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105. Odiorne Point State Park, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

An oceanfront park that is great for loons, eiders, and Snow Bunting in winter, plus migrating warblers, sparrows, and raptors in spring.
By Pam Hunt | Published: 12/22/2010

In 1623, Odiorne Point was the site of the first European settlement in New Hampshire. Use as a fortification during World War II radically transformed the area, but by 1961 it was deemed surplus property and sold to the state.

I can’t escape this history as I walk around Odiorne. In an old oak that predates WWII, I’ve seen an Eastern Screech-Owl sunning itself on a winter afternoon, and down an old road sits an overgrown bunker where I have found skulking Yellow-breasted Chats. At the road’s end is the Atlantic Ocean, home to eiders, grebes, and other winter waterbirds.

Most of my birding here has been in winter, since I cover the area on the coastal New Hampshire Christmas Bird Count. A trip usually starts at the pull-off south of the park, where I scan for seabirds. (In warmer months, check the salt marsh for shorebirds and sparrows.) On one CBC, Dovekie was among the first birds of the day. In the thickets near the Seacoast Science Center, friends and I once watched a shrike battle a Downy Woodpecker to a draw. No matter the time of year, bring a scope and scan the ocean to see what you can find. — Pam Hunt

Pam Hunt is an avian conservation biologist for New Hampshire Audubon. She has served as New England winter editor for North American Birds since 1996.

105. Odiorne Point State Park, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Directions

Odiorne Point State Park is the largest undeveloped stretch of shore on New Hampshire’s 18-mile coast. From northbound I-95, take exit 3 onto Rt. 33 and turn right onto Peverly Hill Rd. From southbound I-95, take exit 5, then follow Hwy. 4 to the Rt. 1 Bypass. Follow it to Elwyn Rd. and turn left. Drive about 3.4 miles east to the park.

At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
43°2’39.73″N 70°42’56.50″W

Habitat

Ocean, rocky shoreline, forest, thickets.

Terrain

Very flat on trails. Bike path and most trails wheelchair-accessible.

Birds

Winter: Lesser Black-backed, Bonaparte’s, and other gulls, loons, grebes, alcids, Common Eider and other sea ducks, Great Cormorant, Eastern Screech-Owl, Snow Bunting, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Hermit Thrush. Spring and fall: vireos, warblers, sparrows, Osprey, Peregrine Falcon. Summer: quiet, but it’s worth checking the salt marshes at the south end for Saltmarsh and Nelson’s Sparrows, as well as migrating shorebirds. Fall: best potential for rarities, such as Fork-tailed Flycatcher and Bell’s Vireo.

When to go

Winter for sea ducks, grebes, gulls, and alcids.Spring and fall for migrants.

Amenities

Restrooms available except in winter. Seacoast Science Center contains exhibits on the natural and human history of the area.

Access

State park. Entrance fees from Memorial Day to Labor Day: adults $4, children ages 6-11 $2, children 5 and under and New Hampshire residents age 65 and over free. Main parking area open daylight hours, but access also possible from pull-offs at north and south ends.

Tips

A scope is essential for scanning the ocean, but even without one you can have a productive few hours of birding along the trails. Be sure to check the cove north of the Seacoast Science Center. Thickets at the south end near the swing sets have produced the bulk of rarities. Poison ivy is abundant, and you should check for ticks when you leave.

For more info

Odiorne Point State Park, (603) 436-7406.
Seacoast Science Center, (603) 436-8043.

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