Trail Mix: Explore nature in our area

Bon Voyage to the Birds

As the days get shorter, students head back to school and birds — many of them, anyway — head south to warmer climes. This fall, the Athol Bird and Nature Club will offer a number of opportunities to observe both fall migrants and resident birds

∎ Jeff Johnstone will be leading the “Early Bird” sessions, meeting at the Millers River Environmental Center, 100 Main St., Athol, at 7 a.m. every Sunday from Sept. 1 through Oct. 2. Birders carpool for these outings to a series of sites and are welcome to attend for an hour or all morning. For two decades Johnstone has been guiding birders in observing migrating birds as they move through the North Quabbin Region. These informal trips are a long-time favorite for beginner and advanced birders alike, offering an opportunity for folks to see where to find migrating birds and valuable assistance on how to identify them.

∎ Joseph Superchi continues his popular “Second Tuesday” accessible birding sessions from 8 to 10 a.m. on Sep. 10, Oct. 8, Nov. 12, and Dec. 10, meeting at the center before heading out to a variety of sites. Those wishing wheelchair van access can call ahead to 978-248-9491.

∎ The birding year will end off with the Christmas Bird Count all day on Dec. 14. This “citizen scientist” project is the longest continuously running compilation of bird data in the area. Contact ABNC president Dave Small at 978-413-1772 or for additional information and to participate in this nationwide annual event.

The outings are sponsored by the Athol Bird and Nature Club, an active group of people sharing an appreciation of nature’s many forms. More information about the club is available on the web at New members are welcome.

Great Falls Discovery Center

2 Avenue A, Turners Falls, 413-863-3676, Open to the public 7 days a week from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. All programs are free to the public unless otherwise noted. Facilities are accessible.

∎ Tuesday, Aug. 27, 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Kidleidoscope is a kid-friendly, environmental experience for young children. Each topic is based on the theme “we share our home,” and includes a story, interactive games, and craft activities to help children explore the natural world. For ages from 3 to 6 years, accompanied by an adult. This month’s topics include: dragonflies, rabbits, coyotes, and butterflies.

∎ Saturday, Aug. 31, 1 to 3 p.m. Water Under the Bridge Bike Tour. Join us for a leisurely two-hour bike tour along the Turners Falls Bike Path that highlights the history of the bridges in Turners Falls and Montague City. Come learn about the many challenges associated with getting over the Connecticut River historically in our villages. How do these challenges compare with our current Gill-Montague bridge construction experiences? We will meet at the main entrance to the Great Falls Discovery Center. Bring your bike, water, bug spray, helmet, and sunblock.

∎ In the Great Hall: Watercolors by Diane Nevinsmith, Sept. 1 through Sept. 30.

∎ Sunday, Sept. 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, 8:30 to 9:30 a.m., Canal-Side Nature and History Walk. Meet outside the main entrance at 8:30 a.m. We will leisurely explore level, paved bike trails to learn about plants, animals, and mill town history. Your interests will determine our focus — perhaps birds, fish, wildflowers, or industrial history. Bring water, bug repellent, and sunscreen.

∎ Tuesday, Sept. 3, 10, 17, 24, 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Kidleidoscope is a kid-friendly, environmental experience for young children. Each topic is based on the theme “we share our home” and includes a story, interactive games and craft activities to help children explore the natural world. For ages from 3 to 6, accompanied by an adult. This month’s topics include: snakes, raptors, bats and squirrels.

∎ Saturday, Sept. 7, 1 to 3 p.m. Artist reception. Join us in the Great Hall to welcome watercolor artist Diane Nevinsmith and to view her exhibit. Refreshments will be served.

∎ Friday, Sept. 13, 7 to 9 p.m. Great Falls Coffeehouse Presents: Pitchfork. Deep backwoods grooves and stark New England poetry venturing into expansive wavelengths of harmonica, trombone, and tuba. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., concert begins at 7 p.m. Refreshments available. Museum and museum store open at intermission. Donations — $6 to $12 suggested — help the Friends support free programming at the Great Falls Discovery Center.

∎ Saturday, Sept. 14, 10:30 a.m. to noon. Watershed Investigators: Build Your Own Water Turbine. A monthly kid-oriented program that focuses on hands-on discovery of local nature. Join refuge staff as we explore different ways to look at the natural world around us. Methods of discovery may include crafts, games, stories, and exploration. This program is geared toward grades 2 to 5, but everyone is welcome.

