Boy Scout Merit Badge Program – May 3

Boy Scouts Merit Badge Study at Audubon

Jamestown, NY – Boy Scouts have the opportunity to earn some of the requirements for the Bird Study Merit Badge at the Audubon Center & Sanctuary on Saturday morning, May 3, 2014.

From 8 a.m. till noon, Boy Scout leader and longtime birder Bob Ungerer will cover topics including the use and care of binoculars, how to use a field guide, and the identification of common birds by sight and sound.

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Boy Scouts can earn some of the requirements for the Bird Study Merit Badge on Saturday morning, May 3, 2014, at the Audubon Center & Sanctuary. Boy Scout leader and longtime birder Bob Ungerer will be the instructor. Reservations are required by Wednesday, April 30.

Weather permitting, the program will include a visit to Audubon’s bird banding station where Scouts will meet career ornithologists who are gathering data for research studies. They can watch the scientists capture birds using mist nets, then band, weigh, and measure before releasing them back into the wild.  The hike will also include a peek into at least one of Audubon’s nest boxes.

The program will start at the Nature Center building, then go out on the trails. Participants are reminded to dress for the weather and bring binoculars and bird field guides if they have them.

Retired physician Bob Ungerer is an executive board member of the Allegheny Highlands Boy Scout Council, an Eagle Scout, and a long time birder.  He is also a member the Roger Tory Peterson Institute and Jamestown Audubon Society, where he served on the board of directors for many years.

Cost is $8 for each Boy Scout.

While not part of the program, at the Blue Heron Gift Shop boys can purchase a bluebird nest box kit to take home, build, and install.  After the program, participants are welcome to stay for as long as they like to explore the hands-on exhibits in the Nature Center building, hike more of the trails, and use the picnic facilities.

Reservations are required by Wednesday, April 30: call (716) 569-2345, email info@jamestownaudubon.org, or use the on-line form by clicking through “Boy Scout Bird Study Merit Badge” at http://jamestownaudubon.org.

Audubon education programs are made possible in part through funding from the Carnahan Jackson Foundation, the Jessie Smith Darrah Fund, the Holmberg Foundation, the Hultquist Foundation, and the Johnson Foundation.

The Audubon Center and Sanctuary is at 1600 Riverside Road, one-quarter mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown, New York and Warren, Pennsylvania. Hours are 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and 1-4:30 p.m. Sundays. The trails and eagle viewing are open daily from dawn till dusk.

For more information on this and all Audubon programs, call (716) 569-2345 or visit http://jamestownaudubon.org.

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Posted in Birds, Class, News Release

Bird Banding Resumes – April 26

Audubon Resumes Bird Banding

Jamestown, NY – On Saturday mornings from April 26 through May 17 and May 31, you can experience a scientific study: you can observe, and possibly even participate in, the annual bird banding at the Audubon Center & Sanctuary.

If you’ve never taken advantage of the opportunity to view this amazing process, now is the time. Come on your own or bring the kids with you.

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Come on your own or bring the kids to observe scientists banding birds at the Audubon Center & Sanctuary any Saturday morning from April 27 through May 18 and May 31. Master Bird Bander Emily Thomas Perlock is shown here with a Pileated Woodpecker. (Photo by Jennifer Schlick)

You can drop in any time between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. on any of these four Saturdays and learn from the researchers exactly how it is done.

The age-old technique of bird banding is used to discover details about the lives of birds. Scientists who have both federal and state permits – and a great deal of training and experience – capture the birds in “mist” nets, so-called because they are so fine they are almost like mist.

Dr. Scott Stoleson, Emily Thomas Perlock, and Don Watts will lead the bird banding.

Weather permitting, you can join these ornithologists and watch how they capture migrating and resident birds, fit them with identification bands, measure and weigh them, then release them to go on with their lives. You might even be selected to help release a bird.

Dr. Scott Stoleson is a professional ornithologist who has published over 50 scientific papers on ecology and conservation of birds. He has conducted avian research in the western U.S., Central and South America and has led natural history tours to the Caribbean and Latin America. He is currently the Research Wildlife Biologist at the U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station lab in Irvine, Pennsylvania.

