What You Can Do
National Audubon
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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.


fight the invaders

Japanese KnotweedAnyone who has travelled around the marsh has seen an invader - the common reed also known as phragmites. A species like this takes over the growing space where all kinds of native plants previously grew and, as the invaders take over, wildlife, including birds, lose their food and shelter. Without that we know they will be gone or populations diminished at the least. The common reed is a plant that has so established itself that we are not sure what to do about it.

Unfortunately, there are many other nuisance species at the marsh and surrounding area so we would rather direct our efforts to another invader. Japanese knotweed has started colonizing along Whipple Hollow Road. So far, it has only started to spread, but like other invasive plants, we believe it will take over if nothing is done to prevent it.

Now we see a way of stopping the outbreak and combining the effort with a general invasive training and educational effort. The State of Vermont is offering grants to pay 75% of the cost of controlling problems like this one.  Check this link for details http://vtinvasives.org/news/vermont-aquatic-nuisance-control-grants-program.

Here at Rutland County Audubon we are seeking people interested in helping to organize the effort, apply for the grant and do some positive good for bird habitat. If this sparks your interest please contact us at birding@rutlandcountyaudubon.org.


west rutland marsh - december monitoring report

There were a lot of new faces among the 16 participants in today’s walk around West Rutland Marsh, which made it a lot of fun. Temperatures in the mid-30s and a light breeze made it a pleasant walk. Bird numbers were on target for December with 20 species tallied. This compares to 22 last year and is above our average of 19 for this month of the year.

Two large flocks of American robins in flight put that species in the lead for the most counted bird today.

A murder of crows was dive-bombing an unseen enemy along the tree tops. A common raven appeared in the fray and may have been the foe.

Three red-tailed hawks were circling high in the clouds and were our only raptors of the day.

Fourteen wild turkeys were seen along the edge of the woods on Whipple Hollow Road and a golden-crowned kinglet was heard in the white cedars a little further along that section. A small flock of cedar waxwings flew over our heads as well.

We reached a new high for red-bellied woodpeckers today – three! This species has only recently appeared during our marsh walks. The only other woodpecker was a downy. Heavy tapping may have been from a pileated, but that was not confirmed.

Our next walk is scheduled for Saturday, January 28, at 8 a.m.

Today’s list:

Wild Turkey  14
Red-tailed Hawk  3
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  11
Mourning Dove  3
Red-bellied Woodpecker  3
Downy Woodpecker  1
Blue Jay  11
American Crow  19
Common Raven  1
Black-capped Chickadee  26
White-breasted Nuthatch  2
Golden-crowned Kinglet  1
American Robin  76
European Starling  13
Cedar Waxwing  7
American Tree Sparrow  8
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)  5
Northern Cardinal  4
American Goldfinch  1
House Sparrow  6


coastal adventure

SanderlingsMid-November is one of the best times to head to the New England coast in search of winter migrants. Cape Ann, Plum Island and the nearby beaches are areas that migrants frequent in their flight south. Other species will find these areas perfect for a wintering spot. I recently visited there with friends.

Cape Ann juts out into the Atlantic Ocean, giving the birder an opportunity to view a variety of ocean birds. Halibut Point is a high bluff that has a dramatic view of the ocean below which gives the observer a great chance of seeing these migrants as they pass by.

Our group had hoped for some alcids to be moving through, but it was not to be. However, the appearance of a flock of harlequin ducks made up for that. We watched as these sturdy creatures dove into the surf right by the granite rocks. We also saw gulls and gannets as well as other waterfowl.

After spending an hour and a half there we packed up and headed to Gloucester Harbor. There we saw common eider, red-breasted merganser, bufflehead and a common loon. A flock of snow buntings circled over us several times before landing on some rocks just feet away from us! Their soft calls and beautiful plumage made for a magical close-up view.

