Places to Bird in Central Massachusetts

Central Mass Bird Update homepage.

This is an archive of birding location information for Central Massachusetts and surrounding areas. The idea is to give birders current information about new or old places to bird, which is not available in existing guide books or other literature. The advantage of this format is that it can be easily updated. This is in the experimental stage, and experienced birders are invited to send in descriptions of their favorite birding spots. I would suggest making reference to the coordinates in the De Lorme atlas for Massachusetts in describing the location of your spot. If you send me a digitized map, I can include that as well (although if it is published elsewhere there may be copyright issues). To contribute, you can email to

Birding Location Data Available:

Buck Hill WMA, Burrilleville, RI
Take Rt. 100 south from Douglas MA. Go right on BUCK HILL RD. It is 2.1 miles to the entrance on the right (north), and there is a sign JUST before the entrance dirt road. Drive the dirt road up hill to the parking area by the gate. There is a billboard with a map that is very old and not accurate. STICK TO THE MAIN ROADS, it is easy to get lost in here, as we have been warned by RI birders and locals. The large pond/lake (NOT Lake Wallum) is straight ahead on the main road. When the road forks at a small area of pines (the ines are in the middle of the fork), and the major road swings right and down to a small pond, GO LEFT to see the north end of the human made lake. There is a small trail away from here that I have followed for awhile that I have not found the end of yet. Eventually it is possible to follow the main road (supposedly) to a trail head in back of the hospital and the south end of Lake Wallum. This areas has been good for migrants and some migrant waterfowl. It is woefully undercovered by RI birders. (submitted by Mark Lynch).

Assabet Conservation Area, Westboro
Trail Map (provided by Mark Lynch)
Take Rt. 30 east out of Grafton towards Westboro Center. About a mile past the Tufts Vet. School, watch for a left onto OLD NOURSE RD. Take this left. Then take your next left (signed ,but a bit obscure) onto ANDREW ST. Follow this past typical suburban houses to the end. Park in the dirt area on the left. You will see a paved pathway on the right that goes down to a pump house. You can skirt around the fence to the water's edge for great views of SuAsCo. Be sure to check trees along edge for migrants. Back at the parking area. you will see a signed pathway past two posts and a chain into the Assabet Conservation Area of the Westboro Land Trust. There is a network of well maintained trails, many now signed. The main trail goes down hill, past a vernal pool on the left, past an open sandy area where Ruffed Grouse sometimes dust bathe and eventually to a point on the water. This is an excellent place to view nesting Osprey and Great Blue Herons and ducks in the SuAsCo water impoundment. The whole area is good for migrant warblers, vireos, thrushes ect. Be sure to check the sumac and other shrubs just as you pass the entrance for migrants. Breeding birds include all the birds of SuAsCo plus Eastern Wood Peewee, Brown Thrasher, various warblers including Pine. The included map is old, but the trails are basically the same. many species of migrant ducks can be found on the water and Barrow' Goldeneye was seen here once. (submitted by Mark Lynch).

Northbridge Sewer Beds
Depending on what is happening in which beds, in mid-summer through fall, there can be numbers of the common shorebirds present: Least, Semipalmated, Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers, yellowlegs and killdeer. The surrounding weeds are good for migrant landbirds. A cattail marsh in back of the small building in the FAR corner of the property stays open through the winter due to outflow water at which time it is possible to find over-wintering ducks, snipe, rails and even Rusty Blackbirds. DO NOT DISTURB these birds by taping them out in winter, they are stressed enough!!!!!! Just stand on the edge in back of the building and carefully look.
directions: From Rt. 122 at the Grafton/Northbridge line, head south 4.2 miles. Turn left at the "Department of Public Works Sewer Office" sign. Park next to the railroad tracks, well off the road. DO NOT PULL PAST THE GATE IN THE CAR. Walk through the gate and explore the areas filter beds. A scope is good, and this requires a bit of walking. (submitted by Mark Lynch).

