Incredible wildlife shots and curiously textured mushrooms certainly make for amazing images, but sometimes great nature photography is as simple as capturing an interesting bend of the light.
This week, we are featuring photographs from our Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest that highlight the beauty of “crepuscular rays”, commonly known as sunbeams. This optical phenomenon occurs when sunlight shines through openings in the clouds or forest canopy, creating columns of brightly lit air molecules or particulates. Interestingly, these rays are actually parallel to one another but can appear to radiate outward from the sun’s location in the sky because of linear perspective—the same visual illusion that makes railroad tracks appear to converge in the distance.
Enjoy these five beautiful images and be sure to submit your own gorgeous landscape photography to the photo contest!
Moths are one of the most diverse groups of organisms on the planet with scientists estimating there are at least 150,000 species worldwide, a testament to their adaptability, diversity, and success as a group. Their size, coloring, and shapes vary widely, from large, graceful Luna Moths to the sherbet-colored Rosy Maple Moths to the drab but perfectly camouflaged leaf-lookalike Walnut Sphinx Moth.
National Moth Week is celebrated the last full week of July and everyone is invited to observe, enjoy, and even document some of these amazing creatures. Most (but not all) moths are nocturnal, so attracting them can be as simple as leaving an outdoor light on and waiting for your winged guests to arrive.
Take a walk through a weedy meadow or shrub-filled forest edge and there’s a chance you might spot a flash of brilliant jewel blue singing boisterously from a treetop or telephone wire.
Not only are male Indigo Buntings gorgeous in their azure plumage, but they are also prolific singers and may whistle their high-pitched songs from dawn until dusk. Individual notes are often clustered in pairs and pairs often come in threes (“what what, where where, here here?“) but songs can vary widely from one individual to the next—young males learn their songs not from their fathers but from their nest neighbors, creating distinct “song neighborhoods”.
Fascinatingly, Indigo Bunting feathers contain no blue pigment. Like all blue birds, their coloring comes from the microscopic structure of the feathers that refracts and reflects blue light and absorbs other colors. Females are plain brown but may occasionally have a slight hint of blue on their wings, while immature and molting males have splotchy blue and brown patches.
Here are five photos of male Indigo Buntings from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. The 2019 contest is open, so submit your nature photography today!
What is it that makes America so beautiful? Our breathtaking lands and wildlife, of course!
To celebrate our nation’s 243rd birthday this week, here are five photos from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest, each of which includes an appearance by the American flag as well as some wildlife and scenic habitats from the lands we hold so dear.
What creature so embodies the bright, warm, joyous season of summer quite like the butterfly? Although we typically picture butterflies flitting about in colorful fields of wildflowers—and rightly so!—these fascinating insects live in a broad spectrum of habitats including forests, heathlands, bogs, swamps, even salt marshes—anywhere, in fact, where their caterpillar food plants and sources of nectars for adults are found.
June is National Pollinators Month! Habitat loss, pesticide use, and other factors threaten many of the butterfly species we love and cherish, along with many of our other native pollinators. Learn about creating a pollinator garden and other ways you can help pollinators, including butterflies, on our website.
To honor some of nature’s most colorful and celebrated pollinators, here is a collection of gorgeous butterfly photographs from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. The 2019 photo contest is now open, so submit your nature photos today!
For something that we don’t tend to give much thought, clouds are pretty amazing. Made up of tiny water droplets or ice crystals suspended in the air, clouds are categorized and named based on their shape and how high they are in the atmosphere. They can be important indicators of shifts in the weather, help protect us from the sun’s intense rays, and are a great source of entertainment—after all, what’s more relaxing on a warm, sunny day than lying in the grass, gazing at cloud formations and trying to spot familiar shapes in their seemingly random formations?
Here are five fantastic photos of clouds from our Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest, which is now open for submissions for 2019. Submit your weather photography or other nature shots now!
Spring is finally here! The days are getting longer and warmer, the trees are leafing out and budding left and right, and spring bird migration is picking up steam. Doesn’t it just make you want to sing?
Here are five birds that agree with that sentiment and are singing their hearts out for spring. You might consider joining them during a spring bird-watching program at one of our sanctuaries. Happy spring!
Every year, warming spring days trigger amphibians like spotted salamanders and wood frogs to migrate en masse to vernal pools to breed on the night of the first soaking rain above 45°F—a phenomenon known as “Big Night.” This spectacular annual event is taking place all across Massachusetts.
Vernal pools are temporary, isolated ponds that form when spring rain and meltwater from ice and snow flood into woodland hollows and low meadows. These pools provide critical breeding habitat for certain amphibian and invertebrate species—since vernal pools eventually dry up, they are inaccessible and inhospitable to predatory fish.
To celebrate the return of spring and the mass migration now taking place all around us, here are five great photos of native salamanders. Note that not all salamanders migrate to and breed in vernal pools—the eastern red-backed salamander, for example, has no aquatic larval stage at all, so you’re most likely to find one under a moist, rotting log or rock while northern dusky salamanders are stream denizens and lay their eggs in flowing seeps in June or July.
Spring is in the air and all of Massachusetts is eagerly awaiting the return of bright, beautiful color to the drab, grey-brown landscape of winter. In that spirit, here are five colorful birds to look for as the weather warms to make your day a little more colorful.
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.