Author Archives: Rosemary

About Rosemary

Who: Naturalist and salamander enthusiast from Canada.
Likes: Learning new ferns.
Favorite part of the job: Hanging out with other people who like nature!

Take 5: Pretty Spring Peepers

Spring in Massachusetts brings a loud chorus of peeps. Tiny frogs called spring peepers are calling from wetlands. It’s all about lovemale peepers are hoping to attract females.

But there’s more to these frogs than their sounds. They can tolerate cold weather and can freeze nearly solid in winter. They can also change color, switching to different shades of brown and tan. And they’re adept climbers, helped by sticky pads on their feet. Enjoy these five peeper portraits from past editions of our Photo Contest and learn more about frogs in Massachusetts.

2014 Photo Contest Entry © Mary Martin

2014 Photo Contest Entry © Mary Martin

2010 Photo Contest Entry © Suzanne Niles

2010 Photo Contest Entry © Suzanne Niles

2011 Photo Contest Entry © Jana Trusz

2011 Photo Contest Entry © Jana Trusz

2015 Photo Contest Entry © Ashley Gibbs

2015 Photo Contest Entry © Ashley Gibbs

2011 Photo Contest Entry © Christina Andersen

2011 Photo Contest Entry © Christina Andersen

Last Month in Birding: February 2016

Here are five incredible bird sightings from last month as suggested by Mass Audubon’s experts.

Yellow-billed Loon (Gavia adamsii)

The largest loon species in the world, this bird breeds on the high Arctic tundra, farther north than our familiar common loon. Scientists still have much to learn about its habits. Outside of certain Arctic and west coast locations, it’s only rarely observed, and sightings from the east coast are almost unheard-of. In fact, it had never before been recorded in Massachusetts—until this February and March, when a yellow-billed loon was found bobbing in the waves off of Provincetown.

Yellow-billed loon at Provincetown © Steve Arena

Yellow-billed loon at Provincetown © Steve Arena

Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana)

One of our most vividly colored bird species is the scarlet tanager; breeding males are cherry-red and black, and females are greenish-yellow. In the west, the scarlet tanager is replaced by the western tanager. Male western tanagers are yellow and black and only have red pigment on their heads; uniquely, this red pigment comes directly from the insects in their diet. In January and February a western tanager visited a private feeder in Rowley.

westerntanager

Western tanager in Rowley (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) nebirdsplus

Yellow-throated Warbler (Setophaga dominica)

This strikingly patterned bird is a common warbler in the southeastern US. It typically builds its nest in Spanish moss that hangs from tree branches in the open southern woodlands where it lives. The yellow-throated warbler normally winters along the Gulf coast and in Central America and the Caribbean islands—but one was spotted in Amesbury.

Amesbury © Amy

Yellow-throated warbler in Amesbury © Amy

Bullock’s Oriole (Icterus bullockii)

This species is similar to the familiar Baltimore oriole, except that the male Bullock’s oriole has a mostly orange face with a striking black eye stripe and a white wing patch. It’s a bird of the western US, but it occasionally interbreeds with the Baltimore oriole on the Great Plains where their ranges overlap. At one time the two species were lumped into one—the northern oriole—before scientists determined that they were genetically distinct. A Bullock’s oriole visited a bird feeder at a private residence in Newburyport.

Western Tanager (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) nebirdsplus

Bullock’s oriole in California (CC BY-ND 2.0) Jan Arendtsz

Mystery Gull

Now and then a bird appears that confounds the experts. Among the gulls standing on the ice last month at Turners Falls, one individual really stood out: a herring gull-sized bird with yellow legs. Experts proposed two possible identities. It could have been a yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis), a European species that breeds in the Mediterranean and the Azores. If so, the bird had wandered way out of range! The other option was that it was a hybrid—a mix of two species, in this case possibly herring and a lesser black-backed gulls. Either way, it was an unusual sighting and brought some much-needed excitement to sleepy February.

Gull at Turner's Falls © James P. Smith

Gull at Turner’s Falls © James P. Smith

Take 5: Wood Ducks

The winter landscape may not offer the widest spectrum of colors, so seeing a jewel-tone wood duck is always a welcome sight. Some of these birds have hung around in Massachusetts all winter, and others are just now returning to the state from warmer places.

Unlike most of our waterfowl, the aptly named wood duck nests in tree cavities. After the ducklings hatch, the hen coaxes them into leaping down to the ground, where they will follow her as they learn to forage and fend for themselves. Feast your eyes on these five photos of wood ducks from past editions of our Photo Contest and learn more about their history in the state with our Breeding Bird Atlas 2.

2012 Photo Contest Entry © Barye Hall

2012 Photo Contest Entry © Barye Hall

2012 Photo Contest Entry © Evan Lipton

2012 Photo Contest Entry © Evan Lipton

2013 Photo Contest Entry © Larry Warfield

2013 Photo Contest Entry © Larry Warfield

2011 Photo Contest Entry © David Luppold

2011 Photo Contest Entry © David Luppold

2010 Photo Contest Entry © Ron Bedney

2010 Photo Contest Entry © Ron Bedney

 

What To Do This Weekend: March 5-6

Joppa immature bald eagle photo by David LarsonBAEA-imm1-DLarson

Immature bald eagle © David Larson/Mass Audubon

We’ve got a weekend packed with activities. View spectacular bald eagles, build a bluebird house, get coloring, and more. See the entire schedule online.

