Conversation Highlights: The Sunday Evening Edition, September 8, 2019

Conversation Highlights: The Sunday Edition, March 31, 2019

Vernal Pools: Annual Amphibian Migration

Amphibian migration will be any day now!

On a rainy evening (or two or three) very soon, all over New England, when the snow and ice are almost gone, and the temperature is 40 degrees or more, frogs and salamanders will make their annual spring migration.


They wend their way from their upland winter havens to the vernal pools where they hatched to lay their fertilized eggs in the water. Sometimes, however, roads cross these ancient paths, and many of them are killed. The Wendell State Forest Alliance invites families to help our fellow amphibian neighbors avoid this fate by participating as a salamander crossing guard!

Here’s how: Wash your hands (don’t use any lotion), put on rain gear and a reflective vest, take a flashlight and walk to the amphibian crossing closest to your home. Then wet your hands in rainwater, pick them up very carefully and carry them across the road in the direction they were headed. Touching them with dry hands can damage the protective coat on their skin. Ask members of your local Conservation Commission where amphibians crossroads in your town. As this involves activity in the road at night, children must have adult supervision.

The Hitchcock Center in Amherst has instructions for participating as a crossing guard at the Henry Street tunnels on “Big Night,” which you can download here and also apply towards the nearest vernal pool to your home. And Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton has an annual event for Big Night every March, perfect for families with younger children.

Read more about vernal pools in our post, Learning Ahead: Spring Landscape & Vernal Pools.

Mixing Conservation with Art Releases Creativity

Junior Duck Program Motivates Kids to Study Nature with an Artistic Eye

Combining artistic expression and conservation, the annual Junior Duck Stamp Program gives children the opportunity to study local waterfowl and practice using their artistic skills to portray them in their native habitat. The competition even provides curriculum materials to support families and educators in expanding children’s learning as they participate!

Since the beginning of the 20th century, the commonwealth of Massachusetts has been a leader in the study of waterfowl species and their habitat. In keeping with this scientific tradition and commitment, children of almost any age are invited to participate in this year’s Massachusetts Junior Duck Stamp Program! An annual art contest that pairs the study of waterfowl with artistic expression, the Junior Duck Stamp Program provides a platform for learning about conservation, the environment, species identification, and artistic expression!

Open to children in grades K-12 (or of the age equivalent to grades K-12), participation in the Junior Duck Stamp Program requires young scientists and artists to create original pieces of artwork that showcase a species of waterfowl native to Massachusetts. Children may use visual aids in order to create their pieces, so as to ensure that the shape, size, coloration, and surroundings that they create are accurate, but all works of art should be entirely original, rather than drawn or painted as a copy of a photograph, drawing, or other representation of a bird. Read the rest of this entry »

Service-Based Learning: Volunteer Land Monitors

Service-Based Learning: Volunteer Land Monitors
Hilltown Land Trust

Participating in land maintenance with a conservation organization can be an empowering experience for teens. Building on experiences from their childhood, they will experience nature in a new way – not only will they be enjoying its beauty while immersed in it, they will be responsible for helping to ensure that an area continues to be available to them and to others. Making close observations of an area can help volunteers to develop a deeper connection to the area, and can help to open their eyes to tiny details of nature. Teens who are required to do community service in order to receive a high school diploma can use work with the Hilltown Land Trust to satisfy that requirement – and as an added bonus, their work will overlap with concepts that they learn in biology and environmental science courses! (Photo source: HLT)

Land conservation, like many things, begins at home. Young child can learn to appreciate natural resources by exploring and caring for their immediate surroundings, and in doing so will develop respect and appreciation for the environment. As they get older, their appreciation for their local environment begins to broaden into the larger community. Community-service opportunities, like Land Monitors for the Hilltown Land Trust, are ways older students can participate in service-based learning while supporting natural resources they have grown to care about.

