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Wildlife viewing tips

Get pointers on how to glimpse animals in the wild.
There are several ways to observe wildlife
  • One of the simplest ways is to use your car as a portable blind while driving through areas which allow vehicles. When you see an animal, such as a turtle on the edge of a road, or a songbird feeding in a tree, pull safely off the road and sit quietly. Wildlife will often tolerate vehicles, but sense a person on foot as a threat.
  • Another effective method is to hike into an area and find a spot to sit that offers a good vantage. Places where different habitat types met, such as the edge of a beaver pond can be particularly good. Sit quietly, using available brush and vegetation to break up your outline, and slowly turn you head and move your eyes to scan the area before you. The flight of a butterfly, the twitching of a deer's tail or the call of a songbird will catch your eye or ear. Slowly raise your binoculars, focus in on the source, and enjoy.
  • Walking slowly through an area helps you learn about habitat, trail systems, waterways and wildlife movements. Go slowly, pausing often to scan the area and to listen. Look for tracks, droppings, gnawings and other signs or clues that wildlife is near.
  • Wildlife is most active in the early morning and late evening hours. Getting up a little earlier or staying in the field a little later can be worth the effort. Weather can also influence animal activity. Calm periods before a winter snowstorm or just after a heavy downpour can be productive for viewing wildlife.
  • Don't overlook the more common and conspicuous wildlife you encounter. The behavior of a Canada goose or chipmunk can be as interesting as that of a coyote.
  • There's also a micro-world of wildlife all around. Study a dragonfly, ladybug or ant colony in the comfort of your own backyard or neighborhood. Magnifying glasses are great tools for studying these small creatures.
Looking in the Right Place at the Right Time
  • Wildlife depends on habitat (food, water, shelter and space) for survival. Knowing the habitat an animal uses and where that habitat is found is the first step in successful wildlife viewing. Some kinds (species) of wildlife in Massachusetts are found in only certain kinds of habitats such as terns on barrier beaches or bald eagles on major water bodies. Other species like raccoons, white tailed deer, turkeys and black capped chickadees use habitats ranging from deep woods to suburban backyards.
  • Daily and seasonal timing is also a critical factor when looking for wildlife. Hawks, sparrows and chipmunks are only active during the day. Owls, bats and opossums are most active at night. Choose your viewing times based on the wildlife you hope to encounter.
  • Set your viewing schedule to match the changing seasons. Turtles and bullfrogs emerge from winter dormancy shortly after the red-wing blackbirds return on their spring migration. These animals will remain active throughout the warmer months only to disappear again with the onset of winter. The colder weather brings wintering blue jays, pine siskins and evening grosbeaks to forests and feeders while sea ducks from the northern Canada winter on the coastal waters of the state, leaving for northern nesting territories in spring.
  • Migration is an exciting time for wildlife watchers. Catching the peak of the fall hawk migration, or being surrounded by brightly colored spring warblers provide sights and sounds not soon forgotten. Consult field guides and join a local bird or nature club to learn more about prime times and places to witness migrations.