With a master’s degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science from Penn State, Emily Thomas Perlock was a wildlife biologist for the U.S. Forest Service and is currently employed as an Instructor in Wildlife Technology at Penn State DuBois. She learned how to band in 2005 and has banded over 4000 birds. She holds a Master bird banding permit and is a certified bird bander by the North American Banding Council. She established a banding program at The Arboretum at Penn State and has participated in banding programs for Audubon and the Roger Tory Peterson Institute.

Don Watts has been biological technical assistant for the United States Forest Service in the Allegheny National Forest. A Master Bird Bander, he monitors the American Kestrel Nestbox trail in Warren County, was participant in the first Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Atlas and Regional coordinator in the second, and a participant in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service breeding bird surveys for more than 20 years.

Participants are reminded to dress for the weather. While not necessary to enjoy the demonstrations, you may want to bring bird guides and binoculars if you have them. Plan to listen closely to the scientists and follow their instructions carefully, as safety of the birds is the priority.

Come to the picnic pavilion on the west side of the Audubon property at 1600 Riverside Road, one-quarter mile off of Route 62 between Jamestown and Warren. Look for the sign at the entrance closer to Route 62. Drive right in and park on the grass.

Bird banding at Jamestown Audubon is made possible in part in loving memory of Fritz Overs by his friends and family.

Audubon offers these demonstrations to the public free of charge, but donations are greatly appreciated.

Audubon Center hours are 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily, Sundays 1-4:30 p.m. The trails and Bald Eagle viewing are open dawn to dusk.  To learn more, call (716) 569-2345 or visit http://jamestownaudubon.org/.

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Posted in Birds, News Release, Program, Research

Audubon Birdathon for Ryan Exline Memorial Scholarship – May 3

Jamestown, NY – The community is invited to join the Audubon Center & Sanctuary’s educators and their friends and fans to see as many birds as possible on a one-day only birdathon.

Since 2003 this group, that calls themselves “The Fledglings,” has been doing the Birdathon in order to raise an annual scholarship.

On Saturday, May 3, The Fledglings will raise money for the Ryan Exline Memorial Scholarship, awarded each year to a local student heading off to college with an interest in pursuing the natural sciences.

Putting up the Bluebird Box We Made

Saturday, May 3, is the date of the annual Birdathon Fledglings Fundraiser sponsored by the Education Staff of the Audubon Center & Sanctuary and their friends. The event raises money for the Ryan Exline Memorial Scholarship. Ryan is pictured here in the center back with one of his Summer Day Camp groups – with the bluebird nest box they built and decorated. (Photo by Jennifer Schlick)

In this 12th annual (almost) all-day event, participants try to find as many species of birds as possible. Generous supporters pledge an amount – either per species or in total – and the end result is a $500 scholarship.

The award is named in honor of the young man who was an integral part of the Jamestown Audubon family for many years.

Ryan Paul Exline of Russell, Pennsylvania, was 22 when he died on December 17, 2008, from injuries sustained in an automobile accident. The son of James and Robyn (Hemsley) Samuelson, Ryan was a graduate of the Pennsylvania Homeschooling program and was a graduate student at Duke University, studying for a Conservation Degree. While at college he worked part-time in the Duke University Lab.

Because of his maturity and responsibility, Ryan became Audubon’s youngest Eaglekeeper before he was technically old enough to perform such duties.  He was the 2004 recipient of this scholarship which he used to attend a herpetology camp in Vermont.  On his return, he was instrumental in setting up some of Audubon’s herp programs for teens.  In 2006, Ryan was a summer intern who led many Discovery Walks and served as a Summer Day Camp Counselor.

The 2014 Fledgling Birdathon will begin at 6 a.m. at Audubon by counting birds at the backyard feeder through the window while charging up on coffee and breakfast foods.