∎ Saturday, Sept. 14, 2 to 3:30 p.m., Watershed History: The Patch. A small patch of land sits in the middle of the Connecticut River at Turners Falls, sandwiched between the power canal on one side and the largest river in New England on the other. The history of “The Patch” is the story of industrialization, immigration, fish, birds, rocks, resilience and more. We’ll explore many of these stories during a leisurely stroll through the little neighborhood with eight streets and paths through the woods and amazing views. We will meet at the corner of Avenue A and Eleventh Street in Turners Falls, near the canal side bike path to start our journey.

∎ Friday, Sept. 20, 2 to 3 p.m., Live Birds of Prey Program with Tom Ricardi, who will share the natural history of these magnificent birds and demonstrate some of their unique behaviors.

∎ Saturday, Sept. 21 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Growing Up Wild Professional Development Workshop. “Growing Up Wild” is an early childhood education activity guide that builds on children’s sense of wonder about nature and invites them to explore wildlife and the world around them. This full day workshop will introduce participants to the guide and the lessons and activities within it. All participants will receive a copy of “Growing Up Wild” and a certificate of completion. Registration is required. Workshop fee is $25. Contact Pam Landry at or 508-389-6310 to register or for more information. Registration deadline is Sept. 9. This workshop is hosted by MassWildlife and DCR.

∎ Friday, Sept. 27, 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Discovery Hour: Monarch Butterflies. Young children ages 3 to 6 and their parents are invited to join refuge staff from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. as we discover different things about local wildlife and the places they live. Be ready to be crafty, have fun, and bring your imagination as we explore the natural world around us.

∎ Saturday, Sept. 28, 2 to 3 p.m., Watershed History: The Brickyards of Montague City. Local industrial-era mills, businesses, tenements, and homes were built from the ground up - quite literally from the clay of the banks of the Connecticut River right here in Montague City. Come learn about local brick manufacturing and architectural styles and designs with brick in Turners Falls.

Saturday Morning Bird Walks

The early-morning world of birds is one of beauty and wonder, a pageant of neotropical migrants returning to their wintering grounds, and Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary is beginning its series of “Saturday Morning Bird Walks” in early September. Each walk leader will focus on field identification techniques, flight patterns, field marks, habitat preferences, and songs and calls. The birds we see will change as fall progresses. Bring a bird book and binoculars if you have them. This program will be canceled if there is heavy rain. The first walk will take place at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton/Northampton from 8 to 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 7. Fee is free for Mass Audubon members and $5 for nonmembers. Preregistration is recommended. For more information, please contact Mass Audubon’s Connecticut River Valley Sanctuaries at 413-584-3009, ext. 812 or

Northfield Mountain

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

∎ Sunset on the Mountain, Friday, Aug. 30, from 6 to 9 p.m., celebrate the end of summer with a hike to a sunset scenic view. Spend an evening hiking to the sounds of crickets and katydids and enjoying late summer wildflowers. Feast on a picnic supper (bring-your-own) on a rocky ledge while enjoying the sunset and beautiful views. Adventure seeking participants in moderate condition, able to walk three miles and comfortable with a small amount of elevation gain will be a good fit for this hike. Wear sturdy, closed-toed shoes that can get wet or muddy and bring a trail picnic, water and flashlight. Directions to nearby hike meeting location will be shared with registered participants. This free event is for ages 9 and older. Please register by calling Northfield Mountain at 1-800-859-2960.

∎ Monarch Tagging, Saturday, Sept. 7, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. September is when the Monarch Butterfly starts its 2,500 mile migration to central Mexico. Join Jennifer Uncles on at Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center and learn about this amazing butterfly. We’ll begin indoors with hands-on activities and stations, then venture outside in search of migrating monarchs. If our luck holds, we will catch and tag a monarch, as part of the national citizen science program , Monarch Watch. Join us to learn about the monarch’s life cycle, challenges they face on their journey, how the tagging helps scientists learn more about these butterflies and what you can do to help. In case of rain, please join us for the indoor session. This event is free and open to all ages. Please preregister by calling Northfield Mountain at 1-800-859-2960.

