Tag Archives: photography

Dutchman's Breeches © Deborah Kellogg

Take 5: Spring Wildflowers

April in many parts of Massachusetts can feel a bit like nature is holding its breath, so that on any given morning you might wake up to find the world outside transformed from gray to green (or, as last Friday proved, blanketed in white one more time). Never fear, spring wildflower season is upon us! These bright harbingers of spring burst forth from the long-dormant earth in a dazzling variety of colors, shapes, and arrangements.

There’s an advantage to blossoming early—plenty of sunshine to provide energy before the trees fully leaf out and obscure the sun’s rays. The majority of spring wildflowers need to bloom, be pollinated, and store enough food for the following year—all before the leaves on neighboring trees have fully appeared. Some of the earliest species (and those needing the most direct sunlight) are known as spring ephemerals. These are plants that, after flowering, virtually disappear in a few short weeks.

Timing Is Everything

While the exact timing can vary due to variations in elevation or temperature, including the warming temperatures caused by climate change, if you want to catch a glimpse of Dutchman’s breeches and trout lily, make sure you get out by the first week of May; even sooner if you’re looking for bloodroot, which in some regions is already setting seed by the end of April.

You’ll see the greatest diversity of spring wildflowers around the middle of May, including red trillium in deciduous forests and jack-in-the-pulpit in wetlands. You’ll find the bright-red, nodding flowers of wild columbine perched on rocky outcrops. Last to the party in late May are the orchids: pink lady’s slipper is more common than most people realize and grows beneath pines and oaks, but you have to be lucky to stumble across yellow lady’s slipper or showy orchid in pockets of rich woodlands.

Learn More

Read up about spring wildflower season on our website, grab a copy of the classic go-to Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, or take an upcoming wildflowers program at a sanctuary near you. Please enjoy these five photos of spectacular native spring wildflowers from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest.

And don’t forget to check out all the great Earth Month things going on at Mass Audubon—Earth Day is this Thursday, April 22!

Jack-in-the-Pulpit © Anne Greene
Jack-in-the-Pulpit © Anne Greene
Dutchman's Breeches © Deborah Kellogg
Dutchman’s Breeches © Deborah Kellogg
Red Trillium © Allison Bell
Red Trillium © Allison Bell
Yellow Trout Lily © Richard Welch
Yellow Trout Lily © Richard Welch
Bloodroot © Maili Waters
Bloodroot © Maili Waters
Winter Sunset Landscape

Take 5: Light Up Your Winter

The special light of winter can be elusive, but beautiful. With the snow-heavy season we’ve been having, we’re seeing landscapes of bright whites, overcast skies, winds filled with flurries, sunsets reflecting off ice, and sparkling icicles.

While these conditions make for amazing scenic moments, enjoyed by all that brave the cold, they can also be a real challenge for photographers looking to capture the perfect shot: you need to balance framing, aperture, and shutter speed.

If you’re looking to master the ever-changing and complex needs of winter light photography, try our online Winter Nature Photography series dives into tips, tricks, and pitfalls.

To get you inspired, are five photos of special winter light moments, captured by photographers from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest who have mastered the art of lighting up their winters through photography.

© Paul Mozell
©Heidi Besen
©Pui Ying Ching
©Dana Goedewaagen
©Mark Goulding
Groundhog © Debbie Lamb

Take 5: Groundhog Day

Let’s get real for a minute: living through a pandemic can sometimes feel a bit like the classic movie Groundhog Day—reliving the same day over and over, never quite sure when we’ll escape a sort of perpetual limbo. But unlike the anti-hero of that fictional Hollywood reality, we know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that, while socially distant, we are not alone as we navigate this strange, challenging reality together.

And there’s even better news: Groundhog Day (a popular holiday observed on February 2 in the United States and Canada) traditionally marks the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, meaning warmer days and even more outdoor adventures in nature lie ahead. Whether you consider yourself “superstitious” or not, it may bring you some comfort to know that Drumlin Farm’s own Ms. G—the official state groundhog of Massachusetts—made her annual appearance on February 2 and did NOT see her shadow, thereby predicting an early spring! You can watch a recording of the live event on Facebook, which was held virtually this year due to COVID-19 and the heavy snowstorm the day before.

So while we may need to wait a bit longer for springtime, in the meantime you can enjoy these five photos of our native groundhogs (also known as woodchucks) and look forward to brighter days—both literally and figuratively—in the near future.

Groundhog © Eric Roth
Groundhog © Eric Roth
Groundhogs © John Coran
Groundhogs © John Coran
Groundhog © Martha Akey
Groundhog © Martha Akey
Groundhogs inspecting a "fellow woodworker's" craftsmanship © Lois DiBlasi
Groundhogs inspecting a “fellow woodworker’s” craftsmanship © Lois DiBlasi
Groundhog © Debbie Lamb
Groundhog © Debbie Lamb
Dark-eyed Junco © Eladi Bermudez

Take 5: Whatcha Gonna Do With All That Junco?

If you enjoy watching birds at feeders, there’s a good chance you have a soft spot for these little darlings of the winter bird feeder crowd: Dark-eyed Juncos.

