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Northern Harrier flying
Northern Harrier © Kyle Wilmarth

Important Bird Area: Little River Watershed

Map of the Little River Watershed IBA site

Nominated By

Seth Kellogg

Size

32,000 acres

Towns and Counties

Blandford, Granville, Otis, Russell, Southwick, Tolland; Berkshire, Hampden

Ownership

New England Forestry Foundation, Springfield Water Commission, Appalachian Mountain Club

Major Habitats

50% northern hardwood forest, 15% oak-conifer forest, 8% early successional shrubland, 5% emergent freshwater marsh, 5% shrub-scrub wetland, 4% river/stream, 8% lake/pond, 1% cultural grassland

Land Use

water supply (60%), forestry, recreation/tourism, ORVs, hunting/fishing, utility, residential

IBA Criteria

  • Category 1: Sites important for long-term research and/or monitoring projects that contribute substantially to ornithology, bird conservation, and/or education.
  • Category 2: Sites containing assemblages of species characteristic of a representative, rare, threatened, or unique habitat within the state or region.
  • Category 4: Single-species Concentrations: The site regularly supports significant concentrations of a flocking species, but may not meet the thresholds above. The site should support a higher proportion of a species' statewide population (more than 1%, if known) than other similar sites.
  • Category 5: Shorebirds: The site regularly supports 1,000 or more shorebirds at one time at a coastal site, during some part of the year, or a significant concentration of shorebirds at one time at a nontidal site. The designation "shorebirds" includes birds such as plovers, sandpipers, snipe, woodcocks, and phalaropes.

Site Description

This IBA comprises most of the watershed land and all of the water of Cobble Mountain and Borden Brook reservoirs (Springfield), and Granville Reservoir (Westfield). It also includes part of the Tolland State Forest, the Noble View Camp owned by the Appalachian Mountain Club, and the Phelon Forest owned by the New England Forestry Foundation. Located in the Phelon Forest is the Blueberry Hill Hawk Watch Site used to count migrating raptors since 1970; full-time fall coverage has occurred since 1999. Roadside breeding bird censuses have been done in the Granville portion by Seth Kellogg between 1981 and 1996 and in the Blandford portion by Tom Swochak between 1995 and 1996. The Drake Mountain-Sodom Mountain ridge is on the edge of the Connecticut River valley and this ridge is cut in two by the Granville Gorge, partly owned by the town of Southwick. The Little River Gorge divides Westfield Mountain from Sweetman and Drake Mountain and is the site of a small hydroelectric generating plant. The habitat is primarily upland forest, with both northern and southern species. There are quite a few Beaver flowages, as well as some hayfields, overgrown fields, and wild blueberry fields. There are fewer than 20 dwellings and a limited amount of mostly small private land holdings.

Current Conservation Status

Mixed use. Some areas heavily used by ORVs in summer and winter.

Ornithological Significance

The Bald Eagle nest at Cobble Mountain; reservoir is used all year as a feeding area. American Bitterns nest in several beaver swamps.

Many high-priority conservation species have 25 or more pairs nesting in the wooded area.

Raptor counts have averaged over 6,000 birds the last four falls. The nesting Acadian Flycatchers and Cerulean and Worm-eating Warblers of this IBA comprise a significant proportion of the state's breeding population.

The wild blueberry fields are a rare habitat in Massachusetts.

Raptors monitored since 1970, roadside BBS since 1981. The Phelon Forest has recently begun Breeding Bird Surveys.

Other Flora or Fauna of Significance

Black Bears, Moose, Bobcats, Jefferson Salamanders

Data Sources

unknown.