Category Archives: Shop

Mass Audubon store front

History, Culture, and Nature: Four Books to Add to Your Bookshelf

Expand your book collection with four empowering nature-based books that highlight different cultural, scientific, and personal relationships with the outdoors. From Indigenous plant botany to reclaiming the joy of nature from the roots of forced labor, here are four books to broaden your nature connection and knowledge. 

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer 

Robin Wall Kimmerer is a New York Times best-selling author, scientist, professor, mother, and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer weaves together centuries-old Indigenous knowledge and western science, pinpointing ways to learn from plants and wildlife. Discover how we can reestablish and support a reciprocal relationship with the natural world in this captivating read.

“There is such a tenderness in braiding the hair of someone you love…When we braid sweetgrass, we are braiding the hair of Mother Earth, showing her our loving attention, our care for her beauty and well-being, in gratitude for all she has given us.” 

– Robin Kimmer, Braiding Sweetgrass 

The Mass Audubon Shop also sells a young adult version of Braiding Sweetgrass

The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature by Drew Lanham 

Drew Lanham, esteemed ornithologist, professor, and writer, shines a light on the complexity of being Black and enjoying nature on the same land his ancestors were forced into labor. In this memoir, Lanham dives into what it is like working in a historically white field, living in rural, southern United States, and finding freedom in nature.

“I am as much a scientist as I am a black man; my skin defines me no more than my heart does. But somehow my color often casts my love affair with nature in the shadows.”  

– Drew Lanham, The Home Place: Memories of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature

Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes Through Indigenous Science by Jessica Hernandez 

Indigenous communities are among the most affected by climate change, even though many Indigenous peoples have long practiced sustainable and holistic management practices. Environmental scientist Jessica Hernandez pulls from her El Salvadorian and Mexican Indigenous heritage to dissect the issues of western environmental conservation and highlight the depth of Indigenous science.

“I hope this book can help Indigenous scholars, community members, and our relatives see themselves as scientists. I believe every Indigenous person carries their own scientific knowledge; for some of us it just means that we have to reclaim our knowledge that has been lost because of settler colonialism and how it impacted us individually.” 

– Jessica Hernandez, Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes Through Indigenous Science 

The Colors of Nature: Culture, Identity, and the Natural World, edited by Alison Hawthorne Deming & Lauret Savoy 

This collection of essays features over 30 authors of color who share their relationship with nature through a cultural lens. Adding a new perspective to environmental literature, The Colors of Nature explores the lasting impact of the natural world and different cultural identities.

“Today I feel a sense of liberation…Despite the dark energy that still must pervade Manzanar’s [Japanese American Internment Camp] ruins, I feel only lightness as we drive past on the highway.” (Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, Crossing Boundaries) 

– Edited by Alison H. Deming and Lauret E. Savoy, The Colors of Nature: Culture, Identity, and the Natural World 

Woman sitting on a bench in the woods, looking through a pair of binoculars.

A Beginner’s Guide to Binoculars 

Binoculars are simple, right? Look through one end, turn a nob at the top, and call it good? It’s actually a little more complex than that. Among other things, wildlife watchers need to consider magnification, weight, and field of view. Lucky for you, the Mass Audubon Shop has the low-down on everything related to optics. 

Binoculars vs. Scopes 

Birders use both binoculars and scopes, but there are some key differences. As the name binoculars suggest, binoculars have two objective lenses, one on the end of each barrel. Scopes, on the other hand, only have one objective lens. With one large lens, scopes typically capture more light, allowing you to see at higher magnifications and are more useful when looking across great distances. Binoculars are a great introduction to optics, as they are more portable, more affordable, and also provide crystal-clear vision.  

A man standing on sand dunes looking through a pair of binoculars. A scope on a tripod is set up in front of him.
© Dennis Welsh

What to Look for in Binoculars 

Every pair of binoculars is marked with a set of numbers, such as “8 x 42,” which refers to the magnification (8) of the binoculars and the diameter of the objective lens (42). The magnification used by most birders is usually between 7 and 10, but don’t make the mistake of thinking bigger is better. A lower magnification means you can see a wider field of view and it is easier to keep the image steady. A higher magnification sees more detail, but the field of view is reduced. If you are inexperienced in using binoculars, a wider field of view of an 8-power (vs. a 10) is more helpful when trying to locate a bird or animal in the distance. 

The larger the objective lens, the more light can enter and, theoretically, the brighter the image should be. A larger objective lens also increases binocular size and weight—something to consider if you are hiking all day. 

Using Your Binoculars

First, check to see if the eyecups are turned up or down (when binoculars come out of the box, eyecups are typically down). People with glasses should use their binoculars with the eye cups twisted down. 

Once the eye cups are in the proper position for you, hold the left barrel steady and rotate the right barrel until you see one perfect circle of light through both eyes. Then, use the center focusing wheel to create a single, clear, crisp image.

Diagram of binocular components, including the eyecups, diopter adjustment, center focusing wheel, and the left and right barrels.

The Diopter Adjustment

Some binoculars have a diopter adjustment, an additional focusing tool typically used by people without glasses, and can be found as a ring on the right barrel. This adjustment accounts for any vision variances between your eyes and allows you to set the focus to accommodate the difference. There are a couple of ways to see if the diopter should be used—one of the most common procedures is doing a “triple check”.  

  1. On the first check, look through both barrels at a stationary object and use the focusing wheel to sharpen the image.  
  1. Next, cover the right barrel with your hand while keeping both eyes open. If the image is still clear with just the left barrel open, then do not adjust anything. If the image is fuzzy, readjust the focusing wheel.  
  1. For the last and final check, cover the left barrel—if everything is clear on the right eye, do not adjust anything. If you need to sharpen the image, slightly turn the diopter adjustment until the image is crisp.  

From there, do not turn the diopter ring—you will only need to use the main focusing wheel while exploring or viewing an object. 

Cleaning Your Binocular Lenses

If you notice your lenses could use a cleaning, first blow across the lens surface or use a “cleaning pen” (which looks more like a paintbrush than a pen) to remove any dirt or debris that could scratch the lens. 

Similar to cleaning a pair of reading glasses, lenses should be cleaned lightly with a microfiber cloth.  It’s helpful to breathe on the lens before using the cloth. Never use Windex or other similar glass cleaning products on the lenses.

Woman sitting on a bench in the woods, looking through a pair of binoculars.
© Phil Doyle

Buying the Right Binoculars

The best way to get an accurate feel for a pair of binoculars is by trying them out in person with our experts at the Mass Audubon Shop. We carry six different brands with varying magnifications, and members get a 10% discount. Plan your visit to the shop by going to

Take a Virtual Trip to the Shop to Learn about Buying Binoculars