Category Archives: Get Involved

Eastern Bluebird on Winterberry © Cheryl Rose

A Crushing Blow to Birds

Eastern Bluebird on Winterberry © Cheryl Rose
Eastern Bluebird © Cheryl Rose

The United States government has released a draft environmental impact statement that will crush the bird conservation successes of the last 100 years.

Their report recommends ending federal protections for harassing, trapping, or killing birds, or taking nests and eggs, unless it can be proven that the intent of the action was only to kill birds, or the species is an endangered species. This kind of loss, called incidental take (detailed here), kills millions of birds every year, even with federal protections in place enabling responses to reduce impacts. Removing these protections will unleash unbridled assaults on our native birds, which is why this change must be stopped.

Join us and act now to protect birds, and stop this regulatory change.

An Age of Enlightenment

Since 1918 the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) has protected our native birds from purposeful or incidental losses.  Mass Audubon’s founding mothers, Minna Hall and Harriet Hemenway, built public support to end the feather trade and protect all birds. Some species were split off to be managed as game – and they flourished with special protection.

The vast majority of species like bluebirds, hummingbirds, terns, and owls all entered a new era of protection and conservation. They were given a reprieve from hunting and harassment, egg and nest collecting, and any other behaviors that killed birds without a permit. This helped drive innovative conservation initiatives that allow industry to thrive, and native bird populations to coexist with a booming economy. It worked well – maybe better than in any other country in the world.

The Return of the Dark Ages

Despite these conservation successes, decades of economic expansion, and public comments representing hundreds of thousands of citizens, the Trump administration has chosen to recommend advancing regulatory changes that will make it legal for anyone to kill unlimited numbers of birds, as long as their action is “otherwise lawful.”

The federal government did this while admitting their chosen path would serve the single benefit of “improving legal certainty,” but have negative effects on all other environmental conditions – including bird populations.

So, if you want to build a shopping center, and construction starts in June, and there is colony of herons or a nest of owls on the land, you can legally cut down the trees, destroying the nests, eggs, and chicks.

And, importantly, if your industry is a repeat offender and kills thousands of birds each year in uncovered oil waste pits (because you won’t follow best practices and cover the pits), there is no penalty.

There will be no repercussions, and no incentive, for making even minor changes to construction or industry practices to protect non-game birds like wrens, egrets, and loons, unless your state has legislation that covers these species. At this time Massachusetts does not have legislation that protects these species – we have always relied on the federal MBTA to do that.

What You Can Do

Join Mass Audubon and others who care about birds:

  • Donate to Mass Audubon so we can keep fighting to save the birds we all love and care for.
  • Submit comments opposing the proposed elimination of incidental take protections for birds. Let federal officials know you support Alternative B to restore the Incidental Take provision.
  • Let your Congressional representatives know that you support legislation to restore MBTA protections, and that you support bird conservation.

Birds fill our lives with curiosity, hope, and wonder. We marvel at their audacious colors, ability to withstand freezing nights, and migrations across the hemisphere. We benefit as they help ecosystems thrive by pollinating plants and eating pesky bugs that damage crops.

But they need us more than they have in the last hundred years. It is our turn to step up and make our voices heard.

Bird-at-home-a-thon 2020 in Review

Bird-at-home-a-thon, which took place May 15-16, was more than we could have hoped for. Thanks to all of you, we not only had a record number of participants, but raised a record amount of funds ($290,000 and counting) that will support conservation, education, and advocacy across the state.

The Results

Our 26 teams recorded an impressive combined total of 242 bird species in Massachusetts. We were amazed at all the different bird species we could see right from our backyards and neighborhoods.

Teams across the state not only got points for birds seen, but for taking part in a variety of nature-themed activities including filling bird feeders, going on scavenger hunts, and even coloring! The Teams that received the most points are:

  • Eagle Eye Award for most points earned goes to Team Drumlin Farm with 992 points
  • Home Habitat Award for second place for the most points earned goes to Team Wellfleet Bay with 537 points.

