Category Archives: General

When Nature Heroes Come Together

When nature heroes come together, what they can accomplish is simply amazing. They can fight for and get environmental legislation passed. They can protect at-risk wildlife and the habitats they rely on. They can encourage young kids to connect with nature and enable college students to pursue careers in the environment.

Just take a look at a few of the ways Mass Audubon’s 125,000 members made a difference this year.

NATURE HEROES like you helped protect an additional 923 acres of land, bringing Mass Audubon’s total to 38,004 acres of conserved land.

NATURE HEROES like you helped create and maintain 255 miles of trails across 58 wildlife sanctuaries.

NATURE HEROES like you supported 47 scientific research studies that use our sanctuaries as outdoor laboratories to better understand our natural world.

NATURE HEROES like you provided scholarships for 1,211 summer campers attending one of our 19 day camps and Wildwood overnight camp.

NATURE HEROES like you inspired 45 Coastal Waterbird staff who monitor 183 sites over 140 miles of nesting habitat for Piping Plovers, terns, and American Oystercatchers.

Piping Plover chick © Matt Filosa

NATURE HEROES like you advocated for 173 communities to adopt the Community Preservation Act (CPA) since we successfully helped write and pass this legislation 18 years ago.

NATURE HEROES like you attended one of 7 Climate Cafes, a judgment-free, informal environment for people to discuss climate change solutions with their peers.

NATURE HEROES like you submitted 2,054 firefly observations during the inaugural year of Firefly Watch. These reports came from 37 U.S. states and three Canadian provinces.

We recognize that today, more than ever, the stakes are high and that it’s critically important to enlist the help of nature heroes across Massachusetts. Environmental safeguards are being rolled back, conservation is underfunded across the country, and climate change looms large.

But, there is hope. And, that hope is in the people, like you, who can and will do something to ensure a resilient, healthy, and even more beautiful world.

Be a nature hero today … for wildlife, for land, and for people.

© Glenn Rifkin

Take 5: People in Silhouette

Silhouettes are a fun technique to play with in your photography. They convey mood and emotion in a unique, dramatic way and because the lack of detail leaves a lot to the viewer’s imagination, silhouettes tend make it easier to picture yourself in the scene and feel like you’re really there. The key is lighting: the subject needs to be backlit (placed between the light source and the camera) so that the background remains well-lit while the subject is underexposed and very dark, if not entirely black.

Here are five beautiful photos featuring human silhouettes in nature, all submitted to our Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. Feel free to use them as inspiration the next time you have your camera out and want to give silhouettes at try! The 2018 photo contest is closed but we’ll be revealing the winners soon so stay tuned!

© Glenn Rifkin

© Glenn Rifkin

© Andrew Dai

© Andrew Dai

© Rosemary Sampson

© Rosemary Sampson

© Jack Leigh

© Jack Leigh

© Melissa Asher

© Melissa Asher

Plug In At Habitat

Habitat Education Center in Belmont has a new Electric Vehicle Charging Station, the second at a Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuary (Joppa Flats in Newburyport has the other). Electric Vehicles (EVs) are great tool for fighting climate change and reducing carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles.

We simply need more of them on the road and more places to recharge. Adding charging stations at our sanctuaries is just one of steps Mass Audubon is taking to lead by example. Here’s why:


EVs are Better for the Environment

Even when charged by electricity generated from coal, EVs are responsible for fewer heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. In Massachusetts, they are better still, since our electricity comes from greener sources.

At Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries, all of our electricity is either generated by our own solar panels or purchased from renewable sources, so charging your EV at Habitat is about as clean as it gets.

EVs Cost Less

EVs are cheaper to own over the lifetime of the vehicle, since they require less maintenance, include fewer moving parts, and are by many assessments more reliable.

Getting More EVs on the Road

There are two primary reasons there aren’t more EVs on the road right now. The first is EVs cost more up front. In Massachusetts, there are a number of incentives that can reduce the purchase price to less than that of a comparable gasoline-powered car for a private buyer.

The second barrier to EV ownership is a lack of charging stations. Businesses and organizations are hesitant to install charging stations without a steady stream of EVs to use them, but drivers are hesitant to buy EVs until there are more charging stations to recharge. Something needs to break the cycle, and that’s one reason why Habitat and other sanctuaries are looking into installing charging stations.

