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West Rutland Marsh - March 2019

     The ringing tones of the first Red-winged Blackbirds of the year greeted us as we stepped out of our cars at the kiosk on Marble Street on March 16. Overhead, at the tops of bare trees, we could see their shiny black feathers gleaming in the early morning sunlight. And, soon after, we heard the raspy “chucks” of the Common Grackle, which had also just returned from its southern winter sojourn. But, even more surprising, the opening notes of the Song Sparrow pealed out as we headed off on our 3.7-mile trek. For sure, despite the ice and snow still covering the wetland plants and the sad lack of green in the reeds, spring had come to West Rutland Marsh once again. 
     Inspired by such an auspicious outset, eight of us tramped along the road, spying a Bald Eagle, two Sharp-shinned Hawks, and a Turkey Vulture, all soaring high in the clouds above the hills to the west of us. We also stole a quick glimpse of a Merlin, as he attempted to catch his breakfast at a bird-feeding station en route and were delighted by the rosiness of three House Finches hidden in the bushes at this same station.
     Up close and personal, five Wild Turkeys trotted across the road in front of us, giving us each a clear view of these magnificent American birds and their multi-colored feathers. The photographers among us were happy to have a good photo op while these grazed in the field they had reached. Of course, there were still the typical winter birds around and we catalogued twenty-seven species in all for the two and a half-hour jaunt. All in all, it was a glorious and very solid day of monitoring the marsh. 


The day's list (27 species):

Canada Goose  8
Wild Turkey  5
Mourning Dove  12
Turkey Vulture  1
Sharp-shinned Hawk  2
Bald Eagle  1
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Downy Woodpecker  3
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Merlin  1    
Blue Jay  1
American Crow  26
Common Raven  4
Black-capped Chickadee  23
Tufted Titmouse  5
White-breasted Nuthatch  6
Eastern Bluebird  1
American Robin  16
European Starling  17
House Finch  3
American Tree Sparrow  5
Dark-eyed Junco  4
Song Sparrow  3
Red-winged Blackbird  25
Common Grackle  13
Northern Cardinal  6
House Sparrow  1

Member Photo Show - Maclure Library

Green HeronThis spring Rutland County Audubon Society will be holding a photo exhibit featuring birds at the Maclure Library in Pittsford. Rutland County Audubon members are invited to submit up to three of their favorite photographs of birds. If you aren’t already a member of RCAS, we’d love to have you join us! The show will run from April 15 until the end of July so photos must be on loan for that period. Click here for the Maclure Library hours.

We are looking for your photos of birds taken anywhere in the world in frames up to 12” x 16” and suitable for hanging. You should include a separate informational item including your name, the name of the bird species, location, type of camera, and if appropriate, lens used, and a small fact about the bird, such as why it appealed to you, something of interest about that particular species, or its conservation status. We will prepare this information and display it next to the photo.  

Photographs can be for sale, but must remain up for the show. All photographers will be responsible for negotiating their fees with the buyer and a 15% commission to the library.

An opening reception with light refreshments for RCAS members, the photographers, and the general public, will be held on Monday, April 29, from 6 – 8 pm.

Also, look for programs and events to be held in connection with the exhibit!

Please respond to RCAS at birding@rutlandcountyaudubon.org by March 30 if you are interested in submitting your photo(s). For information on becoming a member, click here


West Rutland Marsh - February 2019

For mid-February it was a pretty nice day to be out birding. Sixteen birders participated in today’s walk around West Rutland Marsh, which coincided with this weekend’s Great Backyard Bird Count.

Despite the mild weather, the number of species was fairly low with 17 species seen and/or heard. This is one less than our February average of 18 and two less than one year ago.

Except for 29 black-capped chickadees, the number of individuals was low as well – one downy woodpecker, two hairy woodpeckers, four tufted titmice, one white-breasted nuthatch. But there was definitely a bit more bird song than in January!

