Category Archives: Take 5

Mining Bee (Genus Andrena) © Daniel McNamara

Take 5: Busy Bees

It’s springtime and nature is abuzz with activity—literally, in the case of bees! With more than 370 species of bees living in Massachusetts, there’s plenty for a budding entomologist to discover. While the more familiar bumblebees and European honeybees are social, up to 85% of bees are solitary and do not form colonies, preferring to nest in burrows that they dig in wood or the ground. These solitary bees typically overwinter in burrows and emerge in the spring to begin reproducing.

Bees can sometimes inspire fear because some (but not all) of them sting. However, these fascinating insects are vitally important to nature and to our economy. Many are important pollinators of plants that we rely on for food and, of course, honeybees give us tasty honey and useful beeswax.

Find out more about bees and how you can help pollinators thrive on our website and enjoy these five photos of bees from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest submissions.

Carpenter Bee © Meyer Franklin
Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica) © Meyer Franklin
Giant Resin Bee (exotic species) © Sean Horton
Giant Resin Bee (non-native species) © Sean Horton
Green Sweat Bee (Agapostemon virescens) © Emily Gauvin
Green Sweat Bee (Agapostemon virescens) © Emily Gauvin
Mining Bee (Genus Andrena) © Daniel McNamara
Mining Bee (Genus Andrena) © Daniel McNamara
Tri-colored Bumblebee (Bombus ternarius) © Ellen Pierce
Tri-colored Bumblebee (Bombus ternarius) © Ellen Pierce
Eastern Towhee © Matt Filosa

Take 5: Towhee Takeover

It’s an exciting time of year! More and more migratory birds are returning to Massachusetts each week, including the strikingly patterned Eastern Towhee.

With its bold black throat, head, back, and tail, reddish-brown sides, and white belly, this large sparrow cuts a handsome figure—if you can spot one. They spend a lot of time in thick underbrush or rummaging around in leaf litter for forage so you may hear them more than you see them, but they can be enticed to visit your bird feeder, especially during the breeding season and if your yard’s edges are overgrown.

The classic mnemonic for the male towhee’s mating song is drink-your-tea! with the “tea” dragging out in a musical trill, while both sexes will employ a rising chewink call. Listen for both along forest edges with dense thickets and tangles.

Learn more about what to look for in nature this time of year in the Outdoor Almanac and enjoy these five photo contest submissions of Eastern Towhees.

Eastern Towhee © Amy Martin
Eastern Towhee © Amy Martin
Eastern Towhee © Susan Wellington
Eastern Towhee © Susan Wellington
Eastern Towhee © Evan Lipton
Eastern Towhee © Evan Lipton
Eastern Towhee © Mike Duffy
Eastern Towhee © Mike Duffy
Eastern Towhee © Matt Filosa
Eastern Towhee © Matt Filosa
Prothonotary Warbler © Terri Nickerson

Take 5: Sing for Spring!

Spring is finally here! The days are getting longer and warmer, the trees are leafing out and budding left and right, and spring bird migration is picking up steam. Doesn’t it just make you want to sing?

Here are five birds that agree with that sentiment and are singing their hearts out for spring. You might consider joining them during a spring bird-watching program at one of our sanctuaries. Happy spring!

Prothonotary Warbler © Terri Nickerson
Prothonotary Warbler © Terri Nickerson
Song Sparrow © Richard Alvarnaz
Song Sparrow © Richard Alvarnaz
Black and White Warbler © Brad Dinerman
Black and White Warbler © Brad Dinerman
Indigo Bunting © Phil Doyle
Indigo Bunting © Phil Doyle
Red-winged Blackbird © David Peller
Red-winged Blackbird © David Peller
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
Baltimore Oriole © Lee Millet

Take 5: Birds of the Rainbow

Spring is in the air and all of Massachusetts is eagerly awaiting the return of bright, beautiful color to the drab, grey-brown landscape of winter. In that spirit, here are five colorful birds to look for as the weather warms to make your day a little more colorful.

