Category Archives: Get Outdoors

Manchaug Pond, Sutton, MA © Marty Jo Henry

Fall Fest Fun for All

Manchaug Pond, Sutton, MA © Marty Jo Henry
Manchaug Pond, Sutton, MA © Marty Jo Henry

From October 24–31, Mass Audubon’s Fall Fest offers in-person and virtual programs, free activities, and unique fall experiences for all ages throughout Massachusetts. Here are all the ways you can get in on the fun!


Family Fun Days at Wildwood

Kick off Fall Fest a little early at Mass Audubon’s Wildwood Camp in Rindge, NH this weekend (October 17–18) where you can enjoy canoeing and kayaking, guided nature walks, archery, tie-dying, campfires, and more fall fun!

Fall Fest Programs

Howl at the full Halloween moon, prowl for owls, travel by hayride, and more with fall fest programs across the state, both in-person and online.

Nature Play Days

Create your own Fall Fest wherever you are with downloadable bingo cards, scavenger hunts, activity sheets, crafts, and more for Young Explorers during Nature Play Days.

Follow Along on Facebook

Make fall crafts, explore the outdoors, and meet spooky animals with us all week long through fun and interactive videos on our Facebook page.

Pumpkin Carving & Painting Contest

Enter our contest by sharing your artistic creations to our Facebook page from October 24–31. Try one of our pumpkin carving stencils or design your own masterpiece!

Fall-unteer at a Sanctuary

There are lots of great ways to give back to your community this fall by volunteering at a wildlife sanctuary near you. Volunteer projects take place outdoors, so you can spend some time working in nature and be socially distanced, too.

Exclusive Mass Audubon Experiences

During our “Fall Fun-raiser” silent auction, you can bid on exclusive Mass Audubon experiences like private strawberry-picking at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, unique animal encounters at Habitat in Belmont, Cape Cod adventures, and more.

Come Play Outside With Us!

You’ve probably heard the stories if not told them. They always start with … “When I was a kid…” and have some variation of … “I’d play outside all day until the dinner bell rang.” Of course, back then (whenever then was), things were different.

The internet was just a kernel of an idea. Television was limited to a few stations. And the amazing options of after school activities were, well, less than amazing. With fewer options, kids would head outdoors for entertainment–building forts, climbing trees, and playing hide-and-seek to name a few.

Sure, that still happens now, but research shows that children today spend less time outside than any other generation before them. 

Girl playing on tree

Why Nature Play Matters

There are endless benefits to playing in the outdoors. Specifically, nature play:

  • Promotes a healthy, active lifestyle 
  • Develops imagination, creativity, and invention 
  • Allows a space for children to navigate risk and problem solving 
  • Supports inquiry-based learning through curiosity and exploration 
  • Provides opportunities to practice adaptability, flexibility, and resilience.

And of course, when children are in nature, they find connections to the natural world. These connections are critical to creating the next generation of nature heroes. Researcher and educator David Sobel notes: “If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it.”

© Lisa Roberts

Introducing Nature Play Days 

As a way to encourage everyone, adults and children, to get out and play in nature, Mass Audubon is launching Nature Play Days. Each season, our team of wildly enthusiastic educators will share Nature Play ideas and activities, all of which can be done in your neighborhood, local park, or wildlife sanctuary. 

You can be someone who supports getting children outside, giving them the freedom to explore (safely of course), and ensuring they get all the benefits that come along with it. 

To start you off, here are 10 fall-themed activities.

Throughout the season, we’ll be posting weekly videos and hand-outs describing these activities on our website and social media. Follow along and share your discoveries with us!

Campers inspect a bird nest at Wachusett Meadow Nature Day Camp in Princeton

Hip, Hip, Hooray for Camp!

Summer just isn’t summer without camp. Sunshine, fresh air, friends, and fun in the outdoors are the optimal nourishment for body, mind, and soul. So when COVID-19 shut down Massachusetts this spring, our camp and education staff immediately got to work, developing plans to open some of our day camps if the opportunity presented itself.

While awaiting guidance from the state and local boards of health, they rewrote policies and created new safety and hygiene protocols, ordered PPE supplies, and adapted programming for the age of social distancing. Our top priority was to make camp as safe and fun as possible and give kids a healthy “dose of normalcy” for the first time in months.