Highlights

We loved seeing all the amazing posts on social media and our online digital gallery during the event. Here are some of our favorites:

Barred Owl

Drawings & Silly Names

Activity Time

Indigo Bunting

Prairie Warbler

Birding on the River

Flicker Drawing

Bird Art in West Boylston

via Lisa Carlin

Getting Crafty

via Christine and Steven Whitebread

View more Bird-a-thon pictures in the online photo gallery. Feel free to add your own Bird-a-thon pictures as well, and please be sure to include your name in the file name so we know who to credit.

It’s Not Too Late To Get Involved

The birding may be over, but fundraising is open until mid-June! We can’t thank you enough for your generous support.

Thank you to our 2020 Bird-a-thon Sponsors!

Hostess Catering
Metlife

Burds you can see in an urban setting

Birds to Look For During Bird-at-home-a-thon

While this year’s Bird-a-thon has shifted focus to birding closer to home and around your neighborhood, you can still find tons of exciting birds. Some birds are common in many habitats, like Northern Cardinals and American Robins, but here is a list of other feathered friends you are likely to see (or hear!) in habitats across Massachusetts along with some fun facts. 

UrbanSuburbanForest Grassland/Fields Wetland/Fresh Water Coast

Urban

Peregrine Falcon © Martha Akey; Turkey Vulture © Verne Arnold; Mourning Dove © Ruthie Knapp; American Crow © Neal Harris; Common Grackle © Anthony Nomakeo

Peregrine Falcons (1) are found on all continents except Antarctica. They are also the fastest bird in the world! 

Turkey Vultures (2) find their carrion meals by smell as well as sight. When threatened, a Turkey Vulture will projectile vomit to defend itself.  

Mourning Doves (3) are known to make nests in odd places. A nest on top of an upside-down push broom leaning against a wall was once reported to our Wildlife Information Line. 

American Crows (4) congregate in large numbers (sometimes up to a million birds or more!) to sleep together in the winter. One such roost has been common in Lawrence, MA. 

If you look closely at a Common Grackle (5) in the sunlight, you’ll see that it has quite beautiful iridescent feathers. 

Suburban

Carolina Wren © Ian Barton; White-breasted Nuthatch © Rebecca Smalley; Gray Catbird © Kristin Foresto; Red-bellied Woodpecker © Irene Coleman; Chipping Sparrow © Kristin Foresto

Carolina Wrens (6) are also known to nest in odd places when living in suburban areas, like in an old boot, or in a mailbox. 

White-breasted Nuthatches (7), like other nuthatches, can move head-first down tree trunks and are frequently seen in that upside-down pose.

The Gray Catbird’s (8) song may last up to 10 minutes. 

Sometimes, Red-bellied Woodpeckers (9) wedge large nuts into bark crevices, then whack them into smaller pieces using their beaks. They also use cracks in trees and fence posts to store food for later in the year. 

In 1929, Edward Forbush (MA ornithologist) described the Chipping Sparrow (10) as “the little brown-capped pensioner of the dooryard and lawn, that comes about farmhouse doors to glean crumbs shaken from the tablecloth by thrifty housewives.” 

Forest

Northern Flicker © Gates Dupont; Eastern Towhee © Mike Duffy; Wood Thrush © Kathy Porter; Black-and-white Warbler © Brad Dinerman; Yellow-rumped Warbler © Bernard Creswick

Although they can climb trees and hammer like other woodpeckers, Northern Flickers (11) prefer to find food, like ants, on the ground.

The Eastern Towhee’s (12) song sounds like they are saying “drink-your-tea.” 

Wood Thrush (13) can sing two parts at once. In the final trilling phrase of their three-part song, they sing pairs of notes simultaneously, one in each branch of its y-shaped voicebox. The two parts harmonize to produce a haunting, ventriloquial sound. 

The scientific name for Black-and-white Warblers (14) is Mniotilta varia meaning “moss-plucking,” after their habit of probing bark and moss for insects. 

The yellow patch just above the Yellow-rumped Warbler‘s (15) tail gives them the nickname “butter butts.” 

Grassland or Open Field

Tree Swallow © Mike Duffy; Eastern Bluebird © Dorrie Holmes; American Kestrel © Anthony Lischio; Bobolink © Bernard Creswick; Eastern Meadowlark © Phil Brown

Tree Swallows (16) are one of the best-studied bird species in North America, helping researchers make major advances in several branches of ecology. Despite this, we still know little about their lives during migration and winter. 

