The 2018 contest opens soon, so stay tuned!

Least Tern © Dennis Durette

Least Tern © Dennis Durette

Humpback Whale © Jennifer Childs

Humpback Whale © Jennifer Childs

Belted Kingfisher © Christopher Ciccone

Belted Kingfisher © Christopher Ciccone

Moose © Claudia Pommer

Moose © Claudia Pommer

Common Loon © Jonathan Elcock

Common Loon © Jonathan Elcock

Ruby-throated hummingbird © Sarah Keates

What to Do This Weekend: April 14–15

Look for early spring edible herbs, learn about attracting butterflies and hummingbirds to your yard, take an astronomy night hike, build a bat box, and more at a wildlife sanctuary this weekend.

Ruby-throated hummingbird © Sarah Keates

Ruby-throated hummingbird © Sarah Keates

Greater Boston

Spend part of your Saturday morning at the Museum of American Bird Art having fun, exploring and discovering nature, listening to engaging stories, and creating art during their weekly Nature and Art Discovery Program. (families, registration required)

Take a deep dive into habitats and ecological communities on a Naturalist Walk at Drumlin Farm, where you’ll explore the sanctuary observing, learning, and looking for amphibians, reptiles, mammals, flowering plants, trees, insects, birds, and more. (adults)

Can turtles really leave their shells like they do in the cartoons? Are snakes really slimy? What is the difference between a lizard and a snake? Find out for yourself as you meet baby turtles and snakes up close at Wild About Reptiles at Broadmoor in Natick. (families, registration required)

Search for elusive woodcocks at the Blue Hills Trailside Museum, and hopefully catch a spectacular showing of the aerial acrobatics of their spring mating display. Learn about these odd-looking and oddly behaving birds on an evening Woodcock Walk. (adults and children 8+, registration required)

Join community herbalist Su Cousineau at Boston Nature Center for a walk through the Boston Food Forest to find and learn about Early Spring Herbs: Roots ‘n’ Shoots. (adults, registration required)

More in Greater Boston

North Shore

Immerse yourself in the majesty of the night sky during The Wonder and the Wow: Astronomy and Night Hike at Rough Meadows in Rowley. (adults, registration required)

Learn about Attracting Butterflies and Hummingbirds to Your Landscape at Ipswich River. You’ll walk away with all the information you need to design your own pollinator garden and fill it with native plants that butterflies and hummingbirds can’t resist. (adults, registration required)

Learn the ins and outs of Spring Hawk Watching at Joppa Flats in Newburyport, then put your skills to the test on a field trip to Plum Island, one of the most significant spring hawk watching sites on the east coast. (adults, registration required)

More on the North Shore

Central Massachusetts

Learn to recognize and appreciate various Shrubs & Buds and explore how they fit into the local biodiversity as part of the first of two workshops in Broad Meadow Brook’s seasonal Essential Nature Series. Register for both of the April classes or sign up for the entire season of classes for a discount.

More in Central Massachusetts

Connecticut River Valley

Enjoy a reading by authors Corinne Demas and Artemis Roehrig of their new children’s book, Do Doodlebugs DOODLE? This fun-filled book will have the entire family laughing and appreciating the amazing world of insects.  (families, registration required)

More in the Connecticut River Valley

Berkshires

Bats are important but declining predators of flying insects (e.g. mosquitoes) that you definitely want in your neighborhood. Attend a Bat Box Building Workshop at Pleasant Valley in Lenox to make your own bat box and learn about bats in the area. (adults and children 5+)

More in the Berkshires

Cape Cod and the Islands

Experience the best of morning bird activity at Wellfleet Bay with a naturalist-guided Early Bird Walk. From pine woodlands and freshwater pond to salt marsh and beach, the trails’ diverse natural communities offer a tremendous range of possible bird sightings.

More on Cape Cod and the Islands

Mass Audubon T-Shirt

New Ways to Show Mass Audubon Pride

Mass Audubon Gear

Mass Audubon Gear

It’s easier than ever to show your true Mass Audubon colors! We’ve added all kinds of fun, new gear to our branded collection, including T-shirts, hats, drinkware, and more. Below are five of our favorite items or you can check out the entire collection.

And remember, every purchase from the Mass Audubon Shop goes directly to support our mission of protecting the nature and wildlife of Massachusetts.


Mass Audubon 32-oz Nalgene FrogMass Audubon 32-oz Nalgene Water Bottle

Keep hydrated and reduce your carbon footprint with Mass Audubon’s Spring Peeper reusable water bottle. This authentic Nalgene bottle is made from BPA-free plastic and features a peeper frog graphic—perfect for springtime adventure, or any season for that matter!

