Nestled along the Connecticut-New York border and home to 100 species of birds during the breeding season is a fabulous wildlife sanctuary named Deer Pond Farm.
This picturesque slice of heaven spanning 835 acres is a gift to the Connecticut Audubon by the late Kathy and Water Wriston.
And a treasure for birdwatchers who visit this incredible shrine to nature and the great outdoors.
Deer Pond Farm is for the Birds
We were smitten during our first visit to Deer Pond Farm in June 2019 for its grand opening.
Now we make a point of visiting when we’re birdwatching at the Harlem Valley Appalachian Trail, close to the sanctuary.
Deer Pond Farm is an amazing series of trails surrounded by birdsong.
After taking a brief birdwatching hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, when Deer Pond Farm began offering two-hour bird walks on the grounds, we leaped at the chance for a private tour.
The morning of our bird walk, the forecast was predicting rain and thunderstorms, but being hearty New Englanders, we rolled out of bed planning to endure the storm.
Luckily there was no rain, and it was overcast. Perfect for photographing birds.
We were the first to arrive and greeted by Deirdra Wallin, the program manager at Deer Pond Farm while being serenaded by a Rose-breasted Grosbeak singing its melodious song from the treetops.
Then we met two other members of the group, our guide, Stefan Martin, Deer Pond Farm’s land steward, and avid birder.
Birds Put on a Show
As if on cue, a male Red-bellied Woodpecker flies in above us, delivering food to its nest nearby, and making its rolling churr call.
We hear the nasally call of a White-breasted Nuthatch.
The shrill of a Chipping Sparrow.
A Tufted Titmouse’s peter-peter-peter call.
The melodic song of a Red-eyed Vireo off in the distance.
An Eastern Bluebird’s warbling song.
And see an American Goldfinch making its roller-coaster flight overhead making its po-ta-to-chip call.
Armed with a notepad and an impeccable skill for birding by ear, Stefan and our group are off to the races adding 8 bird species to our bird list, and we hadn’t even left the parking area.
Pollinator Garden Overflowing with Beauty
We head off for our mile walk, and the first stop is the pollinator garden, right next to the parking area.
Deer Pond Farm’s volunteer-based pollinator garden is a magnificent collection of native plants for attracting pollinators, birds, dragonflies, and butterflies.
The native plants were in full bloom.
After hearing a series of feint monotonous chips, we know hummingbirds are nearby in the garden, and search for some of the 40 butterfly species frequenting the property.
Standing in the pollinator garden, we’re being serenaded by Song Sparrows and, finally, catch our first glimpse of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird.
New sightings and sounds include a juvenile American Crow, Blue-gray gnatcatcher, and a Gray Catbird.
Then we head to the Lady Bird Trail and begin our quest.
Wetlands Offer Plenty of Bird Sightings
Birdsong surrounds us as we stop and take in the sights and sounds as we pass through a small section of wetlands.
We begin seeing and hearing so many birds.
Great Crested Flycatcher.
A Song Sparrow snags a giant moth in front of us and carries it through the thickets back to its nest.
We stop momentarily being mindful of the newly emerged American Toadlings, paying attention to each step we take.
The toadlings are smaller than a pinky nail and are challenging to spot in the dirt.
Emerging out of the woods from the Lady Bird Trail, we pass the Deer Pond with rolling views of the meadow and main building, the Wriston’s former home, and Deer Pond Farm’s headquarters.
Passing in front of white gourds strung on towers for nesting Purple Martins, we spot several bluebirds perched on top hunting for insects below and spot Tree and Barn Swallows gliding above.
Off to Deer Pond’s Birding Hot Spot
We head off to the birding hot spot on the eastern Connecticut side of the sanctuary.
On the Billberry Trail we catch a glimpse of an Indigo Bunting, and are serenaded by the melodic song of a Red-breasted Grosbeak and the whistle, chattering call of a Veery.
After catching a glimpse of a Yellow-bellied sapsucker carrying food, we stop to observe and confirm a nest with young and watch the adult make several trips back and forth.
Then we make a left turn and merge onto the Quail Trail, and that’s where the magic happens.
One Hour Left on our Journey
We’re one hour into our walk where we’re seeing the highest concentration of birds.
Quail Trail is filled with birdsong and calls of chicks of multiple species.
At this part of the trail, you’re surrounded by nature and can hear every noise around you.
We hear a Common Raven calling in the distance.
Catch a glimpse of Cedar Waxwings and a female Eastern Towhee hiding in a thicket.
Then we see Purple Finches, a Northern Cardinal, a House Wren, and a Carolina Wren.
The trail gets a bit rough with muddy tire tracks, but the mud provides a glimpse of other species on the grounds.
We spot squirrel and coyote tracks and look closer to find Wild Turkey tracks.
Heading north on Quail Trail, we’re getting closer to the wetlands and under the tree’s canopy.
Two Fabulous Sightings
We’re greeted by a Hooded Warbler singing on the trail and stop to observe a Red-eyed Vireo perched on a felled tree.
An American Redstart is singing on a branch, so we stop to enjoy the show.
We hear an Ovenbird close by, and then hear the bird we’ve been talking about since setting out on the trail. The Chestnut-sided Warbler.
After hearing the bird’s call, pleased, pleased, pleased to meetcha, we stand in place for what felt like for an hour, hoping to catch a glimpse of this beauty.
A sighting of the Chestnut-sided Warbler eluded us on this day, but we were happy to hear this fabulous bird and seeing it provides a great reason to revisit Deep Pond Farm again soon.
As we head back to the parking lot, we take Cathedral Trail and pass by the white gourds ascending the slope of the magnificent meadow beside the pond.
Looking up, we see smudge-gray Chimney Swifts nimbly maneuvering the open field in front of us.
Walking up the meadow, there are still more birds to see.
Several more species need to put on a show before we finish our journey.
A Broad-winged Hawk soars over the meadow close to us.
Then to finish out the day, a Double-crested Cormorant does a flyover in the distance.
Lots of Birds to See at Deer Pond Farm
We observed 41 bird species during our short, two-hour walk covering one mile of trail.
It was a delight adding a few more species to our bird journal for the year.
Deer Pond Farm has 20 miles of hiking trails, so with more time, we could have doubled the number of species we observe.
But that’s for another day.
If you plan to be in Fairfield County, Connecticut, or near Pawling, New York, we recommend you stop by for a visit.
With so many trails to explore and so much to see, Deep Pond Farm will keep you entertained.
It’s a fabulous way to add to your bird sightings for the year.
And maybe we’ll see you there.
You can’t miss us. We’ll be the ones looking for that Chestnut-sided Warbler.
See the eBird checklist from our bird walk here.
Visiting Deer Pond Farm
The Deer Pond Farm Sanctuary is open year-round from dawn to dusk.
Visit Deep Pond Farm at 57 Wakeman Hill Road in Sherman, Connecticut 06784. Get direction here.
Plan ahead for your visit and grab a trail map here.
Now get out and see birds!