The following descriptions highlight some of our favorite birding haunts in the area. For a more complete resource, the "Bird Finding Guide to Western Massachusetts" is available at Buteo Books in parternship with the American Birding Association.
Getting there: Go south on Rte 5 from Exit 1 off Rte 91, turn right on Emerson Road at 4th light.
Timing and Species: April and autumn for migrant water birds. Summer for nesting water birds, riverine land birds, and migrant shorebirds.
Birding Plan: Pull over to scan first pond before RR crossing. Turn left before the crossing and pull over at various convenient spots to view other ponds and wooded wetlands along Pondside Rd. At end of road park and study refuge sign for trails you can use to view other ponds and explore woodlands on foot. To continue by car, return to RR crossing and turn left over tracks, following West Road as it curves left. About 200 yards down, park in large turnout after last house and follow narrow trail to edge of river. Scope the island and large sandbar (summer) for shorebirds and ducks or wade out if water is low enough. In early spring, continue straight on West Road where it becomes a dirt road through fields. Shorebirds and waterfowl can be found by scanning large vernal pools on left side of the road, some located near treeline.
Note: Railroad tracks are active and trains can travel at high speeds. Walking along the tracks is illegal and unsafe. The only legal crossings are at Emerson Road and Tina Lane.
Getting there: Take Exit 3 from Rte 91 to Rte 5 north and cross bridge, exiting immediately to Rte 57 rotary and again exiting immediately onto River Road.
Timing and Species: Late fall thru early spring for wintering water birds, late summer for shorebirds.
Birding Plan: Turn left at first curve and park at Pynchon Point lot. Walk short trail down to the point and scan area where Westfield River flows into Connecticut River. Return and drive south on River Road a half-mile to pumping station where bike trail begins opposite School Street. Park in small lot and walk down to river’s edge and scan. Continue on River Road 2 miles to parking turnout on left for bike trail. Scan river, walking through fence down to edge if possible. Return north on River Road to beginning and exit rotary to Rte 5 north. A half-mile down turn sharp right at entrance into Bondi’s Island Resource Recovery plant. Check river from boat ramp on far side of dirt parking lot. Exit north up ramp to Rte 5 and quickly exit onto the Rte 5 rotary, then exit west on Memorial Ave. Go 1 mile and turn left toward Parking Lot 2 for Eastern States Exposition ("The Big E"). Park before entrance along Circuit Ave and walk into grounds checking along lagoon on right, and along lagoon on left behind entrance gate building. Drive down Circuit Ave to end and park before pumping station. Check lagoon here and walk over dike to check Westfield River.
Getting there: Take Rte 57 west from Rte 5 to exit 5, Mill Street. Take 2nd right on Line St and follow to end. Take left on Rte 147 and immediate right on Letendre St. Go to end and take left on North Street to park entrance on right. Gates are open at 8 am.
Timing and species: Spring for woodland migrants and residents.
Birding Plan: From gates drive west (left) through park, pulling over at convenient spots to walk along road or trails and along Westfield River. Return and park near entrance to walk trails to east behind headquarters building. To access trails into far eastern area, go left out gates and take first left onto James Street. Drive to end at Maynard Street and park along road. To access trails into far western area go right out gates, then right at lights on North Westfield Street (Rte 47) and proceed to parking area on right opposite Northwest Road.
Getting there: Take Rte 57 west from Rte 5 rotary all the way to Southwick town line on Provin Mt.
Timing and Species: Mid-April to July, September. Woodland migrants and nesters. Worm-eating Warbler is an uncommon summer resident.
Birding Plan: Park in large turnoff on left at top of hill. To go south on trail walk into woods at markers near house or up trail to crest. Follow markers through woodland, exploring side trails as desired. To go north, walk west along Rte 57 and cross the highway to entrance of old Quarry blocked by stones. USE CAUTION IN CROSSING RTE 57. Follow M-M trail markers. Trail is also accessible from south at Rising Corner Road. Park by the kiosk there.
Getting There: Take Rtes 202 & 10 (College Highway) south from second light in center of Southwick, turn left onto Congamond Road at next set of lights, continuing to the causeway between South and Middle Ponds.
Timing and Species: Fall, from October to final freeze-up – normally late December, but geese often keep open a hole in ice on west side of Middle Pond (middle section). Spring, from ice breakup (usually early April) through May. Migrant and wintering waterfowl.
Birding Plan: Cross causeway and park in large turnoff on right (the lot is in Suffield, CT, but the water bodies are entirely in Southwick by special agreement between the two states). Survey South Pond. Continue on road until you see Middle Pond again on left, take first left on Chestnut Circle, turn left at end and drive until road goes left and park on edge of road at corner. Walk into neighborhood beach area (it is private but usable off-season for a short visit). Survey Middle Pond from east side. Return to main road and turn right back over causeways then right onto Berkshire Avenue. Pull into public parking lot for boat launch and survey south section of Middle Pond. Continue on Berkshire Ave through several curves until you can turn right onto Island Pond Road. Follow it to end and park in lot, then walk back up road to the neighborhood beach area on right. Survey Middle Section of Pond from west side. Return to Berkshire Ave and turn right, following it through several curves to end at Point Grove Road. Take right down the hill and turn right into public boat launching area. Survey north section of Middle Pond.
Getting There: Take Rtes 10 & 202 north from Exit 3 of Turnpike, go 200 yards and turn right (east) on Sgt. Dion Way immediately after crossing Pike.
Timing and Species: Spring and early summer for grassland birds - Kestrel, Upland and Spotted Sandpiper, Brown Thrasher, Meadowlark, Grasshopper Sparrow, Horned Lark, herons and rails, nesting warblers, including Hooded Warbler.
