Empty canals, low river bring Egrets and more to Holyoke

When I noticed this afternoon that Holyoke’s canals had emptied for the annual fall maintenance period, I knew it was time to spend a few hours birding.

Small changes in the habitat downtown and along the Connecticut River often result in interesting sightings, and today offered two opportunities: the suddenly dry canal beds, and a particularly low water level on the river.

I started out on the river in South Holyoke just downstream from the Willimansett Bridge. There, the river had receded to reveal a large rocky and muddy area. Almost immediately I spotted the Great Egret pictured above. There were also a number of Killdeer foraging nearby; two Pectoral Sandpipers (one of which is pictured in the gallery below); a Belted Kingfisher; a Peregrine Falcon; and a flyover from a Great Blue Heron.

Herons are common along the river, and sometimes seen along the canals, but the annual fall emptying of the canals represents the best chance to see them in the very heart of the city. Sure enough, when I was driving home along Race Street I spotted one perched high atop a mill building along the CanalWalk just off Dwight Street.

A few photos of that encounter are also included below.

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