Category Archives: Stuff We Love

Bird and Moon Comics

Q&A With Rosemary Mosco of Bird and Moon Comics

Rosemary Mosco is a naturalist, science communicator, and cartoonist

Photo by Adrianne Mathiowetz

Rosemary Mosco is a naturalist, science communicator, and the brilliant cartoonist behind Bird and Moon science and nature cartoons. (She’s also a former member of Mass Audubon’s Marketing team, so you may recognize her name from past posts on this blog!)

We had the pleasure of chatting with Rosemary recently about her artwork, inspiration, and brand new book, Birding Is My Favorite Video Game: Cartoons about the Natural World from Bird and Moon, which shows the funny side of nature (yes, there is one!) and why comics and science are natural allies. Read on to hear more from Rosemary about making unloved creatures lovable, fashion tips from nature, and finding the humor in everything.

To meet Rosemary in person, join us at the Drumlin Farm Nature Center in Lincoln on Thursday, June 21, from 7:30–8:45 pm for an Author Talk & Book Signing. The event is free to Mass Audubon members ($5 for nonmembers) and copies of the book will be available for purchase through the Mass Audubon Shop.


How long have you been drawing comics and when did you start intertwining nature topics and humor?

I can’t remember when I started drawing comics, but I must have been pretty young. I had piles of newspaper comic books—lots of Bloom County, Cathy, For Better Or For Worse, Calvin and Hobbes. I’d draw my own strips about people, politics, and the embarrassing bands I liked to listen to.

I was always obsessed with nature, but I had an epiphany about blending nature and humor when I was at a nature-based summer camp. A guy from the local natural history museum came by to give a lecture, but he didn’t stand in front of us and talk. He put a huge drawing pad on the floor and we clustered around it. He talked about dinosaurs and drew pictures of them at the same time and did funny voices! I thought, “Wait, this is a career option?” His jokes helped me remember the important facts. I was hooked.

Where does your inspiration come from? How do you choose your subjects?

I spend time reading a lot of journal articles and field guides, I go to lectures, and I hike a lot. Nature is endlessly inspirational. The really hard part is coming up with jokes. I just sort of have to wait until I come across a funny idea. Sometimes it can take a long time!

I love drawing colorful birds, but I also try to talk about animals that people don’t like. I want to encourage people to love the unloved critters—bacteria that live on your skin, vomiting vultures, mucus-covered hagfish, stinky snakes, etc.

Birding is My Favorite Video Game by Rosemary MoscoYou use several different illustration styles in the book—where/when did you learn to draw and how did you develop your unique style(s)?

My comic output is pretty slow. I drew this book’s comics over the past 15 years! That’s a long time and my style has changed considerably. Most of that is because I’ve been experimenting. I’ve had training in writing but not in illustration. I’ve taken a few painting classes and other art classes over the years.

I just try different things and see what works. I’m always learning. I try to make each critter look relatable, with big eyes or smiles or familiar expressions. But I include important field marks, too.

How do you strike a balance between engaging meaningfully with a topic and avoiding difficult-to-understand jargon?

It’s a balancing act, and I feel like I’m always learning. A science writer once told me, “We tend to underestimate our readers’ intelligence and overestimate their vocabulary.”

Sometimes scientists and science writers use huge words, and when people don’t understand us, we assume it’s because they’re not smart. But people can understand any concept you throw at them if you use the right words. That’s why I try to avoid jargon unless I’m speaking to a scientific audience or I want people to learn a fun new word.

Do you have any favorites from the book?

I’m really proud of Fashion Tips From Nature. Animals have the weirdest appendages for courtship or protection from predators and I love the idea of people exploiting those styles—wearing a shirt that looks like poop, for example, so that nobody will approach them.

A few years ago, a museum in Ithaca called PRI’s Museum of the Earth did an exhibit on my comics, and they had a fashion corner where people could try on weird animal-inspired clothes. It was ridiculously fun.

Any advice for young naturalists looking to approach nature and science from a new angle?