Teens and their parents can help to promote conservation and land preservation together by serving as Volunteer Land Monitors for the Hilltown Land Trust. The Hilltown Land Trust’s many properties are set aside as protected land to ensure that the numerous species that call them home will continue to do so for years to come. However, as these lands are also open to human visitors and have human neighbors, they require some monitoring. Truly caring for preserved land means ensuring that it has been properly used – a task designated to the organization’s Volunteer Land Monitors.

On Saturday, March 15th, 2014, the Hilltown Land Trust and the Kestrel Trust will hold a Volunteer Stewardship Training Workshop at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton…  Click here to find out more about this community service opportunity!

YardMap: Make Your Yard a Personal Refuge

Get a Bird’s Eye View of Your Habitat

YardMap is a citizen science project offered by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The goal of YardMap is to support the lab scientists’ work in understanding bird populations. Families participate by creating maps of the habitat provided within their yard (whether it’s native or not) using Google maps, which are then submitted to the lab…

The average American lawn is filled with lush green grass and some landscaped trees and shrubs. Here in western Massachusetts, we’re lucky enough to be able to live amongst natural and beautiful surroundings like forests, fields, mountains, and water of all types. Even if we have grassy yards, many homes are surrounded by natural habitat that has existed since long before our homes were built. Of course, we do have an impact on the environment around us, but our small communities leave us with the opportunity to work to blend in with nature, rather than set ourselves apart from it.

Natural habitat is incredibly important for supporting the many different kinds of creatures who share your surroundings. Plant and animal populations exist within a delicately balanced system that can easily be influenced by eliminating or drastically changing habitats. One way to ensure that your effect on your surroundings isn’t negative is by planting native species of trees, shrubs, and even flowers in your yard, but with the growing season rapidly coming to an end, what should families do in order to support natural critter habitat? Participate in YardMap!

Read the rest of this entry »

Federal Fish and Wildlife Services’ Junior Duck Stamp Program

Supplement Habitat Studies with the Junior Duck Stamp Program

The Junior Duck Stamp Program offers an educational arts and science curriculum which educators can use for incorporating science, art, math and technology into habitat conservation studies. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Western Massachusetts is home to a wide variety of duck species.  These beautiful birds make their homes in wetland areas, a habitat in need of conservation.  Students can learn about duck species and help to promote wetland conservation by participating in the Federal Fish and Wildlife Services’ Junior Duck Stamp Program!  This contest calls for students to create their own stamps, featuring a specific duck species portrayed in its habitat.  Students should learn about their species of choice, so as to make the best and most accurate depiction possible!  Their design should reflect the group’s goal in creating the stamp – to share the beauty and importance of the species of the duck depicted.

Students should learn to understand the relationship between the duck and its specific environment, and should understand why the duck has such specific habitat requirements.  Students can also study other stamp designs to learn what makes a good stamp!

Entries in the contest will be judged in four different age groups, and the winning entry will be made into a stamp and released in June.  The contest is an opportunity for students to learn about local biodiversity, and to work on their understanding of the interrelatedness of species and their habitat.  Students can also work on their art skills, working carefully to clearly portray their duck.  The contest deadline is March 15th. For more information visit

Online resources for educators:

Citizen Scientists Wanted for Bald Eagle Count

Bald Eagle Count

This winter families can participate in conservation and species preservation while helping out as citizen scientists!

Along with Audubon’s December Christmas Bird Count comes a second opportunity to participate as a citizen scientist while observing bird populations in your area.  The Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) conducts an annual survey of Bald Eagle sightings during January- this year’s dates are the 4th through 18th.

Citizen participation in the survey is important because Bald Eagle populations have been increasing, making it more difficult for DFW workers to ensure that all Bald Eagles have been accounted for.  The department’s website offers a fact sheet on Bald Eagles to help prepare citizen scientists for sightings.

If you see a Bald Eagle, report the sighting by e-mailing with the date, time, location, and time of the sighting along with the number and age (juvenile or adult) of the birds to  Sighting submissions can also be mailed to: Eagle Survey, MassWildlife, Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA, 01581.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Eric Bégin]

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