There are several ways to participate.  You can:

  • Go birding with The Fledglings.  Call Audubon at (716) 569-2345 and leave a message for the Education Staff that you want to go join them on May 3.
  • Solicit pledges for The Fledglings.  Download a form by clicking on “Participate in a Birdathon” under “Get Involved” at http://jamestownaudubon.org.
  • Pledge or donate to The Fledglings.  Pledges and donations can be made by calling (716) 569-2345, by emailing info@jamestownaudubon.org, or by clicking the “Donate” button on the right at http://jamestownaudubon.org.
  • Start your own Birdathon team.  Call Audubon at (716) 569-2345 if you need help.

Participants are reminded to dress for the weather, as the event is held rain or shine, and to bring binoculars if you have them.  Audubon will have field guides, but if you have a favorite, bring it, too, as well as a water bottle, snacks and lunch.

The Audubon Center and Sanctuary is at 1600 Riverside Road, one-quart mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown, New York, and Warren, Pennsylvania. Center hours are 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily, Sundays 1-4:30 p.m. The trails, gardens, and Bald Eagle viewing are open dawn to dusk daily.

To learn more, call (716) 569-2345 or visit http://jamestownaudubon.org/.

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Posted in News Release, Fundraiser, Scholarship

A Bird in the Hand

A Bird in the Hand
by Jennifer Schlick

When I was a child, I thought my family enjoyed playing cruel jokes on me every time we drove along Route 60 on the way to Grandma’s house.  “Look at the deer,” they’d say.  “Where?  Where?” I’d respond.  “Look at the turkeys!”  “Where? Where?”  And no wonder I was last to be chosen for a whiffle ball team.  “Keep your eye on the ball!”  “What ball?”

Once I got my first pair of glasses – when I was in the fourth grade – a whole world opened to me.  But habits die hard.  By that time, I had become accustomed to paying attention mostly to things close to me, things I could pick up and bring close to my face.  Stones, shells, pinecones, and feathers.

Catbird Gets a Band

Gray Catbird gets a band

I think these early visual habits also explain why I have entered the birding world so reluctantly.  It wasn’t an aversion to birds; I just wasn’t accustomed to looking into the tops of distant trees to see a little flash of yellow or red.  Until the fourth grade, the tops of trees looked like impressionist paintings.

To change my visual habits, it took a few close encounters, many of which took place at bird banding stations.  My interest in birds deepened when I looked into their eyes and examined individual feathers, or held them just before release, feeling a strange mix of vulnerability and strength.  Upon release my eyes would follow their flight and I would note differences between the ways various species move through the sky.  If they landed in a nearby tree, I would watch their behavior for a few minutes to see if I could learn anything that would help me know the bird better the next time I encountered it, or another of its species.  Over time, I became that person who gleefully takes part in birding walks and fundraisers and takes the long way to work on the chance of seeing a particular bird.  You might say that a couple of birds in the hand at bird banding were worth thousands of in the bush later on!

Bird banding is a research technique that has been in use for centuries.  According to the United States Geological Survey website, “The first record of a metal band attached to a bird’s leg was about 1595 when one of Henry IV’s banded Peregrine Falcons was lost in pursuit of a bustard in France. It showed up 24 hours later in Malta, about 1350 miles away, averaging 56 miles an hour!”

Photo Opp

American Goldfinch Photo Opp

The North American Bird Banding Program in use today has been jointly administered by the United States Geological Survey and the Canadian Wildlife Service since 1923.  To run a research station, ornithologists must be trained and licensed.  Jamestown Audubon is lucky to have the services of three licensed bird banders who donate their time and energy to banding projects on our sanctuary.  Dr. Scott Stoleson is the Research Wildlife Biologist at the United States Forest Service Northern Research Station lab in Irvine, Pennsylvania.  Emily Thomas Perlock teaches Wildlife Technology at Penn State DuBois.  Don Watts is active in several birding and wildlife projects.

I often wonder what the trajectory of my career might have been had I attended a bird banding session when I was in middle school, high school or college.  Might I have pursued a degree in field biology, become a wildlife technician, gone on to research trends in the environment?  As it is, I get to enjoy watching the talented team of ornithologists and their apprentices and live vicariously through them, and that’s a good thing!  If you know children and young adults who are trying to find their way in the world, I encourage you to expose them to as many real life experiences as possible.  Shadowing people as they do their jobs is one of the best ways to help people answer the question, “What do you want to do when you grow up?”

