Category Archives: Take 5

Snapping Turtle © Mark Renehan

Take 5: Snapping Turtles

Every year in late spring and early summer, adult female turtles cross the roads of Massachusetts in search of nest sites. One of the biggest (literally) culprits is the Snapping Turtle.

Found in all sorts of water bodies, from rivers to lakes to marshes, the Snapping Turtle can grow up to 19” long. It has three ridges on its carapace (the top half of its shell), a spiky tail, and a decidedly “dinosaur-ish” look, with good reason—The first turtles appeared over 200 million years ago, making them even more ancient than their reptilian cousins, snakes and lizards.

Many people assume that something is wrong when a turtle is crossing the road. With best of intentions, they mistakenly attempt to return it to water, take it home, or take it somewhere that seems safer to release it. But the best thing to do is leave it alone or, if threatened by traffic, move it to the side of the road in the direction it was already heading. The turtle knows where it wants to go and may have been nesting in the same spot for many years—or even decades.

But remember, Snapping Turtles can be aggressive and have powerful jaws that can deliver a painful bite if threatened (possibly because their small lower shell or “plastron” leaves them vulnerable) and their neck can stretch the length of their shell. Never grab one by the tail—you could seriously injure the turtle. Simply give her space and let her mosey along on her way.

Here are five photos of these amazing creatures from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. Learn more about the turtles of Massachusetts on our website.

Snapping Turtle © Jim Morelly
Snapping Turtle © Jim Morelly
Snapping Turtle © Mark Renehan
Snapping Turtle © Mark Renehan
Snapping Turtle © Mary McDonough
Snapping Turtle © Mary McDonough
Snapping Turtle © Paul Malenfant
Snapping Turtle © Paul Malenfant
Snapping Turtle © Richard Welch
Snapping Turtle © Richard Welch
Yellow-rumped Warbler © Patrick Randall

Take 5: Yellow-rumped Warblers

One of the earliest migrant warblers to arrive in Massachusetts (beginning around mid-April), the Yellow-rumped Warbler is also typically the most abundant warbler species seen during migration. It will occasionally overwinter in Massachusetts, but primarily in Barnstable County and the Islands.

There are two subspecies of the Yellow-rumped Warbler, which used to be considered two separate species. The one we see here in Massachusetts is the “Myrtle” warbler. The other subspecies, “Audubon’s” warbler is a western species, which has a yellow throat instead of white, among other subtle differences.

In summer, look for these handsome birds in open coniferous forests, darting about catching insects in midair. Their summer plumage is a striking mix of gray, black, and white, with bright yellow patches on the face, sides, and rump, although the females’ coloring will often appear more muted.

Here are five gorgeous photos of Yellow-rumped Warblers from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest for you to enjoy. Happy spring birding!

Yellow-rumped Warbler © Bernard Creswick
Yellow-rumped Warbler © Bernard Creswick
Yellow-rumped Warbler © Anne Greene
Yellow-rumped Warbler © Anne Greene
Yellow-rumped Warbler © A Grigorenko
Yellow-rumped Warbler © A Grigorenko
Yellow-rumped Warbler © Patrick Randall
Yellow-rumped Warbler © Patrick Randall
Yellow-rumped Warbler © Brian Lipson
Yellow-rumped Warbler © Brian Lipson
A misty sunrise at Pilot Grove Farm in Stow, MA © Elliot Gilfix

Take 5: Thankful for Farmers

Unsurprisingly, we have a robust collection of beautiful farm landscape photos from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest, so this week we thought we’d share a few of these serene, bucolic shots, along with a special and heartfelt thank you to our local farmers—including those at our very own Mass Audubon farms—who continue to work diligently to nourish our bodies, our spirits, and our communities during this difficult time.

And while we’re at it, a shout-out to all the amazing front-line healthcare workers—you are our heroes!

Old Farm Equipment at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, MA © Cynthia Cole
Old Farm Equipment at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, MA © Cynthia Cole
A farm meadow in Acton, MA © Sophia Li
A farm meadow in Acton, MA © Sophia Li
A misty sunrise at Pilot Grove Farm in Stow, MA © Elliot Gilfix
A misty sunrise at Pilot Grove Farm in Stow, MA © Elliot Gilfix
Tendercrop Farm, Newbury, MA © Jane Albert
Tendercrop Farm, Newbury, MA © Jane Albert
A Family Farm in Whately, MA © Nick SJ
A Family Farm in Whately, MA © Nick SJ
Red Eft © Allison Bell

Take 5: Red Efts

After a spring rainstorm, it can seem like the forest is carpeted with fiery-orange Red Efts as they emerge from their hiding places under logs and leaf litter. Efts are actually the juvenile, terrestrial stage of the Eastern Newt’s unusual 3-part life cycle: They begin their lives in the water as tadpoles, shed their gills and spend several years on land as Red Efts, and eventually (for reasons that scientists are still trying to understand) return to the water as adults, transformed to an olive green color with a yellow belly. They are said to be capable of living up to 15 years!

