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Trail Mix: May 8 to 14

Mass Audubon’s annual Bird-a-thon May 16-17

Mass Audubon’s annual Bird-a-thon, a friendly fundraising competition to support conservation throughout the state, is again expected to inspire hundreds of dedicated enthusiasts in a 24-hour bird identification contest, May 16-17.

The statewide contest challenges teams of birders to identify the most species in 24 hours, this year from 6 p.m. on Friday, May 16, to 5:59 p.m. on Saturday, May 17.

Bird-a-thon has grown to become Mass Audubon’s single largest annual fundraising event, attracting thousands of supporters and raising more than $2 million since the competition began in 1983 with a mere handful of participants. Proceeds support the regional conservation leader’s network of wildlife sanctuaries and its programs across the Commonwealth.

In 2013, almost 800 birders competed on 30 teams that traversed the state, from the seashore to the Berkshires, through wetlands and deep into forests, in search of birds common and rare. Last year, 270 species were identified, either by sight or ear.

People who can’t compete in the field may still participate in various ways, including as “Bird-a-thon Boosters” to support teams or individuals by fundraising.

To learn more about Bird-a-thon, including how to participate or donate, go to www.massaudubon.org/birdathon.

Backback Meal workshop in Orange May 15

Trail Head in Orange will be having a free workshop on May 15 at 7 p.m. This event will be all about backpack cooking. Local Boy Scout Leader, Mark Cole will share his knowledge of cooking meals on the trail. Freezer bag cooking will be highlighted, with ideas for meals “on-the-go” that are easy to make and even easier to prepare. Sample some meals that you can make ahead for your next day hike or backpacking trip. Also for sampling will be some of the freeze dried meals from manufacturers that Trail Head stocks for hiking, camping, and emergency preparedness. Trail Head is located at 1 South Main Street. Call the store for more information at 978-249-8500.

Geology, natural history walk on Saturday

The Pioneer Valley Institute presents a day of exploring the local geology and natural history on Saturday, May 10. The program, led by Richard Little, Dave Small, Steve Winters and Nancy Goodman, begins at 9 a.m. in the Sloan Theater on the GCC campus followed by a morning walk and talk that will include a discussion of the geologic origins of this flat area (Lake Hitchcock bottom) as well as the ecology, mainly of the flora and wetlands. There is a clear ecological succession seen in one of the ponds as it changes to swamp. The walk will then proceed uphill along the GCC access road through the forest and up to the shoreline of Lake Hitchcock. At the end of the morning the walk will bring participants back to the Rock Park for a tour and further discussion on the geology of the GCC campus.

After an hour for lunch the tour will continue by car so participants will reconvene in Lot F at 12:15 p.m. and carpool to Sachem’s Run Trail in Highland Park for a hike to the outcrops and Poet’s Seat to see the views out over Greenfield and Turners Falls. At 1 PM the group will head to the Stop and Shop for more local geology and then continue on route 2 East across the French King Bridge to Dorsey Road Park. There are many interesting geologic outcrops and views along this confluence of the Connecticut and Millers rivers. The return trip will make several stops along the way to look at classic Connecticut Valley Jurassic Period geology with dinosaur footprints and alluvial fan deposits before returning to the GCC campus.

This event is free and will be held rain or shine. Any questions? Feel free to send an email to Richard Little at rdlittle2000@aol.com.

Northfield Mountain

99 Millers Falls Road (Route 63), Northfield. 413-659-3714 or 800-859-2960. Owned and operated by FirstLight Power Resources. www.firstlightpower.com/

∎ River Stories; Photography Walk with Beth Reynolds. On Thursday, May 15, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., take a closer look at the human-natural interface at Turners Falls through the camera’s eye. Photographer and teacher Beth Reynolds will coach participants on shooting quality images while packing light and Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center Naturalist Beth Bazler will share information on eagles, river geography and access above and below the Turners Falls Dam. Bring only one camera, a light-weight tripod and one or two lenses — or your point-and-shoot digital camera. The group’s focus will be on learning to pay attention, reading the light and sharing in the observations of other group members to create better photos. Wear an extra layer as the river can be a breezy place on a spring evening. Reynolds, owner of Base Camp Photography, has a Masters of Fine Art in photography from the University of Hartford and teaches photography at Greenfield Community College. This event is for ages 10 and older and is free. Call 800-859-2960 to register and to receive directions and a to-bring list.

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