Sudbury Reservoir, Southboro/Marlboro
Birding Map (courtesy of Mark Lynch)
This is one the best spots for migratory waterfowl in central MA. Large numbers of Ring-Necked Ducks and Ruddy Ducks appear here in the fall, with lesser numbers of species like scaup, goldeneye, Bufflehead, mergansers and American Coot. Spring can also be good. Species like Canvasback and even Redhead have been found lately. This is a very irregulalry shaped reservoir, so it is strongly recommended that you get a street atlas of the area. Ducks are often tucked up into one of the many coves, so you need to scan from as many places as possible. Most birders only go the the southern impoundment, when in fact most of the birds are in the northern areas. I will start at the intersection of Rt. 9 and White Bagey Road and move around the reservoir.
1) At the intersection of White Bagely Road (White's Corner Restaurant) there is a light. Coming from Worcester, turn left (north) and immediately pull into the small dirt pull-off on the right at the corner. This will give you your first look at the southern tip of the reservoir. Just a bit up the road, you will see Partridge Hill Road. You can pull in here, park facing the reservoir, and walk to the reservoir edge for better views.
2) Further up White Bagely Road, pull off where possible to scan for ducks, coot, gulls and herons. Watch for traffic: this is a busy road.
3) When you get to Rt. 30, go right (east). You will cross an interesting causeway, but there is nowhere to pull off on the causeway per se, but on the other side you will see a gated access road to the reservoir on the left (north). Pull into this entrance way to scan both north and south of Rt. 30.
4) From Rt. 30, take a right (south) onto Central Street. Pull off at the playground and walk across the field heading for a gate at the NW corner. You will find a rough trail down to the water's edge and a great view of the south reservoir. Be careful of Poison Ivy.
5) The State "Emerald Necklace Trail". This is a real gem and little used by birders. Continue east on Rt. 30 and take a left (north) on Pine Hill Road. Watch for another left on Clemmons Road and park just before the road takes a sharp turn to the right. parking is difficult and there is room for only a few cars. Walk towards the gate onto the state trail. This fairly flat trail runs up the east side of the reservoir. Not only can you serach for waterbirds, this trail is great in spring and fall for migrants. Fox Sparrow is regular.I have also found wintering Hermit Thrush, Yellow-Rumped Warbler and Gray Catbird along here.
6) Continue north on Pine Hill Road, till it intersects with Parmenter and Edwards. Turn left onto Parmenter. This road winds through rapidly diminishing forest (this whole area is being rapidly built upon). Watch for a dirt parking area on the right in forest near the edge of the reservoir (you will see it through the trees) often littered with trash. Pull in here and walk to the edge of the reservoir. Be careful, traffic speeds along this seemingly quiet part of the road. Large numbers of ducks are often present on this end of the reservoir. There is a rough trail running along the edge that you can follow south till it joins the Emerald Necklace Trail, offering excellent views of the reservoir all along the way.
7) Acre Bridge Road area and trails: Continuing north on Parmenter, it will "T"; turn left onto Broad Meadow Road. Follow this to Farm Road, go left again until you can turn left once again onto Acre Bridge Road. Here you will come to an area where this tip of the reservoir flows under the road. Pull off in the obvious spaces. The pond on the west side of the road is good for ducks, herons and Pied-Biled Grebe. The old sewer beds north of this pond can be good for migrants and Northern Shrike in winter. Most importantly, just south of the bridge, and right along the edge of the inlet (heading east), there is a trail that takes you along the edge of the reservoir. Follow this out and around various inlets. This whole area is great for finding hidden flocks of ducks and connects to a network of trails that cover this northwestern shore. Explore the area as much as you can.
8). Heading south again, this time on Framingham Road, there are several pull-offs near the edge of the reservoir where you can bush-whack to the edge and get views of the water not visible from other vantage points BUT BEWARE OF DEER TICKS.
9). There are several other overlooks of the Assabet River as it flows into the resrvoir that are good, all south of Rt. 30 heading west from the reservoir. The first is along Rt. 85. Pull in under the pines and walk to the edge. Numbers of mergansers and goldeneye are often here in late fall. 10) Other overlooks are along Middle Road and Parkerville Roads. Sometimes these areas stay open later in winter and attract species like Hooded Mergs in January.
11). Finally, as you are heading back to the city along Rt. 30, scan the river and look for geese and mergs. Sometimes a Snow Goose puts in. Killdeer are seen in what is left of the open fields that are rapidly being developed. (submitted by Mark Lynch).

un-named pond, Petersham
Birding Map (courtesy of Mark Lynch)
From Rt. 122 Petersham Center, east of the intersection with Rt. 32A, head directly south on South Street. In about half a mile, watch for a town DPW building on the left. Pull in way to the right of the building and you will be overlooking a fine wooded swamp and pond. Virginia Rails and Wood Ducks breed. Sora, American Bittern, Hooded Mergansers (may breed) and other ducks have been noted in migration. A scope is needed. Be sure to park well away from the buildings and keep out of the way of town workers. Do not be surprised if a town police officer checks in to see what you are doing. My interactions with them have all been fine. (submitted by Mark Lynch).