Campers inspect a bird nest at Wachusett Meadow Nature Day Camp in Princeton
Campers inspect a bird nest at Wachusett Meadow Nature Day Camp in Princeton

And based on what we are seeing at our ten day camps that are open across the state, it was all worth it. Don’t take our word for it, though. Here’s what a few camp families have recently shared with us.

Toads and Games and Friends, Oh My!

“What a gift to offer this magical experience during COVID! Our children came home every day energized and inspired, regaled us with stories of their encounters with the farm animals, catching toads, playing games outside, meeting new friends, and entertaining camp counselor stories about birds.”

Epidemiologist-Approved

“I am an epidemiologist and I was so happy with the safety precautions taken by the camp staff! I felt completely comfortable leaving my child at camp each day. The staff went above and beyond to create a fun and healthy environment for campers. I am so appreciative of the entire staff’s hard work this summer!” 

Hitting the Reset Button

Screenshot of a text message from "Kristine" that reads: "I just wanted to reach out to say that just 2 days of camp has reversed months of COVID damage in both my kids. It's compounding each day. [Heart Eyes Emoji] It really is special."
Text message received by one of our camp directors from a happy camp parent.

Rising to the Occasion

“I’m sad that the kids and our world is going through this, but I’m grateful you all rose to the occasion and still made it all happen. You did a GREAT job navigating this year.”

Heartful Thanks

“Camp was the best week we’ve had since COVID closed Massachusetts schools in March, no exaggeration. Your enthusiasm, warmth, professionalism and flexibility were utterly fantastic. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.” 

Looking to Join the Fun?

The appreciation from our camper families and the smiles on our campers’ faces (underneath masks, of course) are just the fuel we need to persevere through these challenging times, together.  

There are still a small handful of slots available at a few sites, so if your child is eager to get in on camp this summer, check with your local day camp to see if they have availability. We can’t wait to see you! 

Take a Deep Breath of Nature

UPDATE 3/23/20: As It brings us great sadness to inform you that, to support the stay-at-home advisory given by Governor Baker, we will be closing all of Mass Audubon’s wildlife sanctuaries and trails to any visitation as of noon on Tuesday, March 24, until further notice. Please visit massaudubon.org/covid19 for more details.

Spring Trail

If ever there was a need for the benefits of being outside, it is now. Study after study has shown that being outdoors can do wonders for our health and well-being.  

And while our buildings have temporarily shut-down, our 38,000 acres of protected land is there for you to explore.  

Visit a favorite trail, or try a new one. While you’re there, take a deep breath, slow down, listen to the sounds around you, seek out signs of spring, and share what you see on our Facebook page or tag us on Instagram

We may have to socially distance ourselves in person, but we can continue to be a strong community online. 

Need some inspiration on where to visit? 

A few important notes if you do plan on visiting: 

  • If you see others there, remember to socially distance yourselves and do not gather in large groups. 
  • If we feel a sanctuary is getting so much visitation that socially distancing becomes challenging, we may need to close the sanctuary. 
  • To prevent the spread of COVID-19, there will be no bathrooms available. 
  • For your safety, please do not play in the Nature Play Areas. 
  • See additional guidelines for the safety of people and wildlife.

Mass Audubon relies on memberships and admission fees to maintain our property and provide education programs. During this difficult time, we have opted to open our trails free to everyone. If you would like make a donation, you can designate your gift to the sanctuary you visited.  

Be sure to keep visiting our blog, where we will be sharing more ways to engage with nature over the coming weeks. Until then, stay well and get outside. 

What To Do This Weekend: March 7-8

Take part in maple sugaring, attend a pancake breakfast, go on an owl prowl, take a night hike, and more at a wildlife sanctuary this weekend.

North Shore

Take a Sugaring Off Tour at Ipswich River in Topsfield to learn how to identify a sugar maple, observe tapping and sap collection methods, watch the sap being boiled down in the sugarhouse, and get a sweet taste of the final product. (adults and children, registration required)

Meet Backyard Birds at Joppa Flats in Newburyport. Bird Banding Station Manager Ben Flemer presents demonstrations on bird research and banding. You’ll learn about your own backyard birds and why they’re here while watching scientific research in action.

