While Massachusetts' has several premier hawkwatching sites, Mt. Tom, Mt. Wachusett, and Mt. Watatic are especially good, one need not necessarily travel to these locations to see a good flight, especially in September. To see as many hawks as possible, however, it is important to hawkwatch as often as possible, which is obviously easier to do if you have a hawkwatch site close to your home.
Mt. Tom State Reservation, Easthampton (spring and fall)
At 1,202 feet, Mt. Tom offers beautiful views of the Connecticut River Valley, and is one of the most consistently productive sites in Massachusetts. Buteos comprise the vast majority of the flights at this location, but almost any species can regularly be seen here.
In the fall, Goat's Peak Tower is the best observation point. It is essential to use the tower, and that is one of the drawbacks to hawkwatching at Mt. Tom. On weekends, when a good flight is anticipated, the tower can be crowded. Also, fewer hawks are seen on Mt. Tom in the spring, when Bray's Tower, looking to the southwest, tends to offer better viewing.
Directions: Take I-91 north from the Mass. Pike. Take Exit 17w onto Rte. 141, continuing 1.7 miles to the reservation entrance, Christopher Clark Road, to the east. Take Clark Rd. 2.9 miles. Not far beyond the park headquarters, you'll see a large parking lot to your right. Park here and walk up the surfaced road that climbs the hill at the rear of the lot. A fairly steep 10-minute hike will take you to Goat's Peak Tower. To reach Bray Tower, take Clark road to the headquarters, where you turn left onto Reservation Road. Bray Tower is just a few yards down this road.
Wachusett Mountain State Reservation, Princeton (spring and fall)
Wachusett Mountain (2,004 ft) is a monadnock offering excellent views in all directions. The primary advantages of Wachusett are its proximity to many eastern Massachusetts birders—it's only an hour's drive west of Boston—and the fact you can drive to the summit (the road opens at 9 am mid-April through October). The summit also comfortably accommodates many more people more than Mt. Tom, a fact which can be both an asset and a liability on weekends, especially when foliage is at its peak.
In fall, the best observation site is from the summit parking lot where one can scan the horizon from Gardner in the northeast to Boston in the east. A second lookout only several dozen yards away, from the right side of the fire tower, provides a good view to the west and northwest.
Wachusett is a good spot to see practically all species of hawks, although falcons tend to be less common than they are along the coast. In spring, the best viewing is often from the "Ledges," a small parking lot or overlook on the "up" road, only a hundred yards from the summit. The Ledges provide an excellent view to the south and southwest. When a southwesterly or westerly wind sweeps up the Ledges side of the mountain in April or May, it often provides prolonged and, close looks at hawks, especially before 11 am. The summit from the south (left) side of the fire tower is also a good location from which to watch in spring.
Directions: Take Route 2 to Route 140 (south) in Westminster. Take Route 140 south several miles to Wachusett Lake, where you turn right onto Mile Hill Road, following the signs to the Wachusett Mountain Ski Area. Drive past the ski area to the park entrance partially up the moutain on your right. Immediately inside the reservation, turn right again onto the all-weather road to the summit.
Mt. Watatic, Ashburnham (spring and fall)
Mt. Watatic (1832 ft) has good spring and fall potential, but it requires a somewhat steep climb to reach the exposed hawkwatch site.
Directions: From Route 12 in Ashburnham, take Route 101 north to Route 119. Turn left and drive approximately 0.7 miles west on Route 119. On the right, you'll see the Wapack trail, marked by yellow blazes, following power lines up the steep, rocky southern slope. This is a very steep rocky quarter-mile hike straight up the mountain. Allow at least half an hour for the hike. The summit is quite exposed to strong winds; pack adequate clothing. No water or restrooms available.
Round Top Conservation Area, Athol (fall)
Directions: From Athol center take Main Street east to Athol Memorial Hospital on your right. Turn left onto Bearsden Road at Athol Conservation Area sign. After about one mile, take the right fork, following the signs to the conservation area. Park where paved road ends and walk short distance along road to the "Round Top Path" sign on your right. Take leisurely 1/2 mile hike along well-marked trail to low, exposed summit. No water or restrooms.
Quabbin Tower, Quabbin Reservoir (spring and fall)
Directions: Take Mass Pike to Palmer (Exit 8), and follow signs to Route 181. Take Route 181 north to Route 9. (A cutoff marked on your right will reduce the distance to Rte. 9). Turn east (right ) onto Route 9, which will bring you to the well-marked entrance to the Quabbin Reservation on your left. Follow signs to the summit of Quabbin Hill and the lookout tower. Maps, water, and restrooms are available at headquarters near the Windsor Dam.
Blueberry Hill, West Granville (fall)
Directions: Take Mass Pike to Westfield (Exit 3). Turn south onto Routes 10 & 202 to Southwick. Take Route 57 west to North Lane #2, a right turn approximately 3 miles west from Granville center. Take North Lane #2 about a mile north to Blueberry Hill, obvious on your right. Park at base and walk 1/4 mile to summit. No water or restrooms.
