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Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge–Macs Bend and Jeep Trail

Birding in Vermont

Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge
Important Bird Area

Swanton, Vermont 05488
Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge webpage
Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge brochure and map
Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge map
Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge (Audubon IBA) webpage

Also, see Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge

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Franklin County

Missisquoi NWR–Mac’s Bend & Jeep Trail
Coordinates: 44.9723436, -73.1678851
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Tips for birding the Jeep Trail
From the Black and Maquam Creek Trails parking lot, turn left onto Route 78 and drive about 1 mile west to the Jeep Trail. Pull into the Louie’s Landing Boat Access Area on the right. Toilet facilities are available here. This is also the best place to put in canoes and kayaks. The Jeep Trail begins at Mac’s Bend, about a mile past the gate. Note that the gate is normally locked except during duck hunting season in the fall. Also, be aware that the Jeep Trail itself is closed from the beginning of April to the end of July to protect nesting Ospreys from disturbance. However, you can walk the gravel road from the gate to Mac’s Bend any time. Ospreys and Black Terns are often seen along this section of the river, and in recent years Bald Eagles have become more frequent.

The Jeep Trail begins at the far end of the Mac’s Bend parking lot, about a mile down the gravel road from the gate. The trail follows a narrow strip of floodplain forest along the west bank of the Missisquoi River. About the first mile of the trail is mowed several times a year, but beyond that point, the trail can be very wet and indistinct. In a very dry year or in winter it should be possible to walk all the way out to Missisquoi Bay. In late summer, Ospreys, ducks, and shorebirds, such as Yellowlegs, are typical. In February, the refuge usually offers one or more Owl Prowls, where Great Horned Owls can often be heard in this area.
From Ken Copenhaven, Green Mountain Audubon

About Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge
The Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1943 to provide habitat for migratory birds. It consists of 6,729 acres, mostly wetland habitats, which support a variety of migratory birds and other wildlife. The 900-acre Maquam bog is designated as a Research Natural Area and the refuge was designated as an Important Bird Area in partnership with the Audubon Society. The Refuge in partnership with other publicly owned (State of Vermont) lands has been designated a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention. A mosaic of wetland habitats offers opportunities to see and manage more than 200 species of birds. Fall migration features 20,000-25,000 migrating ducks. Nesting bald eagles, osprey, and a great blue heron colony numbering more than 300 nests are present on the refuge. Please note that most public use is permitted only on designated trails or along the Missisquoi River. Please consult the refuge office for areas that are closed to public use to protect sensitive wildlife and habitat.
From Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge webpage

About Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge Important Bird Area
Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge is located in Swanton where the Missisquoi River joins Lake Champlain, forming one of the largest wetland complexes in the state. Mississquoi combines extensive bottomland and grassland habitat with a number of wetland community types. Management practices such as the creation of impoundments have provided critical habitat for breeding and migrating waterfowl as well as a number of state listed species. Vermont Natural Community types include Lakeside Floodplain Forest, Red or Silver Maple-Green Ash Swamp, Cattail, Deep Broadleaf, and Deep Bulrush marshes, Buttonbush Swamp, and Pitch Pine Woodland Bog.

Missisquoi’s size and location on Lake Champlain make it an ideal migratory stopover for a number of waterfowl species including Black Duck, Mallard, Ring-necked Duck, and Wood Duck. Breeding species include all of the above (with the exception of Ring-necked Duck) as well as Green and Blue-winged teal, Hooded Merganser, and Common Goldeneye. More than a third of the state-endangered Osprey population breeds here as well as the entire population of state threatened Black Tern. Missisquoi is also home to the largest Great Blue Heron (S1) colony in the state. Virginia Rail, Common Moorhen (S2), Sora (S2), and Pied-billed Grebe (S2) can also be found in the refuge’s extensive marshes.

Missisquoi is owned and managed by the federal government. Annual monitoring of waterfowl, Osprey, Black Tern, marshbirds, and grassland birds is ongoing. Conservation issues include invasive species such as purple loosestrife, Eurasian milfoil, and zebra mussels as well as agricultural run-off from farms upstream. A new headquarters is planned in the coming years.
From Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge (Audubon IBA) webpage