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Bird lovers get ready for a new season

VERMONT — With the arrival of longer days and warmer temperatures, Vermont’s bird lovers are looking to the fields and woods for a flit of color in the bushes, or listening for an overhead chirp, whistle, squawk or honk as birds engage in their annual spring migration. Some of Vermont’s best bird-watching opportunities are at the state’s 99 wildlife management areas, or WMAs. Owned by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department and managed for habitat, WMAs are great for wildlife-based recreation such as bird-watching.
According to Paul Hamelin, a Vermont Fish & Wildlife biologist who coordinates habitat management on Vermont’s WMAs, opportunities for birding abound at every WMA. However, some are particularly excellent locations for seeing birds. A number of local WMA’s feature in Hamelin’s top ten birding spots. Hamelin’s brief guide to each spot follows.
Dead Creek WMA, Addison
Dead Creek is the crown jewel of birding in Vermont, with a new visitor center that opened in 2017. There are trails and lookout platforms, and on high-water years a canoe or kayak is also a great way to see birds. A whopping 200 species can be found at Dead Creek, particularly ducks, shorebirds such as sandpipers, hawks and falcons, and thousands of snow geese during the spring and fall migration.
THE ANNUAL SNOW geese migration at Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area is one of North America’s great wildlife migrations.
Photo/Tom Rogers, Vermont Fish & Wildlife
Little Otter Creek WMA, Ferrisburgh
Little Otter Creek offers an incredible array of wetlands located at the mouth of the Little Otter Creek on Lake Champlain. A Canoe or kayak is best for viewing, but any small boat can get you up the river from Lake Champlain. Expect to see wetland and shorebirds such as bitterns, herons, ducks, and osprey, as well as Champlain Valley woodland bird species.
Snake Mountain WMA, Addison and Weybridge
At Snake Mountain, spend time looking for hawks on wing while looking out over Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains. Set out on a hiking trail from the eastern or western parking lot and meet up with a network of trails that crisscross the ridgeline and summit of the mountain. Birders come to Snake Mountain for the hawks — particularly during the fall migration — but they stay for the many woodland bird species.
Pomainville WMA, Brandon
Pomainville WMA is a grassland delight along the banks of Otter Creek. From the parking lot along Route 7, birders can forge their own path through the waving fields of grass or bring waders and check out the recently-restored wetlands. Birders flock here for the opportunity to spot grassland birds such as bobolinks and eastern meadowlarks, but the incredible diversity of birds at Pomainville WMA includes wetland, shrubland, floodplain forest, and upland forest bird species.
Other sites on the top ten list include: Birdseye WMA in  Ira, Castleton, and Poultney; Pine Mountain WMA, in Groton, Ryegate, Newbury, and Topsham; Eagle Point WMA in Derby; West Mountain WMA in Maidstone, Ferdinand and Brunswick; Gale Meadows WMA in Londonderry and Winhall; and Wenlock WMA in Ferdinand.
A wildlife management area can be found in nearly every corner of the state and there are birding opportunities at every one of them year-round. Maps and other information are available at vtfishandwildlife.com/conserve/lands-and-habitats/. Access is free, but birders can help conserve habitat for birds and other species by purchasing an annual Vermont Habitat Stamp, available for $15 at vtfishandwildlife.com.
In May, turkey hunters may be present on WMAs in the morning but hunting does not occur in the afternoon, except on the last weekend in April which is youth turkey weekend and goes until 5 p.m.. If birders choose to go out in the morning, they are asked to steer clear of turkey decoy setups and to avoid areas with actively calling turkeys, as these may be a hunter attempting to call birds in.

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