It’s hard to say which was more amazing – the number of species or the number of birders – at today’s walk around West Rutland Marsh!
Thirty-six birders, from age 7 to 89, showed up despite the somewhat gloomy weather (the rain held off until the very end). Fortunately, there was no wind and, as the bird song has noticeably increased since last month, it turned out to be a very pleasant morning. There were plenty of new faces as well as a contingent from Otter Creek Audubon.
Fifty-three species were tallied, a new April high, well above our average of 42 for this month of the year. It is also eight more than observed a year ago this month.
Two of the marsh’s signature species, Virginia rail and American bittern, were heard immediately from the boardwalk. We later saw a bittern in flight near the intersection of Whipple Hollow and Water streets.
Raptors were well-represented with two northern harriers, one sharp-shinned hawk, one red-shouldered hawk (not commonly observed on this walk), one red-tailed hawk and one American kestrel.
One of the highlights of the walk was a flock of 63 tree swallows, accompanied by a handful of barn swallows and northern rough-winged swallows, swirling over Water Street, and occasionally landing in a tree.
Ruby-crowned kinglets were everywhere along the route as they have been throughout Vermont this week. One golden-crowned kinglet was also heard. Two marsh wrens were singing as well as three winter wrens and a blue-headed vireo. A brown creeper was singing as well.
A pair of eastern bluebirds was investigating a bird house, a spot where they have nested in previous years. A hermit thrush, our state bird, has also returned.
The advance front of warblers is in - yellow-rumped warblers with three seen along the route.
Twenty-six swamp sparrows were counted, all in enthusiastic song, so no doubt some females were missed. Song sparrows were heard or spotted along the route, while a couple of American tree sparrows are still hanging around the feeders near the boardwalk.
Another sign of spring was bloodroot in bloom and the budding marsh marigolds.
The next walk is scheduled for Thursday, May 18, at 7 a.m.