What You Can Do
National Audubon
Friday
Jul182014

day trip: the birds of vermont museum & green mountain audubon center

This summer, the Birds of Vermont Museum in Huntington, has a special exhibit commemorating 100 years since the death of the last passenger pigeon, Martha, at a Cincinnati zoo. In the 1800s billions of passenger pigeons, flying in huge, tight-knit flocks, darkened the skies. The resulting massive excrement entirely wiped out many farmers’ crops and decimated total woodlots. The birds reached such numbers despite the female laying only one egg at each nesting. The telegraph and the railroad caused the passenger pigeon’s decline and extinction. With the advent of the telegraph, flock sightings and roosting areas could be quickly transmitted, and, via railroad, sportsman hunters rapidly congregated at those sites.

The exhibit includes many fascinating details about the biology of the bird. It is accompanied by photographs and contemporary art interpretations of the meaning of extinction. This special show is on display until the end of October.

The Birds of Vermont Museum was established in 1986 to preserve and exhibit the bird carvings of Robert N. Spear, Jr. Bob Spear has carved 488 birds over 35 years. His quest began in the 1930s when he challenged himself to carve a parakeet that had flown into the woodshed of his family’s farm in Colchester. A career as a technical specialist with General Electric supplied his livelihood, but he carved on his lunch break and when he was off work. In an introductory eight-minute video, Mr. Spear demonstrates the intricate carving and painting methods he has devised to create a lifelike appearance of the birds, yet ensure depiction of precise field marks. The background herbaceous vegetation has also been designed and constructed by him. It begins with sheets of tin. His carving studio, adjacent to the museum, is open to visitors.

The museum’s main large second floor room showcases Vermont birds. Each species, male and female is exhibited within its natural habitat. Look closely and amidst the abundant flora you will find the nest with eggs. Not only are the birds accurate in detail, and beautiful in color, but they are artfully poised in their characteristic stance and activities. The species are organized by family and genus (for example, all warblers are along one aisle) so the viewer has the opportunity to compare and contrast fine differentiating features.

Be sure to ask at the main desk for the little gizmo that lets you hear the bird calls. Each display has a bar code label above the species name. Just press the button on the gizmo, do a nice even sweep across the bar code, and you will hear the clear distinctive song of the species.

The second floor has a separate composite exhibit of owls, and, on the balcony, (and suspended from the ceiling), of raptors.

The first floor has a diorama of wetland birds and a separate room with a selection of tropical birds. Around the corner is a huge picture window facing an open yard with several birdfeeders. Comfortable chairs are nearby and numerous binoculars for your use sit on the window sill. Indigo buntings were the prize sighting when I was there in May. A small gift shop is well-stocked with nature books for children and adults. There are many interesting titles which go far beyond basic field guides.

The museum is open daily May 1 through October 31, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and $3 for kids. It is located on Sherman Hollow Road in Huntington. It is indicated in the Vermont Atlas & Gazetteer or go to their website, www.birdsofvermont.org, for directions. The phone number is 802-437-2167.

Back down Sherman Hollow Road is the Green Mountain Audubon Center, consisting of two barn-size buildings. Trail maps are available at the kiosk. I had just enough time to do the Hires Trail following my visit to the Birds of Vermont Museum. It was easy, generally well-marked and otherwise clearly evident with a densely-packed bed (and few rocks or roots). I didn’t even notice that it gently ascended to Lookout Rock which afforded a nice vista of Mt. Mansfield and Camel’s Hump. Spring Beauties were blooming at the side of the trail during my visit. The entire trail system is five miles. Other trail headings suggest different environments – beaver ponds, hemlock swamp, white pine, sugar bush and sensory trails. It is open to the public at no charge, daily from dawn to dusk. Their website is www.vtaudubon.org and the phone is 802-434-3068.

Saturday
Jul122014

west rutland marsh - july monitoring walk

Canada Lilies grace the marshYou couldn’t ask for a better day to complete 13 years of monthly monitoring at West Rutland Marsh. Fourteen observers brought the number of people who have participated over the years to 1,811. The species total for the years stands at 146 (Least Sandpiper was our newest addition in May).