Eastern Bluebirds (17) typically have more than one successful brood per year. Young born in early nests usually leave their parents in summer, but young from later nests frequently stay with their parents over winter. 

American Kestrels (18) can see ultraviolet light, which allows them to see the urine trails that voles leave as they run along the ground. These bright paths help kestrels find prey. 

Bobolink (19) songs sound like R2D2’s voice from Star Wars.

Male Eastern Meadowlarks (20) can sing several variations of its song. Scientists analyzed one male meadowlark and found he sang more than 100 different song patterns. 

Wetland or Freshwater Pond, Lake or River

Belted Kingfisher © Edmund Prescottano; Wood Ducks © Christina Ernst; Green Heron © Lisa Gurney; Spotted Sandpiper © Keenan Yakola; Hooded Merganser © Srimanth Srinivasan

Fossils of Belted Kingfishers (21) dated to 600,000 years old have been found in Florida, Virginia, Tennessee, and Texas. 

Wood Ducks (22) nest in trees ranging from directly over water to over a mile away. After hatching, the ducklings jump down from the nest tree and make their way to water. The mother calls them to her but does not help them in any way. Ducklings may jump over 50 feet without injury. 

Green Herons (23) are one of the world’s few bird species who use tools. They often create fishing lures with bread crusts, insects, and feathers, dropping them on the surface of the water to attract small fish. 

Unlike most birds, Spotted Sandpiper (24) females establish and defend the territory, arriving to the breeding grounds before males. Males then take the primary role in parental care, incubating the eggs and caring for chicks. 

Hooded Mergansers (25) find their prey underwater by sight. They can actually change the refraction properties of their eyes to improve their underwater vision. Plus, birds have an extra eyelid called a “nictitating membrane,” which is transparent and helps protect their eyes while swimming, like a pair of goggles. 

Coast and Saltmarsh

Piping Plover © Sherri VandenAkker; American Oystercatcher © Cameron Darnell; Double-crested Cormorant © Kristin Foresto; Common Eider © Roger Debenham; Great Egret © Marco Jona

Piping Plovers (26) will sometime use a foraging method called foot-trembling where they extend one foot out into wet sand and vibrate it to scare up food like marine worms, insects, and crustaceans. 

Unlike most shorebirds, American Oystercatcher (27) chicks depend on their parents for food for at least 60 days after hatching. 

Double-crested Cormorants (28) often stand in the sun with their wings outstretched to dry. Cormorants have less oil on their feathers so their feathers can get soaked rather than shedding water like a duck. Having wet feathers probably make it easier for cormorant to hunt underwater. 

Common Eider (29) mothers and chicks form groups called “creches” that can include over 150 chicks and include non-breeding hens as protection. 

During the Great Egrets (30) breeding season, a patch of skin on its face turns neon green and long feathers called aigrettes grow from its back. These feathers were prized for ladies’ hats in the 19th century and inspired Harriet Lawrence Hemenway and Minna B. Hall to form Mass Audubon to protect them.

Ready to start birding?

Get involved at massaudubon.org/birdathon

Nature Heroes in Action

This past year has been remarkable in so many ways—and it’s all thanks to Nature Heroes like you. You have visited sanctuaries, attended programs, volunteered your time, shared your experiences on social media, made donations, and so much more.

Check out a snapshot of what you helped accomplish this year below or in our Annual Report and watch our new video to see more Nature Heroes in action!

Watch the video >

1,386

Happy campers that attended summer camp thanks to scholarships.

800

People that participated in Mass Audubon Climate Cafes and Youth Climate Summits.

67

Bird-friendly forest stewardship plans put into action across 8,370 acres in Massachusetts, thanks to Mass Audubon-led Forestry for the Birds training.

829

Cold-stunned turtles rescued off the beaches of Cape Cod, including “Munchkin,” a 330-pound adult female Loggerhead. The largest ever to strand during cold-stun season in Massachusetts, Munchkin is now believed to be foraging in warmer waters.

456

Acres of additional land protected across Massachusetts, raising our total conserved acreage to 38,211 acres. This land serves as important habitat for plants and animals; provides people with clean drinking water, fresh air, better health, and more places to experience the joys of nature; and leads to a more resilient Massachusetts in the face of climate change.