More on the North Shore

Greater Boston

Celebrate one of New England’s historic staple crops—maple sugar—during the Sap-to-Syrup Breakfast at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln. Enjoy a hearty breakfast, then get a hands-on lesson about the sap-to-syrup process in our sugar maple grove. (registration required)

Head to Habitat in Belmont for a Maple Sugaring Celebration. Hear stories, learn to identify our local maples, and taste sap right from the tree before boiling down a little of our own to taste! (adults and children, registration required)

During Magnificent Mysterious Mammals at Blue Hills Trailside Museum in Milton, get a close encounter with the Striped Skunk during a live animal presentation. (families with children, registration required)

Boston Nature Center is also getting into Maple Sugaring. Try your hand at tapping the tree and enjoy some fresh sap! Learn about the different techniques and equipment used across New England and why Sugar Maples are so unique. (adults and children, registration required)

Bring the whole family to Broadmoor in Natick for Owl Prowl Adventures Under the Moon to learn about owl calls, behavior and habitat as we search and listen for our resident Screech, Barred, and Great Horned Owls. (families with children, registration required)

More in Greater Boston

South of Boston

Once dusk has settled over the marsh head out on a Full Worm Moon Hike at Tidmarsh in Plymouth. Stop, look, and listen for creatures that awaken with the setting of the sun. (adults and children, registration required)

Stewart Ting Chong has spent countless hours photographing Piping Plovers at Duxbury Beach. Check out some of his outstanding photos during the Opening Reception of Plover Photography Exhibit at North River in Marshfield.

More in South of Boston

Cape Cod

Go on a Children’s Owl Prowl at Wellfleet Bay. Learn about the amazing adaptations of our local owls and enjoy a story and head out on an evening hike searching for these mysterious nocturnal creatures. (families with children, registration required)

More on Cape Cod and Islands

Central Massachusetts

Discover the immense variety of bird life that exists at Broad Meadow Brook in Worcester on a Saturday Morning Bird Walk. Learn the basics of bird identification and bird watching during this easy-to-moderate walk. (adults, registration required)

More in Central Massachusetts

Connecticut River Valley

Get an Introduction to Arcadia and Mass Audubon’s work in the Valley. Sanctuary Director Jonah Keane will share overview of how we protect the nature of Massachusetts, what’s so special about Arcadia, and how you can get involved. (adults, registration required)

More in the Connecticut River Valley

Eastern Screech-Owl © Linda MacMillan

What To Do This Weekend: Feb 22-23

Practice yoga, go on an owl prowl, take a nature walk, look for animal tracks, build a bluebird nest box, and more at a wildlife sanctuary this weekend.

Eastern Screech-Owl © Linda MacMillan
Eastern Screech-Owl © Linda MacMillan

Greater Boston

Experience Yoga and Mindfulness at Habitat in Belmont. After a 45-minute slow and gentle yoga class indoors, head outside to explore the trails. (adults, registration required)

Go on a Family Owl Prowl at the Museum of American Bird Art in Canton. Learn some owling tips and all about owl ecology as we approach nesting season and create your very own owl print to take home. (families, registration required)

During Tracks and Signs at Boston Nature Center in Mattapan, hike the sanctuary to search for signs animals left behind while learning life histories through observation. (adults, registration required)

Take a free Sunday Stroll around Stony Brook in Norfolk. See what is happening on the sanctuary and stop to enjoy any interesting and unusual sights we come upon. (members only, all ages, registration required)

More in Greater Boston

North Shore

Go Saturday Morning Birding in the Newburyport/Plum Island, some of the best year-round birding locations in the country. Beginners and birders of all levels are welcome. (adults)

Head to Ipswich River in Topsfield for Sunday Morning Yoga. Soothe your mind, body, and soul with mindful breathing and meditation for a feeling of overall peace and well-being. (adults, registration required)

More on the North Shore

Central Massachusetts

During Snow Tracking and Winter Animal Activities at Broad Meadow Brook in Worcester learn to use snow tracks and other clues to explore the winter landscape. (adults, registration required)