Fobes Hill, Windsor (fall)
This area is very busy during hunting season, when hawkwatching is best confined to Sundays.
Directions: Take Route 8A north from junction of Routes 9 & 8A in Windsor. Continue about 1 mile and park at burned house and farm buildings. A 1/4 mile hike up Fobes Hill, to the east of the road, is required. No water or restrooms.
Mt. Greylock State Reservation, Adams (fall)
Directions: From Route 2 in North Adams, take Notch Road south, following signs to Mt. Greylock. (Notch road is about a mile west of North Adams center.) Continue on Notch Road to summit of Greylock. From Route 7 in Lanesboro, take Rockwell Road, well-marked, north to summit. Water and restrooms available at summit lodge.
Mt. Everett State Reservation, Egremont (fall)
Directions: Follow signs to state reservation out of Egremont. From junctions of Routes 23 & 41, proceed south a short distance to a right turn marked by sign "Mt. Everett 8, Jug End Resort." Turn right onto this road. At first crossroad, continue straight ahead for 2.8 miles to a fork marked by a sign to Bash Bish Falls. Take the left fork, towards Bash Bish Falls. Take the left for, towards Bash Bish Falls, 3 miles to the entrance of Mt. Everett State Reservation. Continue about 2 miles on the reservation road to a parking lot. Park here and walk short distance to summit. No water; restrooms below summit.
Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, Plum Island (spring and fall)
This is an excellent spring hawkwatching location. Most of the ocean side of the refuge is closed during the spring to protect Piping Plovers, but Parking Lot #1 is open and can be very productive on a northwest wind. American Kestrels, sharp-shined hawks, northern harriers, and merlins comprise most of the spring flights here. Fall flights are not consistent or large at this site, although it can be a fine location for observing peregrine falcons during the first half of October.
Directions: In Newburyport, follow Plum Island Turnpike over the bridge and take your first right, following the signs to the refuge. Water and restrooms are available at Parking Lot #1.There are also restrooms at Parking Lot #4 in all seasons.
West Newbury (fall)
If a sea breeze develops on Plum Island in the spring, head inland to Newbury and West Newbury, both of which provide good spring and fall hawkwatching.
Directions: The Common Pastures off Scotland Road (east of Rte. 95), Pike's Bridge off Turkey Hill Road, and Indian Hill in West Newbury are several of the good spring sites in this area, especially from mid-April to mid-May. On fall weekends, try the Page School on the north side of Route 113. Many more hawks move through this general area in spring and fall than have been reported.
Cape Cod is not generally as popular for hawkwatching as sites on the mainland, but it has great potential nonetheless. The best hawking seems to be in spring, especially from mid-April to mid-May. Cape hawkers can enjoy a special phenomenon, the “Cape Cod effect,” which is most obvious in spring.
In spring hawks often migrate up the ocean side of the Cape, moving north until they reach Provincetown. Here they discover they can't go farther north without flying some distance over the ocean. As many species are reluctant to fly long distances over water, they mill about over Provincetown, turn around, and fly back down the Cape to the mainland.
Fort Hill, Eastham (spring and fall)
Take Route 6 north from the rotary in Orleans. After approximately 1 1/2 miles, turn right, following the signs to the parking lot overlooking Nauset Marsh. Scan in all directions. Open year round. No water or restrooms available.
Salt Pond, Eastham (spring and fall)
Directions: From Route 6 in Eastham center, follow signs to Cape Cod National Seashore Visitors' Center at Salt Pond, visible just east of the highway. Few reports have been received from here, but the site has good potential. Water and restrooms are available in the center from 10 am to 5 pm.
Marconi Station, South Wellfleet (spring and fall)
Directions: Take Route 6 to about one mile north of the Massachusetts Audubon Wellfleet Bay Sanctuary. Turn east at light, following signs to Marconi Station. Walk to bluff near Marconi Wireless display. No water or restrooms.
Cape Cod Light, North Truro (spring and fall)
Directions: From Route 6 turn east onto Highland Road. Follow road to end, on bluff, and scan in all directions. No water or restrooms.
Beech Forest, Provincetown (spring)
Directions: From Route 6 turn north onto Race Point Road. The Beech Forest Trail parking lot is about 1/2 mile down, on your left. From the parking lot, take the trail leading west past the restrooms. When you reach a section of split rail fence on the south side of the trail, you'll see and should follow a sandy trail leading through the scrub pines to the top of High Dune, which provides excellent views in all directions. Hawks, especially vultures and buteos, tend to mill about here as they decide to fly back down the Cape. Good numbers seen occasionally into early June. This is one of the best sites in Massachusetts to look for rarities such as Mississippi Kites. Water and restrooms are available at the parking lot in season.
Province Lands Visitors' Center, Provincetown (spring)
Directions: From Route 6, take Race Point Road north, driving past Beech Forest. Visitors' Center is obvious on dunes to your right. Follow signs. From the observation deck you have good views in all directions, although many birds might be backlit by sun. Water and restrooms are available in season.