Great weather and the results of the nesting season brought the number of individual birds up with 56 species observed. This is six above our average for July and four more than what was seen or heard one year ago.

One of the highlights of summer time birding at West Rutland Marsh is seeing a Least Bittern. One was observed from the boardwalk to the north. Not to be outdone, five American Bitterns, four Green Herons and three Great Blue Herons were seen flying over the marsh.

On Marble Street, where the power line crosses, there were oohs and aahs over three young Virginia Rails, still black puffs of feathers. No adult was seen, but no doubt one was nearby (another rail was heard from the boardwalk).

A Wilson’s Snipe was seen in flight. Although we know they are present at the marsh, we don't see them often.

Alder and Willow flycatchers have become quiet with only one and two heard, respectively. The Eastern Kingbirds, however, are still quite vocal.

Many birds were carrying food for young or feeding young, including a Veery, a species that has been well-represented at the marsh this year. Wood Thrush and Hermit Thrush were also heard.

The raptor count was low today with one Northern Harrier.

The next marsh walk is scheduled for Thursday, August 21, at 7 a.m.

Today’s list:

Mallard  1
American Bittern  5
Least Bittern  1
Great Blue Heron  3
Green Heron  4
Turkey Vulture  2
Northern Harrier  1
Virginia Rail  4
Wilson's Snipe  1
Mourning Dove  14
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Belted Kingfisher  3
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  8
Downy Woodpecker  1
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Pileated Woodpecker  1
Alder Flycatcher  1
Willow Flycatcher  2
Eastern Phoebe  2
Eastern Kingbird  12    
Yellow-throated Vireo  1
Warbling Vireo  6
Red-eyed Vireo  10
Blue Jay  3
American Crow  4
Common Raven  4
Tree Swallow  28
Barn Swallow  7
Black-capped Chickadee  20
White-breasted Nuthatch  3
House Wren  2
Marsh Wren  14
Eastern Bluebird  2
Veery  14    
Hermit Thrush  1
Wood Thrush  1
American Robin  6
Gray Catbird  13    
Brown Thrasher  1
European Starling  1
Cedar Waxwing  24
Ovenbird  4
Common Yellowthroat  22   
American Redstart  5
Yellow Warbler  3
Chestnut-sided Warbler  1
Song Sparrow  20
Swamp Sparrow  16
Scarlet Tanager  1
Northern Cardinal  3
Indigo Bunting  1
Red-winged Blackbird  17
Common Grackle  5
Purple Finch  1
American Goldfinch  10
House Sparrow  1

Thursday
Jun262014

2014 rcas annual meeting

On June 25, RCAS members gathered for our annual meeting and election of officers. Co-presidents Roy Pilcher and Marv Elliott thanked board members and volunteers for all that has been accomplished during the past year.

Marv added that with more volunteers we can improve what we do, lighten the load for everyone, and look to expand our mission: To foster an enjoyment of birds and the preservation of their habitat.

A delicious potluck supper was served before the official meeting began. After the annual report was given, there was a presentation of member photos, which was a huge success. If you missed the meeting, or would like to see the wonderful pictures again, click here for the RCAS Flickr page. 

If you want to join Rutland County Audubon or are interested in volunteering, please email us at birding@rutlandcountyaudubon.org.

This year’s annual report:

2013-14 Rutland County Audubon Annual Report

CONSERVATION/ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION

Participated in the annual Vermont Green-Up Day at West Rutland Marsh on 05/03/2014 for the twenty-second consecutive year.

As of today’s annual meeting, RCAS has undertaken 155 consecutive months of bird monitoring of the West Rutland Marsh, a Vermont Important Bird Area and Rutland County Audubon designated Birding Hotspot. One hundred forty-six bird species have been tallied by 1,797 participants. All data is recorded on eBird. 

Birding Hot Spot monitoring continued at Aitken State Forest, Bomoseen State Park, Pomainville WMA, Cadwell Loop of the Pittsford Trails, Diamond Run Nature Trails, Lefferts Pond, Kent Pond, Northwood Park, Pleasant Street Power Line and Tinmouth Chanel. All data is recorded on eBird.