More in Central Massachusetts

Connecticut River Valley

Explore the changing nature and beauty of Arcadia in Easthampton and Northampton with your young child as part of First Child in the Woods. Gain the skills to confidently lead explorations of your own. (families with children ages 0-5, registration required)

More in the Connecticut River Valley

Berkshires

Take part in a Bluebird Nest Box Building Workshop at Pleasant Valley in Lenox. Build the pre-cut kit together, learn the best way to place it, and take your box home to welcome birds to your backyard. (adults and children, registration required)

More in the Berkshires

South of Boston

Find out the Mysteries of the Great Shearwater during a family friendly presentation in Plymouth. Peter Trull from the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary will explain the satellite tagging process as well as the ecology and natural history of this fascinating pelagic species. (all ages, registration requested)

Learn all about electricity and magnetism during a Family Explorations at Oak Knoll in Attleboro. (families, registration required)

More in South of Boston

Bald Eagle © Michael Mondville

What To Do This Weekend: Feb 15-16

Attend an Eagle Festival, go on a nature walk, check out David Sibley’s new art exhibit, look for owls, watch a documentary, and more at a wildlife sanctuary this weekend.

Bald Eagle © Michael Mondville
Bald Eagle © Michael Mondville

North Shore

Deep winter is on its way—and with it, the bald eagles return to the Merrimack Valley. Head to the Eagle Festival at Joppa Flats to celebrate these special winter residents of the greater Newburyport area.

Hike the scenic trails of Ipswich River in Topsfield to find out how Plants and Animals Survive Winter. Stop to identify mammal tracks in the snow, watch birds puff up their down feathers for insulation, and marvel over tree buds. (adults, registration required)

More on the North Shore

Greater Boston

Go on a Family Nature Walk at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln. Develop our skills of observation and our understanding of and connection to the natural world. (families with children ages 2-8, registration required)

Head to the Museum of American Bird Art in Canton for the opening of their new exhibition, What It’s Like To Be a Bird: Paintings by David Sibley, where you can meet the artist himself.

During Winter Backyard Birding and Crafts at the Boston Nature Center, learn how to use binoculars, identify different bird species, and create seed and fruit art for the birds to enjoy. (families with children ages 5-12, registration required)

Go on a short Late Winter Bird Identification Walk around Moose Hill in Sharon. Learn simple techniques that will help you to identify most of our resident birds, and a few winter visitors. (adults)

More in Greater Boston

South of Boston

Enjoy an Owl Prowl Adventure at Tidmarsh in Plymouth and search for resident owls. Stop, look, and listen for “whooooo” might be out there! (adults, registration required)

Join the Junior Bird Club for a bird walk at Allens Pond in South Dartmouth. This a free group is open to children and adults of all ages. (adults and children, registration required)

More in South of Boston

Cape Cod

Head to the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre to watch a screening of Snowy Owl: Queen of the North to witness the highs, lows, and challenges a breeding pair of Snowy Owls face while trying to raise their young on Alaska’s North Slope. (adults and children, registration required)

More on Cape Cod and Islands

Central Massachusetts

Meet some of the wild creatures living right in your own backyard during Nature of My Backyard at Broad Meadow Brook in Worcester. You might meet a fisher, skunk, turtle, fox, or even a flying squirrel. (adults and children, registration required)

More in Central Massachusetts

White-breasted Nuthatch © Joel Eckerson

What To Do This Weekend: Feb 8-9

Go birding, look for wildlife tracks, take a nature walk, make dumplings, practice mindfulness, learn how to identify trees in winter, and more at a wildlife sanctuary this weekend.

White-breasted Nuthatch © Joel Eckerson
White-breasted Nuthatch © Joel Eckerson

Greater Boston

Birders and non-birders of all ages and skill levels are invited for a Bird Walk at Habitat in Belmont. We will look for signs of migrating species, mating behaviors, and nest building.