Although there are juncos to be found in Massachusetts year-round, these “snowbirds” are most recognizable hopping around on the ground or in the snow beneath seed feeders, often in small flocks. These ground-feeding sparrows love to snap up fallen seeds in their cone-shaped pink bills, which contrast sharply with their dark grey or brown upper plumage. Their white outer tail feathers will flash into view when they take flight.

Many juncos spend the breeding season to the North of us, across much of Canada, flying south and spreading out across North America the rest of the year, although some will stay year-round and retreat to the woods or higher elevations as the weather warms.

Enjoy these five photos of Dark-eyed Juncos from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest and look for them on your next winter walk in the woods!

Dark-eyed Junco © Rob Cardinale
Dark-eyed Junco © Rob Cardinale
Dark-eyed Junco © Andy Eckerson
Dark-eyed Junco © Andy Eckerson
Dark-eyed Junco © Dan Harrington
Dark-eyed Junco © Dan Harrington
Dark-eyed Junco © Jim Feroli
Dark-eyed Junco © Jim Feroli
Dark-eyed Junco © Eladi Bermudez
Dark-eyed Junco © Eladi Bermudez
A delicate ice formation © Josh Philibert

Take 5: Ice Art

It seems awfully dark around here these days, doesn’t it? The winter solstice—the day when the northern hemisphere experiences the shortest amount of daylight and the longest night—is just a week away. Next Monday also marks the official beginning of winter and although the colder weather tends to keep us indoors a lot more, there is still so much beauty and enjoyment to be found in nature in wintertime.

Many of the entrants to our Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest have found inspiration in one of the most enchanting (but also, often, the most treacherous) hallmarks of winter in New England: ice formations. Here are five of our favorites.

A delicate ice formation © Josh Philibert
A delicate ice formation © Josh Philibert
Ice formations over a stream on Wolves' Den Trail at High Ledges in Shelburne
Ice formations over a stream on Wolves’ Den Trail at High Ledges in Shelburne
Winterberries after an ice storm © Cindy Riley
Winterberries after an ice storm © Cindy Riley
Ice crystals on Lower Mystic Lake in Medford, MA © Brad Edgerly
Ice crystals on Lower Mystic Lake in Medford, MA © Brad Edgerly
Ice formation on West Dennis Beach © Craig Daniliuk
Ice formation on West Dennis Beach © Craig Daniliuk
Snowy Owl © Paul Malenfant

Take 5: Superb Snowy Owls

They’re here! Snowy Owls have arrived from their breeding grounds in the Arctic and can be spotted at Plum Island, Duxbury Beach, and other open, treeless areas near the coast through March—if you make the trip to see Snowy Owls this winter, please protect these beautiful raptors by viewing them from a safe and respectful distance at public sites and do not approach them.

Norman Smith, the former director of Mass Audubon’s Blue Hills Trailside Museum, is keeping busy in his retirement by continuing his Snowy Owl rescue and research efforts: The first report of a Snowy Owl at Logan Airport this season came in on November 5, so he hurried down to capture the owl, take some measurements and research notes, and release it at Duxbury Beach.

Norman reports that it was a healthy “hatch-year” bird (meaning it was born this past summer), which suggests there was good breeding this year in the region of the Arctic where this particular owl was born. Historically, since he started with the Snowy Owl Project in 1981, Norman would capture almost all hatch-year birds, but the past several winters saw predominantly adults arriving in Massachusetts, a poor sign for breeding success. Norman says his colleagues in Greenland reported their best breeding year since 1998 this past summer, while others in Barrow, Alaska, reported no breeding at all, so it can vary dramatically by location due to a number of factors, including climate change.

Snowy Owls predominantly feed on rodents called lemmings, so the success of lemming populations affects Snowy Owl populations: when there’s a boom in lemmings, we see a rise in the number of hatch-year owls traveling south. Lemmings are now facing increased pressure from climate change, such as rising temperatures, milder winters, shifting weather patterns, and changes in vegetation, which makes breeding success more difficult. So a decline in hatch-year Snowy Owls can signal climate impacts across entire food chains.

Enjoy these five photos of Snowy Owls from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest, then visit our website to learn how you can support our work to monitor and protect these beautiful birds and where and how to observe Snowy Owls yourself.

Snowy Owl © A. Grigorenko
Snowy Owl © A. Grigorenko
Snowy Owl © Jenny Zhao
Snowy Owl © Jenny Zhao
Snowy Owl © Paul Malenfant
Snowy Owl © Paul Malenfant
Snowy Owl © Sara Silverberg
Snowy Owl © Sara Silverberg
Snowy Owl © Karen Walker
Snowy Owl © Karen Walker
Common Yellowthroat © Jeff Martineau

Take 5: Animal Masks

Wearing masks in public in a great way to protect yourself, protect those around you, and help slow the spread of COVID-19. Since we’re all wearing masks in public for the foreseeable future, we thought it might be fun to highlight a few mask-wearers from the animal kingdom, as well.

While you’re outdoors, safely enjoying our trails, consider these five Massachusetts natives that “wear” their masks 24/7, with photos from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest.

