Field Trip Report: Winter Regulars & Rarities
Monday, January 22, 2018 at 9:01AM
Sue Elliott in field trips

We could not have asked for a better day for our Winter Regulars and Rarities in the Champlain Valley field trip on January 20. Temperatures pushed up to 46 degrees and the light breeze made standing on the shores of Lake Champlain better than just bearable. The winter scenery was spectacular.

Spotting waterfowl is one of the goals of this annual trip. The morning kicked off at Shelburne Point which was rather quiet with several American black ducks, a few mallards and a single common goldeneye. Shelburne Farms was more productive as we added several passerine species including a flock of snow buntings, one of our winter visitors, and eastern bluebirds. A sharp-shinned hawk was also spotted (coincidence?). We saw our first common loon of the day. A total of eight loons was seen during the day.

Gadwall at Charlotte Town BeachThree gadwalls, along with horned grebes and three more common loons, were seen at Shelburne Town Beach at Meach Cove.

No doubt the best stop of the day was at Charlotte Town Beach. A group of birders was already there and had the anticipated pair of harlequin ducks staked out. Gadwall were also present at this stop including one right below us on the shoreline. There was a large raft of common goldeneye and five red-breasted mergansers. The harlequin ducks were the real treat and a life bird or state bird for many of us. The two, a male and a female, were constantly diving, but with patience everyone had a look.

Our first bald eagle was spotted at the Charlotte Ferry Landing. A very handsome pair of hooded mergansers was also present. There were nine buffleheads as well. We saw six bald eagles during the trip.

The rest of the stops along the lake included Converse Bay, Ft Cassin, Kellogg Bay, Button Bay and Arnold Bay. More eagles, common and hooded mergansers, and common loons were seen among other species. The only concentration of gulls was at Kellogg Bay with 90 plus ring-billed gulls and a handful of herring and great black-backed gulls. 

Snowy Owl at Dead Creek WMAThe other highlight for the day was seeing THREE snowy owls, one on Walker Road in Ferrisburgh, one at the goose viewing area at Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area and a third on Gage Road in Addison. The last stop had the added bonus when we heard a great horned owl hooting in the distance. This really is turning out to be another snowy owl year. On a side note, Roy Pilcher spotted one near Post Road in Rutland Town on his way to meet the field trip.

The day ended on Gage Road with a beautiful sunset and many happy birders.

Thirteen checklists were submitted for the trip. A total of 35 species was reported plus a rough-legged hawk, 16 wild turkeys and a pileated woodpecker seen along the way.

Many thanks to C. J. Frankiewicz for leading a great trip.

Article originally appeared on Rutland County Audubon Society - Birds and Bird Watching in Rutland County, Vermont, USA (http://rutlandcountyaudubon.org/).
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