Winter Fun for Everyone
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Don't let cold temperatures or a few inches of snow keep you from getting outdoors! Winter offers once-a-year opportunities to explore some of nature's most fascinating phenomena.
Mass Audubon's 60 wildlife sanctuaries provide a variety of ways to venture out with the family, get some fresh air with friends, or take up a new cold-weather hobby. So bundle up and join us for some fun activities this winter. You'll be glad you did!
What better way to explore a sparkling winter landscape than with footwear that allows you to virtually float atop the fluffy stuff? Just about all of our wildlife sanctuaries welcome snowshoeing from January-March, and a few even offer equipment to rent or borrow.
Sign up for a guided snowshoe program to search for signs of wildlife, learn how to identify trees without their leaves, and take in stunning views of the natural landscape. (Bonus—some outings wrap up with hot cocoa and coffee!)
Curious about the critters that leave "footprints" on snow-covered yards and fields? Our naturalists can help you solve the mystery! At one time, being able to read animal tracks was vital for survival. Today, identifying signs of wildlife can teach us a lot about the animals that live in our area.
It takes a bit of practice to learn how to distinguish the markings of deer, porcupines, fishers, foxes, bears, moose, and more. This "Stories in the Snow" activity page provides a good introduction to winter wildlife tracking, and you can find tracking field guides at your local library. Before you know it, you'll be on your way to becoming a tracking expert!
Faster than walking, but not so fast that you miss details such as tracks or bird calls, cross-country skiing will envelop you in winter sounds and sights. You can rent skis at a ski shop or outdoor gear store and then head to a local park, nature preserve, or a Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuary that allows skiing. Consider the Highland Farm Loop Trail at Habitat in Belmont, where you can look for Great Horned Owls hooting their courtship calls and tending their nests as you schuss along.
Before you pick a location, consider the terrain. Are you looking for hills or flat areas? Bring plenty of water and dress in layers; you will most likely work up a sweat as you go and cool down fast when you stop to rest.
In late winter, it's time to start gearing up for maple sugaring season in Massachusetts! Not only do several of our wildlife sanctuaries produce their own maple syrup, they also offer sugaring programs, tree-tapping demonstrations, and/or sugaring festivals.
Learn about the sugaring process from sap to syrup and get a taste of the sweet stuff at Ipswich River, Blue Hills Trailside Museum, Moose Hill, Drumlin Farm, Habitat, Boston Nature Center, or North River.
When it comes to spotting birds, spring gets all the attention. But winter actually presents the best (and sometimes only) opportunity to observe species like Snowy Owls, Bald Eagles, winter finches, sea ducks, and more.
Join guided bird walks at snowy hotspots around the state, go on a night hike to listen for owls, or take a program to learn about the unique adaptations that enable these amazing creatures to survive harsh New England winters.
Winter landscapes offer some of the most stunning photo ops of the year—rolling hills blanketed in snow, moonlit trees lining stone walls, and shimmering seaside sunsets.
If you own a digital camera but feel like you're not taking full advantage of its features, we can help! Several of our wildlife sanctuaries offer winter workshops and classes led by professional photographers. Master the basics and learn techniques for experimenting with lighting, focus, depth of field, and composition. Then head out to capture the beauty of local landscapes and wildlife!
In winter, the sky tends to be clearer and the stars brighter because cold air doesn't hold as much moisture and particulate matter as warm air. And in January and February, the Earth’s northern hemisphere looks out to the edge of our galaxy where there are fewer stars clustered together, so with the naked eye (or even a decent set of binoculars) you can get clearer views of the stars.
To appreciate the winter night sky, simply walk outside and look up! For a really great view, consider getting away from towns or cities to reduce light pollution. Several Mass Audubon sanctuaries offer stargazing programs in winter. Regardless of where you go, skymaps.com has great sky atlases and other resources to help you identify planets, stars, and major constellations.