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west rutland marsh - april monitoring report

American BitternA stiff north wind dispelled any notion that spring is here to stay. Nevertheless a record 31 participants showed up for the 177th monitoring walk around West Rutland Marsh. Forty-four species were tallied, more than last year's 37 and two above our April average.

The day was off to a good start when the ‘kidick kidick’ of a Virginia Rail was heard near the boardwalk. Shortly after that sharp eyes spotted an American Bittern lurking along the not yet emerged reeds. Even then it was hard to spot! Wilson’s Snipe was also heard ‘woo woo woo-ing’ and a lucky few spotted it.

If there is any doubt that nesting season is already underway, six goslings were spotted with a Canada Goose. A Blue Jay was seen carrying nesting material and its fellow corvid, a Common Raven, was carrying a sizeable bit of food. Two Belted Kingfishers were spotted near a likely nest hole above one of the quarries.

Raptors were well-represented: Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Peregrine Falcon and American Kestrel. Ten Turkey Vultures were also seen.

No Tree Swallows were seen, but three cold-looking Northern Rough-winged Swallows were huddled in a bare tree.

A Winter Wren was heard deep in the woods along Whipple Hollow Road and Marsh Wrens (2) were heard along Water Street and near the boardwalk.

A lingering American Tree Sparrow was spotted near the feeders at the kiosk. Swamp Sparrows have wasted no time and are singing throughout the marsh.

The next marsh walk is scheduled for Thursday, May 19, 7 a.m.

Today's list:

Canada Goose  29
Wood Duck  1
Mallard  7
Hooded Merganser  2
American Bittern  2
Great Blue Heron  1
Turkey Vulture  10
Northern Harrier  1
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Virginia Rail  1
Wilson's Snipe  3
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  2
Mourning Dove  10
Belted Kingfisher  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  2
Downy Woodpecker  2
Northern Flicker  6
American Kestrel  1
Peregrine Falcon  1
Eastern Phoebe  3
Blue Jay  3
American Crow  4
Common Raven  2
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  3
Black-capped Chickadee  12
Tufted Titmouse  3
Winter Wren  1
Marsh Wren  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  4
American Robin  9
European Starling  3
Cedar Waxwing  2
American Tree Sparrow  1    near feeders at kiosk; present consisently all winter
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)  4
White-throated Sparrow  3
Song Sparrow  14
Swamp Sparrow  16
Northern Cardinal  5
Red-winged Blackbird  26
Common Grackle  8
House Finch  2
American Goldfinch  24
House Sparrow  3




thank you judy hawley!

We’ll never know the fate of the wayward painted bunting in Pittsfield that thrilled birders last month, but the story does have a happy ending.

Judy Hawley, whose property the bunting frequented, thanks to her generous supply of seed, thought the bird might be unusual. (We have some nice birds in Vermont, but nothing quite that colorful.) Fortunately she found eBird and reported the sighting. The rest, as they say, is history. During the next five days, scores of birders visited and dozens of photos were snapped. Bird chatter on the vtbird listserv and Facebook was at a high pitch. Reports of the sighting even reached national media outlets.

Through it all Judy gracefully welcomed birders to her property.

Birders as a whole are a generous and responsive group. As a thank you for Judy’s hospitality, birders throughout Vermont and outside the state contributed money to buy her a gift card for seed. It was delivered to her on Friday. We know she will put it to good use.

As Judy put it, "The beautiful little bunting not only brought himself for me to enjoy, but so many wonderful people I otherwise would have never met."

Also from Judy: "A very warm thank you for the extremely generous gift card, along with all the pictures you sent of the bunting and notes of appreciation. Your thoughtfulness has touched me more than I can say."


the patience of job

The window of opportunity was still open as Roy walked the Pittsford Trails that steamy July afternoon in his priority block, Proctor 4. This was the third year of the second five-year Vermont Breeding Bird Atlas project. A couple more weeks and the breeding season would be as good as over for the year. 

