Behind the scenes

Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary offers fun down on the farm

Marcia Wilson of Eyes on Owls will be back this year with her avian friends.
Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary
Marcia Wilson of Eyes on Owls will be back this year with her avian friends.

Once a year, the Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary celebrates its roots. The sanctuary, now a natural habitat for scores of birds and other animals, was once Edward Dwyer’s farm, a working farm that was preserved for conservation land by such local community efforts as “Save Dwyer Farm Day” fund-raisers.

The 500-acre Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuary, now one of the largest grassland preserves in the state, sets the stage this weekend for the annual “Farm Day” festival with hayrides, farm animals, pony rides, a hay maze, rural life demonstrations, and six kinds of owls.

“Mass Audubon kept up the Farm Day tradition,” said Emily Simmer, the office manager for Mass Audubon South Shore Sanctuaries and one of the event’s planners. “It helps people remember those days. ‘We saved the farm! We protected it for conservation!’ It connects us to the history.”


Farm Day brings farm animals, old equipment, and rural craft demonstrations back to the land to celebrate the site’s working farm history, Simmer said. The event also celebrates Mass Audubon’s preservation of the property as a wild habitat today.

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Mass Audubon protects and “stewards” almost 2,000 acres in the south suburbs, Farm Day’s organizers said. The South Shore branch brings nature programs to local schools, operates a summer camp through its North River Sanctuary (Mass Audubon’s Marshfield headquarters), and offers other year-round nature activities for adults, children, and families.

Farm Day’s highlights for children include tractor-drawn hayrides through open fields, where birds live and swoop for food in the grass. Kids can play hide-and-seek in the maze made from piled and arranged hay stacks, check out goats and other farm animals, and take part in crafts and games.

Highlights for all include craft and artisan demonstrations, music by the Reiner Family Band, and a live presentation by Eyes on Owls.

While everyone loves owls, Mark and Marcia Wilson point out in the information they provided for their program, “How many of us have ever seen a live owl up close? Perhaps you’ve glimpsed the shadowy form of a great horned owl in the headlights as you’ve traveled a back road at night. . . . How about a mob of noisy crows circling a white pine tree — have they found an owl?”


The Wilsons — photographer Mark and naturalist Marcia — will bring six owls to give festival-goers a close encounter with a range of live owls.

Owls are an appropriate guest for Farm Day, said Sue MacCallum, director of Mass Audubon South Shore Sanctuaries, because they’re frequent visitors to the sanctuary on their own. “We have Eastern screech owls, great horned owls, Northern saw-whet owls, and various long- and short-eared owls,” she said, pointing to the grassland’s abundance of mice and voles. The same attractive food source brings hawks to the sanctuary.

It’s the business of the Reiner family bluegrass band to attract dancers, Simmer said. “They are really fun. Everybody raved about them” at their last Farm Day visit. The group includes Dave Reiner on fiddle, Cindy Eid on banjo, and other family members backing them up.

Rural crafts demonstrations include a visit by Farm Day regular blacksmith Dave Armstrong, who sets up his anvil, works, and talks to people about what he’s doing. “People don’t understand what a blacksmith is any more,” MacCallum said.

South Shore Woodturners including Will Kemp of Hanover and Jeff Keller of Norwell demonstrate their craft by using lathes on different shapes, colors, and varieties of wood.


Beekeeper John Phillips of Hanover brings a beehive to Farm Day and explains the process of making honey. Hortense McCarthy of Cohasset will bring her handmade soaps, candles, and lip balms. Other crafters include jewelers and a bread maker.

Local restaurants, caterers, and specialty food producers will offer soups, homemade baked goods, and other foods. Sommers’ Bounty of Hingham will brings its locally made jams, including unique flavors such as blueberry lime and a hot red pepper jam used for cooking. Family Crest Catering of Hanover will be selling hot food.

MacCallum said the fund-raiser helps support the full range of Mass Audubon’s efforts in the area, including land protection efforts, property maintenance, public programs at its properties, and outreach efforts in the schools and elsewhere.

“We have 850 acres in Marshfield. We also have property in Norwell, 90 acres in Duxbury, and sites in Lakeville and Halifax,” MacCallum said.

In Lakeville, the Audubon property is located in the Assonet Cedar Swamp, a wetland without trails. In Halifax, the Stump Brook Wildlife Sanctuary has public access trails.

About 3,000 people attended last year’s Farm Day, an event that raised $17,000 to support Mass Audubon’s activities south of Boston. In addition to sponsorships and other donations, the organization said 100 volunteers help make the ev

‘Farm Day

Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary

Winslow Cemetery Road Marshfield

Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Oct. 26 in case of extreme weather)

$7 ($5 for Mass Audubon members); children 3 and under free

ent a good day to be down on the farm.

Robert Knox can be reached at