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A Common Yellowthroat is uncommonly beautiful.

Bird banding at Jamestown Audubon is made possible in part in loving memory of Fritz Overs by his friends and family.  The nature center is located at 1600 Riverside Road in the town of Kiantone, one-quarter mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown, New York and Warren, Pennsylvania.  The banding station is accessed by turning into the west entrance, closer to Route 62.  Look for a “Bird Banding” sign.  Demonstrations are scheduled for April 26, May 3, 10, and 17, weather permitting.  MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship) banding begins May 31 and there will be several dates after that through the breeding season.  There is no charge to visit the bird banding station, though donations are gratefully accepted.  Call the center at 716-569-2345 to learn more, or visit http://jamestownaudubon.org.

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Look into the eyes of a White-throated Sparrow

Boy Scouts who are interested in working on their Bird Study Merit Badge are encouraged to register for a program on May 3 with longtime Scout leader and avid birder Bob Ungerer.  Several of the requirements for the badge will be covered in this program which runs from 9:00am until 12:00pm and costs $8 per Scout.

Jennifer Schlick is program director at Jamestown Audubon.  A collection of her photographs is on display through April 30 at the Lakewood Memorial Library Heritage Room.  Entitled “Myopia,” the exhibit features close-up views of leaves, flowers, tree bark, moss, and, yes: bird feathers.

Posted in Article, Birds, Event, Jennifer Schlick

Volunteer Day – April 19

Volunteer at Audubon on Saturday, April 19

Jamestown, NY – Celebrating Earth Day with a Volunteer Day is becoming a tradition at the Audubon Center & Sanctuary.

Roadside Volunteers

The Audubon Center & Sanctuary is celebrating Earth Day on Saturday, April 19, by inviting volunteers make the Audubon buildings and grounds more beautiful, improve habitat and make the sanctuary more visitor friendly. You won’t believe some of the things the Roadside Cleanup crew will find.

The event has been such a success — with more than 80 volunteers each of the past two years — that on Saturday, April 19, Audubon will celebrate an early Earth Day again by working to make their buildings and grounds more beautiful, improve habitat and make the sanctuary more visitor friendly.

Folks of every age will work rain or shine and have a blast doing it. After all the hard work, lunch will be provided to all volunteers.

The schedule is:

  • 8:30-9 a.m. – Registration
  • 9 a.m. – Select work crew and learn about the importance of what you are doing
  • 9:30 a.m.-noon – Work, work, work (and have fun!)
  • Noon-1 p.m. – Lunch and prizes

Volunteers will choose a work crew to pull non-native plants, plant native seeds and shrubs, spruce up the gardens, pick up trash as part of Audubon’s Roadside Cleanup, trail blaze, and possibly more. Volunteers will be dirty and tired at the end of it all, but oh-so-satisfied at the work that got done.

There will be tasks for all ages and abilities.

Participants are encouraged to wear clothes that can get dirty, dress for the weather, and bring work gloves if they have them.

Reservations are necessary to plan for food. Volunteers are asked to make reservations by Wednesday, April 16, by calling (716) 569-2345, emailing info@jamestownaudubon.org, or clicking on “Volunteer Day” at http://jamestownaudubon.org/.

Audubon is especially grateful to Cummins Jamestown Engine Plant for their sponsorship of the 2014 Volunteer Day.

Located at 1600 Riverside Road, one-quarter mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown and Warren, the Audubon Center & Sanctuary has over five miles of beautifully maintained trails on a 600-acre wetland preserve. Open daily, its three-story building the Blue Heron Gift Shop and a collection of live fish, reptiles, and amphibians. One of the most visited exhibits is Liberty, a non-releasable bald eagle.  Interactive displays focus visitors’ attention on ways to celebrate nature hands-on.

To learn more about the Center and its many programs, call (716) 569-2345 or visit http://jamestownaudubon.org/.

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Posted in News Release, Volunteering

Fare Thee Well, Winter!

