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west rutland marsh - june monitoring report

Even on a cool morning in June at West Rutland Marsh, with a few showers, beats just about any other month of the year. Today 13 participants tallied 62 species, one above our June average and four below one year ago.

Gray CatbirdWe joked that today was a bit of a catwalk as we talked to newcomers about the difference between cattails (good) and phragmites (bad), plenty of yakking catbirds, the remains of a dead catfish in the road (which was really probably a sucker) and a non-Audubon approved cat that followed us down the road. Although we take our monitoring seriously we never leave fun out of the equation!

The bird of the day was a flyover Osprey, a species rarely seen at the marsh, and our only raptor of the day.

The expected marsh species were present: a Virginia Rail, two American Bitterns, a flyover Great Blue Heron as well as lots of Marsh Wrens and Swamp Sparrows. A couple sets of sharp ears picked out the low chuckle of a Least Bittern about halfway between the kiosk and the green house. A Green Heron along Pleasant Street was perched on a dead tree, giving its ‘skeow’ call and giving everyone the opportunity for a good look while a second heron flew by.

Green HeronAlong the way we saw an Eastern Kingbird nest, a Baltimore Oriole nest and a Common Grackle nest with young. We know there were plenty more we missed!

The warbler songs were bit muted along Whipple Hollow Road as a light rain started. Nevertheless, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Black-and-white Warbler, Nashville Warbler, American Redstart, Blackburnian Warbler and Yellow-rumped Warbler were all heard. Plenty of Common Yellowthroats and Yellow Warblers were heard along the marshier parts of the route, along with more redstarts and a Chestnut-sided Warbler.

Thanks to all the new participants who joined us today. If you haven’t participated in a marsh walk we hope to see you soon at one of them!

Today’s list:

Canada Goose  6
Mallard  3   
American Bittern  2
Least Bittern  1   
Great Blue Heron  1
Green Heron  2
Osprey  1
Virginia Rail  1
Wilson's Snipe  4
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  1
Mourning Dove  8
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  2
Downy Woodpecker  2
Northern Flicker  2
Pileated Woodpecker  2
Eastern Wood-Pewee  2
Alder Flycatcher  7
Willow Flycatcher  5
Eastern Phoebe  1
Great Crested Flycatcher  1
Eastern Kingbird  4
Warbling Vireo  6
Red-eyed Vireo  10
Blue Jay  4
American Crow  2
Common Raven  2
Tree Swallow  4
Black-capped Chickadee  7
Tufted Titmouse  1
Brown Creeper  2
House Wren  4
Marsh Wren  11
Veery  7
Wood Thrush  1
American Robin  12
Gray Catbird  8
European Starling  3
Cedar Waxwing  8
Ovenbird  4
Northern Waterthrush  1
Black-and-white Warbler  2
Nashville Warbler  1
Common Yellowthroat  13
American Redstart  6
Blackburnian Warbler  1
Yellow Warbler  11
Chestnut-sided Warbler  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1
Chipping Sparrow  1
Savannah Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  9
Swamp Sparrow  10
Northern Cardinal  5
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  2
Red-winged Blackbird  17
Common Grackle  5
Brown-headed Cowbird  2
Baltimore Oriole  4
House Finch  1
American Goldfinch  8
House Sparrow  3


century count xxi

Bingo! 100 on the nose for today’s RCAS annual Century Count, our annual attempt to tally 100 species in the county. 

Prairie WarblerThis year marked our 21st attempt and, after two years of falling short, it was satisfying to reach our goal. Although grateful for the sunny weather, it felt more like the 4th of July rather than Memorial Day weekend. Bird song seemed to be a bit muted. 

As the group gathered at the West Rutland Price Chopper parking lot a Belted Kingfisher flew over, an unusual site for that location, but a good omen for the day. A brief stop at West Rutland Marsh yielded the usual suspects – Willow and Alder flycatcher, Yellow Warbler and Swamp Sparrow. A Wild Turkey was taking an early morning stroll down the road. 

The Pleasant Street power line is always pleasant in the early morning.  Prairie Warblers, Eastern Towhees and Field Sparrows were heard immediately. “Bees buzz” alerted us to the presence of a winged warbler which turned out to be the real deal, a Blue-winged Warbler, suitably attired for its species. A Prairie Warbler was seen carrying nesting material to an undisclosed location. A Magnolia Warbler was heard in the adjacent woods.

