Category Archives: Take 5

Magnolia Warbler © Jim Sonia

Take 5: Wild for Warblers!

May is peak warbler migration season in Massachusetts, heralding the return of these small, often brightly colored songbirds. Each spring, thousands of warblers fly north from their southern winter homes to breed and raise their young.

Because warblers are quick and often elusive, they can be tricky to see in the field. Listen for the dawn chorus and watch treetops and shrubbery at sunrise and sunset for a flash of bright color and sweet song. The best way to learn to identify warblers is to go on bird walks with more experienced birders. Mass Audubon sanctuaries offer hundreds of bird-watching programs each year, so there’s sure to be one nearby that suits you.

Below are five photos of beautiful, bright warblers from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. The 2018 contest opens soon, so keep those sharp birder’s eyes out for the announcement!

Chestnut-sided Warbler © Gregory S. Dysart

Chestnut-sided Warbler © Gregory S. Dysart

Yellow Warbler © Larry Warfield

Yellow Warbler © Larry Warfield

Magnolia Warbler © Jim Sonia

Magnolia Warbler © Jim Sonia

Blackburnian Warbler © Brian Lipson

Blackburnian Warbler © Brian Lipson

Prairie Warbler © Cameron Darnell

Prairie Warbler © Cameron Darnell

Take 5: Helpful Honeybees

Originally imported from Europe for their prized honey, beeswax, and pollination abilities, much of our honeybee population lives in beekeepers’ hives, and the rest build nests in tree cavities and in the eaves and walls of buildings. Each hive consists of a queen (who lays the eggs), female workers (who gather food and maintain the nest), and male drones (who mate with new queens).

You may see a swarm on a tree trunk or an exterior wall of a building. There’s no reason for alarm—the swarm will move on until it finds a new nesting spot. Stay indoors and watch this fascinating behavior from a window.

Bees provide invaluable services to ecosystems and sustain our food production systems, so it’s important for people to coexist with them. Be aware that if a swarm enters a building or nests in a location that conflicts with people, pest-control companies will not remove it. However, local beekeepers will usually be happy to collect it. For a list of beekeepers, contact your local pest-control company.

Here are five photos of helpful honeybees at work. Visit our website to learn more about Bees & Wasps or to find an upcoming program on Bees & Beekeeping to learn about bees, honey, and gardening for pollinators at one of our wildlife sanctuaries.

Honeybee © Susumu Kishihara

Honeybee © Susumu Kishihara

Honeybee © AnnMarie Lally

Honeybee © AnnMarie Lally

Honeybee © James Engberg

Honeybee © James Engberg

Honeybee © Daniel Sherman

Honeybee © Daniel Sherman

Honeybee © Sean Kent

Honeybee © Sean Kent

Take 5: Orange-loving Orioles

It may surprise you to learn that Baltimore Orioles are not named for the coastal city in Maryland that shares their namesake. The bold patterning of black and yellow-orange sported by male Baltimore Orioles reminded early observers of the black and gold heraldry of Lord Baltimore, hence their common name.

While females and young birds tend to be quite a bit drabber about the head and may show pale orange, yellow, or even simply tan below, male orioles have black heads, backs, and wings with the striking bright orange below that makes them so iconic.

Baltimore Orioles love fruit, and although they favor young woods or orchards at the forest’s edge, they can sometimes be enticed to visit backyard feeders by fresh fruit or berries, especially in May when they begin to return to the Northeast from their winter homes. In fact, special oriole feeders are often designed to hold halved oranges or dishes of fruit jelly.

Here are five photos of beautiful Baltimore Orioles from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. If you spot an oriole, be sure to report the sighting!

Baltimore Oriole © Eric Hayward

Baltimore Oriole © Eric Hayward

Baltimore Oriole © Bill Sooter

Baltimore Oriole © Bill Sooter

Baltimore Oriole © Anne Greene

Baltimore Oriole © Anne Greene

Baltimore Oriole © David Clapp

Baltimore Oriole © David Clapp

Baltimore Oriole © Julie Gagliardo

Baltimore Oriole © Julie Gagliardo

River otter © Joseph Cavanaugh

Take 5: Otter Overload

River otters were once a rare sight in Massachusetts, but thanks to better wetland conservation, pollution reduction, and habitat creation thanks to those industrious beavers, their numbers are on the rise. And thank goodness for that! With their playful, athletic nature, otters can be a lot of fun to watch as they body-surf down icy hills and generally use nature as their personal playground.

