Category Archives: General

An osprey perched on a power line with an American flag flying in the background

Take 5: America the Beautiful

What is it that makes America so beautiful? Our breathtaking lands and wildlife, of course!

To celebrate our nation’s 243rd birthday this week, here are five photos from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest, each of which includes an appearance by the American flag as well as some wildlife and scenic habitats from the lands we hold so dear.

Learn more about our work to conserve our most precious land here in Massachusetts and submit your own photos to the photo contest today!

A wild turkey walks through a field of grass filled with small American flags
Wild Turkey © Marie Riva
The American flag flies in the foreground over a tidal flat with kayakers in the mid-ground and the ocean in the background.
© Greg Stokinger
A Red-tailed hawk perches on a rock in the garden of a home with an American flag in the foreground and patriotic bunting behind it.
Red-tailed Hawk © Gail Sartori
The American flag flies over a green tractor in a field of sunflowers
© Jen Shepherd
An osprey perched on a power line with an American flag flying in the background
Osprey © Steve DiGiandomenico

Just Graduated College? Give TerraCorps a Try

Nick Tepper on Nantucket as part of the Alternative Spring Break.

It had been five minutes since we reached Nantucket’s southern shores, and a beautiful sunset was fading to afterglow over the dunes. All was calm when one of the students pointed and said ”a big bird just landed in that dune!”

Immediately, a Barn Owl floated effortlessly across the moors. We began passing binoculars like hot potatoes, unaware that magnification would soon become obsolete. One of the owls came so close that everyone could see his heart-shaped face and golden wings with the naked eye. It then hovered 20 feet from the van, grabbed a vole, ate it, and then exploded off into the night. 

This experience all happened thanks to TerraCorps. For the past six of months, I have been working at Mass Audubon as part of my TerraCorps service year. I’ve had the opportunity to work on many projects from launching Mass Audubon’s presence on iNaturalist to leading naturalist excursions during an Alternative Spring Break for UMass Boston students on Nantucket. 

As a recent college graduate, reading the “2-5 years of experience” requirement on job postings is pretty discouraging. TerraCorps supports young professionals like myself as they gain valuable experience and connections into the ecological field through hands-on work with ecologically based nonprofits. 

When I applied for this position, I only knew Mass Audubon as a legendary name in the world of conservation. Now I can personally attest that it is so much more. The people I’ve met, adventures I’ve had, and lessons I’ve learned have become permanent building blocks in my professional career.  

I am excited to say that Mass Audubon is actively looking to bring on more TerraCorps members throughout the state. Apply for a service year with Mass Audubon for a chance to learn from the best naturalists, stewards, and educators in Massachusetts. If your position is anything like mine, you will have dozens of Barn Owl-type moments that you will remember for a lifetime!

— Nick Tepper

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

Why Bird-a-thon? Let Us Count the Ways

When it comes to participating in Bird-a-thon, there are many motives. There’s the thrill of competition, the delight in seeing a bird on your life list, the support of conservation, and so much more. But don’t take it from us–read a few snippets from current team members on what motivates them to get involved.

I am offering the once-a-year, special chance to support my addiction–birding...while also benefiting our fellow creatures, including the birds, plants and frogs. In addition to raising funds for Habitat, this yearly Bird-a-thon provides a fun and often demanding 24-hour window for birding addicts to find as many different species as possible during spring migration. Habitat is special to me as it not only provides outreach programs to a range of children to help them enjoy and appreciate the outdoors, it is also the place where I started birding.” — Bobbie, Team Habitat

Waiting for a ride to the beach … I’m hoping the little Green Herons will be back again this summer. But first comes spring and Bird-a-thon. I’m raising funds for Wellfleet Bay because of all it does to make where we live so special: from restoring rare coastal heathland habitats (and habitats for little green herons!) to rescuing cold stunned sea turtles and helping youngsters discover the wonders of the outdoors.” — Lynn, Team Wellfleet Bay

