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.

Wild Turkey poults perched on a deck chair © Barbara Berresford

Take 5: Poult Following

Wild Turkey poults have hatched and can be found foraging for nutritious insects in fields with their mother hen. By the time they are three weeks old, turkey poults can fly into a nearby tree or shrub at a command from the hen at the first sign of potential danger. As they grow into adulthood, their diet will shift from mainly insects to mainly plant materials like nuts, berries, and seeds.

Here are five adorable photos of turkey poults in all their fluffy, awkward cuteness. Learn more about what’s happening in nature right now with our Outdoor Almanac and submit your fantastic nature photography today to the 2019 Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest.

Wild Turkey Poult © Ronald Grant
Wild Turkey Poult © Ronald Grant
Wild Turkey poults perched on a deck chair © Barbara Berresford
Wild Turkey Poults © Barbara Berresford
Wild Turkey Poults with Hen © Elizabeth Fabiano
Wild Turkey Poults with Hen © Elizabeth Fabiano
Wild Turkey Poult © Cheryle Yankun
Wild Turkey Poult © Cheryle Yankun
Wild Turkey Poults © Judith Montminy
Wild Turkey Poults © Judith Montminy
Clouds © Wendy Wolfberg

Take 5: Cloud Nine

For something that we don’t tend to give much thought, clouds are pretty amazing. Made up of tiny water droplets or ice crystals suspended in the air, clouds are categorized and named based on their shape and how high they are in the atmosphere. They can be important indicators of shifts in the weather, help protect us from the sun’s intense rays, and are a great source of entertainment—after all, what’s more relaxing on a warm, sunny day than lying in the grass, gazing at cloud formations and trying to spot familiar shapes in their seemingly random formations?

Here are five fantastic photos of clouds from our Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest, which is now open for submissions for 2019. Submit your weather photography or other nature shots now!

Clouds © Karen Gardner
Clouds © Karen Gardner
Clouds © Wendy Wolfberg
Clouds © Wendy Wolfberg
Clouds © Nick SJ
Clouds © Nick SJ
Clouds © Megan O'Leary
Clouds © Megan O’Leary
Clouds © Joanne McKinnon
Clouds © Joanne McKinnon
American Goldfinches © Roberto De Souza

Take 5: Baby Food

Brace yourself for a serious cuteness overload. It’s baby bird season in Massachusetts! Baby birds can be a lot of fun to watch (from a distance) as they hatch, grow, and eventually fledge.

It’s true that young birds face naturally tough odds for survival, but that’s nature’s way of maintaining a sustainable balance in the environment and makes it all the more special when we have the opportunity to witness baby birds successfully mature and leave the nest.

If you happen upon a helpless-looking baby songbird bird out of the nest, check out our primer on when to take action and when to leave well enough alone.

Here are five photos of baby birds and their parents from our Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. The 2019 photo contest is officially open, so send us your beautiful nature photography for a chance to win!

Baltimore Orioles © Susumu Kishihara
Baltimore Orioles © Susumu Kishihara
Barn Swallows © Kim Caruso
Barn Swallows © Kim Caruso
Pileated Woodpeckers ©Daniel Tracey
Pileated Woodpeckers ©Daniel Tracey
American Robins © Grace Chu
American Robins © Grace Chu
American Goldfinches © Roberto De Souza
American Goldfinches © Roberto De Souza
Water droplets on a blade of grass © Heather Armata

Take 5: Drip, Drop

All throughout April and into May, it seemed as though the rain were never going to stop. At long last, the clouds have parted and the sun is shining! Although a lot of rain can be a real downer, a little bit of rain can make for some truly beautiful nature photography.

Here are beautiful shots of water droplets on plants that have been submitted to our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. Be sure to sign up for photo contest updates so you’ll be the first to know when the 2019 contest opens for submissions (hint: it’s coming soon!)