These semi-aquatic carnivores love marshes, lakes, rivers, swamps, and estuaries that provide an ample supply of fish—the foundation of their diet. Otters have been spotted at numerous Mass Audubon properties, including Broadmoor, Canoe Meadows, Barnstable Great Marsh, Stony Brook, Tidmarsh, and more, and although they are active day and night, your best chance to spot them is around dawn or dusk.

Here are five photos of river otters from our Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. The 2018 contest opens in early summer, so keep your eyes peeled for updates!

River otter © Joseph Cavanaugh

River otter © Joseph Cavanaugh

River otter © Ashley Gibbs

River otter © Ashley Gibbs

River Otter © Sarah Hatton

River Otter © Sarah Hatton

River otter © Allison Coffin

River otter © Allison Coffin

River otter © Jim Renault

River otter © Jim Renault

Least Tern © Dennis Durette

Take 5: Splish Splash

Remember the simple joy of splashing in mud puddles or the bathtub when you were a kid? You may still partake of this simple pleasure, particularly if you have kids or grandkids of your own! Our wildlife friends may or may not splash about for pleasure, but it sure does look like fun.

Here are five fun photos of animals making a big splash from submissions to our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. The 2018 contest opens soon, so stay tuned!

Least Tern © Dennis Durette

Least Tern © Dennis Durette

Humpback Whale © Jennifer Childs

Humpback Whale © Jennifer Childs

Belted Kingfisher © Christopher Ciccone

Belted Kingfisher © Christopher Ciccone

Moose © Claudia Pommer

Moose © Claudia Pommer

Common Loon © Jonathan Elcock

Common Loon © Jonathan Elcock

Great Blue Heron © Pat Ramey

Take 5: Great Blue Herons

Migrating great blue herons arrive in New England as early as the latter part of March, where they join the small population of great blues that overwinter here.

The most common place to find great blue herons is at the edge of a wetland, where they will stand stock-still, tracking the movements of fish and frogs and waiting for the perfect moment to strike.

Once a rare sight in the northeast US due to hunting pressure and pollution, great blue herons have staged a staggering comeback in the past few decades. Now, these statuesque wading birds can be seen at ponds, lakes, and rivers of all sizes, often in surprisingly urban areas.

Great blue herons are something of a “fan favorite” for many folks, with their graceful movement and ubiquity at bodies of water across the state. Have you spotted any herons already returned to their nesting sites? Learn more about great blue herons on our website.

Here are five fantastic photos of great blues from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. Submissions for the 2018 photo contest begin in early summer, so stay tuned!

Great Blue Heron © Steven Brasier

Great Blue Heron © Steven Brasier

Great Blue Heron © Brooks Mathewson

Great Blue Heron © Brooks Mathewson

Great Blue Heron © John Elliott

Great Blue Heron © John Elliott

Great Blue Heron © Pat Ramey

Great Blue Heron © Pat Ramey

Great Blue Heron © Jean Joyce

Great Blue Heron © Jean Joyce

Take 5: Mallards on the Move

Ducks are a familiar sight in our urban and suburban parks, having adapted over time to thrive in developed areas. There are dozens of species of ducks, but thanks to Robert McCloskey’s popular children’s book Make Way for Ducklings, most folks are familiar with the Mallard species, the most abundant waterfowl in Massachusetts and, indeed, the United States.

Mallard males are easily recognizable, with their glossy green heads, bright yellow bills, and white neck rings. Females are a bit more demure, with mottled brown coloring and orange-brown bills, but both males and females sport a blue patch bordered by white in their wings.

In spring, female mallards search for good places to make their nests: dry ground close to water, preferably concealed by grass or shrubbery. Occasionally, their nesting spot of choice may be a fenced yard, a swimming pool, or the courtyard of a building.

Fences and walls are not much of a problem for the mother duck, who can fly right over the top, but once her ducklings hatch, they may be trapped as they are unable to fly for their first 60 days. If you encounter a mallard nest in such a problem area, this story of a local Newton family and their resident mallard, “Quackie”, should offer some solutions (and warm your heart!).