Celebrate the seasonal return of our national birds with the 10th annual Merrimack River Eagle Festival, sponsored by Joppa Flats Education Center in Newburyport and Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. Visit eagle hot spots at your own speed or go on a tour; then, come indoors for nature activities or view rehabilitated hawks and owls up close. (All ages)

Spend the day learning all about the nature of the Cape from local experts at the Cape Cod Natural History Conference. Sponsored by Wellfleet Bay in Wellfleet, it’s a fun and engaging way to find out about local wildlife, research projects, conservation efforts, and environmental organizations. (Adults, registration required)

Children can connect nature and art at Broadmoor in Natick’s Artful Animals: Mammal Sketching and Tracking Walk. An artist and naturalist educator shows how to draw some common mammals from Broadmoor, including deer, beavers, and squirrels. Weather permitting, will venture outside to learn about animal tracks and signs. (Ages 7-11, registration required)

Families with young children can start the morning off right with Stony Brook in Norfolk’s Tiny Trekkers. Hit the trails and discover nature. There will be crafts, activities, and lots of laughter. (Family, registration required)

Try something new with Do It Yourself Weather Forecasting at North River in Marshfield. March weather is unpredictable, with warmth one day and freezing temperatures the next. Engage in some do-it-yourself weather forecasting using time-honored techniques. (All ages, registration required)

Enjoying the adult coloring book craze? Bring a friend or a child to enjoy a creative afternoon at Wachusett Meadow in Princeton’s Crazy for Color. Start with a short hike to get the creative juices flowing, then get coloring with several nature themed designs. Learn out about color harmony, values, and design and hear about how local flora and fauna are preparing for spring and summer. (Adults, registration required)

Taste the sweetness of late winter with Sugaring Off Tours at Ipswich River in Topsfield. On these naturalist-guided walks, discover how to identify a sugar maple, observe sap collection, get a sweet taste of the final product, and more. Afterwards, purchase hot dogs cooked in maple syrup, soups, and deserts made by our volunteers. (All ages, registration required)

Build a Bluebird House at Broad Meadow Brook in Worcester. Bluebirds are beautiful and help gardeners by eating insects all day long.  Build a nest box from a pre-cut kit that’s suitable for bluebirds and other small cavity-nesting birds such as black-capped chickadees, nuthatches, and more. Hear about the best places to situate your nest box. (All ages, registration required)

It’s Time to Nest

Provide a home for birds, learn about their nests, and make your own nest cozier with these picks from the Audubon Shop. Find a selection of items in our online shop or visit us in person at Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Lincoln, MA.

Also, don’t miss our in-store only events:

  • Spring Optics Sale on April 2-10.
  • Author and illustrator David Sibley gives a presentation and bird walk on April 10. Separate registration for the talk and walk are required.  
  • Author and illustrator Julie Zickefoose introduces her new book, Baby Birds, on April 28.

Audubon Clock

Audubon Singing Bird Clock
Member price: $23.35*
Nonmember price: $25.95

Enjoy a different authentic bird song at the top of each hour, including favorites such as the American goldfinch, eastern bluebird, and more. This wall clock measures 13″ across. A light sensor deactivates the sounds when the room is dark.

Cheese Tray

Bird & Nest Wood Serving Tray
Member price: $32.40
Nonmember price: $36.00

This tray is a work of art. It’s made of mango wood with rounded corners, and the detailed metal handle is shaped like a branch with a bird in a nest. Soft pads on the underside prevent scratching.

Wren House Kit

Wren House Kit
Member price: $13.45
Nonmember price: $14.95

Wrens are a cheerful addition to any backyard. Welcome them with a house you assemble yourself. This kit includes everything you need except for a screwdriver. It’s an easy and fun project for the whole family.

 

Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings

Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds
Member price: $26.95
Nonmember price: $29.95
By Paul J. Baicich and Colin J. O. Harrison

Both professional birders and amateur nature lovers will find this book invaluable. Discover the breeding habits of over 600 North American birds. Learn how, when, and where they build their nests, how they raise their young, and much more. Color and line illustrations show nests, eggs, and selected nestlings.

Birds, Nests, and Eggs

Birds, Nests, and Eggs
Member price: $7.15
Nonmember price: $7.95
By Mel Boring

This fun guide introduces children to 15 common birds. They’ll learn all about nests, eggs, baby birds, and much more. Plus, they’ll find instructions for building a simple bird blind and a water bucket bird shower. Kids can record their sightings and make drawings in the last few pages.

*Mass Audubon members always receive a 10% discount (applied at checkout)

Take 5: Leaping for Leap Day

It’s February 29: Leap Day! Take a flying leap into this year’s Leap Day with these photos from past editions of our Photo Contest.