Mountain Top Farm bird monitoring in Chittenden continued under the spring/summer/fall protocol initiated on 06/14/2012 under the direction of Steve Hagenbuch, Audubon Vermont’s Forest Bird Initiative biologist.

Secretary Kathleen Guinness records the minutesParticipated for a third year in a monitoring program along the VELCO power line right of way for seven brush/grassland bird species in particular the Golden-winged Warbler.

Currently undertaking a bird survey of the Blueberry Hill Wildlife Management Area, consisting of four parcels, on behalf of Vermont Forests and Parks.

Financially supported the Four Winds program at Neshobe Elementary School, the Vermont Bobolink Project, the Salamander Crossing Project and the Vermont Center for Ecostudies and their sponsorship of the VT eBird portal.

EDUCATION AND OUTREACH

Participated in the Green Mountain College Orientation Day in August. 

Maintained the kiosk and immediate area at the entrance of the West Rutland Marsh. Signage is renewed and marsh-related information posted. Minor repair work was undertaken on the boardwalk                                

Updated bird lists for the West Rutland Marsh, Pomainville WMA and the Rutland Community Garden information kiosks. A link to the RCAS birding hotspot is on the Pittsford Trails webpage.

Sponsored Joan Hoffmann, artist, jointly with the Chaffee Arts Center for a program on 01/28/2014.

Sponsored a program by Sara Zahendra from the Vermont Center for Ecostudies on “Bumblebees” at the Rutland Free Library on 02/26/2014.

Sponsored Marv Elliott, RCAS co-president’s “Texas Birding” presentation at the Brandon Library on 04/08/2014 and at the Rutland Public Library on 05/05/2014.

Created a display for the Vermont State Fair’s Forestry Pavilion in Rutland. This year a raffle was included for a 50-lb. bag of bird seed.  Thanks to Kathleen Guinness and Marsha Booker for their leadership.

Continued with the Audubon Adventures program. Currently in use in 7 classrooms and two after-school programs, thanks to coordinator Marsha Booker.

Submitted the West Rutland Marsh annual report to the Town of West Rutland to be incorporated into their annual Town Report.

ADVOCACY   

RCAS continues to support the work of the local based USDA/NRCS office in the expansion of the Wetland Reserve Program particularly along the Otter Creek and most recently involving a newly acquired 1,300-acre spread in Brandon.

Participated in several hearings on a Solar Power Project proposed for Rutland Town.

It is noted that the proposed siting wind turbine project along the Taconic Mountain Range in Rutland County has been withdrawn. RCAS was opposed to the project because of its potential negative impact on raptor migrations along the siting ridge.

ORGANIZATION

Monthly board meetings, scheduled for the third Thursday of each month, were held throughout the year except December, (Christmas Bird Count), and June, (Annual Meeting) and one “snow day”.

A first and potentially annual pot-luck “Member Appreciation” gathering was held on 03/08/2014 in recognition of Roy’s contributions to Rutland County Audubon over the past 40 years!

A full delegation of RCAS members attended the Fall Vermont Chapter Assembly on 11/16/2013 at the Green Mountain Audubon Center in Huntington and the Spring Assembly at the Birds of Vermont Museum in Huntington on 04/16/2013 hosted by Green Mountain Audubon.

Current RCAS membership stands at ~310 National Members. 

The continuously developing website averages in excess of 2,000 viewers per month of which more than 600 are unique viewers. Thanks to Webmaster David Jenne and Sue Elliott. Email alerts for new website articles and upcoming events are sent regularly by Tim Abraham.

The RCAS Flickr page for photos of the birds of Rutland County and Audubon is updated regularly.

The RCAS Facebook page currently has 107 ‘likes.’

RCAS accounts for 2012-2013 were reviewed and found in order by George Wetmore.

RCAS now has its own personalized cap designed by Ralph Nimtz and proudly worn by many members!

ACTIVITIES                                                                                                                   

Sponsored the 20th “Annual West Rutland Butterfly Count” on 07/06/2013.  Eight participants tallied 21 species and 112 individual butterflies. The numbers reflect one of the lowest counts over the years. Data all entered on the North America Butterfly Association website.