The highlight of the day was an out-of-season gray catbird, lurking in the brush and phragmites along Whipple Hollow Road. We did see pussy willows along the route today so maybe spring is not all that far off!

We heard a Carolina wren singing and the walk ended with four American robins. The feeders near the boardwalk are still busy with American tree sparrows.

The Great Backyard Bird Count runs through Monday, February 18, so there is still time to get out and count birds!

Our next walk is scheduled for Saturday, March 16, at 8 a.m.


Ruffed Grouse  1
Mourning Dove  34
Red-tailed Hawk  3
Downy Woodpecker  1
Hairy Woodpecker  2
Blue Jay  7
American Crow  7
Common Raven  3
Black-capped Chickadee  29
Tufted Titmouse  4
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Brown Creeper  1
Carolina Wren  1
American Robin  4
Gray Catbird  1   
American Tree Sparrow  4
Northern Cardinal  4




Great Backyard Bird Count

Lots of fun things happen in February – Ground Hog Day, Valentine’s Day and……the Great Backyard Bird Count!

The Great Backyard Bird Count aka the GBBC is an annual, world-wide event sponsored by National Audubon, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada. Last year over 160,000 people participated. From two Blue-headed Macaws in Peru to six Oriental Greenfinches in Japan to eight Wild Turkeys in Castleton, Vermont, birdwatchers provided of a four-day snapshot of bird species across the globe.

We’ve been experiencing some pretty cold weather, but you don’t have to be IN your backyard to participate although you can be outside if you chose (more on that below). From Friday, February 15, through Monday, February 18, fill your feeders, grab your favorite cold weather beverage, take a sit by the window, and count the birds.

Common RedpollIt’s simple to participate. Count birds anywhere (not just your backyard) for as little as 15 minutes for any or all of the four-day event. Click here to find out more. It’s easy and fun and a great family project.

In conjunction with the GBBC, Rutland County Audubon, will be holding its monthly walk around West Rutland Marsh (fingers crossed for above freezing temperatures) on Saturday, February 16. We'll meet at the boardwalk on Marble Street in West Rutland at 8 a.m. The route is 3.7 miles, but there is an option to go halfway.

This year we have an added GBBC event for beginners. On Wednesday, February 13, Rutland County Audubon will hold a training session at the Poultney Library on Main Street from 3 to 5 p.m. Come learn how to be a citizen scientist and participate in the GBBC! But warning - birdwatching can be addictive!



When You Find an Injured Bird

My husband Marv and I had the privilege of assisting in a bird rescue this week. Kevin Gecha of Clarendon found a horned grebe on the exit off of Route 7 in Manchester. Grebes, like loons, can’t take off from the ground, only from water. We can only guess how it got there, but perhaps it saw the dark pavement of the exit and thought it was water. Fortunately, the bird appeared to be in good shape. 

So what to do? Kevin called his wife Casey, a birder lover. They knew to call the Vermont Institute of Natural Science (VINS). VINS advised Kevin to bring the bird in. As he needed to be at work, my husband Marv and I volunteered to drive down to Manchester to pick up the grebe and take to VINS in Quechee. We kept the grebe in a box lined with a blanket on the way over.

Rutland County Audubon frequently receives calls about injured birds and other wildlife. Unfortunately, we are not rehabilitators so we cannot take in birds, only licensed rehabbers can do so. We have, however, included a list of rehabilitators on our website Resources section under Vermont Wildlife Rehabilitators. There are links to VINS and the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. Both have excellent advice on how to handle injured birds and mammals.

Keep in mind that rehabilitators work from the goodness of their hearts (and donations!) so don’t be surprised if the rehabilitator asks you to bring the injured bird (or small mammal) to them. They can advise you how to best do this. 

Also, it doesn’t seem like it, but before long it will be spring and nesting season. That brings up another set of issues. What to do if you find a baby bird? Click here for a refresher on what to do in that situation.

And what should you do if you don't find an injured bird or mammal? Be thankful and make a donation to VINS or a rehabilitator near you!