$17.00*

Also available: 16-oz Nalgene with Bee Graphic

 

Mass Audubon Frog T-Shirt Unisex GreyMass Audubon Spring Peeper T-Shirts & Youth Sweatshirts

Wear your nature hero heart on your figurative sleeve with the new Mass Audubon T-shirt, featuring the same peeper frog graphic as the 32-oz Nalgene.

Ladies V-Neck: $24.00*
Unisex Crew Neck: $22.00
Youth Sweatshirt: $24.00
Toddler Sweatshirt: $24.00

 

Mass Audubon Baseball Hat BlueMass Audubon Baseball Cap

Made of 100% cotton denim with an adjustable strap, this classic, comfy cap fits just right.

$16.00*

Also available: Mass Audubon Trucker Hat

 

 

Mass-Audubon-Pint-GlassMass Audubon Pint Glass

Toast the beauty of nature with this 16-oz glass, tastefully etched with the Mass Audubon logo. Dishwasher and microwave safe.

$14.95*

 

Mass Audubon Binoculars HarnessMass Audubon Binocular Harness

The perfect gift for the die-hard birder, this adjustable harness is designed to use your shoulders instead of your neck to support the weight of the binoculars.

$24.95*

 

 

 

 

 

*All prices listed are before application of the 10% Mass Audubon member discount.

Great Blue Heron © Pat Ramey

Take 5: Great Blue Herons

Migrating great blue herons arrive in New England as early as the latter part of March, where they join the small population of great blues that overwinter here.

The most common place to find great blue herons is at the edge of a wetland, where they will stand stock-still, tracking the movements of fish and frogs and waiting for the perfect moment to strike.

Once a rare sight in the northeast US due to hunting pressure and pollution, great blue herons have staged a staggering comeback in the past few decades. Now, these statuesque wading birds can be seen at ponds, lakes, and rivers of all sizes, often in surprisingly urban areas.

Great blue herons are something of a “fan favorite” for many folks, with their graceful movement and ubiquity at bodies of water across the state. Have you spotted any herons already returned to their nesting sites? Learn more about great blue herons on our website.

Here are five fantastic photos of great blues from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. Submissions for the 2018 photo contest begin in early summer, so stay tuned!

Great Blue Heron © Steven Brasier

Great Blue Heron © Steven Brasier

Great Blue Heron © Brooks Mathewson

Great Blue Heron © Brooks Mathewson

Great Blue Heron © John Elliott

Great Blue Heron © John Elliott

Great Blue Heron © Pat Ramey

Great Blue Heron © Pat Ramey

Great Blue Heron © Jean Joyce

Great Blue Heron © Jean Joyce

Take 5: Mallards on the Move

Ducks are a familiar sight in our urban and suburban parks, having adapted over time to thrive in developed areas. There are dozens of species of ducks, but thanks to Robert McCloskey’s popular children’s book Make Way for Ducklings, most folks are familiar with the Mallard species, the most abundant waterfowl in Massachusetts and, indeed, the United States.

Mallard males are easily recognizable, with their glossy green heads, bright yellow bills, and white neck rings. Females are a bit more demure, with mottled brown coloring and orange-brown bills, but both males and females sport a blue patch bordered by white in their wings.

In spring, female mallards search for good places to make their nests: dry ground close to water, preferably concealed by grass or shrubbery. Occasionally, their nesting spot of choice may be a fenced yard, a swimming pool, or the courtyard of a building.

Fences and walls are not much of a problem for the mother duck, who can fly right over the top, but once her ducklings hatch, they may be trapped as they are unable to fly for their first 60 days. If you encounter a mallard nest in such a problem area, this story of a local Newton family and their resident mallard, “Quackie”, should offer some solutions (and warm your heart!).

Here are five great photos of mallards from our Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest to celebrate some of our favorite feathered storybook heroes. Submissions for the 2018 photo contest open in early summer, so stay tuned!

Female Mallard with Ducklings © Virginia Sands

Female Mallard with Ducklings © Virginia Sands

Mallard ducks in flight © Richard Antinarelli

Mallard ducks in flight © Richard Antinarelli

Mallard Duck © Sandy Selesky

Mallard Duck © Sandy Selesky

Female mallard swimming with ducklings © Hien Nguyen

Female mallard swimming with ducklings © Hien Nguyen

Female mallard with ducklings © Derrick Jackson

Female mallard with ducklings © Derrick Jackson

Take 5: Rascally Raccoons

Mating season for raccoons winds down around the end of March so females will be looking for safe place to establish a nest within the next month or two, often in a hollow tree, chimney, or similar cavity. She will raise her 2–5 young here for about the first eight weeks of their lives, then as the young gain mobility, the whole family will move on.