Red Efts are not exactly masters of camouflage: Their striking color, which can range from yellow-orange to brick red, is an example of “aposematism” or warning coloration—it sends a signal to potential predators that they don’t make a very good snack, due to their toxic skin secretions.

Although their toxic skin protects them from most predators, it is also very porous, making them susceptible to environmental toxins, including sunscreen and bug spray. So if you happen upon a Red Eft in a vulnerable place and want to move it to a safer spot, avoid touching it directly with your hands.

Enjoy these five photos of Red Efts/Eastern Newts from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest and learn more about salamander species of Massachusetts on our website.

Red Eft © Allison Bell
Red Eft © Allison Bell
Red Eft © Anna Mitchell
Red Eft © Anna Mitchell
Red Eft © Emerson Booth
Red Eft © Emerson Booth
Red Eft © Jenn Janaitis
Red Eft © Jenn Janaitis
Red Eft © Criss Nickoloff
Red Eft © Criss Nickoloff

Gray Catbird © Jonathan Eckerson

Take 5: Gray Catbirds

Spring is a wonderful time of year as we welcome the return of some of our favorite migrant birds from their wintering grounds. One such returning traveler is the Gray Catbird, whose unforgettable feline-like mewing makes it a favorite for beginning birders learning to sharpen their ears.

Catbirds occupy the same family—Mimidae, from the Latin for “mimic”—as mockingbirds and thrashers and, as such, share the ability to imitate the sounds of other bird species and incorporate them into their own songs.

Look for Gray Catbirds in dense shrubs and tangles of vines along forest edges and old fields. From a distance, they may appear to be entirely gray, but actually sport a small black cap on top of their heads and a reddish-brown patch underneath their tails.

Enjoy these five photos of Gray Catbirds from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest and let us know if you’ve spotted (or heard) any catbirds in your neighborhood lately!

Gray Catbird © Richard Alvarnaz
Gray Catbird © Richard Alvarnaz
Gray Catbird © Jonathan Eckerson
Gray Catbird © Jonathan Eckerson
Gray Catbird © Gerry Savard
Gray Catbird © Gerry Savard
Gray Catbird © GeorgeAnn Millet
Gray Catbird © GeorgeAnn Millet
Gray Catbird © Marco Jona
Gray Catbird © Marco Jona
Canada Goose Goslings © Matt Filosa

Take 5: Goslings on the Go

It’s springtime, which means the parade of cute, fluffy baby animals is about to really take off! This week, we’ve got five adorable photos of Canada Goose babies, or goslings as they’re properly called.

The Canada Goose (not Canadian Goose!) is the only species of goose that breeds in Massachusetts, although a few others may be spotted passing through outside the breeding season. They don’t typically migrate, either, instead moving to areas where the water isn’t frozen as the temperatures drop in winter.

The female Canada Goose selects the nest site, usually a slightly elevated spot near the water. The nest is a shallow depression made with plant material and lined with down. She lays a total of 4–7 eggs—only one per day—and does not begin to incubate full-time until the clutch is complete. 

The male stands guard and may show aggression if the nest is threatened, so be sure to maintain a respectful distance. The goslings hatch after 25–28 days and are born precocial, meaning that they are able to walk, swim, and feed themselves almost immediately after hatching. The young stay with their parents through the first year of life.

Enjoy these five photos of fuzzy little yellow goslings from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest and remember: geese are perfectly adapted to winters in New England on their own, so please don’t feed the geese!

Let us know in the comments if you’ve spotted any goslings in your neighborhood this spring!

Canada Goose Gosling © Kathy Diamontopoulos
Canada Goose Gosling © Kathy Diamontopoulos
Canada Goose Goslings © Matt Filosa
Canada Goose Goslings © Matt Filosa
Canada Goose Goslings © Riju Kumar
Canada Goose Goslings © Riju Kumar
Canada Goose Goslings © Kathy Hale
Canada Goose Goslings © Kathy Hale
Canada Goose Gosling © Ben Murphy
Canada Goose Gosling © Ben Murphy
Painted Turtle © Alyssa Mattei

Take 5: Painted Turtles

A welcome and colorful sign of spring, Painted Turtles are already out sunning themselves after a long, cold winter spent buried under the mud at the bottom of ponds and lakes across the region.

Each fall, as water temperatures drop, Painted Turtles, like many other reptiles, will enter a deep sleep known as brumation—the cold-blooded equivalent of hibernation in mammals—in order to survive the winter. Growth stops, their heart rate slows to a few beats per minute, and their body temperatures drop to conserve energy. For months, they rely on built-up stores of glycogen, a special type of sugar, for the little bit of energy they need to stay alive during brumation.

Unlike warm-blooded hibernators that are slow to rouse in the spring, it’s often much easier for brumaters to wake up as the weather warms, so it’s not uncommon to see a Painted Turtle out basking as early as February if there has been a warming spell or particularly mild winter.

Visit our website to learn all about the ten native species of turtles (plus one invasive) that can be found in Massachusetts as well as what to do if you find a turtle crossing the road and enjoy these five photos of Painted Turtles soaking up the sunshine from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. Have you seen any Painted Turtles out on your springtime walks and bike rides? Let us know in the comments!