Stony Brook is a gem that I have loved since I started birding back in 2009. It is also a sanctuary that I love to protect because it is a place where I want to share with my two-year-old toddler. The team engages with people about nature, helps create a safe and comfortable place where little ones can explore and discover the wonders around them, and transforms the theoretical meaning of conservation into practical sense. The people who work at Stony Brook are amazing, patient, and passionate people. I am proud to be able to support their work, so that they can continue to do what they do best: helping people to enjoy nature and helping protect special places like Stony Brook for future generations.” Hung, Team Stony Brook

My grandson Liam was thrilled to add a Sandhill Crane to his life list two years ago. He will be joining me again this year. He’s a good little birder. He’s excellent at spotting and listening. ” — Mary, Team Coastal Waterbird Program

“I was browsing in the shop at Drumlin Farm and my eye was caught by the display of a book, The Lost Words. A poster beside the book explained that the authors had been dismayed when the Oxford Junior Dictionary decided to omit some words to make room for other “words that had more relevance for children today.” The words omitted included clover, acorn, dandelion, fern, heron, newt, and wren. The new words added included analog, blog, broadband, chatroom and voicemail. Children and adults alike need nature. And we need to support places like Drumlin Farm that provide a place to see our food grown, take a walk in the woods and listen to the wind bringing birdsong to our ears.” – Jacquelyn, Team Drumlin Farm

Feeling inspired?

It’s not too late to join a team to bird, raise money, or both! Find out how at massaudubon.org/birdathon.

Thank you to Bird-a-thon 2019 sponsors!

Presenting Sponsor
Media Sponsor

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
Katydid © April Churchill

Take 5: Fooled You!

April Fools! Nature is chock-full of animals trying to “fool” potential predators with an amazing array of evolutionary tricks.

Take, for example, the beautiful, veined, leaf-green wings of the katydid or the “eyespots” on the wings of a polyphemus moth. The Eastern Screech Owl’s camouflaged plumage can render it nearly invisible against a tree trunk while expert mimics like the unspotted looper moth or the giant swallowtail caterpillar can be indistinguishable from a brown leaf and a dollop of bird poop, respectively.

Enjoy these five photos of wildlife that can easily fool you—they’re probably a bit more pleasant than your average office prank, anyway!

Katydid © April Churchill
Katydid © April Churchill
Eastern Screech-Owl © Brad Dinerman
Eastern Screech-Owl © Brad Dinerman
Polyphemus Moth © Martha Pfeiffer
Polyphemus Moth © Martha Pfeiffer
Giant Swallowtail "Bird Poop" Caterpillar © Mass Audubon
Giant Swallowtail “Bird Poop” Caterpillar © Mass Audubon
Unspotted Looper Moth © Kristin Foresto
Unspotted Looper Moth © Kristin Foresto
Water drop © Greg Allison

A Day Older, a Day Water Wiser

Water is a precious resource and our use (or misuse) of water has a direct impacts on our energy footprint. The water we use at home to do laundry, shower, or clean the dishes all impacts how much energy we consume: it takes energy to clean and transport that water, to treat and dispose of wastewater after we are finished with it, and to heat it when needed.

© Greg Allison

These Water Stats May Surprise You

Americans are one of the least conscious water users, and therefore, energy consumers, withdrawing an average of 98 gallons each day. About 60% of that is used indoors for toilets, clothes washers, showers, and faucets. Another 30% is used outdoors for water lawns, gardens, and plants, and the final 10% is lost to leaks in the pipes that deliver water to us.

The EPA estimates that if one out of every hundred U.S. homes switched an older toilet out for new, efficient one, the country would save more than 38 million kilowatt-hours of electricity –that’s roughly enough energy to power 43,000 households for a month.

On top of that, hot water is responsible for about a quarter of residential energy use worldwide and requires a surprising amount of energy. In fact, running hot water out of a facet for five minutes requires about the same energy it takes to burn a 60W incandescent bulb for about 14 hours.

Be Water Wise

The close link between water and energy use means when we enhance efficiency in one category, we are often increasing the sustainable use of the other. Here are a few ways to be water wise.