Everyone has their own unique style and perspective. We’ve all got something special to offer. If you think about what you love and how to convey it, you’ve already taken the most important step!

Also, try to find the humor in everything. Nature is full of ups and downs, joys and heartbreaks. Laughter will help keep you going.


To learn more and have a few good laughs with Rosemary, join us at the Drumlin Farm Nature Center in Lincoln, on Thursday, June 21, from 7:30–8:45 pm for an Author Talk & Book Signing.

Piping plovers © Lia Vito

Reasons to ❤️ Moms (Feathered or Not)

As if you needed a reason to appreciate Mom this Mother’s Day, see how our animal friends illustrate the many wonderful traits Mom’s share.

Mom’s are…

Nurturing

Tree swallow © Larry Warfield

Brave

Wild Turkey © Scott Burnham

Comforting

Piping Plover © Lia Vito

Patient

American Robins © Kjeld Mahoney

Supportive

Loons © Michael Phillips

Protective

Wood Ducks © Larry Warfield

And, of course, loving.

Red Fox © Susan Ballard

Want to give a gift to make Mom proud?

Show her the love by making a gift to support nature and wildlife in her honor.

Mass Audubon T-Shirt

New Ways to Show Mass Audubon Pride

Mass Audubon Gear

Mass Audubon Gear

It’s easier than ever to show your true Mass Audubon colors! We’ve added all kinds of fun, new gear to our branded collection, including T-shirts, hats, drinkware, and more. Below are five of our favorite items or you can check out the entire collection.

And remember, every purchase from the Mass Audubon Shop goes directly to support our mission of protecting the nature and wildlife of Massachusetts.


Mass Audubon 32-oz Nalgene FrogMass Audubon 32-oz Nalgene Water Bottle

Keep hydrated and reduce your carbon footprint with Mass Audubon’s Spring Peeper reusable water bottle. This authentic Nalgene bottle is made from BPA-free plastic and features a peeper frog graphic—perfect for springtime adventure, or any season for that matter!

$17.00*

Also available: 16-oz Nalgene with Bee Graphic

 

Mass Audubon Frog T-Shirt Unisex GreyMass Audubon Spring Peeper T-Shirts & Youth Sweatshirts

Wear your nature hero heart on your figurative sleeve with the new Mass Audubon T-shirt, featuring the same peeper frog graphic as the 32-oz Nalgene.

Ladies V-Neck: $24.00*
Unisex Crew Neck: $22.00
Youth Sweatshirt: $24.00
Toddler Sweatshirt: $24.00

 

Mass Audubon Baseball Hat BlueMass Audubon Baseball Cap

Made of 100% cotton denim with an adjustable strap, this classic, comfy cap fits just right.

$16.00*

Also available: Mass Audubon Trucker Hat

 

 

Mass-Audubon-Pint-GlassMass Audubon Pint Glass

Toast the beauty of nature with this 16-oz glass, tastefully etched with the Mass Audubon logo. Dishwasher and microwave safe.

$14.95*

 

Mass Audubon Binoculars HarnessMass Audubon Binocular Harness

The perfect gift for the die-hard birder, this adjustable harness is designed to use your shoulders instead of your neck to support the weight of the binoculars.

$24.95*

 

 

 

 

 

*All prices listed are before application of the 10% Mass Audubon member discount.

Photo © Andrew McManus

Cardinals Are Red, Buntings Are Blue…

…so happy Valentine’s Day, from Mass Audubon to you!

If you’d like to send your nature-loving sweetheart a special valentine, we’ve got just the thing for you. Better yet, make a donation in honor of someone special and send a “Punny Valentine” card via email.

For more options, see our valentines from 2017, 2016, and 2015.

Valentine, we make a perfect pair.

Valentine, we just goat together.

On Valentine's Day, owl you need is love.

Valentine, you make my head spin.

Valentine, our love just comes naturally.

Top Facebook Posts of 2017

A look back at some of the top Facebook posts of the year! Don’t yet follow us on Facebook? Be sure to like our page and set to “see first” to never miss a post.

