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Just north of Boston, a group of birders enjoys a cold January excursion to the tip of Nahant. For the geologically included, Nahant offers an opportunity to explore Cambrian rock and gabbro formations along with rafts of seabirds. The fossils embedded in Nahant’s cliffs include some of the oldest shelled fossils in the world.  PHOTO: BBF team

BIRDING IN MASSACHUSETTS

WHAT WILL YOU SEE

Massachusetts has recorded 518 birds. That makes the state 9th in the nation—and the most species per square mile. (More here: LINK.)

One reason that number is so high is that Massachusetts may also have more birders as a percentage of the population than most other states.

Home to some of the oldest American bird clubs and dozens of distinguished ornithologists and birding luminaries, the state’s birding legacy is vast, deep, and multi-dimensional.

The Massachusetts birding community includes conservation, climate, and environmental justice leaders along with researchers, activists, citizen scientists state and grassroots community organizations who work to save wild and green space and contribute to our understanding of climate change, land use, environmental justice, and accessibility in the outdoors. They are at the center of conservation, climate and sustainability progress on many fronts and their work enriches our appreciation of birds, birding, and habitat.

Every season is birding season in Massachusetts. Winter birding brings arctic gulls, a nice variety of sea ducks and alcids and Snowy Owls to the coast as well as birds such as Snow Buntings, American Pippits, and Horned Larks. Inland, look for winter finches and Bohemian Waxings and listen for owls

Spring features the spectacle of neotropical migrants—waves of warblers and vireos and other songbirds, while summer offers great looks at breeding birds and nesting shore birds. Late summer and fall give us the spectacles of raptor and shorebird migrations and the massing of swallows, followed by the arrival of inland ducks.

A compact state with many kinds of habitats, Massachusetts attracts a wide range of species — from pelagic birds off Stellwagen Bank to rocky island nesting colonies of seabirds to migrants and vagrants and birds of the deep woods in the Berkshires. Refuges such as Parker River/Plum Island and Great Meadow have lists that top 300 species. Urban parks and cemeteries like the famous Mt Auburn Cemetery and Forest Hills Cemetery are bucket list locations while wilder parts of the state such as the outer Cape, the Quabbin Reservoir area, the Nashua River Watershed, Buzzards Bay, Plymouth, and the Harbor Islands make popular day trips—even for city birders and clubs. And we haven’t even mentioned Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and the Elizabeth Islands.

The western part of the state combines exceptional birding with awe-inspiring landscapes. Scrubby mountain tops offer habitat for several nesting warbler species. Hawks and eagles migrating through the Pioneer Valley, Wetlands give refuge to ducks and waders and the twilights filled with hoots, peents and whips. In all parts of the state old farm fields come alive with sparrows, swallows, bobolinks, and butterflies.

In almost every region of the state, there are birding locations that make even seasoned birders who have seen it all set their alarms early.

Massachusetts is also home to dozens of artists, poets, photographers, and musicians whose work has been inspired by birds—from the poet Emily Dickinson to the great woodcarver Elmer Crowell. And it’s the only state with a bird art museum!

Finally, with more than 25 bird clubs and many other organizations organizing trips, talks and workshops, you can find a free bird walk or adventure to join pretty much any week of the year.

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