Go on a Family Animal Tracking Adventure at Blue Hills Trailside Museum in Milton. Start indoors a hands-on investigation then hike into the forest to look for tracks and signs of our local wildlife. (families with children, registration required)

Learn how to make Chinese Dumplings at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln. Go through the process step by step: rolling the dough, making the filling, assembling the dumplings, and trying the three different methods of cooking them. (adults, registration required)

Enjoy a Winter Nature Walk at Boston Nature Center. Along the way, learn about tracks, birds, winter animals and trees in winter. (families with children, registration required)

As part of the Macro Photography Workshop at Broadmoor in Natick, work with various lighting techniques and practice using different depths of field to allow for a range of artistic and compositional choices. (adults, registration required)

More in Greater Boston

South of Boston

Go on a Snow Moon Hike at Tidmarsh in Plymouth to stop, look, and listen for creatures that awaken with the setting of the sun. Slow your pace and heighten your senses to experience the sanctuary under the cover of darkness. (adults and children ages 10+, registration required)

Take a Morning Snowshoe Trek along the Beach Loop Trail at Allens Pond in South Dartmouth and Westport. Look for signs of animal activity and scan the skies for Snowy Owls. No snow? Bring hiking boots! (adults, registration required)

Valentine’s Day is for the Birds at Oak Knoll in Attleboro. Enjoy a quick talk about the birds who stay in the area during the winter then build some Valentine’s Day themed bird feeders to place on our trails. (adults and children, registration required)

More in South of Boston

Cape Cod and Islands

Unravel the mystery of Identifying Winter Trees at Ashumet Holly in Falmouth. Study bark, branching, and bud patterns, which help identify dormant trees. (adults, registration required)

Explore the beaches, dunes, and waters of the Outer Cape in search of Winter Birds including Snow Buntings, Horned Larks, sea ducks, Loons, and Snowy Owls. (adults, registration required)

More on Cape Cod and Islands

North Shore

Get outside with your family for a Mindful Nature Experience at Ipswich River in Topsfield. Elements of mindfulness, forest bathing, ayurveda, and yoga will reinvigorate your senses, and deeply immerse you in the healing power of nature. (families, registration required)

Go Saturday Morning Birding in the Newburyport/Plum Island, some of the best year-round birding locations in the country. Beginners and birders of all levels are welcome. (adults)

More on the North Shore

Central Massachusetts

Wildlife Tracking for Beginners at Wachusett Meadow in Princeton starts indoors with a one-hour introduction. An outdoor hike will follow, where you can put your new skills to use. (adults, registration required)

More in Central Massachusetts

Connecticut River Valley

Enjoy Winter Walk at Laughing Brook in Hampden. Look for wildlife tracks, as well as other signs of wildlife such as browsing, scat, and winter homes. (adults, registration required)

More in the Connecticut River Valley

Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary in Princeton

What To Do This Weekend: Feb 1-2

Celebrate Groundhog Day, attend an owl festival, go on a nighttime walk, learn some photography skills, climb a mountain, and more at a wildlife sanctuary this weekend.

Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary in Princeton c Julie Mankowsky
Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary in Princeton © Julie Mankowsky 

Greater Boston

Explore the wonders of owls with friends and family during the Owl Festival at Broadmoor in Natick. Go on a full moon owl prowl, or join us for an up-close and personal view of some of our local owl species. (registration required)

Dig into climate and weather science and watch Ms. G (the Official State Groundhog of Massachusetts) deliver her 14th prognostication during a Climate Action Day at Drumlin Farm. Will we have six more weeks of winter or an early spring?

Attend a Winter Photography Workshop at Boston Nature Center. Go outside to take photographs and, if time permits, come back indoors to discuss ways in which to enhance our images. (adults, registration required)

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South of Boston

During Family Habitat Days at Oak Knoll in Attleboro look for interesting animals, plants, and see what has visited the sanctuary. (families, registration required)

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North Shore

Go Saturday Morning Birding in the Newburyport/Plum Island, some of the best year-round birding locations in the country. Beginners and birders of all levels are welcome. (adults)

During the Youth Outdoor Shelter Survival Challenge at Ipswich River in Topsfield, kids ages 9-14 will look at real examples of animal homes for inspiration, learn some different shelter types and their pros and cons, discuss shelter safety, and make their own full-size shelters on the sanctuary. (children ages 9-14, registration required)

More on the North Shore

Central Massachusetts

Take a Moonlight Winter Walk at Wachusett Meadow in Princeton. Explore with your ears as much as your eyes, perhaps getting the chance to hear howling coyotes or hooting owls, as well as appreciate the peaceful hush of the winter woods. (adults, registration required)