Install of water efficient appliances, low flush toilets, and efficient washing machines. Look for the WaterSense products, which backed by independent, third-party certification and meet EPA’s speciation for water efficiency and performance.

Cut your average shower time to five minutes and wash only full loads of clothes. Each of these actions can reduce average water use by 7 to 8% per shower or load of laundry.

Capture rainwater to water your garden or lawn, or simply shift to plants that do not require the same amount of water to sustain them.

Pledge to be Water Wise

Commit to being a more conscious water and energy consumer for the good of people and the planet.

Take the Pledge >

loving our local outdoors in partnership with REI

Shop at REI and Support Mass Audubon

REI is awarding grant money to three local nonprofits, including Mass Audubon! But how much we get depends on you.

If you’re an REI member, shop at one of their stores in Massachusetts or Cranston, RI, now through April 8 to cast your vote for us!

The money we receive will go toward building universally accessible trails at our Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary in South Dartmouth and Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary in Natick so everyone can get out and enjoy nature.

Meet the TerraCorps Crew

This year, Mass Audubon has been fortunate to welcome four members of TerraCorps to our team. TerraCorps partners with AmeriCorps to pair emerging leaders with land-based organizations in Massachusetts. The TerraCorps service members gain valuable, real-world experience, and Mass Audubon benefits from their energy, enthusiasm, ideas, and hard work.

Say “hello” to the team and read a little bit about what they are working on.

Nick Tepper

Hometown: Stow, MA
College: B.S. in Wildlife Biology from University of Vermont
Interests: Birding, reading, photography, canoeing, and breakfast food.
Working on: Creating an iNaturalist platform for Mass Audubon, estimating deer density via a citizen science camera trapping effort at Moose Hill, normalizing amphibian cover-board monitoring throughout the sanctuaries, and pioneering a window strike initiative for Boston.
Hopes for the position: Hope to make connections, and get experience in my field.
What’s next: Travel to see more of the US/world, and eventually go to grad school

Sam Kefferstan

Hometown: Andover, MA
College: B.S. in Natural Resource Conservation & B.A. in Sociology from UMass Amherst
Interests: Backpacking, fishing, baking, and photography
Working on: Incorporating best practices to facilitate diversity and inclusion at Mass Audubon, leading an Alternative Spring Break program for UMass Boston students, volunteer coordination for sugaring at Moose Hill, developing a boundary monitoring protocol for Mass Audubon sanctuaries, and pioneering a window strike initiative for Boston.
Hopes for the position: Professional networking and exposure to ecological restoration/dam removal efforts in Massachusetts.
What’s next: I would love to live out West for a few years and then serve in the PeaceCorps somewhere in South America.

Sara Semenza

Hometown: Tewksbury, MA
College: University of Rhode Island College: University of Rhode Island
Interests: Spending time outside, birding, running, playing and watching sports
Working on: Helping to standardize Mass Audubon’s nest box data collection,  updating Salt Marsh Science Project data and web content, analyzing losing ground satellite imagery providing by Boston University, and pioneering a window strike initiative for Boston.
Hopes for the position: Gaining real-life experience, setting up a study design, collecting data, and networking. I hope to continue meeting new people and expanding my knowledge of nature and conservation. I am not taking anything for granted and trying to make the most out of my experience here.
What’s next: Work for a couple of years to continue to gain experience. Then go back to school to get my masters, maybe in California. Then head home to New England.

Nicole Wilhelmi

Hometown: Grafton, MA
College: Becker College
Interests: Travel, hiking, and photography
Working on: Nature Lovers Trivia Night at Central Sanctuaries, Climate Cafe, Butterfly upcycle art project.
Hopes for the position: To make an impact to my community.
What’s next: Continue my contribution within another local nonprofit.

From Girl Scout to Board Chair

This past December, Beth Kressley Goldstein took over as Mass Audubon’s Board Chair. Here, she shares her Mass Audubon story and her ideas for the future of the organization.


