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271. Woodside Natural Area, Essex, Vermont

One of the birdiest places in Vermont. It’s great for spring and fall warblers, as well as vireos, grosbeaks, and other birds.

It takes me two to three hours to walk the one-mile loop at Woodside Natural Area, especially on spring mornings. The reason for my slow pace? This is one of the birdiest places in Vermont.

Seasoned birders love Woodside partly for the frequent surprises (Cerulean Warbler, Virginia Rail, Black-billed Cuckoo), but I love taking beginning birders here because they always get good looks at so many different birds. One gentleman started a walk with a curt comment: “Gotta tell you. Don’t believe warblers exist.” Halfway through the mile, he had memories and even photos proving to him that they really do!

One morning, I sat on the bench overlooking the beaver pond and noticed a Red-shouldered Hawk crouched on a low pine branch. It abruptly dropped to the water’s edge and came up with a frog. The hawk caught and ate three more frogs in the next 15 minutes. Red-shouldered Hawks nest at Woodside, along with scores of other species.

The hawks aren’t supposed to overwinter in Vermont, but a pair has been seen in the park every month of the year. The hawks know what the birders know: Woodside is a rare gem!

Maeve Kim is a birder, teacher, musician, and writer. She has several written articles for BirdWatching, including “Born-Again Bird-Watcher” and an essay about birding surprises.

271. Woodside Natural Area, Essex, Vermont

Directions

Woodside Natural Area covers 68 acres along the Winooski River just outside Burlington. From the Burlington International Airport, get onto Airport Pkwy., go north and make a gentle left where it becomes Lime Kiln Rd. Turn right onto Rte. 15, and at the third traffic light, turn right onto Woodside Dr. Head downhill to the gate at the bottom of the road.

Downloadable Files

At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
44°30’5.37″N 73°8’43.42″W

Habitat

Woods, wetlands, cattail marsh, pond, river, mowed area.

Terrain

Flat grassy trails, some hills, other trails on dirt or mud. Wooden bridges, stairs, and boardwalks.

Birds

About 160 species. Spring and summer: Wood Duck, Green Heron, Warbling, Red-eyed, and Blue-headed Vireos, Eastern Phoebe, Least, Alder, and Great Crested Flycatchers, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Belted Kingfisher, Brown Creeper, Baltimore Oriole, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Rusty Blackbird (most often in April, sometimes during fall migration), Song and Swamp Sparrows, Hermit Thrush, Wood Thrush, Gray Catbird, Eastern Bluebird, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and 18 species of warblers, including a half dozen that probably nest in the park. Fall: warblers, shorebirds. Year-round: Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Tufted Titmouse, Northern Cardinal, Pileated Woodpecker, Cooper’s Hawk, Cedar Waxwing, American Goldfinch, House Finch.

When to go

Worth visiting any time of year; most active spring and early summer. Go early in the morning for Wood Ducks.

Amenities

Benches in a cattail swamp, overlooking the beaver pond, and beside the Winooski River. Trail map on website. Boat launch on river for canoes and kayaks. No toilet facilities.

Access

Managed by the Winooski Valley Park District. Free. Open dawn to dusk.

Tips

Parts of the trail can be sloppy, especially after a lot of rain. One steep set of stairs can be icy in winter; avoid them by walking the loop counterclockwise and then reversing direction.

For more info

Woodside Natural Area

Sites nearby

Shelburne Bay Trails

On Bay Rd. about 10 miles from Woodside. Park at large fishing access on Bay Rd. Cross the road for LaPlatte River Marsh Natural Area Trail (dirt trail) and Ti-Haul Trail (flat gravel). Just west of the parking lot are the wooded trails of Shelburne Bay Park.

Red Rocks Park

About eight miles from Woodside, on Central Ave. in South Burlington. Migrant trap for warblers in spring.

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