∎ Parting of the Seas: The Canal Drawdown at Turners Falls, Monday, Sept. 9 from 10 a.m. until noon, go down into the bottom of a working river and gain unique insights into both the structure of the river and the animals that live there. The annual dewatering of the Turners Falls Canal allows for maintenance on the Cabot Power Station and the two miles of canal walls. Participants assemble with buckets and boots to collect mudpuppies, young sea lamprey (called amocetes), eels and other fish, plus invertebrates like dragonfly nymphs that live in the canal. This is an opportunity to see and hold species that you may have only heard about or seen on television. Collected creatures are then released in the main stem of the river with the help of staff from the Silvio O. Conte Fish Lab. Program strictly limited to first 24 participants, so register early. Directions to meeting place sent to confirmed participants. This free event is for ages 7 and older. Please preregister by calling Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center at 800-859-2960.

∎ Hydro-Power Generation in Turners Falls with Rachel Roberts, Saturday, Sept. 21, from 10 a.m. until noon, join educator Rachel Roberts and FirstLight Power staff for an exciting program about Hydro-Power Generation focusing on its historic and current production in Turners Falls. Together we will do a variety of hands-on science activities connected to general concepts of generating electricity with water. This class will reinforce participants’ understanding of generating power, how electricity is made, and simple machines. Turners Falls #1 and Cabot Station use water turbines (a rotary engine that takes energy from moving water) to generate electrical power and photos of the stations will be shown for participants’ observation of a local water turbine in action. We will begin the class near the Fishway and will walk along the canal to take a closer look at the dam system. This family workshop is free and is supported in part by a grant from the Montague Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency. The event is for ages 8 and older and will be held at Unity Park by the Turners Falls Fishway parking area. Please pre-register by calling Northfield Mountain at 1-800-859-2960.

∎ Wild Edibles: Weed ’em & Reap, Saturday, Sept. 21 from 1 to 3 p.m. Many so-called “weeds” are tasty, free, & nutritious. Join author and filmmaker Blanche Derby at Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center. We will forage in field and forest and discover new wild edible plant friends with author and filmmaker Blanche Derby. This relaxing “walkshop” around the Center’s grounds will be followed by a light snack. Blanche has spent years foraging and preparing foods from the wild. Join her as she shares her knowledge and stories about these plants. Be sure to check out her website: which has a link to over 30 of her wild food videos on YouTube. This free event is for ages 12 and older and has a rain date of Sunday, Sept. 22. Please register by calling Northfield Mountain at 1-800-859-2960.

Holyoke Range State Park

Notch Visitor Center, Route 116, Amherst (about one mile up the hill from Atkins Farms). These programs are sponsored by the Department of Recreation and Conservation and are free and open to the public. 253-2883 for more information.

∎ Saturday, Aug. 31 and Sept. 7, 10:30 a.m. Beginning birding. This program is geared to all the people who want to learn the basics of birding. We will explore the use of binoculars, guide books, and bird lists. Then we will go out and try out our new bird watching skills.

∎ Saturday, Aug. 31 and Sept. 7, 1 p.m. Let’s Explore Nature. This family oriented program will explore different topics of nature each week. This week’s topic is titled “Impressions of Nature.” Nature has many beautiful shapes and colors and we will examine them through the use of plaster and crayons.

∎ Monday, Sept. 2 and 9, 10:30 a.m. Advanced Hike for Seniors. This hike is meant for seniors who are looking for more of a challenge than regular senior hikes. We will travel on all types of terrain, but at a slower pace. Bring water.

∎ Monday, Sept. 2, 11:30 a.m. Nature Story Time. Come hear your favorite nature storybook read out loud or bring one you would like to share with the rest of the audience. Also bring a lunch and enjoy our picnic area after the program.

∎ Monday, Sept. 2 and 9, 2 p.m. Explorer’s Club. Children ages 10 to 15 can expand their knowledge of nature through this one to two hour hiking program. Map reading and landscape identification will be a major part of the hikes. Bring water.

∎ Tuesday, Sept. 3 and 10, 10 a.m. Nature Study for Homeschoolers. Every week we will explore a different aspect of nature for the homeschooled child. Through hiking, observation and hands on activities, the children will increase their understanding of our natural world.

∎ Tuesday, Sept. 3 and 10, 1 p.m. Senior Hike. This one-hour hike will travel on the easier trails here at the Notch. The pace will be slow and the terrain easy to moderate. Along the way we will take a closer look at nature. Bring water.

∎ Saturday, Sept. 8, 10:30 a.m. Each week we will explore a different group of flowers that inhabit the Holyoke Range State Park. The focus this week will be the Asters around the Notch.

∎ Sunday, Sept. 8, 2 p.m. We will discuss and look for signs of specific animal groups each week. Mammals will be our topic this week. What mammals live here at the Notch and why did they choose this area? We will discuss that and more in our search.

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