I came to love nature as many adults did—through my childhood. When I was a kid growing up in the suburbs of Allentown, Pennsylvania, the only activity was little league baseball and girls weren’t allowed to play. So I played outside with whoever was around, damming up streams, climbing trees, and skating on frozen lakes until my dad rang the bell for dinner. My summers were spent at Girl Scout camp in the Pocono Mountains, hiking, canoeing, and enjoying the outdoors. It was simple, wholesome good fun–we learned about the natural world without even knowing we were learning.

As an adult, being outdoors remains a huge part of my life. When my husband and I, along with our then three young children, moved to Massachusetts some 15 years ago, good friends gave us a gift membership to Mass Audubon so we could take the kids to Drumlin Farm in Lincoln. Our first visit was to Drumlin’s annual Tales of the Night Halloween event, followed by many other family programs and camps over the years.

I relished attending those family programs with my son as they brought me back to my childhood. One cold rainy day, we arrived wearing our slickers and rain boots. A fire was going inside the Pond House and the teacher naturalist, Edie Sisson, was talking about geology. After examining some rocks with a magnifying glass, Edie handed each kid a beat-up coffee can with a lid and sent us all outside to collect some more. With our cans full of rocks, we marched and chanted through the woods until we came upon a tee-pee made of branches. We were wet, muddy, noisy, and happy.

Taking the Next Step

I loved what was going on at Drumlin and, inspired by Edie, I wanted to get involved. I had worked in business, strategy, and marketing and wanted to give back to an organization that had meaning to me. I got my chance when I met the Sanctuary Director at the time, Christy Foote-Smith, and she soon welcomed me as a member of Drumlin’s Advisory Committee.

I valued my time working with Drumlin Farm, but after a few years I felt I still had more to give. So I asked what else I could do. After some conversations with Board members, I was invited to take the next step by joining Mass Audubon’s Board of Directors.

I soon discovered something extraordinary. What I fell in love with at Drumlin Farm—the devotion to nature, land, and people—was not just at Drumlin but at every wildlife sanctuary I encountered as well as the team at Mass Audubon’s headquarters. 

I’ve been on the Board for 10 years now and I’m honored to be given the chance to lead as the Chair. I have such deep respect for my Board and staff colleagues who bring strong skills and commitment to Mass Audubon.

In Harriet’s and Minna’s Footsteps

As a woman leading an organization with the kind of history that Mass Audubon has (being founded by two women in 1896), it’s exciting to do my part to support and grow the organization by following in their footsteps. I would include former president Laura Johnson along with founding mothers Harriet Hemenway and Minna Hall on the list of strong leading women.

One of my roles as Chair of the Board is to think about the combined skills and perspectives of our Board members. I want to make sure that the Board is balanced across a number of dimensions, from gender to cultural background to life and professional experiences. The Board needs to represent the full range of residents of the Commonwealth to be effective in its work. While we still have work to do in that respect, I’m excited to think about where Mass Audubon is heading.

We just wrapped up an exceptional year, meeting and exceeding our goals and growing our impact across the state. With mounting pressures on the natural world, we know that we need to build on that success in meaningful new ways.

Planning for the Future

Over the next 10 years, I would like to see us protect more open space and connect more people to nature, engaging and welcoming the full complement of people in the Commonwealth. I want to ensure that our work remains based in science and that we continue to advocate for the environment at local, state, and federal levels. And I believe it’s important to help Massachusetts lead in the response to climate change, now more than ever.

My personal passion is educating kids in nature. I know kids don’t have the same opportunities I had. Things are more structured today. There is more fear. It’s something we need to counteract every day—and fortunately there are many people at Mass Audubon like Edie, inspiring kids like my son, who still remembers the day at Drumlin that he discovered how new life can emerge from a fallen tree. 

It’s that simple but incredible connection—that inspired my son, that inspired me, and that inspired our founding mothers—that I hope to share with everyone in Massachusetts and beyond to create a lifeblood of conservation.