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Monday
Mar202017

patagonia picnic table effect

What do picnic tables have to do with birds? The Patagonia Picnic Table Effect is an expression that longtime birders know as the phenomenon of one ‘good’ bird attracting more birds. What it really means is the ‘good,’ or rare bird, will attract more birders who will in turn find more birds. It has its roots with a sighting of a black-capped gnatcatcher at a rest area in Patagonia, Arizona. It was an unusual sighting even for that very birdy area. Subsequent visitors to the rest area found more and more species as word of the gnatcatcher spread.

Rutland County recently had its own version of the Patagonia Picnic Table Effect. In the second week of March an alert observer noticed a swan in a flooded area off Route 73 in Brandon. Mute swans occur occasionally in Vermont, but they are not a native species and are often unwanted because of the habitat destruction they can cause. Tundra swans pass through the state on migration, infrequently, but not unexpectedly.

This swan was a bit different and expert birders, aided by today’s digital photography, determined that the Brandon swan was a trumpeter swan. Trumpeter swans are the largest of our North American swans and the shape of its beak is different, longer and straighter than a tundra swan’s beak. Further, if accepted by the Vermont Bird Records Committee, this will be only the second state record of trumpeter swan in Vermont, the other seen in Addison County on Lake Champlain in May 2014.

Kent McFarland of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies noted that reintroduction efforts in Ontario and the Great Lakes may mean that more trumpeter swans could be seen in Vermont in the future if reintroduction efforts ares successful.

As of March 20, 37 other species have been observed at the site of the trumpeter swan in Brandon. Many are the expected species such as nuthatches, woodpeckers and chickadees. Others reflect the changing season and consist of returning waterfowl, including wood duck, northern pintail, green-winged teal, bufflehead and both hooded and common merganser. Not to mention a good number of mallards, American black ducks and Canada geese!

Robins, a northern harrier and an American kestrel were seen. Red-winged blackbirds and common grackles were reported in high numbers. Most unusual was a golden eagle spotted at the site on the 9th and again on the 12th.

Just as impressive though, and maybe more important, is the fact that 65 eBird checklists were submitted, checklists that contain not only the swan, but the other species noted at the time.

Trumpeter swans may be expanding their range. We hope they do. We would love to see more of them. But if the occurrence of a rare species means more reports of the species we expect in Vermont so much the better.

Note: the swan was still present as of March 20. 

Tuesday
Jan312017

rcas wildlife art show - call to artists

Rutland County Audubon will be holding its own wildlife art show this coming May!

Visual artists, professional and amateur, in any medium, including photography, painting and sculpture, are invited to submit up to three works to be included in an open art show featuring nature and wildlife at Stone Valley Arts in Poultney, Vermont from May 26 through June 11, sponsored by RCAS. Solely scenic landscapes are excluded. Works need not be for sale. Those offered for sale are subject to a 40% gallery commission. Delivery of works will be May 21 and May 22. For details contact birding@rutlandcountyaudubon.org.

The show will be held on weekends with an opening reception on Friday, May, 26. Details on hours to follow.

Saturday
Jan282017

west rutland marsh - january monitoring report

Sometimes the best comes last. A surprising 17 people showed up for today’s monitoring walk around West Rutland Marsh. We are now halfway through our 16th year! Twenty-two species were tallied, one more than last year and four more than our January average.

Many of the ‘usual suspects’ were seen or heard including singing tufted titmice and 31 very active chickadees. American tree sparrows were also singing parts of their song. Eastern bluebirds were heard and seen briefly in flight.

Our only raptor of the day was a red-tailed hawk, but a pair of ravens was engaged in synchronized aerobatics.

The woodpeckers were represented by hairy, downy and red-bellied woodpecker, the last a species we are seeing more of at the marsh.

A ruffed grouse was surprised by the side of Whipple Hollow Road. So were the birders.

And the best and last bird of the day? An adult bald eagle soaring in lazy circles over the marsh.

Next month’s walk is scheduled for Saturday, February 18, at 8 a.m. The walk will be held in conjunction with the Great Backyard Bird Count.

 

 

 

Today’s list:

Mallard  2
Ruffed Grouse  1
Bald Eagle  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  3
Mourning Dove  9
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Downy Woodpecker  4
Hairy Woodpecker  2
Blue Jay  9
American Crow  13
Common Raven  3
Black-capped Chickadee  31
Tufted Titmouse  5
White-breasted Nuthatch  4
Eastern Bluebird  7
American Robin  1
American Tree Sparrow  5
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)  3
Northern Cardinal  3
American Goldfinch  21
House Sparrow  4

Sunday
Jan152017

winter regulars & rarities field trip

Barred OwlMaybe standing on the shores of Lake Champlain in mid-January when the temperature is in the 20s is not everyone’s idea of a good time. But it was for sixteen participants in Rutland County Audubon’s annual Winter Regulars & Rarities field trip held on January 14th.