1. Snowy owl release

2. A sandpiper’s movie debut

*Looks like you can’t stream Piper anymore, but you can buy and watch it via Amazon or Apple.

3. Rare flycatcher spotted on webcam

4. Hiding in plain sight

5. Woodpecker sighting

6. Acorn people

7. Happy Owl-o-ween

8. Hummingbird in action

9. Cuteness Overload

10. Nevertheless, they persisted

Looking forward to another great year on Facebook!

Have You Had a Nature Fix Today?

At a recent gathering of Mass Audubon supporters, Florence Williams shared what she learned in writing The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative.

Those in attendance were so inspired by her talk that we reached out to Florence afterward to ask her a few questions.

Florence Williams; Photo Mikaela Steinwedell

What inspired you to write this book?

I’ve always felt very connected to the natural world, and for most of my adult life I was fortunate to live in the Rocky Mountains with trails and wildlife all around. But five years ago, we moved to the heart of Washington, D.C. It made me think a lot about the connections I’d lost.

I wondered what the latest research had to say about how our surroundings affect our mood, cognition and health. I was also interested in how to reconnect to nature  within densely urban environments. Fortunately, there was a lot of fascinating new information out there.

What’s your first or most memorable introduction to nature?

I spent a lot of time in city parks as a little kid, but my introduction to wilder nature came from camping and canoeing with my dad. I remember being about 7 when he taught me how to jump across boulders in a creek. I remember the adventure of it, as well as the sparkling light and water, the sensory fulfillment. I was hooked as a river and water person.

What are a few of the most important health benefits one gets from connecting with nature?

It seems like the main factor is stress reduction. Being in pleasant natural environments—even for short periods of time—can lower our blood pressure and reduce stress hormones. Large-scale epidemiological studies show that people living near green space have significantly lower mortality rates, including lower rates for some cancers, cardiovascular diseases and respiratory distress. This was even after adjusting for income.

In fact, the lower your socio-economic status, the greater the health benefits. Nature appears to be a social leveler. So that’s pretty cool. And kids who spend more time in nature seem to have better emotional regulation, social skills and self confidence.

When researching the book, what surprised you the most?

I wasn’t surprised by the health and mood benefits of being outside, but I was surprised by some of the cognitive boosts and some of the social benefits, for example that people tend to behave more generously after experiencing the awe of the outdoors. Nature actually makes us more civilized.

How do you, personally, get your nature fix?

I had to learn how to find nature in the city and maximize its benefits. Nearly every day, I spend at least 30 minutes in a nearby city park when I walk my dog. We go out in all seasons, and I cultivate being mindful when I’m there. So I take the earbuds out and make an effort to look around at the birds, the buds on the trees, sometimes even feel the bark or smell some pine needles.

I enjoy watching the fractal patterns of ripples on the creeks in the parks or the concentric rings the feeding fish make in the canal near my house. I also walk my dog in the neighborhood every evening, where I like to check in on the moon or the sunset. And I think being outside at night helps re-set my circadian rhythms to prepare for a good night’s sleep. It’s not the deep, dark, Colorado night sky, but it’s something.

If a reader takes away just one thing from your book, what would you want it to be?

Go outside! Go often. Bring friends or not. Breathe.


You can purchase The Nature Fix online via the Audubon Shop, where all purchases go toward protecting the nature of Massachusetts.

A Great, Great Nature Hero Story

Back in the late 1800s Harriet Hemenway, along with her cousin Minna Hall, made a bold decision. After learning about the cruel way birds were killed to get their feathers for fashionable hats, she decided to save the birds. To do so, Hemenway and Hall founded Mass Audubon, the first Audubon Society, and sparked the modern-day environmental movement.

Harriet Hemenway

Hemenway is Mass Audubon’s original nature hero, so you can imagine our delight to learn that her great, great granddaughter Lila recently spent a week at Wachusett Meadow’s Nature Day Camp! As a preschooler, we hope Lila follows in Harriet’s footsteps and becomes a future nature hero!

Lila, Hemenway’s great, great granddaughter.

You can read more about Hemenway and Hall here. Have a Nature Hero story to share? Tell us about it in the comments!