Water droplets on a daisy © Ann Marie Sweetsir
© Ann Marie Sweetsir
Water puddled on a lily pad © Ashok Boghani
© Ashok Boghani
Water droplet hanging from the end of a yellow flower petal © Don Bullens
© Don Bullens
Water beaded along a blade of grass © Heather Armata
© Heather Armata
Water beaded on a leaf © Claire Vail
© Claire Vail
Tree Swallow © Steve Nikola

Take 5: Nest Builders

The varied landscapes of Massachusetts provide nesting spots for nearly 200 bird species and spring is prime time for nest-building and brooding. You may have seen birds flitting back and forth with beaks full of twigs, grasses, and even plastic refuse to fortify their nests, which may pop up in any number of familiar or surprising places around your home and neighborhood.

A number of bird species nest on balconies and building ledges or in the nooks and crannies of houses. Observing these nests can be a source of enjoyment, and native species that eat insects, such as chimney swifts, barn swallows, and cliff swallows, help with pest control.

Sometimes, however, nesting behavior can bring birds into conflict with people, especially if birds construct a nest in an inconvenient or unsafe location in or around your house. Read our guide to Nests In & On Buildings and remember that relocating an active nest is really not an option—not only will bird parents abandon a relocated nest, it’s against federal and state law to disturb the nest of a native species.

To help you enjoy the bustling activity of nesting birds this spring, here are five photos of birds doing just that, all submitted to our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest.

Baltimore Oriole © Myer Bornstein
Baltimore Oriole © Myer Bornstein
Rose-breasted Grosbeak © Derek Allad
Rose-breasted Grosbeak © Derek Allad
Osprey © Terri Nickerson
Osprey © Terri Nickerson
Baltimore Oriole (female) © Marcy Setter
Baltimore Oriole (female) © Marcy Setter
Tree Swallow © Steve Nikola
Tree Swallow © Steve Nikola
Mining Bee (Genus Andrena) © Daniel McNamara

Take 5: Busy Bees

It’s springtime and nature is abuzz with activity—literally, in the case of bees! With more than 370 species of bees living in Massachusetts, there’s plenty for a budding entomologist to discover. While the more familiar bumblebees and European honeybees are social, up to 85% of bees are solitary and do not form colonies, preferring to nest in burrows that they dig in wood or the ground. These solitary bees typically overwinter in burrows and emerge in the spring to begin reproducing.

Bees can sometimes inspire fear because some (but not all) of them sting. However, these fascinating insects are vitally important to nature and to our economy. Many are important pollinators of plants that we rely on for food and, of course, honeybees give us tasty honey and useful beeswax.

Find out more about bees and how you can help pollinators thrive on our website and enjoy these five photos of bees from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest submissions.

Carpenter Bee © Meyer Franklin
Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica) © Meyer Franklin
Giant Resin Bee (exotic species) © Sean Horton
Giant Resin Bee (non-native species) © Sean Horton
Green Sweat Bee (Agapostemon virescens) © Emily Gauvin
Green Sweat Bee (Agapostemon virescens) © Emily Gauvin
Mining Bee (Genus Andrena) © Daniel McNamara
Mining Bee (Genus Andrena) © Daniel McNamara
Tri-colored Bumblebee (Bombus ternarius) © Ellen Pierce
Tri-colored Bumblebee (Bombus ternarius) © Ellen Pierce
Dandelions © Mass Audubon

Don’t Ditch the Dandelions!

Before you mow them down or, worse, reach for the herbicide, you might want to consider giving the dandelions in your yard a second chance.

Dandelions © Mass Audubon

How They Got Here

The ubiquitous dandelions that pop up in our yards this time of year are actually native to Europe and Asia. They were brought here by European colonists who used them for medicine, food, and wine. The English name comes from the French “dent de lion” meaning “teeth of a lion” which refers to the jagged leaves.

A Useful Weed

Many people think of them as a noxious weed but they are actually quite a useful plant. They flower earlier than most of our native plants so they offer early pollen and nectar for honeybees and native pollinators.

They are host plants for the caterpillars of several moth species including the spectacular Giant Leopard Moth. Their long tap root helps to break up the soil and move nutrients and water throughout the soil. And dandelion greens are delicious.

