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great backyard bird count: february 12-15

White-breasted NuthatchThis weekend, February 12 through 15th is a great opportunity to find out what citizen science is all about. The 19th annual worldwide Great Backyard Bird Count starts this Friday. You can participate in any or all of the four days for as little as 15 minutes. It is open to birders (everyone is a birder - some don't know it yet) of all skill levels.

The GBBC is a project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Audubon and Bird Studies Canada. This year's odd weather patterns may produce some interesting results!

Click here for downloadable instructions. Need help, click here for online bird guides.


christmas bird count results

Golden-crowned KingletRutland County Audubon’s 42nd Annual Christmas Bird Count took place on Saturday, January 2. Weather conditions for the count were favorable with dry roads and temperatures a degree or two below freezing.

Count statistics reverted to the running ten-year averages for both individual birds and bird species. Count day produced 8,437 individual birds as compared to the ten-year running average of 8,480.  Day species numbered 53 with an extra two recorded during count week. This compares with a ten-year running average of 51 species. A Northern Harrier and a Rough-legged Hawk were observed during count week.

New records were set for Great Blue Heron with a sighting of 4 birds, Canada Geese that tallied 1,444 birds and Song Sparrow that came in with 12 individuals.  The larger than normal number of Canada Geese resulted from unusually large numbers that happened to be moving south on count day.

It was gratifying to welcome several new observers to the count and to the traditional and enjoyable countdown pot luck supper that concluded the day.


Our Position on BJ's Development in Rutland Town

The following is an open letter to the Editor of the Rutland Daily Herald:

The Rutland County Audubon Society (“Audubon”) needs to clarify recent misinformation in this newspaper about the proposed BJ’s project.

  • Audubon supports development that does not harm the environment and makes responsible use of natural and manmade resources.
  • As background, Audubon controls protected wetlands containing an important water source next to the proposed BJ’s that would be built by developer Saxon Partners.

Audubon controls an additional parcel of land that is unprotected from development, but which helps it shield the wetlands and fulfill its responsibility to protect them. Audubon must cooperate with the required Act 250 environmental permit if any developer wants to build there.

Eight years ago, another developer planned to build on the site proposed for BJ’s and requested Audubon’s cooperation to use its unprotected land.

Audubon was advised to cooperate in exchange for a donation of $40,000 for conservation activities because it lacked money for legal resources to fight the development.

Consequently, Audubon cooperated and the developer got his Act 250 Permit—but Audubon never received the promised funding. That development was ultimately abandoned.

The land is now being sold to Saxon Partners to construct a BJ’s with a gas station and 60,000 gallons of underground storage near Audubon’s wetlands. Audubon never agreed to cooperate with that substantial change, which still must get permission from the District Environmental Commission #1 to proceed.

Audubon tried, in good faith, to satisfy its mission to protect the environment and its legal responsibility to protect the conserved wetlands, while recognizing legitimate need for jobs, tax revenue, and places to shop. Given the material change of the BJ’s project, Audubon has refused to sign a new agreement to cooperate although asked to do so.

Marv Elliott President, Rutland County Audubon Society Rutland Town


West Rutland MarshThe importance of wetlands cannot be over-emphasized. They absorb flood waters, improve water quality and remove pollutants, and provide habitat for countless species of animals, bird, insects and plants. They also provide a refuge of quiet and peace for people. 

Check out this video (click here) on restoring Vermont's wetlands by the Vermont Natural Resources Conservation Service. RCAS's own Roy Pilcher appears in it. 


west rutland marsh - december monitoring report

The number of participants was almost more than the number of birds at today’s walk around West Rutland Marsh, our 172nd monthly walk. The species count came in at 21, four less than a year ago, but one more than our December average.         

The balmy weather was the highlight of the day and was perhaps the cause of the low count. There are plenty of fruits and seeds available and, of course, there is no snow cover yet.

American Tree Sparrows, along with chickadees, can be found in good numbers near the feeders by the boardwalk.

Two House Finches were seen, but there was no sign of the Purple Finches what have been widely reported around the state this past week. A Red-bellied Woodpecker was heard, a species only being reported at the marsh in the past couple of years.

The large flock of Wild Turkeys, counted today at 29, continues in the fields near the corner of Pleasant Street and Whipple Hollow Road.

The next count is scheduled for Saturday, January 16, at 8 a.m. Perhaps by then we will have more wintry conditions.

Today’s count:

Wild Turkey  29
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  3
Mourning Dove  12
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Downy Woodpecker  1
Hairy Woodpecker  2
Pileated Woodpecker  2
Blue Jay  9
American Crow  6
Common Raven  3
Black-capped Chickadee  31
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
White-breasted Nuthatch  2
European Starling  1
American Tree Sparrow  11
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)  3
Northern Cardinal  3
House Finch  2
American Goldfinch  31
House Sparrow  3