Thanks for Generous Support!

Donations from the following people covered the cost of the actual charging station:

  • Alan K. and Isabelle DerKazarian Foundation
  • Belmont Savings Bank
  • Sue and Henry Bass
  • John Goodhue and Ann Smith
  • Jane and Jim Levitt

Belmont Municipal Electric Department installed electric service for the station free of charge!

Where to Find It

The charging station is located at the edge of the Habitat parking lot near Juniper Road. Sanctuary Director Roger Wrubel, who drives and EV himself, wants to inspire others to use the charging station, so there is currently no fee for visitors that recharge.

Five Ways to Make the Most of Summer

Summer is here and outdoor adventures await at Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries across the state. If you’re not yet a member, you can join today for just $32—half off the regular rate! You’ll receive free admission to all 58 Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries, discounts on programs, and more.

Here are five ways to enjoy your membership:

1. Head out on the water by kayak, canoe, or aboard a cruise with expert naturalists.

Kayak Long Pasture

Kayaking near Long Pasture in Barnstable

2. Swap the slide for a stump jump. Our Nature Play Areas let kids connect with the outdoors through natural elements and unstructured exploration.

Arcadia nature play_Brendan Quirk_FREE (3)

Nature Play Area at Arcadia in Easthampton and Northampton

3. Grab your camera and snap a pic of your outdoor adventures, be it a close up of a dazzling dragonfly or nature-inspired selfie. And don’t forget to enter the Photo Contest!

© Pauliina Swartz

4. Reach (or exceed) your daily step count along hundreds of miles of trails, where you can see incredible views along the coast and countryside.

View from Pleasant Valley in Lenox

5. Learn how to tell a bluebird from a blue jay or a hawk from a falcon on guided bird walks.

Eastern Bluebirds © Rosemary Sampson

Join now and start enjoying your great outdoors today! Learn more about the great benefits of membership >


What To Do This Weekend: June 23-24

Listen to music, look for dragonflies, kayak on a river, track shorebirds, run in a race, and more at a wildlife sanctuary this weekend.

© Linda Shelales

Cape Cod and Islands

Go on a Turtle Prowl at Wellfleet Bay to look for nesting diamondback terrapins, a threatened species of salt marsh turtle. (adults and children ages 6+, registration required)

Kayak on the Herring River, one of the most wild and scenic rivers on Cape Cod due to protection afforded it by the town of Harwich, with Long Pasture. (adults and children ages 12+, registration required)

Track Shorebirds on Martha’s Vineyard with Felix Neck. Walk the beach with a shorebird biologist to record field data, search for birds and nests, and identify bird and mammal tracks in the sand.

More on Cape Cod and Islands

South of Boston

During Hiking Through Geologic History at Tidmarsh in Plymouth, learn about the processes that shape the land we walk on, some defining moments in the geologic history of Massachusetts, and how the flora and fauna we see all around us are determined by the rocks beneath our feet. (adults, registration required)

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)

More South of Boston

Greater Boston

Drumlin Farm’s Summer Music Series kicks off Friday night with the band Sweet Wednesday. Bring a picnic, some blankets and chairs, and your family and friends to relax on our lawn on a warm summer evening. (tickets required)

Go Beach Combing on Carson Beach with Boston Nature Center. Walk the beach looking for shells, driftwood, interesting rocks, and much more! (families, registration requested)

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

Explore the world of Dragonflies and Butterflies at Broadmoor in Natick. During separate programs for adults and families, learn all about these beautiful winged creatures and how to help them!

