Feeding birds at the Ipswich River Sanctuary

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Little darling of the snow,
Careless how the winds may blow,
Happy as a bird can be,
Singing, oh, so cheerily,
Chickadee-dee! Chickadee-dee!

When the skies are cold and gray,
When he trills his happiest lay,
Through the clouds he seems to see
Hidden things to you and me.
Chickadee-dee! chickadee-dee!

Very likely little birds
Have their thoughts too deep for word,
But we know, and all agree,
That the world would dreary be
Without birds, dear chickadee!

– Author Unknown

The Ipswich River Sanctuary in Topsfield is the largest Audubon Society Preserve in Massachusetts encompassing 2,800 acres. There are 12 miles of interconnected trails winding through a landscape shaped by glacial activity 15,000 years ago.

A co-worker told me that the smaller birds were so used to visitors that they would eat from your hand, something that I had to experience. For years I’ve fed birds at the feeder and only occasionally would have a brave chickadee alight on my hand to grab a sunflower seed. It was quite thrilling to have chickadees, thufted titmouse and nuthatches gather as we walked the trail.

We walked along the Rockery Trail which features a grotto constructed in 1905 of large boulders. It was originally part of an arboretum at Bradshaw Farm which featured exotic trees. The land was donated by the owner Thomas Emerson Proctor (1873 -1949) to the Audobon Society. A staff member mentioned that the Society had removed the non-native trees but on the trail I noticed several varieties that I have never seen before in the Northeast.

The weather was ideal for our visit, unseasonably warm for the last day of January with no ice or snow to negotiate on the board walks. There were many families with young children, all with their hands outstretched with bird seed and feathered diners. This venue is highly recommended. We plan to return.

Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary
A brave chickadee grabs a seed from my hand
Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary
Ginny feeds a chickadee
Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary
A Tufted titmouse gives me a look

5 thoughts on “Feeding birds at the Ipswich River Sanctuary

    1. I’ve only been once and the birds were most active where it was sheltered. The spot is beautiful and worth the trip just to explore, I took the trail that led to the rockery, a man made grotto with large stones. I live over an hour away, if I lived closer I would go more often. There were a lot of children when we went on the weekend. I brought a bag of black oil sunflower seeds.


  1. Good morning! I am hoping to go this afternoon with my kids — do you think the wind will affect the birds at all? My daughter is so excited to feed them, so wondering if a different day would be better! Thanks!


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