Tag Archives: photo contest

Common Loons © Peter Christoph

Take 5: Loon-back Rides

Known far and wide for their haunting, eerie calls, Common Loons are true water birds, venturing ashore only to mate and incubate eggs. In monogamous pairs, they raise broods of just 1–2 chicks per year, with a long fledging period of about 12 weeks.

Although loon chicks are capable of diving and swimming within a couple of days of birth, they are easy prey for predators like mink, eagles, snapping turtles, or even other loons. To increase their chances of survival, they often take shelter on their parents’ backs, going for rides around the lake until they are big and strong enough to survive on their own.

Here are five adorable photos from our annual photo contest of loon chicks hitching a “loon-back ride” with one of their parents. The 2020 contest is now open, so submit your beautiful nature photography today!

Common Loons © Peter Christoph
Common Loons © Peter Christoph
Common Loons © Brad Dinerman
Common Loons © Brad Dinerman
Common Loons © Michael Phillips
Common Loons © Michael Phillips
Common Loons © Michael Goodman
Common Loons © Michael Goodman
Common Loons © Michael Goodman
Common Loons © Michael Goodman
Garter Snake © Larry Manning

Take 5: Gutsy Garter Snakes

The most widespread of all snake species in Massachusetts, the Eastern Garter Snake can frequently be spotted out sunning itself on rocks and logs in sunny forest clearings, grassy meadows, backyards, and in freshwater habitats.

While garter snakes are basically harmless, they may release an unpleasant-smelling secretion when they are handled so, as with all wildlife, it’s best to leave them to their business and admire them from afar. Snakes that are sunning may have just eaten, so handling them may cause them digestive problems. Conversely, snakes that are hiding may be getting ready to shed, which can affect their vision, so they may be more defensive if they cannot see well. It suffices to say that it’s better for both snakes and people if we can avoid harassing them by attempting to handle them.

Garters lack fangs or, strictly speaking, venom glands, although they do have a small amount of toxin in their saliva that is only dangerous for amphibians and other small prey animals. Far more interesting than its offensive capabilities is the snake’s chemical defense strategy: Not only are garter snakes resistant to naturally occurring poisons from their toxic prey (including newts and toads), but they can also retain the toxins in their bodies, thereby becoming toxic themselves and deterring potential predators. Amazing!

Here are five photos of our amazing official state reptile from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. The 2020 photo contest is now open, so submit your beautiful nature photography today!

Garter Snake © Larry Manning
Garter Snake © Larry Manning
Garter Snake © John Gounarides
Garter Snake © John Gounarides
Garter Snake © Brendan Lynch
Garter Snake © Brendan Lynch
Garter Snake © Pamela Kelly
Garter Snake © Pamela Kelly
Garter Snake © Amy Severino
Garter Snake © Amy Severino
Walking the trails at Wellfleet Bay © Amanda Simon

Take 5: National Trails Day

National Trails Day, the first Saturday in June, is a day to recognizes all the incredible benefits that hiking and walking trails provide for recreation and quality time spent in nature. It’s also an opportunity to thank the many volunteers, land agencies, trail developers, park employees, and property manages who build, maintain, and steward the trails for the enjoyment of all.

We are thrilled that we were able to open trails on many of our wildlife sanctuaries for local visitation last week. Visit our website for information about:

Here are five photos of people enjoying the trails at Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest—which is now officially open for 2020! Not all of these sites are re-opened to the public yet, but we will continue to open more sanctuaries as soon as we are able to safely do so.

Birding at Marblehead Neck © Maili Waters
Birding at Marblehead Neck © Maili Waters
Walking the trails at Wellfleet Bay © Amanda Simon
Walking the trails at Wellfleet Bay © Amanda Simon
Enjoying the universally accessible All Persons Trail at Broad Meadow Brook © John Nault
Enjoying the universally accessible All Persons Trail at Broad Meadow Brook © John Nault
Kids walking at Daniel Webster © Kylie Palomba
Kids walking at Daniel Webster © Kylie Palomba
Taking in the evening hush at Ipswich River © Kalvin Janik
Taking in the evening hush at Ipswich River © Kalvin Janik
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
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
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
Black Bear © Jason Goldstein

Take 5: Burly Black Bears

There is only one bear species that makes its home in Massachusetts: the handsome Black Bear (Ursus americanus). Although they are the largest meat-eating mammal in the state, reaching up to 500 pounds, Black Bears also enjoy berries, nuts, seeds, flowers, fruits, and succulent grasses (including corn), as well as garbage.

After hibernating through the winter, Black Bears are beginning to emerge from their winter sleep around the beginning of March, and they are hungry. You would be too if you’d been living off your stored body fat for months! Birdseed is a delectable and calorie-dense treat for hungry bears and they have excellent memories, so if you live in an area with bears, you might want to take down your bird feeders before the bears find them.

Unfortunately, conflicts between people and bears are becoming more commonplace as land is developed in or near bears’ preferred habitats. As black bears lose their preferred feeding and denning sites to development, they must move greater distances to find food (and often in residential areas). Learn more about bears on our website, including how to keep them away and what to do should you encounter one.

Here are five fantastic photos of bears and their “bare necessities” from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest.

Black Bear © Karen Karlberg
Black Bear © Karen Karlberg
Black Bear © David Zulch
Black Bear © David Zulch
Black Bear © Alvin Laasanen
Black Bear © Alvin Laasanen
Black Bear © Jason Goldstein
Black Bear © Jason Goldstein
Black Bear © Evelyn Garvey
Black Bear © Evelyn Garvey
Black Bear © Dorrie Holmes
Black Bear © Dorrie Holmes