Harvard (Spring) Pond/Tom Swamp, Petersham
Birding Map (courtesy of Mark Lynch)
This whole area is good for landbird and waterfowl migrants. A good variety of warbler species breed as well as Wood Duck. Proceed north/west on Rt. 122 in Petersham past the intersections with Rt. 32 (north) and Rt. 32A (south). Watch for a pond on the right. This pond has been called either Spring or Harvard Pond depending on what map you use. There are several good pull-offs along Rt. 122 to check the pond, and you should carefully scan from each. In spring and fall, waterfowl like Wood Duck, teal, Ring-Necked Duck, scaup, Common Goldneye and mergansers can be found. Look carefully in and among all the vegetated islands (it's not easy and a scope is defintely needed). In migration also watch for shorebirds (Solitary and Spotted Sandpipers, Killdeer and Least Sandpiper are all regular, if difficult to spot). Migrating swallows in numbers hawk for insects over the pond. Always keep an eye out for raptors like Broad-Winged Hawk (which breeds), Red-Shouldered Hawk, N. Goshawk, Osprey and Turkey Vulture. Keep a lookout for River Otters. On either end of the pond, you will find a gated trail. The forest is managed as part of the Harvard (University) Forest. It is possible to hike all around the pond, though you will have to walk a stretch along Rt. 122. The forest has breeding Red-Breasted Nuthatches, Least Flycatchers, and Pine Warblers. To investigate the back part of the pond (Tom Swamp), continue driving north/west on Rt. 122 and take your first right onto Athol Road. Your first right off of this road 9a sharp right and labeled) is Tom Swamp Road. In short order this road becomes dirt and can be passable in some years only by high carriage or even 4WD vehicles. In dry years you should be able to make it in a regular car. The forest has lots of hemlock and has species like Blackburnian and Black-Throated Green Warblers. Eventually you will come to a unique dike area that runs in back of Harvard Pond. This is an interesting birding area with species like Swamp Sparrow. One of MA rarest butterflies, the Bog Elfin, has been found along this dike. The dike may not be passable after a lot of rain.
Continuing over the dike, you will see a left. On some maps, this is labeled Tom Swamp Road too or Nelson Road. This goes through more interesting mixed forest that has many species of warblers and Hermit Thrush and Blue Headed Vireo. Unfortunately, the more northern end of the road is rapidly being developed. Back at the original Tom Swamp Road, if you continue straight (east) along Tom Swamp Road, there is still more good birding for about a mile or more with species like breeding Black-Throated Blue Warbler and Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker. Eventually you will exit onto Rt. 32 Petersham north of the town center. (submitted by Mark Lynch).

Fisherville Pond, Grafton
This area consists of a north and south impoundment. The north impoundment (where the shorebirds have been summer 2000) can be accessed by driving south on Rt. 122 from Grafton center. Watch for RIVERVIEW APARTMENTS on the right. Pull in here, to the left of the apartments. This is an fishing/boating access road to the river and becomes dirt. Watch for a spur road on the left before a dirt mound and pull in here. It is a short walk to the water. Try to skirt around the edge and end up under the power lines for the best view. There is a rough trail that will get you there. Another alternative, is to go further down Rt. 122 and pull off right under the power lines where there is a gate and a trail down to the pond. You will have to leave your car on Rt. 122 however. Leave no valuables in the car. Walking down the trail (wide enough for a small car), another trail will eventually come in from the left, a construction pathway to some apartments. Continue down the main trail. When this main trail loops to the right (last brown metal pole# 357/24); take a smaller, more overgrown, but still good trail to the left ( as if you were continuing straight). This will continue down for a bit more and eventually swing to the right under the power lines. At this point look for a VERY obscure path to the left that will take you to a great overlook atop a stone embankment. Morning light is great here and you can view a wide area of the pond EXCEPT where you can easily see from the Riverview Apartments. A good scope is a necessity. It is about a 5 minute walk from the car downhill. The brushy areas on either side had interesting landbirds and looks promising for fall migration.
For the south impoundment, which is more difficult to access, drive further down Rt. 122 and take a right on Cross Street. Fran McMenemy has said that there is an apartment complex here. Pull in back and walk across the stone wall to the dam. Apparently (so far at least) the residents don't care. You will be at the dam and locks. A Eurasian subspecies of Green-Winged Teal was seen here (among other ducks) in spring of 2000. (submitted by Mark Lynch)

