It's a New Day

October 2020

Vol. 48, No. 5

Birding Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in the Connecticut River Valley

David McLain

Call it the flooding sanctuary. Bisected by the Mill River as it flows into the 1840 Oxbow of the Connecticut River, much of the land is inundated when April showers bring…April floods. Or March floods. Or May floods, sometimes lingering into June. Or October floods. Nearly everything was under water, and the meadows were navigable by motorboat in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene in late August 2011. The variable floods create variable conditions that favor a variable avifauna from year to year and season to season. Coupled with the wide variety of habitats and strategic location on the landscape, Mass Audubon's Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the best birding destinations in Western Massachusetts, and the best in the state according to Yankee Magazine (Yankee Magazine Editors 2015).

Adding to the mystique, the sanctuary is located on a major flyway along the Connecticut River. The Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge conducted a three-year migratory bird stopover habitat survey and found significantly more birds migrating along the big river than farther away (Litwin and Lloyd-Evans 2006). Raptors and other migrants also follow the nearby Mount Holyoke (east-west) and Mount Tom (north-south) ranges. Another productive area nearby is the East Meadows of Northampton, with vast fields of agriculture.

Map of Arcadia

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