New Hampshire Audubon Society Jefferson, New Hampshire 03583Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge Official Website
Moose and white-tailed deer frequent the area and there is considerable beaver activity. Over 200 species of birds can be seen here throughout the year. During the summer loon, American bittern, ring-necked duck, green-winged teal, northern harrier, osprey, Virginia rail, black-backed woodpecker, olive-sided flycatcher, gray jay, and Swainson’s thrush are just a few of the birds you may hear or see.
The list of birds seen at the refuge is extensive. It is often the first and northernmost stop on a traditional New Hampshire May Big Day effort. Mourning Warbler is a specialty, although scrub growth may be passing the stage where it provides optimal habitat for this species. Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Winter Wren, and Lincoln’s Sparrow are all possible. In migration, the refuge can be visited by a variety of waterfowl, including eiders and scoters. Phalaropes have been found there as well.
Don’t forget to bird the airport grasslands (from the road) and the airport marsh. Meadowlark, Bobolink, and Kestrel are possible in the grass, and there’s the rare possibility of a migrating Upland Sandpiper. Hooded Mergansers and Rusty Blackbirds, among other things, might be found in the marsh.
See all hotspots at Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge
Nestled beneath the mountains north of the Presidential Range, Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge has often been called a “crown jewel” of New Hampshire’s landscape, and visitors to the site will easily understand why. The ponds, wetlands, and forests of this refuge support a wide variety of significant ecological features. The sweeping views from the wetlands and ponds are truly unique, and the hiking trails through lowland spruce-fir forest provide an easy way to experience this characteristic natural community of New Hampshire’s North Country in person. A recently constructed viewing platform at the south end of Cherry Pond provides stunning views out across the pond and back towards the Presidential Range.
Good examples of natural community systems you can see here include a lowland spruce-fir forest and swamp system and a poor level fen and bog system.
The refuge was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1974 by the National Park Service. The Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge is owned and managed by New Hampshire Audubon, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game. The New Hampshire Bureau of Trails and a local Friends group also play a role in the management of the refuge.
From downtown Whitefield, where US-3, NH-142, and NH-116 come together, take NH-116 north/east for about 2 miles to Hazen Road. Turn right onto Hazen road, and follow it about a mile to the sign for the Mount Washington Regional Airport. Turn left at the sign onto Airport Road, and follow the road past the airport. After about 1.5 miles, there is a turn on the left for a small parking area with a kiosk and trailhead.
Access from NH-115 between the towns of Twin Mountain and Jefferson Highlands. The refuge is northwest of the road. There is a parking area with a new kiosk along Airport Road. A wide dirt trail (a former rail grade, soon to be made universally accessible) leads from here north about a mile and a half to the new viewing platform at the edge of Cherry Pond. The Little Cherry Pond hiking trail skirts the western edge of the pond and then leads west to a viewing platform at Little Cherry Pond.
The Pondicherry protected areas are jointly owned by New Hampshire Audubon, the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge.
From the parking area, there is a long, level trail that runs 1.5 miles to railroad tracks in front of Big Cherry Pond. About .3 miles further, on the left, next to a wooden something on the tracks, is a small woodland trail to Little Cherry Pond. That trail is about 0.7 miles long, making the round trip to Little Cherry about 5 miles. If instead, you take the railroad tracks to the right, you have Big Cherry on the left, and Moorhen Marsh on the right.
The Hike New England website has a description and map of hikes at Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge.
Content from Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge Official Website and New Hampshire’s Wildlife Viewing and Birding Trails, p. 4