2014 Photo Contest Entry © Nathan Goshgarian

2014 Photo Contest Entry © Nathan Goshgarian

2014 Photo Contest Entry © Zachary Caswell

2014 Photo Contest Entry © Zachary Caswell

2014 Photo Contest Entry © Kelley Heyworth

2014 Photo Contest Entry © Kelley Heyworth

2014 Photo Contest Entry © Joseph Oliverio

2014 Photo Contest Entry © Joseph Oliverio

2013 Photo Contest Entry © Kevin McCarthy

2013 Photo Contest Entry © Kevin McCarthy

Take 5: Massive Moose

The largest member of the deer family, the moose is a fascinating fixture of some forested regions in Massachusetts. It roams the central and western parts of the state, and some have even been seen in the east. Enjoy these five photos of moose from past editions of our Photo Contest. Always remember to enjoy these animals from a respectful distance.

2010 Photo Contest Entry © Sandy Mallet

2010 Photo Contest Entry © Sandy Mallet

2010 Photo Contest Entry © Chris Buelow

2010 Photo Contest Entry © Chris Buelow

2011 Photo Contest Entry © Beth Jakob

2011 Photo Contest Entry © Beth Jakob

2014 Photo Contest Entry © Dorrie Holmes

2014 Photo Contest Entry © Dorrie Holmes

2010 Photo Contest Entry © Sandy Mallet

2010 Photo Contest Entry © Sandy Mallet

Learn more about moose with our new Quick Guide!

moose-quick-guide

What To Do This Weekend: February 20-21

Short-eared owl © Jim Sonia

Short-eared owl © Jim Sonia

Looking for fun things to do this weekend? We’ve got a great mix of activities to suit every taste. Get artistic with a photography class for adults and a snowflake craft for kids; look for seals, seabirds, owls, and other wildlife; build a birdhouse; and much more!

Why should kids have all the fun? Join other adults for The Wonder and the Wow: Harbor Seal and Seabirds for a fresh look at coastal and bird ecology, treasured local habitats, and breathtaking wildlife sanctuaries. Enjoy the sights and sounds of our natural resources, then extend this inspiring experience with an optional group meal. (Adult, registration required)

Families can make a home for a bird family with Stony Brook in Norfolk’s Build a Backyard Birdhouse. Learn the housing needs of several local bird species (bluebirds, chickadees and Carolina wrens). Then, assemble a bird house to take home. (Family, suitable for children aged 6+, registration required)

Winter is an amazing time to take photographs. Sharpen your skills on a Winter Photography Walk at Graves Farm in Williamsburg and Whately. Join photographer and naturalist John Green to look for for animal tracks, snowy landscapes, and streamside ice formations. Learn tips for getting pleasing winter photographs. (Adult, registration required)

Children and their caregivers will enjoy a story and an outdoor adventure with Wachusett Meadow in Princeton’s Owl Prowl. We’ll read Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, examine owl pellets, and take a walk in search of these elusive nocturnal birds. (Family, suitable for children aged 4+, registration required)

Adults can enjoy their own owl prowlcomplete with breakfastat North River in Marshfield’s Owls and Omelets. Seek out the wildlife sanctuary’s resident screech and great horned owls, explore some owl adaptations, and work up an appetite in the process. After the early morning prowl, head indoors for a full breakfast. (Adult, registration required)

Kids can make spectacular paper snowflakes with Moose Hill in Sharon’s Snowflake Art. Learn tips to make your creations even more amazing, such as how to hide your name in the design! Drop in any time during the class. (All ages)

Discover the natural delights of the season with an expert guide on a Naturalist Walk at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln. Are you interested in the natural world around you? Would you like to notice more when you are outside? These excursions will focus on observing, exploring and appreciating the world around us. (Adult)

Let the games begin! Joppa Flats in Newburyport is sponsoring Winter Games at Maudslay State Park. Beat the winter blahs with a high-energy scavenger hunt for footprints, nests, and burrows. Winter shelter building, animal tracking races, and adaptation demonstrations are part of the line-up for this active and educational romp through the park. Finish up with cookies and cocoa to celebrate the day. (Family, suitable for children aged 7+, registration required)

Take 5: Snow Days

Snowy days are back. These five photos from past editions of our Photo Contest capture people experiencing snow in Massachusetts. Want to enjoy the snow yourself? Consider an upcoming snowshoe program!

2015 Photo Contest Entry © Andy Eckerson

2015 Photo Contest Entry © Andy Eckerson

2014 Photo Contest Entry © Charles Lanphear

2014 Photo Contest Entry © Charles Lanphear

2012 Photo Contest Entry © Elena Cronin

2012 Photo Contest Entry © Elena Cronin

2015 Photo Contest Entry © John Cole

Blue Hills Trailside Musem’s Director Norman Smith releases a snowy owl as part of a rescue and research effort. Learn more about it. 2015 Photo Contest Entry © John Cole

2014 Photo Contest Entry © Alexis Snyder

2014 Photo Contest Entry © Alexis Snyder

More Funny {Nature} Valentines

Looking for that perfect way to send some nature love this Valentine’s Day? We’ve got you covered! For more ideas, check out last year’s options.