Painted Turtle © Alyssa Mattei
Painted Turtle © Alyssa Mattei
Painted Turtle © David Ennis
Painted Turtle © David Ennis
Painted Turtles © Richard Alvarnaz
Painted Turtles © Richard Alvarnaz
Painted Turtle © Sachin Sawe
Painted Turtle © Sachin Sawe
Painted Turtle © Suzanne Hirschman
Painted Turtle © Suzanne Hirschman
Fall River in Otis, MA © Geoffrey Coelho

Take 5: Babbling Brooks

While any amount of time spent in nature has been shown to boost your mood, reduce stress levels, and improve overall health and wellbeing, there is something particularly soothing about the gentle, continuous babbling of a forest stream. Close your eyes and picture a quiet spot in the woods somewhere, with moss-covered rocks and warm sunlight filtering down through the canopy, dappling the water and leaf litter with a haphazard checkerboard of verdant light.

Getting outside to enjoy special places like these can be challenging right now, so here are five gorgeous photos of babbling brooks from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest for you to enjoy. We hope that imagining yourself in the gentle repose of these scenes will bring you a moment of peace, serenity, and clarity.

Fall River in Otis, MA © Geoffrey Coelho
Fall River in Otis, MA © Geoffrey Coelho
Waterfall over mossy rocks at Mount Everett State Reservation, South Egremont, MA © Rebekah Ford
Waterfall over mossy rocks at Mount Everett State Reservation, South Egremont, MA © Rebekah Ford
Wahconah Falls in Dalton, MA © JG Coleman
Wahconah Falls in Dalton, MA © JG Coleman
Doane's Falls, Royalston, MA © Trevor Meunier
Doane’s Falls, Royalston, MA © Trevor Meunier
A hidden waterfall in Colrain, MA © Vivien Venskowski
A hidden waterfall in Colrain, MA © Vivien Venskowski
Mourning Dove © Cheryl Arsenault

Take 5: Mourning Doves

Many a novice birder have heard a soft, mournful cooing in their back yard and made a mad dash to their window expecting to see an owl, only to find instead a portly, long-tailed Mourning Dove dressed in shades of soft brown and grey, pecking about for seeds that have fallen from feeders.

On the ground, Mourning Doves often look plump and dainty, walking with mincing steps and bobbing their heads as they look for food. In flight, however, they are entirely different birds.  Remarkably swift and agile, they fly straight and fast on whistling wings.

A common sight year-round, Mourning Doves are generally unbothered by humans. When they’re not breeding or nesting, they frequently form large flocks and are often found perching on telephone wires and lamp posts in groups of a dozen or more. They are able to mate throughout the year but typically do so from spring to fall. Breeding pairs are often seen gently preening each other’s necks as a sweet bonding behavior. And while they typically make their nests in bushes and trees, they’ve been known to take advantage of any horizontal surface, such as the back of a wicker patio couch or the upturned head of a push broom left outside!

Here are five fantastic photos of Mourning Doves from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest—let us know in the comments if you’ve seen any in your neighborhood, particularly any wacky nesting sites!

Mourning Dove © William Dow
Mourning Dove © William Dow
Mourning Dove © Jim Lynn
Mourning Dove © Jim Lynn
Mourning Dove © Eric Schultz
Mourning Dove © Eric Schultz
Mourning Dove © Matthew Eckerson
Mourning Dove © Matthew Eckerson
Mourning Dove © Cheryl Arsenault
Mourning Dove © Cheryl Arsenault
Barred Owl © Cynthia Rand

Take 5: Barred Owls

“Solemnity is what they express—fit representatives of the night.”

—Henry David Thoreau

The shy but stocky Barred Owl does indeed cut a solemn figure, with its soulful, dark brown, almost black eyes and stripes of mottled brown and white crossing its body.

Many nighttime travelers in the New England woods have been asked, who cooks for you, who cooks for you all? by a Barred Owl. Its deep, resonant voice carries well in the moist, forested woodlands that the species prefers during the breeding season. They prefer natural tree cavities and human-made nest boxes for their nesting sites, preferably high enough up to avoid predators like weasels and raccoons.

Barred Owls are quiet and elusive, but since they don’t migrate at all, they don’t tend to move around all that much, generally adhering to a territory of no more than a few square miles their entire lives. Although their territories may sometimes overlap, Barred Owls do their best to avoid their cousins, Great Horned Owls—their greatest predator.

You can learn more about the Owls of Massachusetts on our website, report an owl sighting of your own, and enjoy five photos of these gorgeous raptors from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest, below.

Barred Owl © Ronald Grant
Barred Owl © Ronald Grant
Barred Owl © Jim Renault
Barred Owl © Jim Renault
Barred Owl © Corey Nimmer
Barred Owl © Corey Nimmer
Barred Owl © Darya Zelentsova
Barred Owl © Darya Zelentsova
Barred Owl with Young © Tina McManus
Barred Owl with Young © Tina McManus
Barred Owl © Cynthia Rand
Barred Owl © Cynthia Rand