More in Greater Boston

North Shore

As part of Family Beaver Tales at Ipswich River in Topsfield, listen to the story Beaver at Long Pond, take an up-close look at beaver artifacts, and then walk to Rockery Pond to see a beaver lodge and dam. (families, registration required)

Explore the lower Merrimack River ecosystem aboard the Yankee Clipper during a Back River Birding Cruise with Joppa Flats. Practice hands-on science, use interactive props, and look for seabirds, seals, and waterfowl. (families, registration required)

More on the North Shore

Central Massachusetts

Head to Wachusett Meadow in Princeton for a Family Canoe on Wildlife Pond. Look for Wood Ducks, bullfrogs, and kingfishers and learn about wetland habitats. (families, registration required)

More in Central Massachusetts

Connecticut River Valley

Remove Water Chestnut by Canoe with Arcadia in Easthampton and Northampton. This invasive plant crowds out native plants and the wildlife that depend on them. It also obstructs boating and other recreational activities. (adults, registration required)

More in the Connecticut River Valley


Lace up your sneakers and head to the Berkshires for the Wild Thing 2018, a wooded 5k/10k trail run starting and ending at Pleasant Valley in Lenox to raise money for conservation and education programs in Berkshire County. (registration required)

More in the Berkshires

Snapshots of Bird-a-thon 2018

Mass Audubon’s annual fundraiser, Bird-a-thon took place in early May. Bird-a-thon 2018 participants have been sharing their photos and memories with us. Here are some of our favorites.

Gabby, Age 4, and Jack, age 2, honorary members of Team Blue Hills, view a Barred Owl fledgling.

John Zmud of Team South Coast Sanctuaries caught this Common Tern mid-meal.

Members of Team Stony Brook enjoyed the sunrise at Quabbin Reservoir.

Devin Griffiths of Team Moose Hill always gets great shots, like this photo of a Blue-Winged Warbler.

Team Habitat spotted this Hooded Warbler.

The rain couldn’t stop these birders from Team Broadmoor from getting the most out of their trip to the South Shore.

Mother and Daughter duo Lindsay and Susan got to many birding spots in Middlesex County.

This Cattle Egret, spotted at Cherry Hill Reservoir, didn’t look thrilled about the rain.

View more Bird-a-thon 2018 pics in the event photo album. Want to add your Bird-a-thon pictures? Email them to us.

The birding may be over, but the fundraising competition is still going strong*. Many teams are close to reaching or surpassing their goals. You can support a Bird-a-thon team or participant by making a donation. Funds raised through Bird-a-thon support nature education, land and wildlife stewardship, and so much more.

Want to participate next year? Join the Bird-a-thon mailing list to be alerted when 2019 registration opens.

* Team and individual fundraising prizes are announced in late June, based on fundraising results as of June 15, 2018.

Take 5: Helpful Honeybees

Originally imported from Europe for their prized honey, beeswax, and pollination abilities, much of our honeybee population lives in beekeepers’ hives, and the rest build nests in tree cavities and in the eaves and walls of buildings. Each hive consists of a queen (who lays the eggs), female workers (who gather food and maintain the nest), and male drones (who mate with new queens).

You may see a swarm on a tree trunk or an exterior wall of a building. There’s no reason for alarm—the swarm will move on until it finds a new nesting spot. Stay indoors and watch this fascinating behavior from a window.

Bees provide invaluable services to ecosystems and sustain our food production systems, so it’s important for people to coexist with them. Be aware that if a swarm enters a building or nests in a location that conflicts with people, pest-control companies will not remove it. However, local beekeepers will usually be happy to collect it. For a list of beekeepers, contact your local pest-control company.

Here are five photos of helpful honeybees at work. Visit our website to learn more about Bees & Wasps or to find an upcoming program on Bees & Beekeeping to learn about bees, honey, and gardening for pollinators at one of our wildlife sanctuaries.

Honeybee © Susumu Kishihara

Honeybee © Susumu Kishihara

Honeybee © AnnMarie Lally

Honeybee © AnnMarie Lally

Honeybee © James Engberg

Honeybee © James Engberg

Honeybee © Daniel Sherman

Honeybee © Daniel Sherman

Honeybee © Sean Kent

Honeybee © Sean Kent

A Hero for Waterbirds

Back in 1896, it was the passion and persistence of two Boston women who launched the modern-day conservation movement. When Harriet Hemenway and Minna Hall founded Mass Audubon to stop the killing of birds for fashion, they left a lasting impact on the environment and served as an inspiration for future generations.

To honor their intrepid spirit, Mass Audubon has created the Hemenway + Hall Wildlife Conservation Award. This honor, which will be awarded annually, recognizes excellence in wildlife conservation and celebrates an individual or organization whose research and related ecological management successes have amply demonstrated and provided a significant and lasting wildlife conservation benefit.

