The Pioneer Valley is a hot spot for birders. Fans gather every year in the spring for hawk watching, especially along the ridge line at Mount Tom in Easthampton, and the muddy road down to the south meadows in Deerfield was clogged when a young snowy owl landed up here for a few weeks. The blue herons that come down to Broughton Pond are like something from a medieval tapestry in their stylized elegance.
When our children were in elementary school, we would always volunteer to be on any field trip that meant we could listen to Tom Ricardi, a wildlife rehabilitator who runs the Massachusetts Birds of Prey Rehab Center from his home in Conway, Massachusetts. He spent more than thirty years as a Fish and Wildlife Game Warden, and has always been especially interested in birds of prey. His stories of rescuing birds that have been victims of the dangers of man and machine are compelling. He has rescued a golden eagle shot in the eye by a hunter, an eastern screech owl from a barbed wire fence, and his center is a labor of love. Some of these birds he is able to rehabilitate entirely, and others that can no longer fend in the wild help with breeding programs. I remember Tom saying he would put mirrors all around the nest of new fledglings and feed them with an oven glove that looked like an eagle’s head so there was never any human imprinting. He has helped introduce strong chicks into the nests of bald eagles in Barton’s Cove when DDT build-up caused the adults to lay thin-shelled eggs that cracked before their own chicks could hatch. Love those kind of success stories!
You can also get up close to some of these majestic birds in a hands-on program with Chris Davis, master falconer, at New England Falconry in nearby Hadley. Experience the handling and flying of a trained Harris hawk while learning about the special adaptations of raptors and the need for their conservation – hawking glove provided! Something quite different that one or two members of your family can do, while the others can be non-participants but still get a sense of the majesty and thrill of these awe-inspiring birds.
For more information about birding at the Mass Audubon Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, click here.
See other bird-watching programs at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment here.
Let our Deerfield bed and breakfast be your home-base for your birding adventure. We’re located in the heart of the Pioneer Valley, just a short drive from these exciting encounters.