I had a very long post about Dunback written up to continue the 100 Places series, but decided to shrink it down quite a bit.
Dunback Meadow, located in Lexington, is one of the best areas around for birding all year. Spring and fall are loaded with migrants, there’s plenty of good breeders, and it’s a great place for winter finches and raptors. It’s also very productive for butterflies.
The town of Lexington has a page up with a map and a bit of information. Two access points are labeled (Allen St and at the Bowman School). You can also enter from the Clarke School, from the end of Blossomcrest Rd (there’s a new trail there not shown on the map) and from Bacon St (no parking there however).
Just about anywhere can be productive but the best spots are the community gardens, the area right around the trail intersection, the birches to the right, and the two sets of pines (the short white pines by Clarke and the taller pines on the hill). Note that all directions below are based on the intersection when coming from Allen St).
Birds to look for include many owls (I’ve had 5 species in the tall pines with this being one of the best spots I know for Long-ears and Saw-whets), redpolls in winter (any of the birches), Northern Shrike (out in the field), hummingbirds (anywhere and everywhere in fall), Olive-sided Flycatcher (many of the dead snags in fall), Connecticut Warbler (down to the bridge entering the woods to the right), and many others. Besides the really rare birds, big numbers of Fox Sparrows can be found (I’ve had about a dozen in one day) and huge numbers of robins build up in fall (to the point of being deafening and making it really hard to find anything else). The crowds attract raptors, including 4 Buteos, 2 falcons, and 2 Accipiters. Pheasant used to be regular (although I did hear one this year for the first time in several years). Winter Wrens frequent the stream in fall and winter and I’ve had Rusty Blackbird and other late blackbirds in fall and early winter.
Butterflies are attracted to a large patch of milkweed straight out from the intersection and also at the community gardens and just about everywhere else. More interesting species include Milbert’s Tortoiseshell, Pepper-and-salt Skipper, and Ocola Skipper. I’ve also had a few interesting dragonflies and occasional mammals including fisher and coyote.
And after spending a few hours at Dunback, the Waltham St. Farms are right across the street, Hayden Woods is behind those, and there are plenty of other places nearby worth checking as well. But on a good day, you’ll find so much at Dunback that you won’t want to leave.