Additional Fisherville Pond information from Dan Perkins: Here is an alternative access to view the Southern Impoundment, with potential for a wider variety of birds due to wider variety of habitat. If you continue on Cross St. as mentioned above, you will come to Rte 122A. Take a right and travel to Pleasant St. and take a right. This road leads back to Rte 122 and can be accessed from there as well. There is a powerline corridor just east of the bridge across the Blackstone River (not the canal). The trail in this corridor follows the river and through meadowland and marshy areas and eventually takes one out to a spit of land just upstream from the dam. I have only been here in the winter and so had the advantage of being able to walk on ice, so I would recommend that anyone who visits in another season with hopes of going the distance wear waders or expect wet shoes. As I said, I've only been there in the winter but I have full expectations of it being full of bird activity of many varieties. (submitted by Dan Perkins).

Gate 33, Quabbin Reservoir (new Salem)
Breeding birds include; many species of warblers, White-Throated Sparrow, Barred Owl. This is a pleasant gate to hike into Quabbin, not too long (about 1.5 miles one way), level and with a variety of habitats including the shoreline of north Quabbin, pond, forest, and marsh. To drive there, from Petersham, take Rt. 122 north (west) into the town of New Salem. Pass the Federated Women's Clubs State Forest on the left, and another road with a sign for "C&M ROUGHCUT" a saw mill, and the place to access GATE 35. You will pass an area with a pond on both sides of the road (North and South Spectacle Pond). Watch for the gate on the left which is right on the road and is labeled. It is opposite a dirt road which is great for Whip-Poor-Wills in summer. Walking in the gate, you will come to Bassett Pond on the left. Just before you come to this pond, watch for a side trail on the left and another to the right. The trail to the left passes through nice hemlock woods and passes wooded swamps. It ends on the paved road that goes to "C&M ROUGHCUT" and ends up at Gate 35. The trail to the right skirts along a wooded channel of Quabbin near the boat launch. Hognose Snake has been seen here. Back on the main Gate 33 road, you will pass through some mixed forest good for species like Barred Owl, and warblers and come to a power line cut over. This area can be great for migrants in the fall. A road to the left leads up to the Gate 35 area. Continuing straight, you will in short order, come to the shore of Quabbin proper. (submitted by Mark Lynch).

Longmeadow Birding Areas, Connecticut River
LONGMEADOW BIRDING AREAS: To find one of the best spots to search for shorebirds, egrets and even terns on the Connecticut River, take Exit 1 from I-91 and go south on Rt. 5. At the fourth light (one mile) turn right onto Emerson Road. The road goes down a hill, under I-91, over some tracks, past some house and swings left. Watch for a large rough dirt parking area opposite a field on the left. Park here and follow the trail through the trees to the banks of the Connecticut. In late summer, this sandbar here can host a variety of birds, but sometimes there are few birds at all. If a lot of sandbar is exposed and water is low, many birders simply wade through the water (thigh high) and bird out on the sandbar proper. A scope is necessary. BTW: It is not possible to wade out from the opposite shore (Agawam) as the water is too deep and current too swift. Migrating groups of swallows are also a feature of this area. Leaving this area, go back towards the railroad tracks, but head down the road to the right. This is PONDSIDE, a sanctuary with several water impoundments. Two rough trails lead off the road in between the ponds on the left. Bird right along the road and thoroughly check the ponds. This area is great in spring for migrants. In summer, check for numbers of Green Heron and Wood Duck -- sometimes a Moorhen puts in. At the end of Pondside Road is another refuge, Fannie Stebbins, which has a map and trails and is also good for migrants and butterflies. (submitted by Mark Lynch).