The annual “Mount Philo Broad-winged Hawk Migration Watch” field trip took place on 09/14/2013. An extension to Addison County provided views of Golden Plover, Pectoral Sandpiper and Baird’s Sandpiper.

RCAS undertook Bird Seed Sales and Membership Recruitment drives at Garland’s Agway in Rutland on 11/02/2013 and at Brandon’s new Blue Seal facility on 01/18/2014.   

The 40th “Annual Christmas Bird Count and Pot Luck Supper” was held on 12/28/2013.  Thirty participants tallied 51 species representing 8,760 individual birds. Numbers were well within the ten-year running averages. All Christmas Bird Count data is entered on eBird.

Champlain Valley birding field trip, “Winter Regulars and Rarities” was held 01/11/2014, Sue Wetmore leader.

RCAS participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count, 02/14/2014-02/17/2014.

Century County Count XIX attracted 12 participants who recorded 90 species during 13 hours of birding on Saturday, 05/31/2014. Twenty-five checklists were submitted to eBird. Donations amounting to $75 were directed to Audubon Vermont toward their bird monitoring projects.

The Annual Meeting and Social was held at the Proctor Free Library on Wednesday, 06/25/2014.  “The program was a “Show and Tell” of members' favorite wildlife images.

Thursday
Jun192014

west rutland marsh - june monitoring walk

a Red-tailed Hawk soars over the marshIt’s hard to beat West Rutland Marsh in June. (Did we say that about May?) Twenty birders gathered to tally 58 species on our 155th marsh monitoring walk. This is a bit below last year’s June walk total of 66 species, but only two below our average of 60 for this month of the year. 

As always there were many highlights as this season produces a lot of bird song and activity. With the nesting season in full swing, several species were seen with mouths full of food intended for young. Of great interest was a pair of Northern Harriers seen circling against the mountain. As they descended, we could see there was food in the talons of the female, who eventually dropped down and out of our sight.

The group had good looks at an American Bittern and a Green Heron as they flew a long distance across the marsh. Two Virginia Rails were heard, one along the boardwalk and the other along Water Street. Marsh Wrens and Swamp Sparrows seemed to be singing everywhere.

It took a bit of effort, but we finally spied two Killdeer in the plowed field on Pleasant Street after hearing one fly over.

Veerys were singing their ethereal song in several places along the route while a Wood Thrush was singing in the woods across from the boardwalk.

Warblers today included Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush (being heard regularly along Whipple Hollow Road), Black-and-white Warbler (several), American Redstart, and Chestnut-sided Warbler. Common Yellowthroats and Yellow Warblers were, of course, numerous.

Four-spotted Skimmer - not a bird!Next month’s walk, which will complete 13 years of consecutive monthly monitoring, is scheduled for Saturday, July 12 at 7 a.m.

Today’s list:

Wood Duck  1
Mallard  9
American Bittern  1
Great Blue Heron  1
Green Heron  1
Turkey Vulture  5
Northern Harrier  2
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Virginia Rail  2
Killdeer  2
Mourning Dove  8
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Downy Woodpecker  4
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)  3
Pileated Woodpecker  1
Eastern Wood-Pewee  1
Alder Flycatcher  2
Willow Flycatcher  3
Least Flycatcher  3
Eastern Phoebe  4
Eastern Kingbird  6
Warbling Vireo  4
Red-eyed Vireo  8
Blue Jay  4
American Crow  12
Common Raven  3
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  1
Tree Swallow  5
Barn Swallow  6
Black-capped Chickadee  6
Tufted Titmouse  1
House Wren  2
Marsh Wren  7
Veery  6
Wood Thrush  1
American Robin  6
Gray Catbird  6
European Starling  1
Cedar Waxwing  13
Ovenbird  4
Northern Waterthrush  1
Black-and-white Warbler  5
Common Yellowthroat  10
American Redstart  2
Yellow Warbler  10
Chestnut-sided Warbler  3
Chipping Sparrow  2
Song Sparrow  9
Swamp Sparrow  11
Northern Cardinal  3
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  2
Red-winged Blackbird  15
Common Grackle  9
Baltimore Oriole  3
American Goldfinch  14
House Sparrow  8

Sunday
Jun012014

century count XIX

RCAS was a decade short of a century on May 31. Our 19th annual attempt to tally 100 species in Rutland County missed what seemed to be very obvious species. However, what we lacked in quantity was more than compensated by some unusual species as well as the opportunity to view some of Vermont’s beautiful scenery on our tour around the county.