Dear Winter,

Well, it was a good visit this year.  Your strong presence was both a joy and a pain, I have to admit. There were great days of skiing, snowshoeing and playing.  Great days of enjoying your snow from the comfort of my couch, warm coffee in hand. But there were also days where getting out of warm bed to a cold house to then to gird against your cold and fight your snow and seemed like too much.  Sometimes I longed for hibernation through it all.

Have you heard that Ben Franklin witty piece of wisdom, “Guests, like fish, stink in 3 days”?  In that spirit, it might be best you were on your way. I regret to inform you some people are saying you are overstaying your welcome.

Snow Camp February 2014

Snow Campers crossing the frozen Big Pond at Jamestown Audubon

So, goodbye to your snow which blanketed our world in white, both delicate and devastating.  The snow that we shoveled, shoveled, shoveled.  But it was also the snow that revealed the private trails of creatures, giving us insight into their comings and goings.  We hope there was enough of your snow to sufficiently add to the water table, to nourish the plants that rested, quiet beneath your blanket. Soon they will be out, reaching for that water.

Goodbye to your icicles that hung beautiful and menacing along roof lines, bridges and wheel wells.  Rainbows were reflected in their elongated forms on sunny days and brought color to your brown and white world.

Goodbye to your bone chilling cold that froze our nose hairs but also put seeds, insects and animals to rest so they could awaken in spring’s warmth, ready to grow.

Goodbye to your ice across the puddles, ponds and lakes.  Formed by that severe cold, it make walking treacherous but also became pathways for people to explore and see your beauty.  Crossing Chautauqua Lake not on a boat but on skis was quite the winter adventure for one who grew up in more mild winter environment.

Your last hurrah was quite a surprise, slowing my travel and covering my crocuses. But that was enough.  Green is creeping into my dreams and refuses to go away.

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Donning ponchos, volunteers were wet and dirty but still having fun getting the garden ready for spring.

Until next year, Winter. The Southern Hemisphere awaits you.  It needs your cold, your snow, your dormancy just as we do.  You will be gone for long enough for us to miss you and ache for your world-altering snow, cold and ice.  But now we have things to do.

Your snow covers a myriad of sins and they are starting to show- a Styrofoam coffee cup, plastic rings from milk jugs and packing peanuts. Escaped from their trip to the landfill intentionally or unintentionally by the humans that used them. Now that their ugliness is exposed, they need to be picked up.

And there’s Garlic Mustard to pull.  It can tolerate your cold but we can’t find this invasive species under the snow. And we’d like to remove it so other native species can grow.

There are gardens to till, natives and crops to be planted but you have to release your frozen hold on the ground.

We do this all this work and more on Volunteer Day, Saturday, April 19 starting at 8:30am.  For the past two years we’ve had over 80 volunteers planting, pulling, picking and cleaning to make our little patch of land a better experience for visitors and a better home for its residents. Both new and experienced volunteers are invited to join us for a day of work and camaraderie.  After we work, we’ll share a lunch together. Volunteer Day is generously sponsored by Cummins Engine Plant.

Coming out of the bitter cold of this winter, saying goodbye to the ice and snow, it will feel good to sink our hands into the soil, to nourish plants with melted snow.

P.S.  While you are a guest that no one can turn away, you are not invited to Volunteer Day, Winter.  If you do show up, we will work through you anyway.  We’ve done it before.  But it would be more comfortable if you stayed away.

Jamestown Audubon is located at 1600 Riverside Road in the town of Kiantone, one-quarter mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown, New York and Warren, Pennsylvania. Learn more about the Center & Sanctuary and the many programs and events by visiting http://jamestownaudubon.org or call (716) 569-2345.

Katie Finch is a naturalist at Audubon, who loves winter but also spring, summer and fall.

Posted in Article, Katie Finch

Rites of Spring

Rites of Spring
by Sarah Hatfield

Sarah

Wading into a vernal pool in search of treasure. Photo by Jennifer Schlick.

We hear about the rites of Spring. These rites are ephemeral, just as Spring itself is. It is difficult to find a list of these rites on the internet, although many other things come up, including classical music, ballets, album titles, festivals, and more. A rite is “an established, ceremonious, and usually religious”, act or “any customary observance or practice.” Thus, I feel the rites of Spring are the established actions we take as the world passes from one season to another, from Winter to Spring.