Fourteen stops at key birding hotspots yielded 29 species. The day's count of bald eagles was six with four of them, three adults and one immature, at Shelburne Bay.

Most of the day was concentrated on winter ducks and other water birds. Numerous horned grebes were tallied, 13 in all, at Shelburne Point, Shelburne Beach, Charlotte Town Beach and at the Charlotte Ferry Landing. And five common loons were seen at these locations.

Waterfowl consisted of common goldeneye, throwing their heads back in courtship display, bufflehead and common merganser. One female red-breasted merganser was seen on the lake off Shelburne Point and four hooded mergansers, three males and female, were diving in the bay.

A single snow goose was among the thirty-one wild turkeys, 150 American crows, and 300 Canada geese frantically feeding in a cornfield on Greenbush Road in Charlotte. The geese included one leucistic goose, its head partially white and its neck a speckled black and white. This group of geese had flown from McNeil Bay at the Charlotte Town Beach while we were at that previous stop.

The highlight of the day turned out not to be ducks, but owls! A barred owl was spotted along the road to Kellogg Bay in Ferrisburgh. An eastern screech-owl was enjoying the view from the entrance hole of a wood duck box on Basin Harbor Road. And the final stop yielded a short-eared owl on Gage Road while a great horned owl hooted in the distance.

Thanks to Nate Dansereau for organizing and leading the trip and to C. J. Frankiewicz for assisting.

The full list for the day (14 eBird checklists submitted): 

Canada Goose
American Black Duck
Mallard
Bufflehead
Common Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Wild Turkey
Common Loon
Horned Grebe
Bald Eagle
Red-tailed Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Eastern Screech-Owl
Barred Owl 
Short-eared Owl
Great Horned Owl
Belted Kingfisher
American Crow
Common Raven
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
American Robin
Dark-eyed Junco

 

 

Sunday
Jan012017

better birding in 2017

Happy New Year from RCAS! Want to see more birds in 2017 or know more about them? Here are some resolutions you can make for better birding and a better birding world this year.

Pileated WoodpeckereBird! Make it a regular part of your birding experience. Your sightings really DO matter – to scientists, conservationists and fellow birders, but ONLY if you submit them to eBird. Checklists can be from your backyard, a lunch break walk, one of our RCAS hotspots or your favorite vacation spot. Birds are everywhere and the more we know about them, the more we can help them. Click here to learn about eBird’s Checklist A Day Challenge.

Bird local! There are plenty of places to see birds right here in Rutland County. To get started, check out our list of birding hotspots here. Spots such as the Cadwell Loop or the Split Rock Trail in Pittsford or Aitken State Forest in Mendon are great in for snowshoeing and birding. No need to wait for spring!

Give to the birds! Donate to a conservation organization (we can think of one!). Drink shade-grown coffee. Take a kid birding. Write to your representatives about issues that concern the environment. Find one more thing that can be recycled. Plant a native shrub or build a brush pile. The list is endless if you think about it.

Keep learning! RCAS has a list of books if you need suggestions. Have you read The Genius if Birds by Jennifer Ackerman?  Click here to find out more about it and other books we recommend. And if you know of a good book, let us know!

Sing! Sing! Sing! Learn ten new bird songs this year. Birding by ear greatly enhances your birding experience. With all the resources available now, it’s easy. Download a birding app, buy a CD or listen to birds at the National Audubon or Cornell Lab of Ornithology online bird guides. Then go out and practice what you’ve learned. Nothing helps you remember a bird song than watching one sing. Really.

Bird with friends!. Don’t have any birding buddies? Join RCAS on a West Rutland Marsh walk or other field trips. Check out our list of upcoming events. Our next events are Winter Regulars and Rarities in the Champlain Valley on January 14 and our monthly West Rutland Marsh Walk on January 28. Click here for details.

Learn more! What’s your favorite bird? Resolve to know more about it – what does it eat, what does its nest look like, where does it go when it migrates, what is its current conservation status? Between the library and all the resources on the internet, it’s easy to find out. 

Volunteer! RCAS can always use more help. Contact us at birding@rutlandcountyaudubon.org or join us at one of our events. We promise it will be a lot of fun.