Then it was back to the marsh for the real treat of the morning – the fledgling Northern Saw-whet Owls. Three were spotted in the trees and brush near the nest box. Who would have thought that Least Bittern and Virginia Rail, both also heard, would be eclipsed by owls at the marsh?

Whipple Hollow Road, on the opposite side of the marsh, produced many of the same warbler species observed on last week’s marsh walk: Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Black-and-white Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided Warbler and Canada Warbler. 

Next it was on the take on the ticks at the Route 4 rest area. Eastern Wood-Pewee was heard for the first time for the day. Two Wood Thrushes gave a lovely concert despite the traffic noise from Route 4 below. Then finally we found our target – the Cerulean Warbler! At the same area both the Cerulean and a Blackburnian Warbler were singing, reminding us that it is impossible to discern a Cerulean by song alone. Finally, after much neck-breaking searching, we spotted a male Cerulean quite high (of course!) in the trees. It appeared to be hawking insects and, at one point, sat on a branch quivering its wings, leading us to believe a female was nearby.

Along the nature trail at Castleton University we picked up Pine Warbler and Louisiana Waterthrush. While sitting in traffic waiting for the marching bands from the Castleton parade to clear, we added Chimney Swift and Carolina Wren.

Our lunch stop at Bomoseen State Park was a welcome respite from the heat. While there we heard Yellow-throated Vireo and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. An American Redstart was building nest and a Scarlet Tanager was spotted.

KilldeerBobolinks were found at the Fair Haven Airport and two very hot Killdeer were sitting tight on their nests to keep their eggs cool. 

It is becoming difficult to see anything on the conserved land along Route 73 in Brandon/Sudbury as the willows and other vegetation has grown up. However, six Great Blue Herons were seen in flight, along with two Wood Duck. There was a lot of rattling of Marsh Wrens. A Common Gallinule was also heard.

The day ended with a stop at Wildcat Road and Lefferts Pond in Chittenden, where we picked up Winter Wren, Brown Creeper, Black-throated Blue Warbler and Yellow-rumped Warbler. A Broad-winged Hawk was seen perched in the dark woods. And the final bird of the day: a Common Loon floating serenely on Chittenden Reservoir. 

Every Century Count has a species that is inexplicably missed. This year there were three: Hermit Thrush, Black-throated Green Warbler and House Finch (a Purple Finch/House Finch was seen, but its true identity was never determined).

Once again, thanks to Roy Pilcher, for planning the trip and the 12 participants who used their sharp eyes and ears to good advantage.

The day's list (27 eBird checklists were entered for the day):


Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Wild Turkey
Common Loon
American Bittern
Least Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Northern Harrier
Broad-winged Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Virginia Rail
Common Gallinule
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Northern Saw-whet Owl
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
American Kestrel
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Alder Flycatcher
Willow Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Yellow-throated Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
House Wren
Winter Wren
Marsh Wren
Carolina Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Louisiana Waterthrush
Northern Waterthrush
Blue-winged Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Cerulean Warbler
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Pine Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Canada Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
White-throated Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Eastern Towhee
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow



west rutland marsh - may monitoring report

Nothing beats May at the marsh! This beautiful morning 26 participants tallied 74 species, not quite close to last May’s 81, but well above this month’s average of 68.

A Least Bittern was heard along Marble Street, just north of the kiosk, giving its low chuckle. One American Bittern was heard and one was seen. Two Green Herons were observed at the mid-point of the walk along Pleasant Street. Five Great Blue Herons were flying high in formation, perhaps towards the heronry in Florence.

Two Virginia Rails were seen well near the boardwalk engaged in, well, making more rails. A third rail was heard along Water Street. Wilson’s Snipe have been in much evidence this year – one was heard from the boardwalk and there were two more near the power line.

Virginia RailThe full flycatcher contingent is in: Alder, Willow, Least, Great-crested Flycatcher were all present as well as Eastern Phoebe and Eastern Kingbird, all very vocal.

A Red-breasted Nuthatch, a species not often seen at the marsh, was observed near a possible nest hole. Interestingly no White-breasted Nuthatches were seen. 

All three of the expected thrushes were singing – Veery, Hermit and Wood. A fourth thrush, an American Robin, was seen carrying food. Red-winged Blackbirds and Grackles were also carrying food so the season is well underway. 

Along with Yellow Warblers and Common Yellowthroats along the whole route, there was a nice assortment of warblers along Whipple Hollow Road. Three Canada Warblers and a Northern Waterthrush were in their usual spots. Also present were Ovenbird, Black-and-white, Nashville, American Redstart, Northern Parula, Blackburnian, Chestnut-sided, Yellow-rumped and Black-throated Green.

