What You Can Do
National Audubon

vce julie nicholson citizen science award

The following articled is reprinted from the Vermont Center for Ecostudies Field Notes, written by Susan Hindinger:

This year VCE honors Marv and Sue Elliott with the Julie Nicholson Citizen Science Award. This brings the award full circle, as Marv and Sue credit its namesake for their introduction to citizen science and its first recipient, Roy Pilcher, for inspiring their interest in birding.

Marv and Sue grew up in New York, Marv on a Hudson valley dairy farm where he enjoyed hunting and fishing. Sue’s suburban childhood was spent playing outside with the neighborhood kids, chasing the ice cream truck, and generally staying out of her mother’s hair until dinnertime.

Marv studied Agricultural Economics at Cornell, which led to a job as a bank’s farm representative and a career in commercial lending and branch banking. Sue studied English Literature at Susquehanna University and made her career in banking as well. Banking brought them to Vermont in the 1990s when Marv came to work for Marble Bank in Rutland. Not long after arriving, they attended a Rutland County Audubon bird walk led by Roy Pilcher and were instantly hooked. After skipping a second walk due to bad weather, they found out the group went anyway and saw great things (lesson learned)!

Friendships developed as they shared observations and outings with others in the birding community. “We always joke that the only people we know in Vermont are birders,” Sue remarks, “but the people we’ve met here, the variety of things we’ve seen, and the laughs and knowledge we’ve shared with others are a huge part of our lives.”

Marv and Sue name Roy as their “greatest birding and citizen science inspiration.” Sue recalls a windy, cold, and rainy May day at Kent Pond in Killington when she and Marv spotted a Pacific Loon. “I called Roy to tell him but was so excited I had to put Marv on the phone to describe the bird. Twenty minutes later, Roy came racing up in a cloud of dust, followed immediately by Sue Wetmore whom we had also called.”

As they became involved in the birding community, Sue’s postings on the VTBird listserv caught Julie Nicholson’s eye. Julie invited Sue to submit her sightings quarterly to the Record of Vermont Birds, and this became a springboard to Sue’s participation in Vermont eBird, iNaturalist, eButterfly, the Breeding Bird Survey, and a host of other citizen science projects. “Vermont is the perfect place for citizen science projects, with its small size and environmental ethic,” says Sue, “and with so many birders and naturalists all over the state, there are endless opportunities for learning new things.”

As Marv’s passion for birds developed, so did his commitment to preserving their habitat. His efforts with Rutland County Audubon have included working to preserve 55 acres at West Rutland Marsh. “The [citizen science] projects undertaken by VCE are important because the more information we acquire, the better we can be at conservation,” he observes.

Whether participating in the Christmas Bird Count, Project FeederWatch, the Breeding Bird Atlas, eBird, LoonWatch, or even as Plant Conservation Volunteers for the New England Wildflower Society, Marv and Sue enrich and enliven the citizen science community in Vermont with their tireless efforts on behalf of wildlife conservation.


west rutland marsh - december monitoring report

The last monitoring walk of 2014 proved to be very enjoyable for five participants. After the unprecedented storm that kept many Vermonters indoors (some in the cold and dark) for several days, the snowy landscape, fresh air and hint of sunshine were very welcome.

Today’s outing, our 161st consecutive monthly walk, tallied the highest number recorded for this month of the year. Last year’s December walk came in at 19 which is also the December monthly average.

The feeders at the boardwalk were very active. Species there included American Tree Sparrow, House Finch and one male Purple Finch. Six Red-winged Blackbirds were in the nearby trees. Last winter a small flock of blackbirds spent the winter along Marble Street. Perhaps today's will do the same.

Wild TurkeysWoodpeckers were represented in good numbers and included a Red-bellied Woodpecker. Although this species has been seen at the marsh before, this is the first time it has been recorded on the monitoring walk. A Pileated Woodpecker was also observed.

A flock of Wild Turkeys was in its usual spot in the cornfield at the corner of Pleasant Street and Whipple Hollow Road.

A tight flock of Pine Siskins flew over Whipple Hollow Road. Two Red-tailed Hawks were seen and later presumably one of the two was interacting in the sky with a Common Raven.

