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West Rutland Marsh - October 2018

Well, it could have been worse! With a 100% chance of rain in the forecast, none of the eight participants said they eagerly jumped out of bed to be in time for today’s walk around West Rutland Marsh. Fortunately, it was warm with little wind, and the ‘real’ rain held off until the second half of the walk.

We ended up tallying 28 species, the same number as one year ago, but three below our October average. Here are some of our highlights:

Two marsh wrens were chattering in the reeds along Marble Street. Although they were fairly close to where we stood, we never saw them. Swamp sparrows gave out a few songs as did a few song sparrows.

A sharp-shinned hawk was mobbed by crows bent on murder. A raven joined the crows who then turned on the raven as the sharpie escaped.

One gray catbird was seen as was a single hermit thrush.

A scolding rattle alerted us to a blue-headed vireo which we then saw as it moved along with a flock of sparrows and yellow-rumped warblers. Numerous yellow-rumped warblers were seen among the tall weeds with some hawking insects. Three common yellowthroats were observed.

Three white-crowned sparrows and several white-throated sparrows were noted.

The walk concluded with an American bittern flying up from the corner of Marble and Water streets and flapping low across the marsh.

Our next walk is scheduled for Thursday, November 15 at a.m. We all love our furry friends, but in order to lessen disturbance to our feathered friends, please leave pets at home.

Today's list:

13 Canada Goose
4 Mourning Dove
1 American Bittern 
1 Sharp-shinned Hawk 
4 Downy Woodpecker
4 Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)
1 Blue-headed Vireo
13 Blue Jay
27 American Crow
2 Common Raven
16 Black-capped Chickadee
2 Marsh Wren
3 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
1 Hermit Thrush
29 American Robin
1 Gray Catbird
10 European Starling
1 Cedar Waxwing
3 American Goldfinch
1 Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)
3 White-crowned Sparrow
12 White-throated Sparrow
14 Song Sparrow
4 Swamp Sparrow
16 Red-winged Blackbird
3 Common Yellowthroat
23 Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)
1 Northern Cardinal

Book Review - Birds: The Art of Ornithology

Author Jonathan Elphick has organized his beautifully illustrated book, Birds: The Art of Ornithology in chronologic chapters. Through it all, there are three propulsive currents. First, the development of increasingly sophisticated techniques of printing, advancing from engraving to lithography and beyond, allowing dissemination of bird art to an ever wider public. Second, improved methods of specimen preservation enhancing the study of anatomical detail. And lastly, the maturation over time of the artists’ perception of the essence of the character of his ornithologic subject and how to express that artistically.

Looking back, Captain James Cook’s well-known 18th century South Seas expedition was merely the prototype specimen collecting venture. Indeed, there was a near mania of competitors rushing to explore and document specimens found on all continents. The author covers a plethora of collectors and artists in succinct biographies. Not all were innate naturalists. A Scotsman, Thomas Watting, had used his drawing and engraving skills to forge bank notes, and as punishment, was sent to the Australian convict colony; upon early pardon, he used his skills to depict Australian birds!

The author discusses the wide cast of characters which enabled these, often multivolume, encyclopedic compilations to be produced: world travelers, seamen, taxidermists, artist/adventurers, engravers, watercolorists, publishers, wealthy patrons, subscribers, and ornithologists.

At the end, I felt overwhelmed with beautiful bird art, yet wondered, where it will go from here. Over the ages, bird art has gone from stiff, still subjects, to lively representations of the personality of the birds, and now, often depictions of birds as we truly seen them: blurred in flight or hidden in foliage. In this Anthropocene era, having over-conquered the globe, do we hubristically claim there is nothing more to learn and discover of bird differentiation and intricacies of species? In our rapid-fire internet world do we no longer have the mindset or patience to investigate “every feather around the eye and every scale on the feet?” Today it’s the fantastic digital shots (and questionably photo-shopped) that get National Geographic acclaim.

But the book is a gem in its own right. Most pages have an illustration accompanied by a comment on the artist’s style and intent. It comes in a box, including 34, 10”x 13” prints suitable for framing.

This volume would be great for perusal or study on a cold winter’s night. For our rural community libraries, it would be a lovely addition to set out in a corner reading nook for winter patrons, searching out something to brighten their day. It is available at www.rizzoliusa.com or at Amazon, $45.00.




West Rutland Marsh - September 2018

The wind was a factor this morning in our ability to detect birds by sound. It was also no doubt keeping them out of sight as well. Fifteen birders (welcome to our new participants!) tallied 28 species along with a falcon species and an accipiter species. This is quite a bit lower than our September average of 38. Our highest September count was in 2008 with 51 species at approximately this same time of the month.

Despite the wind it was a beautiful day to be out and we did have some interesting sightings. A single double-crested cormorant and then three more were circling very high in the sky. An osprey and an immature bald eagle were also seen in flight though not as high as the cormorants.

The ‘bird of the day’ as far as a count was blue jay with 46 of those. Only two warblers species were seen – common yellowthroat and black-throated green warbler, surprisingly low compared to warbler reports around the state this past week. One warbling vireo was seen briefly.