Common Yellowthroat © Jeff Martineau
Common Yellowthroat © Jeff Martineau
Wood Frog © Lucas Beaudette
Wood Frog © Lucas Beaudette
Cedar Waxwing © Sandra Taylor
Cedar Waxwing © Sandra Taylor
Raccoon © Richard Ruggiero
Raccoon © Richard Ruggiero
Peregrine Falcon © Martha Akey
Peregrine Falcon © Martha Akey
Golden-crowned Kinglet © Ken Lee

Take 5: The Littlest King

Small but mighty, kinglets are barely bigger than hummingbirds, weighing less than half an ounce, and yet they are still capable of surviving in remarkably cold environments, in some regions overwintering in places where nighttime temperatures can fall below 0°F. Their preference for the upper canopy of thick stands of tall conifers, especially spruce and fir, coupled with their diminutive size, makes them difficult to spot, but fall migration is likely your best chance.

Both Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned kinglets are migrating from northern forests to their wintering grounds and passing through Massachusetts this time of year, but only individuals of the golden variety tend to linger beyond the fall migration period. You’ll need a keen ear to pinpoint the very piercing call of the male Golden-crowned Kinglet, which is so high-pitched that some older birders find that they lose the ability to hear the highest notes as they age.

Here are five photos of “kingly” Golden-crowned Kinglets from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest.

Golden-crowned Kinglet © Ken Lee
Golden-crowned Kinglet © Ken Lee
Golden-crowned Kinglet © Claudia Carpinone
Golden-crowned Kinglet © Claudia Carpinone
Golden-crowned Kinglet © Davey Walters
Golden-crowned Kinglet © Davey Walters
Golden-crowned Kinglet © Mary Keleher
Golden-crowned Kinglet © Mary Keleher
Golden-crowned Kinglet © Nathan Goshgarian
Golden-crowned Kinglet © Nathan Goshgarian
Pumpkins © Beth Del Bono

Take 5: Pumpkin Everything

Pumpkins are the quintessential symbol of fall. Native to North America, pumpkins are believed to have been domesticated for at least 7,000 years, originally cultivated by Mesoamerican peoples for food and medicine. Today, they are grown in incredible quantities around the world, in large part to meet the needs of all the autumn-loving pumpkin carvers and pie-eaters who look forward to this time of year.

Want more pumpkin everything? Check to see if there’s a pumpkin carving program at a sanctuary near you or check out our collection of pumpkin-themed activities for Young Explorers, including stencils for pumpkin decorating, instructions for making your own pumpkin bird feeder, and cool experiments for “pumpkin scientists.” That’s a lot of pumpkins!

And while you’re at it, why not swing by a nearby farm to support the local food movement and pick up your decorative gourds and soon-to-be jack-o-lantern subjects? You’ll be glad you did!

In the meantime, let’s celebrate fall here on the blog with a few pumpkin photos, submitted to our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest.

Manchaug Pond, Sutton, MA © Marty Jo Henry
Manchaug Pond, Sutton, MA © Marty Jo Henry
Squirrel munching on a pumpkin in Gloucester, MA © Suzanne Sweeney
Squirrel munching on a pumpkin in Gloucester, MA © Suzanne Sweeney
Pumpkins © Beth Del Bono
Pumpkins © Beth Del Bono
Pumpkins in Bolton, MA © Carmella Kurriss
Pumpkins in Bolton, MA © Carmella Kurriss
Pumpkins at a farm stand in Methuen, MA © Nancy Rich
Pumpkins at a farm stand in Methuen, MA © Nancy Rich
Reflections of Fall at Harold Parker Forest in Andover, MA © Paul Mozell

Take 5: Fall Through the Looking Glass

After a cool, wet spring and a hot, dry summer (ideal conditions for spectacular fall foliage), nature is coming alive with reds, oranges, and yellows as plants gradually cease photosynthesis, lose their green-colored chlorophyll, and enter a dormant phase for the winter.

Many folks, it seems, have noticed that this annual spectacle can be doubly beautiful when reflected on the surface of water, so here are five “impressionistic” photo contest entries of fall foliage viewed “through the looking glass.”

Check out our fall foliage guide for great hikes and fall activities, the science behind fall foliage, and even fall photography tips for great shots like these. The 2020 Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest is officially closed, but now is a great time to get your landscape shots in for next year’s contest!

Reflections of Fall at Harold Parker Forest in Andover, MA © Paul Mozell
Reflections of Fall at Harold Parker Forest in Andover, MA © Paul Mozell
Autumn Reflection on South Natick Dam © Ilene Hoffman
Autumn Reflection on South Natick Dam © Ilene Hoffman
Fall Foliage Reflections at Waseeka Wildlife Sanctuary © Cheryl Rose
Fall Foliage Reflections at Waseeka Wildlife Sanctuary © Cheryl Rose
Impressionistic Autumn Color in Rutland, MA © Kimberly Beckham
Impressionistic Autumn Color in Rutland, MA © Kimberly Beckham
Fall Color at Bottomless Pond in Sudbury, MA © Bryan Gammons
Fall Color at Bottomless Pond in Sudbury, MA © Bryan Gammons