Nestled in Longmeadow, MA is a place called Fannie Stebbins Memorial Wildlife Refuge. It is a wonderful sanctuary with hiking trails, marshland, ponds and lakes.
I first went here last Summer. A friend of mine told me that he had heard that this is a great place to find all kinds of birds and that he wanted to go check it out. He was nice enough to take me with him.
The Refuge was established in 1951 and contains over 330 acres providing habitat for a large variety of rare plant and animal species. You can do lots of activities there such as birding (you will rarely go there without seeing people with cameras), snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
There really is something for everyone here.
I had to laugh. On our way there we actually drove past the street that leads to the entrance. We had to turn around. You see, this place is so big but you wouldn’t know it from the main road. It is hidden at the end of a long street.
There is a map at the entrance to the nine hiking trails to help you find your way around. My advice is to take a picture of it with your phone. Why? Well, unfortunately a couple of the trail signs we found while hiking were in need of some paint touch ups and were a little hard to read. Not a bad thing, just wanted to give you all a heads up in case you are directionally challenged like me.
We decided to just take off and see where the trail would take us. I should note that you will be walking through tall grass (it got higher than my knees at some parts) so I would be hesitant on wearing shorts while walking through. If you do, wear strong bug and tick repellent. And good boots are a must, too. Things like flip flops are just a bad idea.
I would also bring a camera and some binoculars if you have them so you can see all the birds flying by. Birds such as eagles, owls, hawks and assorted woodpeckers have been spotted there.
You can also see plenty of deer tracks in the grass. I saw a bunch while I was there, but unfortunately no deer themselves. Hopefully one day.
In one of the fields you will see a bunch of bird houses. They are for the blue birds that are there. I am told that the local boy scout troop put them up and maintain them and I believe they also helped put up some of the bridges and walkways that are there, too. Unfortunately we didn’t see any blue birds while we were hiking.
There are train tracks that run through the refuge. Trains do run on them but not too often that you can’t walk on them.
We walked around for a while more and decided to stop for a break. We had been hiking for about an hour and a half and started to get hungry. We got a little distressed when we remembered that we had only packed a couple of bottles of water and some granola bars (we didn’t think we would be exploring for so long).
As we were complaining about our lack of proper planning we suddenly got a whiff of something. Something delicious. We started to search in vain for the source of this wonderful aroma. A few minutes later we finally found them.
Wild seeded concord grapes. We gorged ourselves on them. Trust me when I say that grocery store grapes are not even in the same league as these fantastic grapes! They were so juicy and sweet. I took my camera out of my bag and proceeded to run around filling it with as many grapes as possible. There was no way I wasn’t taking some of them home with me for the next day.
After our snack we headed back. We wanted to see the animals at the giant pond further up the road from the entrance. This is the spot you will see all the birders and their cameras and note pads chronicling their finds for the day.
As we were leaving the hiking trails I was met with this wonderful view of a little pond.
It was so simple but very beautiful.
The pond has a large variety of animals there, such as herons (I saw a blue one while there), a family of swans, ducks, blue jays, cardinals and reptiles of all kinds.
I loved watching this little family of swans. They had a little baby with them but he or she kept hiding from view to get a good enough picture. Hopefully I will get one next time.
We watched the ducks and other birds for a about a half an hour more and decided to pack it in for the day.
This place is a definite must for birders and hikers alike!
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