Sterling Peat, Sterling
This area is now managed by the MDC, though the northern corner, where the Sterling Peat company still remains, is privately owned. The area is becoming increasingly popular with fishermen and this may affect the future presence of some species. This area of peat beds, marsh and pond can be quite good for migrating shorebirds in the last half of summer if water levels are low. An early start may be necessary to get the birds before they are flushed off. Usually these are common species like Killdeer, Spotted and Least Sandpipers, but other species like Semipalmated Plovers and yellowlegs regularly show up. In late summer, post-breeding Great Egrets can sometimes be found. Late fall and early spring bring migratory waterfowl in small numbers, usually Hooded and Common Mergansers and Ring-Necked Ducks. Canada Geese, Wood Ducks, Mallards and Virginia Rails breed and there is a decent Bank Swallow Colony on the sand hill/island. Winter is a good time to check the snags for Northern Shrike. The area can also be quite good for watching migrating hawks. In summer, the area is good for butterflies and odonates.
Directions: Take I-190 north out of the city of Worcester. Take exit 5, the Rt. 140 exit. At the bottom of the off ramp, go north on Rt. 140 under I-190. Take your first left onto Dana Hill Road. You will pass back under I-190 and quickly the road become Muddy Pond Road. The area around the stream that crosses the road is also part of the MDC parcel. In short order, you will see an open expanse of weeds and water on the left with several pull-offs. To check for shorebirds, pull off at the logs, before you et to the water, and walk out along the SW corner of the pond onto a penninsula. Try to stay on anything that looks like a trail as birds are often nesting in the weeds. In times of very low water, this area may bisect the pond. The small sand hill island adjacent to this area holds the Bank Swallow colony. Check the sandy point for shorebirds. A quiet approach is necessary, and a scope very helpful. Check other areas of Sterling Peat from the pulloffs along Muddy Pond Road. At the north end of the pond, an obscure trail runs between the edge of the pond and the grassy field, where Bobolinks breed. Look for a MDC gate. Sterling Peat is good to bird in conjunction with checking out the Waushacum Ponds and Wachuset Reservoir. (submitted by Mark Lynch).

Blackstone River, Rhode Island section
Sheila and I spent the day birding the Rhode Island stretch of the Blackstone River. This river starts in the city of Worcester and runs almost straight south into Rhode Island, becomes the Pawtucket River briefly, then the Seekonk River and then into Providence Harbor. The history of the river is fascinating. The nation's first textile mill was erected here (and thus the Blackstone has been called the "birthplace of the Industrial Revolution"). Many of the vertical falls were harnessed for mills. Even more bizarre was the construction of the Blackstone Canal in the 1820's to connect landlocked Worcester with the "sea". This was during the era of the canal building craze in the northeast US when it was imagined that a vast complex of canals would connect all major cities. Then the railroads came and suddenly canal building did not seem like such a good idea. In many areas you bird bewteen the old canal and the river. Today the Blackstone River is being developed as a National Heritage Corridor jointly between Massachusetts, Rhode Island and the National parks Service. This means the establishment of a chain of parks, sanctuaries, historical sites, paths, bike paths from Worcester to Providence through riparian woodlands. Many of these projects are still in the works. Several sections of this Corridor in Worcester County, like River Bend Farm, Rice City Pond ect, are well known to birders. Although the Rhode Island sections are likewise well known to Rhode Island birders, Sheila and I had never visited the areas except decades ago. Two major areas of immediate interest to birders are the Valley Falls Pond marshes accessed by a path off Rt. 122 (see Bird Observer article). This marsh and surrounding woods looks great though unfortunately seems to be being over-run with Purple Loosestrife. Another area that looks good for migrants (though RI birders can correct me) is the long foot/bike path that runs right between the canal and the river north from Rt. 123 (just west of the intersection with 122) all the way to the Rt. 116 bridge (2.5 miles). The trail actually runs beyond this now and will eventually go all the way north to Albion. This park was well maintained and attractive (except for the construction at the Rt. 116 bridge). Ideally stretches of the Blackstone could be birded by canoe, though you would most likely only do sections as there are many falls, locks ect. All in all, it was an interesting place to bird among river, woods and marshes combined with relicts of years past like dams, locks, canals and mill buildings. We started at Swan Point (Providence) on the Swansea River and worked our way north hitting parks, cemetaries ect. that were right on the river. Our trip was a mere sampling of the area to get a sense of the geography of the place. There are many other parks that are part of the Corridor that are set back a bit from the river but are part of the greater watershed. As an example, Broad Meadow Brook MAS in Worcester is considered part of that watershed. Though this is a slow time of the year for some birds, we were interested in checking for the presence of several species that appear yearly in Worcester or have become established here in the city. This would include Black-Crowned Night Heron, Great Egret and Mute Swan (now breeding in the city). We believe the Blackstone River acts as a pathway for some of these species to enter the middle of MA from coastal Rhode Island. (report from Mark Lynch/Sheila Carroll, 7/17/00)