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Essex county MA recommendations?


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Actually, two questions here really.
So on the FB group for birding in Massachusetts, a woman was asking for suggestions for places to go... but, she wants to find a place that's open right now AND not terribly secluded as she doesn't want to feel unsafe. Anyone ever birding alone and feel a bit uncomfortable? I'm a man and I have at times... so I get it.
Anyway... They live in Essex county, I think Haverhill, MA... doesn't have to be right there I'm sure but, any locations in that general area that would be good, open, and safe. Please let me know.

I'm also wondering if there's any good places in the Middlesex/Essex county area where a person can bird from their car...  My mom has a broken foot or something and has been using a wheelchair a lot. I'm not sure how much she wants to get out(though she is going stir crazy at home) but if there's anything like that, she MIGHT be interested. I'm just not familiar enough with many hotpots there.
Here in NW Arkansas we have a fish hatchery where we can sit in the vehicle and drive around looking... that's pretty nice ?

Side note... This was the best section I could think to put this question in. I'm a little disappointed that after all that talk, nobody really tried changing any of the forums. We still could use some new sections and, this(sometimes) still makes me want to start my own message board for this purpose... ha... 

anyway... I'm not sitting at my computer very often these days so I haven't been keeping up as much as I'd like. Happy birding..

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The Plum Island / Parker River / Sandy Point region is one of the top hotspots on the New England coast.  I birded from the car there about 18 months ago, and saw mothers with toddlers on the beach.  The thieving gulls are the biggest threat I saw.

As to what's open, that's best answered by calling each site and asking.  

Edited by Charlie Spencer
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This is Suffolk County, but its north of Boston, so not far - how about Revere Beach?

Most of the birding I have done in Essex has been coastal, and there are a lot of coastal hotspots I would recommend, especially during migration or winter, such as Nahant, Marblehead Neck, Halibut Point, Eastern Point, Jodrey State Fish Pier, Cathedral Rocks/Pigeon Cove, Crane Beach. Many of these coastal spots can be birded from car.

Parker River NWR / the rest of Plum Island / the mouth of the Merrimack River / Salisbury Beach area is probably the best area for birding in the MA, actually Plum Island itself is probably the best single birding spot in the USA (although there are regions that are more diverse, such as upper Texas coast or south Florida, I challenge you to find a single site more diverse), during mid-to-late-May people can get single site, single day lists of 130+ species. Totally safe and much of it can be birded from the car.

As for more inland locations, Heald Street Orchard in Pepperell in Middlesex County is a cool spot. Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary in Essex is good too. Neither of these spots are good for car birding though.

None of these spots are sketchy / likely to make someone feel unsafe. All of them are all good. There are some spots in Boston that might make someone feel a little less safe, like Franklin Park, but even that is not so bad. But everywhere I have been in Essex County is fine. Heald Street Orchard can feel rural/secluded though if it is not busy.


Away from the well-known hotspots, there are also lots of smaller roads in the Great Marsh area - in towns like Newburyport, Rowley, Topsfield - where good birding can be had by driving the rural roads. Pikul's Farm in Rowley is one of these good "roadside" locations.

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1. Thanks.
2. How many of those places do you think are open right now? Parker River NWR is only open to foot and bicycle traffic which will make it all but impossible for anyone not living on the island to get to.
3. For the person asking about safety, it isn't about sketchy areas alone but also worrying about areas that are toooo secluded. They're in the Haverhill area. Doesn't have to be car birding for this person just not a place she'll feel paranoid. Any top picks for her?
4. For my mom in Billerica that is currently in a wheelchair, I'll have to look to see if Cranes is open. That's one of her favorite beaches I think. Anywhere she could stay in the car and see some good birds would be great so I can convince her to get out of the house for a day. ?
Thanks again.

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For your mom, I would highly recommend Revere Beach. There is street parking that goes directly along the beach for a good ways so you can see gulls, shorebirds, and even reliable Manx Shearwaters from your car. Unfortunately I’m not sure if COVID-related closures would impact that street parking.

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