In addition to having the distinction of being the official emblem of the United States, Bald Eagles are also one of the great conservation success stories. Once considered a rare breeder in the state, reintroduction efforts have been successful enough that Bald Eagles are seen with increasing frequency year-round in Massachusetts and the number of nesting eagles continues to rise each year.
When ice forms on interior lakes, Bald Eagles move to river mouths along the coast where they can fish in the open water. The mouth of the Merrimack often has a number of wintering eagles, which is why the Merrimack River Eagle Festival, co-hosted by Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center and Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, takes place in mid-February.
You’ll find ample opportunities to spot Bald Eagles both during the festival and during any number of eagle programs in your area, but until then, here are five photos of eagles in winter from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest for you to enjoy.
Northern Cardinals. Blue Jays. American Goldfinches. You expect to see these birds during the winter. But birds like the American Robin and the Hermit Thrush catch many New Englanders off guard this time of year. After all, shouldn’t they be sunning themselves down south?
Not necessarily. According to Joan Walsh, Mass Audubon’s Bertrand Chair of Field Ornithology and Natural History, many traditionally migratory birds are sticking around, possibly due to increasing temperatures and a more readily available food source (i.e., berries)—a trend that’s been increasing over the last 40 years. And, in some cases, we humans have contributed to the number of birds seen this time of year.
Though quiet as a mouse in winter, the Hermit Thrush is full of song in spring. In fact, you’re likely to hear this small, olive-brown-colored forest dweller long before you see him. Considered by many to be the finest songster in North America, the Hermit Thrush utters a song that consists of a series of ethereal flutelike phrases.
It may be a few months before you hear the fabled “American Nightengale” sing its sweet song, but if you’re lucky and attentive, you can hit the trail to spot this bird: Hermit Thrushes prefer secluded woodland habitats, from the damp mixed forests of western Massachusetts to dry pine barrens along the coast. Common characteristics of their nesting areas are a dense understory (think saplings and shrubs) and an abundance of evergreens.
Enjoy these five photos of Hermit Thrushes from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest, and if you haven’t yet, check out this year’s photo contest winners!
With family and friends gathering to celebrate the season and one another, we hope you’ll take some time to get outdoors and enjoy the unique beauty of nature in winter with your loved ones. Breathe in the cold, crisp air, listen for wintering songbirds like chickadees and cardinals, and look for fresh tracks in the snow. By foot, snowshoe, or ski, there is so much explore and appreciate this time of year.
We appreciate all the nature heroes who inspire us every day because we know the impact one person can have on the planet. Enjoy these five photos of folks enjoying the wonder of winter in nature. And happy holidays from all of us at Mass Audubon!
American Minks are members of the weasel family, averaging between 2 and 3.5 pounds, smaller than some of their cousins, Fishers and River Otters, but larger than others, such as ermine or long-tailed weasels.
They share many traits with otters, including webbed feet and a coating of oil to keep their fur waterproof. They are also semi-aquatic and carnivorous, eating mostly muskrats, fish, frogs, snakes, and small mammals. But unlike the more social otters, minks are loners and typically only meet up to breed and then part ways. They seem to share a bit of the otters’ playfulness, however, and can be spotted pushing through the snow or sliding down snow-covered slopes on their bellies. If you’re lucky enough to spot a mink in wintertime, it will likely be at dawn or dusk, as they are “crepuscular.”
Enjoy these five photos of minks from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest and check out the recently announced winners of the 2019 photo contest on our website!
With our first major statewide snowstorm behind us, winter has certainly arrived in Massachusetts. The shoveling, snow blowing, and slippery driving conditions may not be ideal, but there’s nothing like a fresh blanket of snow to bring out the beauty of nature in winter.
As winter closes in, many species of wildlife look to fuel up for the challenging conditions of winter. Fortunately, several plant species take advantage of this in their seed dispersal strategies by producing delicious and nutritious berries that wildlife will eat then excrete, depositing seeds in a new location along with a dose of fertilizer. While many of the fall berries have long since gone by, some varieties last well into winter, providing a larder for the fruit-eating species that are active all winter long.
As you may be dining on plenty of turkey this week, we thought we’d turn our attention away from the domesticated variety that graces many a Thanksgiving table, and instead “show off” that iconic show-off, the Wild Turkey.
Wild Turkey can stand four feet tall, with a large, bulky body covered with bronzy, iridescent feathers. The tom (male) has a reddish-blue head and a hair-like “beard” protruding from his breast. The smaller female is duller in coloration than the male.
In the spring, tom turkeys make their famous gobble in order to lure in females. Courtship begins when the tom spreads its tail, fluffs out its feathers, swells out the facial wattles, and struts in front of the females. This elaborate dance may be entertaining for us, but the (turkey) ladies love it! Males are polygamous and will mate with several females if given the opportunity.
Want to impress your family with a few $5 words this Turkey Day? Brush up on your turkey vocabulary with our handy guide to Wild Turkey Terminology. And enjoy these five photos of toms strutting their stuff for the ladies, all submitted to our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest.
Clever, pugnacious Blue Jays are well-known for their territorial behavior and raucous Jay! Jay! call, but they are actually capable of an amazing array of vocal sounds, including whistles, toots, and wheedle-wheedle calls. Blue Jays can even mimic the scream of a Red-tailed Hawk in order to scare other birds!
Like all blue birds, Blue Jays are not actually, in fact, blue! Most of the vibrant feather colors found in birds, like yellow and red, come from pigments in their food that absorb certain wavelengths of light, but no birds (and almost no species in the entire animal kingdom) are capable of producing blue pigments. Instead, the blue color is the result of light refracting off of tiny, specialized structures in the bird’s feathers.
Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to talk with your mouth full? Apparently, these birds never got the memo. Here are five photos of birds that may or may not have bitten off more than they can chew, all submitted in the past to our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. The 2019 photo contest is closed, but we’ll be announcing the winners soon, so stay tuned!
Things are really looking up these days…or at the very least, these photographers are!
This week’s Take 5 features photos of the forest canopy, all of which were submitted in the past to our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. The 2019 photo contest is now closed, but we’re hard at work judging this year’s submissions and can’t wait to announce the winner, so stay tuned!