Facebook group admin reflects on Worcester area’s wildllife

Facebook group admin reflects on Worcester area's wildllife



For Millbury resident John Randell, local wildlife offer a glimpse into the natural world. “My love for wildlife was influenced by my uncle who taught me about birds and nature in general,” Randell explained. Wildlife of Worcester County and Beyond, a Facebook group Randell moderates, allows members to share photos, videos, and stories of sightings of bears, bobcats, birds, insects, and other creatures that call the region home. RandelI, a postal service employee of more than 36 years, graduated from Worcester State College with a degree in communications, and took some photography classes as well. Randell recently spoke with Worcester Magazine about the Facebook group, and shared thoughts on living with wildlife, including during winter.

Please tell me how and when the Wildlife of Worcester County and Beyond group got started.

The group started in 2016. I was in a few birding Facebook groups, and thought it would be great to have a wildlife group, so we could share more than just birds.

The other group was just about rare or uncommon birds and the members were above average birders. I wanted a group for all levels of wildlife knowledge and a group where people could learn.

How many admins are there, and who are they?

I originally started with another administrator who eventually left the group when it started to really take off. I have been running the group by myself ever since.

Approximately how many members does the group have, and what are some places they come from?

Right now, the group has 2,400 members. Most of the members are from Worcester, Millbury, Sutton, Northbridge, and Uxbridge. 

What are some of the animal species members report seeing?

A wide variety of wildlife has been covered in the group, from moose-sightings to insects. Bear and bobcat pictures are always very popular, as well as bald eagle-sightings.

Insects are also popular, from hummingbird moths to caterpillars. Migratory birds and owls are posted as well. The group is a great way to learn about wildlife as well as sharing your sightings and photographs. 

During the pandemic, many people became interested in wildlife-watching. Did the pandemic have an effect on group participation and membership?

During the pandemic, the group became very popular. We had a few other papers mention the group, as well as some members of local town groups encourage others to join.

Don’t cut the bushes with berries on them and use them for decoration. Birds and other wildlife depend on berries and seeds for food.  A heated birdbath is a great idea, too.

John Randell, admin, Wildlife of Worcester County and Beyond Facebook group

I’m not an expert, but we have a lot of members in this group with knowledge that we can all learn from. One of my favorite members who wrote about our group was Worcester Telegram & Gazette writer Mark Blazis. He thought the group should do an art show of the members photographs.

More people were posting and commenting during the pandemic, and I really think it helped people when they were so isolated. I also think they learned a thing or two about nature. 

Social media groups sometimes become emotional. How do you ensure that exchanges are respectful and civil?

Social media can be very negative and frustrating place, but not in my group. It’s a private group requiring approval to join, so that helps keep spammers and unwelcome negative comments out.

We do have some rules, but I try not to upset members by always over enforcing them. The group has had its share of dram, but most time,s they work themselves out.

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I don’t believe you should argue or call each other names. I think it’s sad that people ruin social media by complaining and making negative comments.

I have a personal rule, if you want to complain, wait a day and most times you will let it go.

The rules of the group can cause arguments, but some rules like are in place to protect wildlife. This group is my happy place, and I’m thankful for all the members in it. I feel like the group runs itself, my only job is to pick a new cover photo every week.

With the cold weather coming, do you have thoughts about what people should and shouldn’t do to help local wildlife?

During the winter months, you shouldn’t feed deer or any other wild animals, but feed the birds, and maybe the squirrels, too.  Sunflower seeds, seed mixes and suet are great choices.

Don’t cut the bushes with berries on them and use them for decoration. Birds and other wildlife depend on berries and seeds for food.  A heated birdbath is a great idea, too.

Set up your bird feeders where you can watch them from inside the house, and get a field guide. It can be a lot of fun watching and identifying all the different wildlife we have in this region.