The next day we traveled to Plum Island and the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. This area provides 4,700 acres of pristine coastal habitat. This includes 3,000 acres of salt marshes that has seen 300 plus species of birds that are either residents or migratory. In addition, this refuge has critical nesting habitat for the endangered piping plover. With six miles of beach there are many chances to observe a nice variety of ocean and coastal birds. There are hiking trails that travel through dunes, marshes and coastal scrub allowing the birder to find inland birds in proper season.

Long-tailed DuckDriving down the park road offers easy access to the salt marshes and ample opportunity to observe shorebirds and waterfowl. Our plan was to start at the north end of this island. As we drove along, there on a fence sat a Cooper's hawk, intently watching some terrified house sparrows.

Continuing on we arrived at the parking area and made our way to the beach. Here we had a great view of the channel with a strong tide running. Harbor seals were popping up and looking around as red-throated and common loons dove for a meal.

One surfaced with a wiggly silver fish for its effort. An eBird notice told of a Pacific loon there and, in no time, one of our group spotted this bird. It was in transitional plumage, but the distinctive head shape was the clincher.

We returned to the park road and headed south along the salt marshes where black-bellied plovers and dunlin were resting. American black ducks were the most abundant waterfowl. Others there included hooded merganser and bufflehead. And, of course, mallards. A sharp-shinned hawk rocketed by in front of our car in pursuit of something as we made our way along the road.

We stopped at a view point overlooking a pond where three gadwall sedately paddled about the water. Off in the distance a bald eagle sat on a rise of land while overhead a rough-legged hawk hovered in search of food.

Continuing on I spied a northern shrike perched atop a distant tree.

We then parked at one of the beach access paths and scanned the ocean finding more loons, red-necked grebes, a variety of gulls and a lovely flock of sanderlings that twittered as they probed the sand. Northern gannets were seen gliding over the ocean with their startling white plumage.

All too soon our coastal adventure was coming to an end. However, before departing I checked eBird once again and saw that a king eider was being seen at Crane Beach. Fortunately, this spot was on my way home and only half an hour from Rockport.

I soon arrived there and set up my scope to scan over 1,000 white-winged scoters in hopes of finding this beautiful duck. Luck was with me and in less than five minutes I was watching the bird.

As I walked down the beach semipalmated plovers scurried along. I then met two young women, birders and photographers, who told me they had just seen a snowy owl about a half mile down the beach. Wasting no time I quickly made my way there following their footsteps in hopes of finding the bird. As I got nearer I saw a person staring intently through binoculars. I set up my scope and scanned that area and there it was. I made my way closer to this bird which seemed totally unconcerned with the people that were delighted to have this visitor from the north. The owl sat and posed for numerous photos putting a perfect end to the coastal birding trip.


west rutland marsh - november monitoring report

Birders almost equaled bird species for RCAS’s monthly monitoring walk around West Rutland Marsh this morning. With clear skies and the forecast promising temperatures in the 60s, no one minded much.

Nineteen observers counted 21 species. Although this seems low it still beats last year’s 19 which is also our 16-year average. Past November walks have yielded anywhere from 11 to 27 species.

There were no real surprises. Raptors consisted of five red-tailed hawks and one Cooper’s hawk.

A belted kingfisher was seen from the boardwalk as it flew from Water Street to the power lines. A northern flicker was heard and a red-bellied woodpecker was seen.

Eastern bluebirds were heard singing, but not seen.  Sparrows were represented by three American tree sparrows and a lone junco.

The next walk is scheduled for Thursday, December 8.

Today’s list:

Mallard  4
Cooper's Hawk  1
Red-tailed Hawk  5
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  6
Mourning Dove  4
Belted Kingfisher  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Downy Woodpecker  4
Northern Flicker  1
Blue Jay  23
American Crow  9
Common Raven  2
Black-capped Chickadee  43
Tufted Titmouse  1
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Eastern Bluebird  2
European Starling  20
American Tree Sparrow  3
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)  1
Northern Cardinal  4
American Goldfinch  20