Here are five great photos of mallards from our Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest to celebrate some of our favorite feathered storybook heroes. Submissions for the 2018 photo contest open in early summer, so stay tuned!

Female Mallard with Ducklings © Virginia Sands

Female Mallard with Ducklings © Virginia Sands

Mallard ducks in flight © Richard Antinarelli

Mallard ducks in flight © Richard Antinarelli

Mallard Duck © Sandy Selesky

Mallard Duck © Sandy Selesky

Female mallard swimming with ducklings © Hien Nguyen

Female mallard swimming with ducklings © Hien Nguyen

Female mallard with ducklings © Derrick Jackson

Female mallard with ducklings © Derrick Jackson

Take 5: Rascally Raccoons

Mating season for raccoons winds down around the end of March so females will be looking for safe place to establish a nest within the next month or two, often in a hollow tree, chimney, or similar cavity. She will raise her 2–5 young here for about the first eight weeks of their lives, then as the young gain mobility, the whole family will move on.

Because they can find good food where people live, these furry bandits have increasingly made their homes in urban and suburban neighborhoods where food litter, trash cans, and dumpsters are plentiful. This can potentially cause issues if they move into your chimney or attic. Learn more about what to do if you have raccoons in your chimney, attic, trash, or garden.

We should note that raccoons can transmit disease to other wildlife, pets, and occasionally to humans, so while there’s no need to panic if you see a raccoon in your yard, it is best to avoid contact with them.

Got a cute picture of a furry critter? Submissions for the 2018 Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest open in early summer, so stay tuned! In the meantime, enjoy these five cute raccoon photos that have been submitted to the contest in the past.

Raccoon © Roberta Dell Anno

Raccoon © Roberta Dell Anno

Raccoon © Lisa Gurney

Raccoon © Lisa Gurney

Raccoon © Steven Brasier

Raccoon © Steven Brasier

Raccoons © Kwan Cheung

Raccoons © Kwan Cheung

Raccoon © David Morris

Raccoon © David Morris

Pileated Woodpecker © Kimberlee Bertolino

Take 5: Pileated Woodpeckers

It’s always a treat to spot the iconic pileated woodpecker (unless, of course, you catch one drilling into the side of your house). With their striking black and white plumage and flaming red crests, they are almost prehistoric-looking, like a crow-sided modern pterodactyl.

Woodpeckers have several unique adaptations. Their feet have two toes pointing forward and two pointing rearward with sharp pointed claws that enable them to scale tree trunks and other vertical surfaces to look for food and shelter. Their straight pointed bills and reinforced skulls help them to absorb the constant shock of pecking, chiseling, drilling, and drumming as they hunt for insects (especially carpenter ants) to eat. Their stiff tail feathers act as props (like a third leg) when they climb.

It’s not an everyday occurrence to see a pileated woodpecker, so here are five photos of these remarkable birds from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest for you to enjoy. Submissions for the 2018 photo contest will open in early summer, so keep an eye out!

Pileated Woodpecker © Lee Millet

Pileated Woodpecker © Lee Millet

Pileated Woodpeckers © Jacob Mosser

Pileated Woodpeckers © Jacob Mosser

Pileated Woodpecker © Kimberlee Bertolino

Pileated Woodpecker © Kimberlee Bertolino

Pileated Woodpecker © Mary Jeanne Tash

Pileated Woodpecker © Mary Jeanne Tash

Pileated Woodpecker © Davey Walters

Pileated Woodpecker © Davey Walters

Pileated Woodpecker © Dan Prima

Pileated Woodpecker © Dan Prima

Blue Jay © Sarah Keates

Take 5: Snow Birds

Snowstorms can cause headaches, but also a beautiful backdrop for photography. As you make preparations for the next nor’easter coming our way, enjoy 5 photos of birds in snow from past photo contests and read up on how birds prepare for storms.

Eastern bluebirds © Cheryl Rose

Eastern bluebirds © Cheryl Rose

Blue jay © Sarah Keates

House finch © Melissa Shelley

Black-capped chickadee © Matthew Magann

Northern cardinal © Ellen Dehm