Because they can find good food where people live, these furry bandits have increasingly made their homes in urban and suburban neighborhoods where food litter, trash cans, and dumpsters are plentiful. This can potentially cause issues if they move into your chimney or attic. Learn more about what to do if you have raccoons in your chimney, attic, trash, or garden.

We should note that raccoons can transmit disease to other wildlife, pets, and occasionally to humans, so while there’s no need to panic if you see a raccoon in your yard, it is best to avoid contact with them.

Got a cute picture of a furry critter? Submissions for the 2018 Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest open in early summer, so stay tuned! In the meantime, enjoy these five cute raccoon photos that have been submitted to the contest in the past.

Raccoon © Roberta Dell Anno

Raccoon © Roberta Dell Anno

Raccoon © Lisa Gurney

Raccoon © Lisa Gurney

Raccoon © Steven Brasier

Raccoon © Steven Brasier

Raccoons © Kwan Cheung

Raccoons © Kwan Cheung

Raccoon © David Morris

Raccoon © David Morris

Pileated Woodpecker © Kimberlee Bertolino

Take 5: Pileated Woodpeckers

It’s always a treat to spot the iconic pileated woodpecker (unless, of course, you catch one drilling into the side of your house). With their striking black and white plumage and flaming red crests, they are almost prehistoric-looking, like a crow-sided modern pterodactyl.

Woodpeckers have several unique adaptations. Their feet have two toes pointing forward and two pointing rearward with sharp pointed claws that enable them to scale tree trunks and other vertical surfaces to look for food and shelter. Their straight pointed bills and reinforced skulls help them to absorb the constant shock of pecking, chiseling, drilling, and drumming as they hunt for insects (especially carpenter ants) to eat. Their stiff tail feathers act as props (like a third leg) when they climb.

It’s not an everyday occurrence to see a pileated woodpecker, so here are five photos of these remarkable birds from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest for you to enjoy. Submissions for the 2018 photo contest will open in early summer, so keep an eye out!

Pileated Woodpecker © Lee Millet

Pileated Woodpecker © Lee Millet

Pileated Woodpeckers © Jacob Mosser

Pileated Woodpeckers © Jacob Mosser

Pileated Woodpecker © Kimberlee Bertolino

Pileated Woodpecker © Kimberlee Bertolino

Pileated Woodpecker © Mary Jeanne Tash

Pileated Woodpecker © Mary Jeanne Tash

Pileated Woodpecker © Davey Walters

Pileated Woodpecker © Davey Walters

Pileated Woodpecker © Dan Prima

Pileated Woodpecker © Dan Prima

Red Squirrel © Janice Koskey

Take 5: Scratching an Itch

Have you ever watched a dog or cat contort itself to get at a particularly bothersome itch? Did you feel a little envious? Everyone experiences the occasional impossible-to-reach itch and it can feel like you’d do anything to get to it. Now imagine your entire body is covered by thick fur or feathers. YIKES.

This week, we’re commiserating with our furry and finely feathered friends who were captured in the act of scratching, preening, or picking at some annoyance or another by one of the photographers from our Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. Check out the winners of the 2017 photo contest on our website and follow us on Facebook to find out when the 2018 contest opens this summer.

Eastern Cottontail © Susumu Kishihara

Eastern Cottontail © Susumu Kishihara

Mallard © Kimberlee Bertolino

Mallard © Kimberlee Bertolino

Red Squirrel © Janice Koskey

Red Squirrel © Janice Koskey

Tree Swallow © Tammy Vezina

Tree Swallow © Tammy Vezina

Herring Gull © Elizabeth Brooke

Herring Gull © Elizabeth Brooke

Take 5: Caption This!

Let’s play “Caption That Photo”! Below are five photos of animals making funny faces or poses, submitted to our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. What hilarious captions can you come up with?

Seal © Jazi Charbit

Seal © Jazi Charbit

Woodchuck © Rob Smiley

Woodchuck © Rob Smiley

Baby green heron © Wayne Wetherbee

Baby green heron © Wayne Wetherbee

Double-crested cormorant © Richard Kramer

Double-crested cormorant © Richard Kramer

Raccoon © Ellen Kawadler

Raccoon © Ellen Kawadler