Birding at Colchester Pond
by Bruce MacPherson
The town of Colchester boasts some outstanding birding sites that are well-known throughout Vermont. Examples include the Colchester Causeway and Delta Park. The location that is the subject of this essay– the Colchester Pond Natural Area is less well-known even among birders in Chittenden County, despite the fact that the site offers excellent birding opportunities and at times turn up rarities.
The Colchester Pond Natural Area, managed by the Winooski Valley Park District, occupies 693 acres of forest and meadow, including a two mile hiking trail that encircles the pond. I became interested in this area a year ago when a small flock of Ruddy Ducks took temporary residence on the pond during November and December. Ruddy Duck sightings are unusual in Vermont, so I jumped at the chance to see them. Voila! On my first visit to the pond I immediately spotted 14 ruddies swimming close to shore. Since then I have included Colchester Pond on the short list of sites I visit regularly. In May I found a variety of warblers there, notably Yellow and Yellow-rumped. On several occasions throughout the summer I got nice looks at a pair of Baltimore Orioles inhabiting the fringe of woodland adjacent to the meadows that form the border of the west shore of the pond.
Naturally, numerous species of ducks and geese can be found at Colchester Pond, including Canada Goose, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Hooded Merganser, Mallard and American Black Duck, to name just a few. Raptors, including Barred Owl, Red-tailed Hawk, and Northern Harrier have been reported to the VT Bird list from Colchester Pond and I found several reports of Bald Eagles spotted here. A side benefit of visiting Colchester Pond is that there are footpaths off the hiking trail that lead to another birding hot spot, Brigham Hill in Essex. In truth, I admit I have not pursued these side trails, but a report on the VT Bird list describes them well if you care to search them out.
To reach Colchester Pond take route 7 to its junction with Route 2A and go right on 2A toward Colchester Village. In the village, turn left on East Road. Take the first right onto Depot Road and follow it to the junction of Colchester Pond Road and Curve Hill Road. Turn left onto Colchester Pond Road and proceed to the parking lot at the top of the hill. Though not well-known among birders, the Colchester Pond Natural Area is a popular spot for anglers, kayakers, canoeists, hikers, and dog walkers. At times, in fact, it is a little too popular for my taste. However, from October through early May the traffic drops off and the birding is excellent. At these times this area is well worth investigating.