August 2018

Vol. 46, No. 4

A Guide to Birding the Manchester-Essex Woods, Massachusetts

Jim Berry

The 3400-acre Manchester-Essex Woods is located in those two towns at the base of Cape Ann in Essex County, Massachusetts. It is a mosaic of parcels of mixed ownership. The Manchester Essex Conservation Trust (the Trust) owns a third of the land, about 1100 acres. Other parcels are protected by the two towns, by the Essex County Greenbelt Association, and by The Trustees of Reservations. The remaining parcels are held privately, but almost all are "landlocked," with no access for development.

The Trust's goal is to continue researching the sometimes incredibly complicated ownership history of the many parcels and to work with the landowners to protect as many as possible, so that development can never fragment this beautiful woodland. For example, the Trust recently completed the purchase of 23 parcels containing 67 acres of woodland in Essex. That is an average of only three acres per parcel, which gives an idea of how many parcels remain to be protected.

For much more information on the Manchester-Essex Woods, including its history, view the 26-page "Woodland Guide," which you can access under the "Trail Maps" header on the home page of the Trust's website (www.mect.org). It will tell you, among other things, how the trails and other landmarks got their often unusual names.

The trail map reproduced here lays out the many trails by name and is crucial to getting around. The trails are well marked for the most part but can be confusing because of the many twists and turns. There are many parking areas, designated with a "P," but some are better known and thus more popular than others. My objective is not to provide detailed routes, but rather to allow the reader to choose a parking spot and take a combination of the trails in that section of the Woods. I will discuss only the more well-known and easily accessible trailheads at the end of this article.

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