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Connecticut River Valley

Have Family Fun with Tracking at Arcadia in Easthampton and Northampton. Start inside learning what to observe while tracking, and then we’ll go outdoors to find tracks in forest and field. (families with children, registration required)

More in the Connecticut River Valley

Berkshires

Get active during a Lenox Mountain Summit Hike. This moderately-strenuous hike follows the Trail of the Ledges and/or Overbrook Trail three miles round-trip through northern hardwood and evergreen forests for an elevation gain of 840 feet. (adults, registration required)

More in the Berkshires

Barred Owl © Robert Watroba

What To Do This Weekend: Jan 25-26

See live birds of prey, go on a winter nature walk, find out how to track animals, build a fairy house, look for owls, and more at a wildlife sanctuary this weekend.

Barred Owl © Robert Watroba
Barred Owl © Robert Watroba

North Shore

See live birds of prey up-close like never before with Wingmasters at Ipswich River in Topsfield. You’ll be introduced to different types of raptors including eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls during this exciting indoor presentation. (adults and children, registration required)

Meet Backyard Birds at Joppa Flats in Newburyport. Bird Banding Station Manager Ben Flemer presents demonstrations on bird research and banding. You’ll learn about your own backyard birds and why they’re here while watching scientific research in action.

More on the North Shore

Greater Boston

Go on a Family Bird Walk at Boston Nature Center. Learn how to use binoculars to search for the most common birds found in Boston and learn how to identify them! Sing like a bird and get a closer look at feathers, nests, and other bird related artifacts. (families with children, registration required)

During Busy Bees’ Wax at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, meet our beekeeper, find out why bees make wax, and learn how we’ve used it throughout history. You’ll make candles and decorations to take home! (families with children, registration required)

Whooo is making all that noise in your backyard at night? Head to Stony Brook for On the Prowl for Owls. Start inside to learn about owls and the dissect an owl pellet. Afterwards head out under the moon and stars to see if we can hear or see any owls. (families with children, registration required)

As part of Animal Tracking at Broadmoor in Natick, learn to identify the tracks, chews, scat, burrows and other clues left by many creatures including deer, fisher, and coyote. (adults and families with children, registration required)

Search for the many animals that call Moose Hill in Sharon home during Tracks and Traces. Start with the basics of animal track patterns and then head outside to look for evidence of our resident winter wildlife. (families with children, registration required)

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South of Boston

Go on a Seaside Seal Stroll with Allens Pond in South Dartmouth and Westport. Learn about the lives of harbor and grey seals, what brings them to our area, and proper etiquette for viewing these protected species. (adults and children ages 6+, registration required)

Take a hike to learn about the legends of the Fairies and Trolls that live at Oak Knoll in Attleboro. Then head indoors to build your very own fairy house. (adults and children, registration required)

More in South of Boston

Central Massachusetts

Connect with the natural world in a healing, calming, grounding, and replenishing way through a Shinrin-Yoku “Forest Breathing” Guided Sanctuary Walk at Wachusett Meadow in Princeton. (adults, registration required)

During Snow Tracking and Winter Animal Activities at Broad Meadow Brook in Worcester learn to use snow tracks and other clues to explore the winter landscape. (adults, registration required)

More in Central Massachusetts

Berkshires

Strap on snowshoes (or microspikes, depending upon conditions) and embark on a winter Snowshoe Hike at Pleasant Valley in Lenox. Watch for wildlife activity around ponds, streams, meadows, and woodlands. (adults, registration required)

Search for tracks, scat, and other Signs of Wildlife that stay active through winter at Lime Kiln Farm in Sheffield. Discover new “whodunit” mysteries that take place out in nature while we’re typically warm inside our homes. (adults and children, registration required)

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Connecticut River Valley

Arcadia in Easthampton and Northampton is proud to be home to one of the several dozen nesting pairs of Bald Eagles in our state. Learn about these birds and their reintroduction and take a walk into the meadows to look for eagles. (adults, registration required)

Go on a Winter Nature Walk at the Quabbin Reservoir in Belchertown. Along the way, search of winter songbirds, bald eagles, animal tracks, and more. (adults, registration required)

More in the Connecticut River Valley