The day ended with the ‘teakettle’ song of a Carolina wren.

Our next walk is scheduled for Thursday, October 11, at 8 a.m. If you can’t get enough of birds before then, be sure to stop by Rutland City Hall, anytime from now until October 10, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. to see 12 of National Audubon’s annual photography contest award winners. A reception will be held on Friday, September 28, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Today's list:

Canada Goose  4
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  2
Mourning Dove  11
Double-crested Cormorant  4    
Great Blue Heron  3
Turkey Vulture  12
Osprey  1    
Accipiter sp.  2
Bald Eagle  1   
Belted Kingfisher  1
Pileated Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)  2
falcon sp.  1    
Eastern Phoebe  2
Warbling Vireo  1
Blue Jay  46
American Crow  9
Common Raven  4
Black-capped Chickadee  11
Tufted Titmouse  1
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Carolina Wren  1
Gray Catbird  1
European Starling  11
Cedar Waxwing  2
Purple Finch  2
American Goldfinch  13
Song Sparrow  3
Common Yellowthroat  2
Black-throated Green Warbler  2




National Audubon Photography Award Winners in Rutland

Bird photos are coming to Rutland! And not just any bird photos, but twelve large-sized prints of the annual National Audubon Photography Award winners.

The photographs will be on display at Rutland City Hall on Strongs Avenue from September 19 until October 10, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m, Monday through Friday. Admission is free!

And on Friday, September 28, we’ll have a reception from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at City Hall. Stop by for some bird chat and a short presentation by RCAS Vice President Mike Blust at 7 p.m. So plan a night out in downtown Rutland and make the exhibit part of your evening.

In the meantime, if you’re thinking about entering next year’s National Audubon contest, or just want to improve your pictures for family and friends (or Rutland County Audubon on Flickr), click here or tips from everything from gear to ethics. 



West Rutland Marsh - July 2018

Black-billed CuckooOvercast skies were a welcome relief from the relentless sun for the 14 participants of Rutland County Audubon's monthly marsh walk on July 14th.

The day began with juvenile Virginia rails scooting about among the cattails by the boardwalk. Squeaking was what alerted us to their presence. An adult rail was also present keeping an eye on the youngsters.

As we made our way from there a second surprise was a black-billed cuckoo heard calling. It finally flew by and perched for all to see. This was a life bird for one of our group. During the walk a total of four black-billed cuckoos were heard plus one potential yellow-billed cuckoo. However the song was strange sounding as it had elements of the correct call for that species but then adding other notes. So it was noted as a cuckoo species.

Rose-breasted GrosbeakAlder flycatchers were singing their "free beer" song while warbling vireos indeed were warbling. An American redstart was well seen as was a male rose-breasted grosbeak. A chorus of 14 veeries along the route were singing their lovely descending songs.

As we neared the end of the walk another exciting occurrence was a pair of scarlet tanagers flying right by us in hot pursuit. So close did they pass that we could hear the noise of their wings!

The sought after least bittern was seen briefly by one member of the group. We did try to find this secretive bird but no luck for the rest of us.

The tour returned to the boardwalk and we found that 64 species has been seen or heard. A very great outing was had by all.

The next walk is scheduled for Thursday, August 16, 7 a.m., meeting at the boardwalk.

The day's list:


Mallard  4
Least Bittern  1    
Great Blue Heron  4
Turkey Vulture  1
Broad-winged Hawk  1
Virginia Rail  5
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  3
Mourning Dove  11
Black-billed Cuckoo  4    
Yellow-billed/Black-billed Cuckoo  1    
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Belted Kingfisher  1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  5
Downy Woodpecker  4
Hairy Woodpecker  3
Northern Flicker  1
Eastern Wood-Pewee  2
Alder Flycatcher  5
Willow Flycatcher  4
Eastern Phoebe  3
Eastern Kingbird  7
Warbling Vireo  3
Red-eyed Vireo  8
Blue Jay  3
American Crow  4
Common Raven  6    
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  1
Tree Swallow  9
Bank Swallow  3
Barn Swallow  9
Cliff Swallow  1
Black-capped Chickadee  4
Tufted Titmouse  2
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
House Wren  1
Marsh Wren  2
Eastern Bluebird  2
Veery  14
Wood Thrush  1
American Robin  17
Gray Catbird  14
European Starling  37
Cedar Waxwing  17
Ovenbird  2
Northern Waterthrush  1
Black-and-white Warbler  2
Common Yellowthroat  14
American Redstart  4
Yellow Warbler  4
Chipping Sparrow  2
Field Sparrow  1    
Song Sparrow  6
Swamp Sparrow  10
Eastern Towhee  1
Scarlet Tanager  3    
Northern Cardinal  6
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  3
Indigo Bunting  1
Red-winged Blackbird  23
Brown-headed Cowbird  3
Common Grackle  86    
House Finch  2
Purple Finch  7
American Goldfinch  20
House Sparrow  1