One Savannah Sparrow was singing along Marble Street.

The next marsh walk is scheduled for Saturday, June 11, at 7 a.m.

The day's list:

Canada Goose 14
Wood Duck 1
Mallard 3
Wild Turkey 1
American Bittern 2
Least Bittern 1
Great Blue Heron 5
Green Heron 2
Turkey Vulture 1
Virginia Rail 3
Wilson's Snipe 3
Mourning Dove 18
Belted Kingfisher 1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 2
Downy Woodpecker 5
Hairy Woodpecker 2
Northern Flicker 1
Pileated Woodpecker 2
Alder Flycatcher 3
Willow Flycatcher 2
Least Flycatcher 6
Eastern Phoebe 4
Great Crested Flycatcher 2
Eastern Kingbird 4
Yellow-throated Vireo 1

Warbling Vireo 9
Red-eyed Vireo 7
Blue Jay 13
American Crow 3
Common Raven 4
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 2
Tree Swallow 5
Barn Swallow 6
Black-capped Chickadee 13
Tufted Titmouse 4
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
House Wren 3
Marsh Wren 11
Veery 7
Hermit Thrush 1
Wood Thrush 1
American Robin 8
Gray Catbird 18
European Starling 2
Cedar Waxwing 4
Ovenbird 7
Northern Waterthrush 1
Black-and-white Warbler 4
Nashville Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 30
American Redstart 14
Northern Parula 2
Blackburnian Warbler 1
Yellow Warbler 19
Chestnut-sided Warbler 3
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1
Black-throated Green Warbler 2
Canada Warbler 3
Chipping Sparrow 2
Savannah Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 12
Swamp Sparrow 17
Eastern Towhee 1
Scarlet Tanager 2
Northern Cardinal 6
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 1
Red-winged Blackbird 34
Common Grackle 8
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
Baltimore Oriole 4
House Finch 2
Purple Finch 3
American Goldfinch 26
House Sparrow 1


flight of the snowbird

Ring-billed GullMention the term "snowbird" and what comes to mind? If you are a birder you are hoping for an influx of birds from Canada to our area. However if you are of a certain age you think of leaving the cold for warmer climes. My story involves both of these migrants.

In late December we headed south to Titusville, Florida which is on the east coast right across from the Kennedy Space Center. Just minutes away is the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge offers a wide variety of winter migrants as well as endemics. A tour through the Black Point Drive is always filled with great flocks of waders, coots, ducks and other species that can be observed fairly close up.

Playalinda Beach is a short ride from this drive and offers a chance of seeing Northern Gannets as well as shorebirds such as Ruddy Turnstones and the ever cute Sanderlings. As I made my way down this beautiful beach I came upon a small group of Royal Terns and Laughing and Ring-billed gulls.

Close inspection of the group revealed that one of the Ring-billed Gulls was banded, both with the standard aluminum band plus a blue tag on the other leg. I quickly got out my camera and took some photos of the gull. Upon returning to our campground I reviewed the photos and found that the band had the alpha-numeric code of 3AF. Thanks to technology I went online and googled "ring-billed gulls with bands." The site came up immediately and I filled out the form with all the details of where and when as well as the identification tag. The next morning my email had been answered. Professor Jean-Francois Giroux, a professor at the University of Quebec in Montreal, is part of a study of these gulls and how they disperse.

My bird, I was told, is a male, banded on May 17, 2012 on Ile Delauriers, Varennes, Quebec. Subsequently it has traveled from there to Playalinda Beach and has been seen most winters. Come late March this snowbird makes his way back to Canada.

A couple of years ago I had seen a Ring-billed Gull on the very same stretch of beach with the same tag! The odds of seeing a tagged bird more than once is rather remote, but here was my bird loafing in the sunshine once again!

Finding birds with this type of banding and reporting the information to the proper study groups gives the researchers valuable data. So be on the lookout for any tagged birds, get a photo or write down the tag information. This is just another venue for the citizen scientist to add to the knowledge of migratory birds.



annual meeting and elections announcement

Rutland County Audubon Society will hold its annual meeting on Wednesday, July 6, 2016 at the Proctor Library, 6 PM. The primary purpose of the meeting is the election of officers and directors for the following year. Nominations are now open. If you are interested or know someone who would be a good candidate please contact Marv Elliott at birding@rutlandcountyaudubon.org. Nominations will be taken from the floor.

The evening will include a potluck supper. Bring a dish to share. Utensils, beverages and a dessert will be provided.