The Great American Eclipse

On Monday, August 21, beginning at 1:30 pm, people in North America can witness a solar eclipse. While you won’t see a total eclipse here in Massachusetts, you can expect to see 60-70 percent totality, Here, Stephanie Majeau, Education Coordinator at Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, shares her first experience witnessing an eclipse and what we can expect on Monday.

The dim, eerie midday light stands out the most in my memory. Beginning from its typical blue hue, the sky darkened to an unusual golden-purple glow. Surrounded by 50 or so of my fellow students on a clear May day in 1994, I excitedly placed a box over my head that I had constructed into a pinhole projector so I could safely view my first partial solar eclipse.

This was one of those rare, magical, and quirky experiences that made me fall in love with science and now, for the first time in my lifetime, a total solar eclipse will pass across the United States on Monday, August 21, from coast to coast.

Annular Solar Eclipse © Takeshi Kuboki

Annular Solar Eclipse © Takeshi Kuboki

 

What Is an Eclipse?

Once viewed as an ill-omen or a portent of bad luck, solar eclipses, especially total solar eclipses, are one of the most spectacular sites you can view in the sky. Still, many people don’t completely understand why eclipses happen, so let’s unpack some of the science.

Due to their relative distances from earth, both the moon and the sun appear to be equally sized when viewed from our planet’s surface. Both the earth and the moon cast shadows from the sun’s light into space and as the earth-moon system orbits the sun, the shadow of one will occasionally fall on the surface of the other. For a solar eclipse, the moon has to be between the sun and the earth, much like it is during the monthly new moon, when we see only the moon’s dark side.

So why don’t we have a solar eclipse every month? Because the moon’s orbit around the sun is tilted. The plane of the earth’s orbit around the sun is called the “ecliptic”; the moon’s orbit is tilted 5º from the ecliptic and only intersects that plane along two lines called nodes. So in order to see a total solar eclipse, a new moon has to happen at the same time the moon is crossing the ecliptic. (A cloudless day is also helpful, of course.)

Total Solar Eclipses

The “path of totality” is where the darkest part of the moon’s shadow (the umbra) passes over the earth. Surrounding the edge of the umbra is the lighter part of the shadow called the penumbra. Stand in the path of the umbra, and you’ll see a total eclipse. Stand in the path of the penumbra and you’ll see the sun partially obscured in a partial eclipse. While some parts of the United States will see a total eclipse, Massachusetts will pass through the penumbra and witness a partial eclipse next Monday.

Eclipse Viewing at Arches © NPS Photo by Neal Herbert

Eclipse Viewing at Arches © NPS Photo by Neal Herbert

Protect Your Eyes

It is important to remember that the only safe time to directly observe the sun with unprotected eyes is during the totality of a total eclipse, when the sun is completely blocked by the moon. To safely view the entire eclipse event, you can make a “pinhole projector” to indirectly view the sun, get a pair of eclipse glasses that are certified ISO 12212-2 “filters for direct observation of the sun” (many public libraries have these available), or use a telescope outfitted with proper filters for direct sun viewing. Improper eclipse viewing can lead to permanent eye damage.

Solar and lunar eclipses occur two to five times a year, but a solar eclipse passing over your corner of the globe is rare. If you are unable to travel to the path of totality, fear not— another total solar eclipse is only seven years away. The path of totality of the next eclipse will cross portions of northern New England on Monday, April 8, 2024.

Young Explorers Coloring Contest: Warblers by Number

In the spring issue of Explore member newsletter, we asked kids to fill in a color-by-numbers page of native warblers and send us a picture of themselves with their completed coloring sheet. One lucky artist will win a copy of the Sibley Birds Coloring Field Journal, signed by David Sibley himself, and the entries have been pouring in!

Here are a few of the entries we have received so far. It’s hard not to love seeing all these smiles! If you haven’t already, it’s not too late to enter the contest. Simply download and print the Warblers By Number activity sheet from our website and send us a picture of you with your completed coloring page. The winner will be chosen on April 14, so don’t delay!