The inaugural recipient of the Hemenway + Hall Wildlife Conservation Award goes to Carolyn Mostello, a coastal waterbird biologist in MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP).

Carolyn has devoted her career to restoring and protecting the populations of, most notably, federally endangered Roseate Terns, as well as those of Common Terns, American Oystercatchers, Common Eiders, and various other island nesting species off the coast of Massachusetts.

Most recently Carolyn oversaw the restoration of Bird Island in Buzzards Bay. Rising sea level and erosion of the original seawall on the island turned the beaches into salt marsh and salt pannes. Common terns, who nested on the beach, were forced to move inland, displacing endangered Roseate Terns.

Working with the town of Marion and colleagues in other private, state, and federal agencies, as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Carolyn and her team restored nesting habitat for both bird species by raising the elevation of the island, removing invasive plants, planting native ones, and protecting the island from additional erosion by rebuilding the seawall.

Common Terns on Bird Island © Ian Nisbet

Carolyn Mostello’s work on these islands has been critical to the persistence of the North American Roseate Tern population. Due to her work and the work of others, Roseate Tern numbers at the Buzzards Bay sites have increased by 37% over the past eight years.

Mass Audubon President Gary Clayton, who will make the award presentation at the Birders Meeting on March 11, notes that Carolyn’s important efforts on behalf of coastal waterbirds align with the legacy of the organization’s founding mothers.

“Carolyn personifies excellence in wildlife conservation every day as she demonstrates her commitment to the biodiversity of the Bay State,” Gary said. “She has not only shown success in protecting endangered and threatened bird species, but has served as an inspirational role model for others to take up this crucial work. Thus she is a perfect choice to be the first honoree of the Hemenway + Hall Wildlife Conservation Award.”

Slide to See Bird Island Before and After

Wellfleet Bay

Speak Up On Climate Change Legislation

A key climate change preparedness bill is being discussed in the Massachusetts House this week and it needs your support. The Comprehensive Adaptation Management Plan (CAMP) will:

  • Help protect people and wildlife from climate change
  • Safeguard our infrastructure
  • Set an example of responsible climate action for the rest of the country to follow

Take action by calling your state representative in the House and tell them to support CAMP (HB2147).

Why Support CAMP?

Climate change is already affecting Massachusetts. Many of our communities are unprepared for rising seas, stronger storms, more dangerous heat waves, and myriad other challenges. CAMP would help them prepare.

CAMP will require the state to identify our people and places that are most vulnerable. It will help us prepare for a greater risk of natural disasters. It will establish new ways for municipalities to prosper in the face of climate change, and will encourage communities to work with willing landowners to reclaim and protect threatened areas.

The Massachusetts Senate has already passed the CAMP bill, the first of its kind in the United States, and it’s time for the Massachusetts House to do the same.

Call your state representative and tell them to send the rest of the country a powerful message that Massachusetts intends lead in the fight against climate change.


Great horned owl © Phil Sorrentino

Take 5: Great Horned Owls

Although great horned owls are year-round residents of Massachusetts, December through February is a particularly good time to go “owling” for this iconic species.

The earliest owl to begin mating season, great horned owls often “duet” in courting pairs, a hauntingly beautiful, stuttering “hoo-hoo-HOO-hoo-hoo” sound. And while males are typically smaller than females, they have larger voice boxes, so you can identify the male voice in a duet by its distinctively lower pitch.

On our website, you listen to a great horned owl call and even report a sighting. Below, enjoy these five photos of great horned owls from past years of our Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest.

Great horned owl © Katherine Sayn-Wittgenstein

Great horned owl © Katherine Sayn-Wittgenstein

Great horned owl © Phil Sorrentino

Great horned owl © Phil Sorrentino

Juvenile Great Horned Owls © Maureen Fregeau

Juvenile Great Horned Owls © Maureen Fregeau

Juvenile Great Horned Owl © Libby Johnson

Juvenile Great Horned Owl © Libby Johnson

Great Horned Owl © Emily Swartz

Great Horned Owl © Emily Swartz

CORRECTION: This blog post originally featured a photo that was misidentified as a Great Horned Owl but is actually a Eurasian Eagle-Owl (Bubo bubo). Thank you to all the careful readers who pointed out our mistake!