Dandelions © Mass Audubon

Go Natural

This year, help out our native pollinators and be kind to Mother Earth by forgoing any herbicides and letting dandelions do their thing. Dandelions are an important food source for honeybees and others throughout the spring and most herbicides are poisonous to these insect pollinators.

Eastern Towhee © Matt Filosa

Take 5: Towhee Takeover

It’s an exciting time of year! More and more migratory birds are returning to Massachusetts each week, including the strikingly patterned Eastern Towhee.

With its bold black throat, head, back, and tail, reddish-brown sides, and white belly, this large sparrow cuts a handsome figure—if you can spot one. They spend a lot of time in thick underbrush or rummaging around in leaf litter for forage so you may hear them more than you see them, but they can be enticed to visit your bird feeder, especially during the breeding season and if your yard’s edges are overgrown.

The classic mnemonic for the male towhee’s mating song is drink-your-tea! with the “tea” dragging out in a musical trill, while both sexes will employ a rising chewink call. Listen for both along forest edges with dense thickets and tangles.

Learn more about what to look for in nature this time of year in the Outdoor Almanac and enjoy these five photo contest submissions of Eastern Towhees.

Eastern Towhee © Amy Martin
Eastern Towhee © Amy Martin
Eastern Towhee © Susan Wellington
Eastern Towhee © Susan Wellington
Eastern Towhee © Evan Lipton
Eastern Towhee © Evan Lipton
Eastern Towhee © Mike Duffy
Eastern Towhee © Mike Duffy
Eastern Towhee © Matt Filosa
Eastern Towhee © Matt Filosa
Prothonotary Warbler © Terri Nickerson

Take 5: Sing for Spring!

Spring is finally here! The days are getting longer and warmer, the trees are leafing out and budding left and right, and spring bird migration is picking up steam. Doesn’t it just make you want to sing?

Here are five birds that agree with that sentiment and are singing their hearts out for spring. You might consider joining them during a spring bird-watching program at one of our sanctuaries. Happy spring!

Prothonotary Warbler © Terri Nickerson
Prothonotary Warbler © Terri Nickerson
Song Sparrow © Richard Alvarnaz
Song Sparrow © Richard Alvarnaz
Black and White Warbler © Brad Dinerman
Black and White Warbler © Brad Dinerman
Indigo Bunting © Phil Doyle
Indigo Bunting © Phil Doyle
Red-winged Blackbird © David Peller
Red-winged Blackbird © David Peller
Spotted Salamander © Ryan Dorsey/Mass Audubon

Take 5: Salamander Swarm

Every year, warming spring days trigger amphibians like spotted salamanders and wood frogs to migrate en masse to vernal pools to breed on the night of the first soaking rain above 45°F—a phenomenon known as “Big Night.” This spectacular annual event is taking place all across Massachusetts.

Vernal pools are temporary, isolated ponds that form when spring rain and meltwater from ice and snow flood into woodland hollows and low meadows. These pools provide critical breeding habitat for certain amphibian and invertebrate species—since vernal pools eventually dry up, they are inaccessible and inhospitable to predatory fish.

To celebrate the return of spring and the mass migration now taking place all around us, here are five great photos of native salamanders. Note that not all salamanders migrate to and breed in vernal pools—the eastern red-backed salamander, for example, has no aquatic larval stage at all, so you’re most likely to find one under a moist, rotting log or rock while northern dusky salamanders are stream denizens and lay their eggs in flowing seeps in June or July.

Blue-spotted Salamander © Patrick Randall
Blue-spotted Salamander © Patrick Randall
Eastern Red-backed Salamander © Chris Liazos
Eastern Red-backed Salamander © Chris Liazos
Spotted Salamander © Ryan Dorsey/Mass Audubon
Spotted Salamander © Ryan Dorsey/Mass Audubon
Northern Dusky Salamander © Patrick Randall
Northern Dusky Salamander © Patrick Randall
Blue-spotted Salamander © Brendan Cramphorn
Blue-spotted Salamander © Brendan Cramphorn