February 2024

Vol. 52, No. 1

Birding the Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire

Christopher C. Rimmer and L. Kyle Jones

Upper Valley locatorTo most birders, the notion of birding in Vermont or interior New Hampshire conjures thoughts of a boreal grand slam in the Northeast Kingdom or Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge, pipits and Bicknell’s Thrush in the Presidential Range, migrant waterfowl and shorebirds in the Champlain Valley, or yodeling loons and nesting eagles on Lake Umbagog. Few identify the Connecticut River drainage as a birding mecca, but the Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire can be surprisingly productive. It offers an impressive diversity of birding options and has turned up numerous rarities over the years.

Encompassing a roughly 40-mile stretch along both banks of the Connecticut River, the Upper Valley stretches from Windsor, Vermont, and Cornish, New Hampshire, in the south to Bradford, Vermont, and Piermont, New Hampshire, in the north. More of a concept—like Downeast Maine—than a defined geographical area, the Upper Valley comprises about 20 towns in both states. Sites along and bordering the Connecticut River’s main stem concentrate the birding action. Although eBird identifies 131 hotspots in Windsor and 186 in Grafton counties, arguably only 12–15 sites on both sides of the river qualify as reliable, publicly accessible birding destinations. We profile seven sites—four in Vermont and three in New Hampshire—that provide consistently diverse birding opportunities at almost any time of year, with convenient logistics. We begin in the south and work our way north in Vermont, then follow suit in New Hampshire.

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