What You Can Do
National Audubon
Thursday
Jul242014

day trip: the pember museum in granville, ny

A different experience awaits you at the Pember Museum in Granville, New York, about 10 miles from Poultney. Whereas the Birds of Vermont Museum in Huntington has the appearance of “just another barn” you could easily drive by, the Pember Library and Museum stand out as an eminent edifice on Main Street. Etched glass panels over the front door beckon you into the first floor library with its elegant fireplace of marbleized slate. Spiral-turned banisters course up the staircase to the second floor museum room, with its dark woodwork and vitrine cases displaying the large natural history collection made by Frank T. Pember over a 50-year period.

Pember was born in South Granville in 1841 and grew up on a prosperous family farm. After attending a nearby one-room schoolhouse, he enrolled in the science program at a college prep school in Fort Edward, New York. His professors channeled his natural science interest, and by age 21, he was already a hunter, trader and taxidermist.

Pember was also an astute businessman. He began with a plant nursery while maintaining a profitable farming and cheese making business at his Granville home. He later added a fur trade business with offices on Broadway in New York City. Success came quickly as he bought furs from all over the U.S. and Canada and exported them to Europe. He also traded birds’ eggs and in 1883 published a catalog offering 400 kinds of eggs.

He also bought acreage in Riverside, California where he planted thriving cirtus groves, and he invested in oil-rich land near Findlay, Ohio.

In 1902, he built the Pember Opera House, and at age 66, he offered to build a museum and library in Granville.

Pember collected in the Granville, Hebron, Pawlet and Wells area and wherever his business ventures carried him. Out of 75 North American bird families, Pember’s collection holds representatives of all but five. Many specimens are in male and female pairs. In contrast to the Birds of Vermont Museum’s discrete cases for each species, the Pember’s birds are aligned along glass shelves. Still the specimens are well organized by family. Although you’re not seeing the live bird, the museum experience is very beneficial. You are viewing the bird up close with enough time, without the bird flitting around and away, to carefully study the color and feather variations, and anatomy, and compare them to similar species, on a nearby shelf, with which they may be easily confused in the field. Certainly guidebooks are useful for this, but 3-D specimens are more realistic.

There are also birds from other continents, since Pember requested specimens from other collectors. He did much of his own taxidermy and was a noted ornithologist of his time. In the 2nd volume of the Birds of New York, published by the New York State Museum in 1914, Pember is cited as a reference form knowing the breeding sites of a Golden Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Pigeon Hawk and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.

He was also a member of the American Fern Society and collected and mounted hundreds of specimens of flowering plants, ferns and sea weeds. However, few of these are on display due to potential damage from light exposure.

The visitor might first look over the peripheral tall cases containing all the birds and many mammals. Centrally, there are standing horizontal cases with birds’ nests and eggs, butterflies, dragonflies, beetles, seashells, and minerals. Beneath, on the floor, are laid out huge skins of polar and grizzly bears and various African ‘cats.” Frankly, I have to admit, I found the exotic birds and animals the most fascinating. Confronting the life-size “next to real” thing is astounding, better than a flashy photo in National Geographic.

Admission is free. Hours: 1-5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday; 10-3 p.m. Saturday; 1-4 p.m. Sunday. This would be a nice rainy day or cold season activity. But then again, although a sizeable collection, it’s not the Field Museum, and could provide a nice few hours at any time of the year.

 

 

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