One of the first rites of spring is pulling my binoculars from the shelf in the house and putting them in my car. This is, of course, because the ducks come back first. When ice still leisurely floats down the rivers and icicles still form nightly on the edges of my roof, the ducks return. Their fast wingbeats through the air mimic their impatience for the thaw but seem contrary to the slow pace with which Winter releases it’s hold. I empathize with the ducks, I long for the dripping music of melting snow and the babbling of the brook to rise to a roar. I will take what I get though, and my binoculars will occupy their place on the seat beside me for the many months to come.

Woodfrog Eggs on Sarah's Hand

Wood frog eggs in hand. Photo by Jennifer Schlick.

Another rite of spring is watching the sky for Turkey Vultures. Though a few may remain the duration of the winter, most move south for more favorable conditions during Winter. Regardless of the date on the calendar, I know that we are over the crest of the hill when I see these immense birds soar above my valley. Every year, I forget how big they are. And every year, I laugh inwardly that such a…well, ugly, creature can make me so giddy. Grinning at Turkey Vultures is an unlikely, but certain, rite of Spring.

Fairy Shrimp

Fairy Shrimp by Jennifer Schlick.

As many of you many know, I am not particularly fond of the cold. Thus another rite of Spring for me is stargazing. In the frigid Winter, I never take the time to look at the sky as I rush from my car to the house. If I can see my breath, there’s little chance I’ll take the time to see the stars. I know that Spring is strengthening its hold on the world when I linger in my driveway, staring at the infinite, identifying constellations and greeting them as I would long-unheard from friends. There are some nights when it is warm enough to be out long enough to watch them move in their journey through the heavens. Those are the nights when it seems I can feel the very earth under my feet moving toward spring.

Spring would not truly arrive if it weren’t for the rainy nights that I spend hurrying the frogs and salamanders across the road. I am certain my neighbors worry about my well-being for those few evenings as I, armed with headlamp and camera, patrol the road near my house, walking up and down for hours. The first night, I will follow my slimy-skinned friends to their breeding pool where hundreds gather in the most passionate rite of Spring – mating. Well, since the salamanders never embrace the opposite sex, it probably can’t be touted as passionate, and so I feel less the voyeur while watching them. It is this night that I know Winter has lost it’s foothold to Spring in this seasonal changing of the guard. Salamander night is mud, and rain, and magic – the world doing what it knows best, surviving, reproducing, and moving forward.

Spotted Salamanders on the Move

Salamanders migrating. Photo by Jeff Tome.

Whether we acknowledge them or not, these are the ceremonies of nature. I have my own rites of Spring that coincide with them – binoculars, boots, and camera the tools I use to witness and capture the moments. The uncurling of a fiddlehead, the soft eerie calls of the Tundra Swans as they fly over, or the bursting open of Pussy Willows are all customary observances that the residents of this planet make for this season we call Spring.

Have you ever seen the salamander migration of Spring? Since it happens but once a year in the rain it is easy to overlook. Being witness to that night instills a different sense of treasure, one of time and the mercury finally hovering at 55 degrees Fahrenheit all night long. Knowing that those ground-dwelling residents have emerged and left vast quantities of life in little pools scattered through the landscape makes you richer somehow. If you’d like to learn more about those vernal pools and see possibly see some of that remarkable Spring abundance, join us for a program on Saturday, April 12, 2014, from 1:30pm to 3:30pm. We will introduce you to some of the cast of characters that call vernal pools home, even if just for a little while.

To learn more about what is going on, call Audubon at 716-569-2345 or visit our website http://www.jamestownaudubon.org. The Center is open from 10:00am until 4:30pm daily except Sundays when we open at 1:00pm. Trails and Liberty are open from dawn until dusk. Audubon is located at 1600 Riverside Road, off Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. Hope to see you engaging in some rites of Spring!

Sarah Hatfield is a naturalist at Audubon and looks to the rites of Spring as a reawakening of her soul after winter dormancy. This article first appeared in Spring 2008.

Posted in Article, Sarah Hatfield