Published on August 24, 2022

An Expert Naturalist is Always Learning: Meet John Green

John Green holding a pair of binoculars © Phil Doyle
© Phil Doyle

John Green is a very well-known and respected naturalist with a specialty of birding by ear who has worked throughout the Connecticut River Valley since the 1970s. For decades, John has been inspiring Connecticut River Valley program participants with his knowledge of the natural world, birding expertise, and beautiful photography. Formerly doing naturalist work on a consulting basis, John officially became part of the education staff this August.  

What is the work you do?  

I will continue to lead bird and nature walks scheduled throughout the year. I will also be available for Naturalist Hours at Arcadia where people can drop into the Visitor Center and ask me a question about different aspects of nature. I probably won’t be able to resist telling stories and sometimes sharing my nature photography during these hours. People can find out about Naturalist Hours by checking the Arcadia page on the Mass Audubon website. Signs will also be posted on the Visitors Center door. 

Green Gannets © John Green
Green Gannets © John Green

These gannets are an example of John’s
stunning nature photography.

How did you get connected to Mass Audubon?  

In 1967 I was working for the US Forest Service outside of Philadelphia and to give myself a break from some paperwork went over to help my friend in the mailroom. A batch of fliers came in that caught my attention. They advertised Focus Outdoors, a fundraiser and nature education weekend organized by Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in faraway Massachusetts. I had to go so I rented a car and drove up. I’ve been working with Arcadia and Mass Audubon ever since. 

At Arcadia, I’ve led programs for adults and worked with youth groups. After visiting the Wild Center in the Adirondacks, I brought their Youth Climate Summit model to the Valley and connected the Hitchcock Center and Arcadia to partner on launching this program. 

Along with my naturalist work, I also served on the Mass Audubon board for 3 terms in the 1980s. 

What is your favorite trail?  

Graves Farm. The many habitats at this sanctuary—fields, swamp, and woodlands—always yield a wide variety of bird species. The first time I led a bird walk there we identified several species right from the parking lot. A good bird walk doesn’t have to involve that much walking. When we find ourselves in a good spot, it is best to stop, listen, and look.  

If you could be a bird or animal, which would you be?  

That is an interesting question because it implies that birds are not animals. I think you are asking about mammals, and, although I am known for birding, I love mammals. I’ve spotted 14 different kinds of mammals right in the complex where I live, including black bear. I have to say, and this might surprise some people, but whale watching is my favorite activity. In April I was in a boat out of Gloucester, MA and whales were surfacing and feeding right next to us. I’ve been whale watching since the 1970s and this was the best whale watch I had ever been on. You never know what you will see when you are out in nature on the land or at sea. 

What advice do you have for people wanting to increase their skills as a naturalist?  

Immerse yourself in nature; get out in the field! Read books. Watch great nature programming. Get involved with an organization focused on nature. And when you learn one nature fact, let it lead you to another and then another. I once wrote a message to myself and put it above my desk. It said something like: “I am proud of how much I have learned, but I am well aware of how much more there is to learn.”