Scarlet Tanager © Jeff Carpenter
Scarlet Tanager © Jeff Carpenter
Baltimore Oriole © Lee Millet
Baltimore Oriole © Lee Millet
Yellow Warbler © Bernard Creswick
Yellow Warbler © Bernard Creswick
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (female) © David Pallin
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (female) © David Pallin
Indigo Bunting © Yunzhong He
Indigo Bunting © Yunzhong He
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
Marsh Wren © Matt Filosa

Take 5: Marsh Wren Splits

True to their name, tiny-but-fierce Marsh Wrens are denizens of wetlands and saltmarshes of North America, returning to Massachusetts to breed in the spring. With a sharp eye, you’ll spot them flitting about among the reeds, rushes, and cattails, picking at the vegetation for tasty insects and spiders and aggressively vying for resources and mates.

Rarely leaving the relative safety of the dense reeds, they have developed some acrobatic moves, including grasping a stalk in each foot and scuttling up and down with their tails cocked upward. Take a walk through a marsh this spring and look both between and above the reeds for Marsh Wrens: they will occasionally flutter up above the cattails and sing “on the wing” to make themselves more conspicuous to other wrens, both males and females.

Here are five great photos of Marsh Wrens “doing the splits”, all past submissions to our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. Visit the photo contest page on our website to see all the past contest winners and sign up to receive alerts when this year’s contest opens.

Marsh Wren © Matt Filosa
Marsh Wren © Matt Filosa
Marsh Wren © Davey Walters
Marsh Wren © Davey Walters
Marsh Wren © Mark Rosenstein
Marsh Wren © Mark Rosenstein
Marsh Wren © Craig Daniliuk
Marsh Wren © Craig Daniliuk
Marsh Wren © Matt Filosa
Marsh Wren © Matt Filosa
School of Fish © Suzette Johnson

Take 5: Under the Sea

For the majority of Earth’s creatures, life really is “better down where it’s wetter, under the sea.” Scientists estimate that as much as 80% of life on Earth is found in its oceans. With as much knowledge as we have gained about the oceans, we have truly only scratched the surface.

Here are five underwater photos from our Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. See the most recent and past contest winners and sign up for alerts when the next contest is announced on our website.

Blue Shark © Kevin McCarthy
Blue Shark © Kevin McCarthy
Hermit Crab © Emily Zollo
Hermit Crab © Emily Zollo
Harbor Seal Pup © Alex Shure
Harbor Seal Pup © Alex Shure
School of Fish © Suzette Johnson
School of Fish © Suzette Johnson
Jellyfish (likely Lion's Mane) © Alex Shure
Jellyfish (likely Lion’s Mane) © Alex Shure
Barn Swallow © Ken Lee

Take 5: Mirror, Mirror

We all need time to pause for moments of reflection. Why not “take five” and reflect on these five photos of wildlife and their mirror images? They might just have you seeing double…

These photos were all submitted to our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. See the 2018 photo contest winners on our website and sign up for alerts when the contest opens again for 2019.

Mallard © Mark Landman
Mallard © Mark Landman
Great Blue Heron © Don Miffitt
Great Blue Heron © Don Miffitt
Orange Bluet Damselfly © Sherri Van den Akker
Orange Bluet Damselfly © Sherri Van den Akker
Purple Sandpiper © Davey Walters
Purple Sandpiper © Davey Walters
Barn Swallow © Ken Lee
Barn Swallow © Ken Lee
Snowy Owl © Diane Robertson

Take 5: Grumpy Birds

Another snowed-in Monday got you feeling a little blah? These grumpy-looking birds know how you feel. Or, at least, they look like they do. At any rate, here’s hoping they’ll take a bit of the edge off your winter blues.

These photos were all submitted to our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. See the 2018 photo contest winners on our website and sign up for alerts when the contest opens again for 2019.

Snowy Owl © Diane Robertson
Snowy Owl © Diane Robertson
Barn Swallows © Sherri Van den Akker
Barn Swallows © Sherri Van den Akker
Red- Tailed Hawk © Brooks Mathewson
Red- Tailed Hawk © Brooks Mathewson
Tree Swallow © Barbara Batchelder
Tree Swallow © Barbara Batchelder
Snowy Owl © David Seibel
Snowy Owl © David Seibel