After a couple quick stops, the real birding began along the Pleasant Street power line in West Rutland. As the early morning mist lifted over West Rutland Marsh below, the Prairie Warblers, Eastern Towhees and Field Sparrows were tuning up. Among the growing bird song we heard ‘bee buzz’ and knew one of the winged warblers was about, probably a Blue-winged Warbler. Following the new guidelines for reporting the winged warblers, we tracked them down (two males) and found they were indeed Blue-winged Warblers with all the appropriate field marks.

Sharp ears picked up a Brown Thrasher on the power line. A Nashville Warbler was also spotted and a Red-breasted Nuthatch was heard in the conifers along the edge. Oddly, we saw no White-breasted Nuthatch during the count.

Alder FlycatcherA good deal of time was spent at West Rutland Marsh where most of the expected species were seen or heard. This included five Virginia Rails heard along the boardwalk, Water Street and Pleasant Street and two American Bitterns flying over the marsh. A Marsh Wren was making a racket near the boardwalk so no doubt there is a nest nearby.

The next stop was the Route 4 rest area, which is probably ‘tick central’ for Vermont (please see our previous article for important information on ticks). American Redstarts are abundant in this area as are Scarlet Tanagers and Indigo Buntings. The highlight here and the highlight for the day was a Cerulean Warbler in the same area where it was seen in 2010 and 2011. It was in full song and, after much searching, we were able to glimpse enough of the bird to be confident of the identification.

After a break for cookies, we headed to the Lake Bomoseen area, where the north end (the Lake Bomoseen/Hubbardton Marshes IBA) is a good prospect for ducks. There we were surprised to find four male Ring-necked Ducks. We also saw our first Killdeer for the day (that and a Wilson’s Snipe at Lake Hortonia were our only shorebirds of the day).

As we headed down Black Pond/Moscow Road toward our lunch stop at Bomoseen State Park, we picked up Wood Duck, a Double-crested Cormorant on Breese Pond, a Black-billed Cuckoo and a Northern Waterthrush. A Ruby-throated Hummingbird was perched on a dead snag where we find him every year. Our only White-throated Sparrow of the day was found along this road.

A second Black-billed Cuckoo was at Bomoseen State Park where we also heard a Yellow-throated Vireo and saw an active Baltimore Oriole nest.

From the upper lot of the Kehoe Fishing Access along Lake Bomoseen we found the expected Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Black-and-white Warbler. A Red-bellied Woodpecker was heard here and a Common Loon in basic plumage was seen out on the lake.

KilldeerAt the Fair Haven Municipal Airport we found four fuzzy Killdeer chicks with their parents fussing nearby. A second pair of Killdeer was guarding a nest with four eggs.

Our travels toward and through Benson yielded the expected Bobolinks and a Savannah Sparrow. Along Pleasant Valley Road in Benson we were happy to hear a Northern Mockingbird and an Eastern Meadowlark as well as more Bobolinks.

At the fishing access on Lake Hortonia the aforementioned Wilson’s Snipe were calling incessantly and a female Wood Duck was being trailed by eight young. Two female Hooded Mergansers were on Burr Pond in Sudbury.

Our final stop along Route 73, at a property recently restored under the Wetland Reserve Program on the Sudbury/Brandon line, we were treated to Common Gallinule, Pied-billed Grebe, American Bittern and Virginia Rail.

Thanks to all the sharp-eyed, sharp-eared participants and to Roy Pilcher for planning the trip.

The full list:  

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Mallard
Ring-necked Duck
Hooded Merganser
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
American Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
Virginia Rail
Common Gallinule
Killdeer
Wilson's Snipe
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Black-billed Cuckoo
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Yellow-throated Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Marsh Wren
Eastern Bluebird
Veery
Hermit Thrush
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Ovenbird
Northern Waterthrush
Blue-winged Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Cerulean Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Canada Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Bobolink
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow