Category Archives: Take 5

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
Gray Squirrel and Red-Tailed Hawk © David Morris

Take 5: Great Timing

There is a tremendous amount of skill that goes into capturing a great photo: lighting, exposure, composition, depth of field, and so much more. But any wildlife photographer will tell you it also takes a good deal of luck.

Here are five examples of great timing in photography—just the right balance of skill, luck, and being in the right place at the right time with the right equipment to capture an unusual shot. These photos were all submitted to our annual nature photography contest, Picture This: Your Great Outdoors. You can see the winners of past photo contests and signup to be notified when this year’s contest opens on our website.

Gray Squirrel and Red-Tailed Hawk © David Morris
Gray Squirrel and Red-Tailed Hawk © David Morris
Mallard Ducklings © Nathan Goshgarian
Mallard Ducklings © Nathan Goshgarian
Cedar Waxwing © Kim Nagy
Cedar Waxwing © Kim Nagy
White-breasted Nuthatch © David Baake
White-breasted Nuthatch © David Baake
Eastern Bluebirds © William Hottin
Eastern Bluebirds © William Hottin

Eastern Screech-Owl © Amy Powers-Smith

Take 5: Owl Things Considered

It may still be cold and wintery outside, but things are heating up for our breeding owl species. Late winter is the height of the courtship and mating season for most owl species so there’s a good chance you may hear a “hoo’s hoo” of mating calls (although not all owls make “hoo” sounds!) on your next stroll through the forest. Great Horned Owls, for example, are one of our earliest breeders and begin hooting to attract mates as early as December.

Many owls roost in tree cavities during the day and those that do will also lay their eggs in tree cavities, although a roosting cavity is not necessarily also a nesting cavity. Lots of nature photographers love to capitalize on this fact to capture some wonderful photos of “owl peek-a-boo”. Here are five great shots of owls in tree cavities that were entered into our annual photo contest. For your own chance to glimpse one of these gorgeous raptors, join one of the dozens of Owl Prowls happening at our sanctuaries this time of year.

Eastern Screech-Owls © Peter Bartholomew
Eastern Screech-Owls © Peter Bartholomew
Eastern Screech-Owl © Richard Cuzner
Eastern Screech-Owl © Richard Cuzner
Barred Owls © Fred Harwood
Barred Owls © Fred Harwood
Eastern Screech-Owl © Amy Powers-Smith
Eastern Screech-Owl © Amy Powers-Smith
Eastern Screech-Owl © Jeff Martineau
Eastern Screech-Owl © Jeff Martineau

Take 5: Central Colombia Birding Tour

A paradise for birders, Colombia has the highest bird species count of any country in the world, with well over 1,900 species. Mass Audubon’s Bertrand Chair of Ornithology Joan Walsh and ornithologist, author, and artist David Sibley recently led 11 travelers on a 12-day Mass Audubon Natural History Travel adventure through the mountains and rainforests of Central Colombia, where they saw a total of 400 species.

Enjoy a few photos from the trip and see where we’re headed next.


Crimson-rumped Toucanet
A lake in the Central Andes, near the Los Nevados National Park.
Masked Trogon
Chestnut-napped Antpitta eating out of guide David Sibley’s hand.
Spectacled Owl
Indigo Bunting © Amy Powers-Smith

Take 5: 2018 Photo Contest Honorable Mentions

This year, more than 4,000 images were submitted in the Mass Audubon Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest—another record year! It wasn’t easy to determine the winners with so many incredible entries, but thankfully we always allow for a handful of Honorable Mentions outside of the main categories so we can highlight some of our favorites that just barely missed the cut.

Here are five Honorable Mentions that we loved from the 2018 photo contest. See all of the winners and runners-up on our website and get some tips for capturing a winning photo for next year’s contest.

Indigo Bunting © Amy Powers-Smith
Indigo Bunting © Amy Powers-Smith
Lighthouse © Jason Taylor
Lighthouse © Jason Taylor
Orange Bluet Damselfly © Sherri Vanden Akker
Orange Bluet Damselfly © Sherri Vanden Akker
Red Eft © Anna Mitchell
Red Eft © Anna Mitchell
© Melissa Knowles
© Melissa Knowles
Eastern Bluebird © Cheryl Rose

Take 5: Winter Songbirds

Whether you’re briskly pacing across Boston Common or gazing out your kitchen window into a snow-covered suburban backyard, birds can be seen all winter long. The birds featured below are some of the most commonly seen species in winter all across Massachusetts, and many of them will readily come to bird feeders.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but many urban and suburban avian visitors in the winter months will belong to one of the species below. See a longer list of cold-weather Massachusetts birds on our website and enjoy these five beautiful photographs from our photo contest archives.

American Goldfinch © Alex Renda
American Goldfinch © Alex Renda
Cedar Waxwing © Bernard Creswick
Cedar Waxwing © Bernard Creswick
White-breasted Nuthatch © Jonathan Eckerson
White-breasted Nuthatch © Jonathan Eckerson
Tufted Titmouse © Kim Nagy
Tufted Titmouse © Kim Nagy
Eastern Bluebird © Cheryl Rose
Eastern Bluebird © Cheryl Rose