Our next marsh walk is scheduled for Thursday, January 22, at 8 a.m.

Today’s list:

Mallard  2
Wild Turkey  27
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Mourning Dove  25
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Downy Woodpecker  9
Hairy Woodpecker  4
Pileated Woodpecker  1
Blue Jay  19
American Crow  5
Common Raven  2
Black-capped Chickadee  38
Tufted Titmouse  2
White-breasted Nuthatch  6
American Robin  1
European Starling  17
American Tree Sparrow  10
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)  3
Northern Cardinal  6
Red-winged Blackbird  6
House Finch  5
Purple Finch  1
Pine Siskin  16
American Goldfinch  6
House Sparrow  10


christmas bird count: dec 27

Ruffed GrouseRutland County’s annual Christmas Bird Count is set for Saturday, December 27. It will mark the 115th National Audubon count and the 41st Rutland County Audubon count.

Last year 22 Field Observers and eight feeder watchers tallied 8,760 individual birds spanning 51 species. These numbers were well within the ten-year running averages of 8,840 individual birds and 51.2 species.

Even with forty years of data collection, new records seem to fall with each successive count. Last year was no exception. With the observation of two Hermit Thrushes, species #101 was added to the count total. Furthermore, with the sighting of 42 Red-tailed Hawks, three Rough-legged Hawks, two Peregrine Falcons and 18 Carolina Wrens, individual species records were either equaled or exceeded.

The count area is represented by a circle 15 miles in diameter centered where Route 4 West crosses the Otter Creek.  The count area remains constant from year to year although the number of observers and weather conditions change.

As tradition dictates, a potluck supper and count down at the conclusion of the day will follow at the Proctor Free Library beginning at 6 o’clock. Beverages and flatware will be provided and participants along with family and friends are invited to bring a hot dish, salad or dessert.

For those wishing to participate, mark your calendar and reserve Saturday, December 27, for this year’s count. Field team leaders can always use new participants while feeder watchers in the count area are more than welcome. Give Roy Pilcher a call at 775-3461 or email birding@rutlandcountyaudubon.org if you would like to participate one way or another. Join the fun and contribute to the longest running citizen science field study ever undertaken, an uninterrupted one hundred and fourteen years!




west rutland marsh - november monitoring report

American Tree SparrowA stiff wind greeted three hardy participants in the monitoring walk at West Rutland Marsh, making the seasonable temperature feel frigid. Despite the weather the count was a respectable 19 species. The average for November is 18 (the high was 27 in 2001). This was our 160th consecutive monthly walk.

Appropriate to the season, 26 Wild Turkeys were spotted. The day’s lone raptor was a Red-tailed Hawk. American Tree Sparrows have returned to the feeders near the boardwalk. (A Fox Sparrow spotted the prior day was a no-show).

Two Red-breasted Nuthatches, not always reliable at the marsh, were seen along Whipple Hollow Road.

Good humor is always a part of our walks - a distant gray blob, hoped to be a northern hawk owl, turned out to be a paper wasp nest! One can always hope.

The next marsh walk is scheduled for Saturday, December 20, at 8 a.m.


Wild Turkey  26
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Mourning Dove  2
Downy Woodpecker  2
Hairy Woodpecker  2
Pileated Woodpecker  1
Blue Jay  13
American Crow  7
Common Raven  2
Black-capped Chickadee  30
Red-breasted Nuthatch  2
White-breasted Nuthatch  2
American Robin  1
American Tree Sparrow  5
Northern Cardinal  1
Red-winged Blackbird  14
House Finch  1
American Goldfinch  7
House Sparrow  4


seed sale and membership drive: thank you!

Thank you to all for making our annual seed sale and membership drive a success! Birds will be flocking to feeders around the county because of the hard work of our sponsors, Blue Seal Feeds in Brandon and Garland’s in Rutland, and all the volunteers who donated their Saturday morning to fill orders and lug bags of seed.

And welcome new members! If you haven’t already done so, take a look around our website to see what we do. We hope to see you at an event soon! You can also find us on Flickr and Facebook by typing in Rutland County Audubon.

A special thank you to board member Renee Warren for promoting Audubon and bringing in eight new members.