510,000

Visitors that explored one of 60 wildlife sanctuaries across the state.

Want to see those numbers grow?

Include Mass Audubon in your year-end giving to help protect the nature of Massachusetts for people, for land, and for wildlife!

For Land, For People, and For Wildlife

Today, at a Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuary near you, you helped to save something truly extraordinary. You did it last week, and the week before that. In fact, you did it every day this year.

And you are in the very best of company: your friends, neighbors, and 135,000 like-minded people all across the state are also taking action to protect the nature of Massachusetts.

On Giving Tuesday, we’ll share some stories via email and Facebook about how your support is making a difference for wildlife, wild lands, and people. We hope you will be encouraged by what’s possible when we all work together, and inspired to make a gift to Mass Audubon.

Your donation will have even greater impact thanks to a few wonderful supporters who have pledged to match all Giving Tuesday donations, up to $20,000!

Donate today >

Mass Audubon Supports Youth Climate Strike

Stand With Youth Climate Strikers

On September 20, Mass Audubon will stand with millions of people of all ages around the world to amplify the voice of youth activists who understand the urgency of climate change.  

We have partnered with Youth Climate Strike Massachusetts to share our support and stand in solidarity with youth and adults who are walking out of their classes, jobs, and homes to demand our leaders take action on defining issue of our time–climate change.  

Mass Audubon supports the Youth Climate Strike

The Science is Clear 

Climate change is harming natural and human communities like never before. From hotter days to stronger storms to rising seas, we see the impacts all around us. This reality has driven youth activists to take to the streets for more than a year, demanding action for the future of their planet. 

Now, youth organizers are not just welcoming but urging adults to participate side-by-side with them. The strike kicks off a week of actions to elevate the need for implementing bold and urgent climate solutions.  

→ September 20-27: Climate Strikes are taking place across the globe including in Boston (9/20), Northampton (9/20), and Worcester (9/27).

→ September 21: Young leaders from around the world are convening to showcase climate solutions and engage with global leaders on climate change. All of this precedes the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City  

→ September 23: Global leaders are meeting as part of the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City  to boost ambition and accelerate actions to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.  

If Not Us, Then Who? If Not now, Then When?  

We know that we have the solutions needed to create a healthier, safer, and more equitable planet for all species. What we need now is to come together and use our collective power to make those solutions heard and ultimately supported.

  • Find a climate strike near you and join us on September 20. Then, ask three friends or family members to join you as well.  
  • If you’re striking in Boston, look for the Mass Audubon table at City Hall Plaza.
  • Unable to miss work? Check out these suggestions from youth organizers on how you can offer support from your workplace.  
  • Talk about climate change and the strike with family, friends, and coworkers. And remember to be an adult ally in every climate conversation you have. Lead by example for other parents, adults, and even teachers.  

The moment to show up for nature and the future of all young people is now. 

Will you be standing and striking? If so, share where in the comments.

© Richard Hilgendorff

Take 5: June 2019 Facebook Favorites

Over the course of the 2019 Photo Contest, we will be highlighting 5 photos from the previous month’s entries on Facebook and asking fans to select their favorite. This is just a fun way of sharing some of the amazing entries and doesn’t have to do with the official judging process.

You can pick your favorite by “liking” it on Facebook. Not a Facebook user? Let us know your top pick in the comments. And, there’s still time to enter the contest—the deadline is September 30!

Great Horned Owl © Deidre Gonsalves
Tufted Titmouse @ Greg Nadeau
© Nadia Haq
© Richard Hilgendorff
Humpback Whales © Terri Nickerson
loving our local outdoors in partnership with REI

UPDATE: REI Member Vote Grant

Great news! Mass Audubon received 34% of all votes in REI’s first-ever “Loving Our Local Outdoors” member vote grant in New England.

The Award

As a result, we will receive $15,500 to split between two projects.

  • On the South Coast of Massachusetts, we will build new trails at Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary to create an amazing eight-mile circuit trail that allows hikers to experience beautiful beach, grassland, and salt marsh habitat.
  • Just west of Boston, at Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary in Natick, we will repair and reroute nine miles of hiking trails that have eroded due to heavy use and flooding over the years, creating an improved visitor experience.

