Bird Observer: The Birding Journal for New England

Bird Observer

The Birding Journal for New England

April 2015

Vol. 43, No. 2

Birding and Botanizing the Hawley Bog


View of open water at Hawley Bog. (All photographs by the author).

Hawley Bog in the town of Hawley in western Franklin County is not what one might call a prime birding location. With a few exceptions, one can expect the usual array of birds found in the higher elevations of Berkshire County. What is almost unique about this location is the bog itself, a 63-acre northern sphagnum-heath bog in its natural state. It is owned and maintained by the Nature Conservancy along with the Five Colleges Consortium (University of Massachusetts, Smith, Amherst, Hampshire, and Mount Holyoke). It serves these institutions as an outdoor classroom. It is open to the public, although my understanding is that permission is required for organized, large group visits. For further details check the Nature Conservancy website.

Besides being a lovely place to explore, the bog offers great opportunities for botanizing as well as birding and butterflying. Here one may find a group of plant life that is unique to acid bogs—in this case the highest-elevation acid bog in the Commonwealth.

Although somewhat remote and not wheelchair accessible, the bog itself is easy to reach from the parking area. After walking a short distance through a mixed wood, one will come to a well-constructed boardwalk that extends about 300 yards into the middle of the bog. The boardwalk was overhauled in 2012, allowing visitors to easily, safely, and dryly visit the bog without disturbing the fragile plants that grow on the bog.

Over the course of several visits to the bog, mostly in spring and summer, I have recorded over 90 species of birds that include 13 breeding wood warblers. A list of 40 or more species for a single morning in June is not hard to achieve. Many of these species, such as Blue-headed Vireo and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, are common summer residents. Some, like Black-billed Cuckoo and Wilson’s Snipe, undoubtedly breed here but are more difficult to detect. May, June, and July are the optimal months to visit.

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