It’s Time for the 118th Annual Christmas Bird Count!

a photograph of a pileated woodpecker in a crabapple tree

A Pileated Woodpecker forages in a crabapple tree — a welcome sight for Christmas Bird Counters! (photo: Meade Cadot)

This is the 118th year of National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count, which was originally conceived as a conservation-minded alternative to a 19th-century holiday tradition known as the Christmas “Side Hunt.” Now it’s the longest-running citizen science project in the world, with more than 50,000 observers in 17 different countries. This year, the Christmas Bird Count will be held in Hancock, Peterborough, and surrounding towns on Saturday, December 16 and in Keene and environs on Sunday, December 17.

New to the Christmas Bird Count? You can expect a fun day in the field, enjoying the camaraderie of fellow birders and learning about birding and citizen science. You can also expect to feel good knowing that your observations — when combined with thousands of other counts from across the country — provide important information about the long-term status of North American bird populations, and help to inform bird conservation efforts. Read more…

Brett Amy Thelen Receives Conservation Educator of the Year Award

a photo of Brett holding a spotted salamander on a Big Night

Brett Amy Thelen, out with the Salamander Brigades on a Big Night (photo: Anna Miller)

We’re delighted to report that our own Brett Amy Thelen has received the Cheshire County Conservation District (CCCD)’s Conservation Educator of the Year Award for 2017.

Brett has been weaving together conservation biology and environmental education in community-based citizen science programs − including the celebrated Salamander Crossing Brigades − for over a decade. Longtime Salamander Brigade volunteer Sarah Wilson says, “Brett is such a wonderful, positive influence on the citizen science world of the Monadnock Region. Her knowledge of the natural world is impressive and her passion for the topic is infectious. I feel lucky to know Brett and am appreciative of the positive influence she has had on my daughter − and on me!”

You can read more about Brett, and about the award, at

Educators Honored at 2017 Annual Meeting

a photo of Jaime Hutchinson (left) and Jay Hale (right)

Jay Hale of First Friends Preschools received the 2017 Laurie Bryan Partnership Award for her efforts to bring nature-based programming to all four First Friends Preschools in the ConVal district. Here, she is pictured (right) with Harris Center naturalist Jaime Hutchinson (left), who presented the award at the Harris Center’s 2017 Annual Meeting on October 22.

The Harris Center recognized several extraordinary partners at our 47th Annual Meeting on Sunday, October 22.

Lori Groleau, a sixth grade social studies teacher at South Meadow School, was named the Harris Center’s 2017 Educator of the Year. Lori is an exemplary and inspiring collaborating teacher, with a unique ability to envision new possibilities, a willingness to dive into unknown territory, tireless dedication above and beyond the classroom, and an infectious curiosity and enthusiasm. Lori has been working with the Harris Center for 16 years. Most recently, she worked with John Benjamin from the Harris Center and Matthew Roy from Otter Book Farm to renovate the South Meadow School greenhouse and gardens as part of a unit on sustainable food systems, plant growth, and scientific inquiry.

The 2017 Laurie Bryan Partnership Award — honoring former Harris Center Executive Director Laurie Bryan’s achievements in working with community partners — was awarded to Jay Hale of First Friends Preschool for her efforts to bring the Harris Center’s nature-based education programs to all the First Friends Preschools in the ConVal School District. Read more…