Both projects will include ADA-accessible trail additions and enhancements, such as observation platforms and a boardwalk, so that people of all abilities can get out and enjoy nature.

Here’s How it Worked

Between March 7 and April 9, 2019, REI members who made an in-store purchase were encouraged to vote for one of three local stewardship projects—Mass Audubon, Appalachian Mountain Club, or Save the Bay—via an in-store display. Participating stores included Boston, Cranston (RI), Framingham, Hingham, and Reading.

Our sincerest thanks to our supporters and to REI members for making this happen! And to REI for supporting our mission to connect even more people with nature.  

Make the World a Greener Place

On April 22, 1970, some 20 million Americans demanded clean air and water. Since then, the Environmental Protection Agency was formed, the Clean Air & Water Act passed, and the Endangered Species Act was implemented to protect our most vulnerable wildlife.

While much has improved over the last 49 years, we are still fighting for our planet. And Mass Audubon continues to be at the forefront by:

  • Protecting 38,000 acres of land across Massachusetts
  • Fighting for strong environmental policies on Beacon Hill and Capitol Hill
  • Teaching kids and adults about the importance of protecting nature for people and wildlife
  • Providing places for everyone to get out and enjoy nature

You can help us do so much more. In honor of Earth Day, make the world a greener place with a gift to Mass Audubon.

© Sarah Houle

Youth Are Calling. Are You Ready to Listen?

We have all heard, and perhaps even been on the receiving end of the “young and naïve” stereotypes. Young and carefree. Young and impressionable. Young and idealistic.  And while all of those adjectives might be accurate, they aren’t stopping youth around the world from calling into question the actions (or lack thereof) of previous generations to address climate change.

This wave of youth activism began last year when 16-year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden began camping outside the Swedish parliament and accused lawmakers of failing to uphold their commitments to fight climate change. Greta and her cohort of activists are clear with their message- we want action and we want it now.

© Sarah Houle

The Voiceless Future

There are more young people in the world than ever before and their commitment to social and environmental justice cannot be ignored. Unlike previous generations, these people have grown up learning about climate change and its impacts, watching as most elected officials have failed to take aggressive action at the scale necessary.

Recently, a group of youth caught the media’s attention when they confronted Senator Diane Feinstein about the Green New Deal. In the Senator’s response, she offered them her pragmatic and perhaps even, realistic perspective: the Green New Deal is an ambitious plan that is unlikely to pass Congress. She also pointed out that the very people making this request were not the ones who voted for her–an accurate assessment since they were under 18 years old.

It begs the question…when you aren’t yet allowed to vote, how do you make your voice heard? How do you protect your future and safeguard yourselves against the greatest impacts of climate change?

Organizing for Climate Action

On March 15, youth around the world are walking out of school to participate in the Youth Strike 4 Climate. With over 1,000 events expected across almost 90 countries, the significance of this movement cannot be ignored.

These youth are coming together to say that they want to live their lives full of hope and excitement, not fear for their future. They are calling upon the world’s decision-makers’ to understand the crisis in front of us and commit to drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions immediately.

When it comes to climate change, the deniers–a small but vocal minority–get a lot of attention. However, these young people are telling us to forget the deniers and instead worry about the delayers.

They are the group of people most threatening their future, and there are far more delayers than there are deniers.  Without a doubt, the year 2080 looks bleak for these young people, but the year 2018 didn’t bring much comfort either.

No Matter Your Age–We Must Act

As inspiring as their leadership has been, leaving all of this up to our youth is just irresponsible. They have been forced to fill a void that we adults have left for far too long. It’s time that we each step up and make sure the youngest among us aren’t the only ones raising their voices.

Get engaged and support the young voices that are rising up. Here are just a few ways:

→ Make sure the youth in your community have all the tools they need to tackle this global challenge. That includes ensuring your school district is teaching Massachusetts Science, Technology, and Engineering Standards across K-12 curriculum.  

→ Call your Senator and Representative and tell them that you want bold and swift action on climate change now. Better yet, tell your State legislators that same message. Use the tools at your disposal that many of our youth currently lack–holding the people we voted for accountable to do their job.

→ Join the movement and fight alongside the youth themselves. Find a Youth4Climate Strike near you and support those students by helping to amplify their message.