Birding Plan: At its end Sgt. Dion Way divides into three roads, one into the state police entrance on right, the left one leading straight past a lumber company building and ending at the airport fence next to the recycling building. Take the center road angling slightly to right, which is unmarked (Old Westfield Road). Follow it until you reach the airport fence on left and Turnpike on right. Make 2-3 stops along fence and scan and scope meadows around runway. Stop where fence goes left (north) and follow a bike trail through the second-growth trees along the east side of meadows. Return and continue driving east on the road down a slope to view the shallow ponds on both sides. Return to Sgt. Dion Way and make a sharp right back through the fence and then turn right into the lumber company yard where logs are sometimes stored. Cross yard to the fence line and survey meadows as before. Return to Rtes 10 & 202 and turn right, then go 0.6 mile and take right fork at cemetery on Apremont Way. Go half a mile and turn into the paved main parking lot for airport terminal. Park and enter the building, climb the stairs to the second floor and go right through the doors to an observation deck overlooking the runway (upper floor of Papps Restaurant). Scope grasses along runway carefully.
Exit the parking lot, turning right to follow Airport Road until it rejoins Rtes 10 & 202, turn right and go 2 miles to lights, where you will turn left onto North Street. Continue 2 miles until an opening appears on left, then pull over to side of road where convenient and observe pond on left. Continue one mile and turn left at four corners to go south on Root Road. Park in the large turnoffs along the road and view marshes on both sides. Return to North Street and turn left, stopping at yet another marsh on the left. Continue on North Street to end and turn left on North Wyben Road, which joins Montgomery Road 0.2 mile south. Drive south on Montgomery Road for one mile and take right on West Street (Wyben Orchards on corner). Go 2.5 miles and take a right on Reservoir Road just before crossing Turnpike. Drive to a gate and park. Walk up Reservoir Road 1.1 mile until you reach a road going uphill to the right just before cell tower. Search this area and along this side road for warblers, including the rare Hooded Warbler. Continue along Reservoir Road up and past Tekoa Reservoir. Explore this area as well as another road going to the right (north) at the base of the mountain while listening and looking for warblers. To return to Turnpike entrance 3, turn right when exiting Reservoir Road onto West Road. At T-junction, turn left onto Pochassic Road, then take left fork onto Prospect Street. At junction with Montgomery Road, take sharp left. Take second right onto Notre Dame Street, then turn left at light onto Rte 10 & 202 to reach Mass Pike entrance.
Getting there: Leave Rte 91 at Exit 15 and turn west away from Holyoke Mall. Take Lower Westfield Road through first signal light (Homestead Ave) and go straight up hill to entrance gate at end of street. Park along street before reaching “No Parking” signs.
Timing and Species: Spring and fall for migrating ducks, raptors and songbirds, as well as resident songbirds.
Birding Plan: You can walk an easy-to-follow route around the Reservoir, although the best birding is usually found in the first half of the itinerary. Proceed past the gate and check the shallow backwater pond on the right. Walk slowly past spruce-pine forest on left and brushy forest on right, listening for songs and call notes. Scan the main pond, and then walk left (south) into woods to view smaller ponds and listen for land birds. Return and continue over causeway, then check pine woods on left and brushy edge along railroad tracks. Scan water and trees at the west end of the main pond around the island. Follow paths up and over railroad tracks and explore two dirt roads going south. Return to the main path and continue partway towards the north side of the pond, then retrace your steps back to the entrance gate. If you have time, you can make a complete loop around the main pond by continuing north through the woods on the west side of the pond, then turning right on Whitney Avenue. Go past the causeway to right and continue south through woods to the Elks Club parking lot. Go right on the trail opposite the lot through Pine Woods back to the entrance gate.
Return to Rte 91 and head north to Exit 17. Turn right on Rte 141 at end of ramp (left if southbound on Rte 91), then left on Rte 5. Go 1.5 miles and take left at light on Mt. Park Road. This road ends at a gate after crossing over Rte 91 with cars parking on either side of road as close to the end as possible. From the gate, walk south downhill on paved trail parallel to Rte 91, then follow trail to right until you reach the foot of the dike. Climb up next to the brick pump house and survey the reservoir. For a closer view of the south end of the reservoir, walk along the top of the dike to where the lower trail rises up to meet you, and then return to starting place. If time permits, you can walk through woods around the circumference of the reservoir back to starting point.
Getting There: Leave Rte 91 at Exit 17 and turn onto Rte 141 north (left from south and right from north). Go 3.5 miles to top of ridge and entrance on right to Mt. Tom State Reservation (gates usually open at 8 am).
Timing and Species: Spring, summer and fall for resident and migrant songbirds, notably Worm-eating Warblers. Spring and fall for migrants, especially raptors.
Birding Plan: Drive slowly north on Christopher Clark Rd. along the wooded western side of ridge, listening for bird song and stopping at intervals to walk roadside or look out from turnoffs into the valley. After four miles, you will reach headquarters area where there are open picnic areas and a tower that offers a view of the western valley. Watch for breeding hawks circling or migrating hawks gliding past and overhead, especially in spring. To reach the Goat Peak lookout where migrating hawks are seen in the fall, continue straight on Christopher Clark Rd. (the ridge road) for half a mile and park in the lot. Climb road/trail for a quarter-mile to upper lot with an overlook to the west. Walk up trail to peak where there is a taller tower that gives a complete view of the horizon. A nearby ledge will provide views of migrating hawks as they approach from the north. Return to headquarters area and turn left (east) following steep descent on Smiths Ferry Rd/Reservation Rd. Stop where convenient to look and listen for birds until you reach the bottom, where you can park and bird the area next to Bray Lake.