The sound of the brook was soothing on this unduly hot day. Roy had heard many a male Ovenbird singing in suitable habitat, but breeding confirmation had eluded him. As Roy followed the bend in the path from above and to his left there broke forth an agitated series of chatterings, as if two pebbles were being tapped in rapid succession. Roy would take his time for this was surely an opportunity to score one more breeding confirmation. The clicking persisted but it was difficult to zero in from whence it came. Finally Roy caught a glimpse of one of the perpetrators striding along a horizontal branch, calling as it went. The minutes went by and the mosquitoes had their fill but Roy remained riveted, ears and eyes straining. Eventually the agitation subsided until there was but a single bird registering its concern. It would not be long. Roy was sure there would be some telltale exposition of a nest or the call of a demanding fledgling. 

All of a sudden Roy’s world was compromised as a large black lab straining at the leash with his mistress in tow noisily erupted upon the scene from behind him. Roy was sure all was lost. A single bird raised the alarm but as the intruders’ presence faded into the distance and the commotion subsided, a second bird emboldened by the intruders’ departure dropped to a lower branch straight ahead of Roy. Oblivious to Roy’s presence the Ovenbird strode boldly forward, a juicy caterpillar in its beak, a meal for some hidden nestling or fledgling! Breeding confirmed!

 “Thank you, thank you,” Roy muttered in appreciation and relief as he checked off: Ovenbird, Carrying Food (CF), 07/19, Breeding Confirmed!


west rutland marsh - march monitoring report

Spring started Sunday and winter returned Thursday. Some of us woke to a bit of snow on the ground and a biting breeze. Despite this RCAS tallied 31 species on its 176th walk around West Rutland Marsh. This beats last year’s 21 and the average monthly total for March of 23.

Red-winged Blackbirds are staking out their territories as are the Common Grackles. Mallards (and one Wood Duck) were seen flying over the cattails. A Belted Kingfisher was also spotted.

American Tree Sparrows are still hanging around the feeders at the boardwalk. Song Sparrows have returned in good numbers with 14 spotted (and many heard singing).

Two Carolina Wrens were heard. Bird song everywhere is ramping up despite the cool temperatures.

One highlight of the walk was a Northern Shrike perched high on a tree. It has been spotted on and off (mostly off!) at this location during this past winter.

Another highlight of the day was a male Northern Bluebird.

A Northern Flicker was heard across from the boardwalk and two Turkey Vultures were feasting on something along Marble Street on our return.

Our next marsh walk is scheduled for Saturday, April 23, for (please note!) 7 a.m.

Today's list:

Canada Goose  111   
Wood Duck  1
Mallard  14
Wild Turkey  36
Turkey Vulture  2
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Mourning Dove  17
Belted Kingfisher  1
Downy Woodpecker  4
Northern Flicker  1
Pileated Woodpecker  1
Northern Shrike  1
Blue Jay  5
American Crow  7
Common Raven  1
Black-capped Chickadee  19
Tufted Titmouse  2
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Carolina Wren  2
Eastern Bluebird  1
American Robin  14
European Starling  7
American Tree Sparrow  7
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)  22
Song Sparrow  14
Northern Cardinal  7
Red-winged Blackbird  23
Common Grackle  11
House Finch  3
American Goldfinch  38
House Sparrow  3



taking action

Golden-winged Warbler, a species of concernA visit to the voting booth is not the only way we can make our wishes known to our elected representatives. Following the legislative process, here in Vermont and nationally, is important too, but it can be bewildering and sometimes frustrating.

How can we know what’s coming up and the ramifications of proposed bills when it comes to environmental issues? Audubon’s Activist Alerts are the answer. By signing up you’ll receive emails on important issues, proposed legislation and upcoming votes. The alerts are tailored to where you live matching you to your national and state lawmakers. The alerts contain simple steps to have you take action. Click here to sign up.