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bats in the balance!

NOTE: This program was originally scheduled for March 16, but will be held on March 30.

US Fish and Wildlife Service, Northeast Region

In February 2006 some 40 miles west of Albany, New York, a caver photographed hibernating bats with an unusual white substance on their muzzles.  He noticed several dead bats.  The following winter, bats behaving erratically, bats with white noses and a few hundred dead bats in several caves came to the attention of New York Department of Environmental Conservation biologists, who documented white-nose syndrome in January 2007.  Hundreds of thousands of hibernating bats have died since.  Biologists with state and federal agencies and organizations across the country are still trying to find the answer to this deadly mystery.

Sick, dying and dead bats have been found in unprecedented numbers in and around caves and mines from Vermont to Virginia.  In some hibernacula, 90 to 100 percent of the bats are dying.

While the bats are in the hibernacula, the affected bats often have white fungus on their muzzles and other parts of their bodies.  They may have low body fat.  These bats often move to cold parts of the hibernacula, fly during the day and during cold winter weather when insects they feed upon are not available, and exhibit other uncharacteristic behavior.

Despite the continuing search to find the source of this condition by numerous laboratories and state and federal biologists, the cause of the bat deaths remains unknown.  Recent identification of a cold-loving fungus could be a step toward and answer. 

Scott Darling, a Vermont Fish and Wildlife biologist, has been directly involved in seeking some understanding of the causes of white-nose syndrome and with developing certain countermeasures.  Scott will speak on “Bats in the Balance” on Tuesday, March 30, at 7:00 p.m. at the Rutland Free Library.  Plan to attend! 


can spring be far behind?

On January 17, I clipped some branches from bushes in an open field to use for drawing studies ofby Renee Warren dormant buds. After completing my studies, I left the branches in a jar of water and then pretty much forgot about them. So I was very surprised to see them sprouting little green leaf shoots on Feburary 4. I presume this is a response to the warmth of the house. Although the branches were in a southwest facing room, they were out of direct sunlight and certainly were receiving less light than they would have in the open field. What a welcome early sign of spring!

Coming soon: my review of Summer World by Bernd Heinrich.


change in date for March bat program

Please note that the date for the program Bats in the Balance has changed from March 16 to March 30. The time and place (7 PM, Rutland Free Library) remain the same.


calling all backyard birders!

Join birdwatchers across the U.S. and Canada for the Great Backyard Bird Count on February 12 – 15. Your participation, besides being a lot of fun, will help scientists learn more about our backyard birds.White-breasted Nuthatch Last year 620 species were submitted on 94,165 checklists with an astounding 11,558,638 individual birds counted across the country.

Click on the Blue Jay below for information on how to participate (it’s easy!), photos from past counts, and tips on identifying those tricky little brown birds.

Want to venture further afield? Join RCAS for its monthly monitoring walk around West Rutland Marsh on Saturday, February 13. Meet at the West Rutland Price Chopper parking lot at 8 AM.

So fill your feeders, grab your binoculars, and get ready to count!



Please join Eric Hanson, the Vermont Loon Recovery Project Biologist, in exploring the natural history of the Common Loon at the Rutland Free Library at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, February 22.

Loons were in trouble in Vermont 25 years ago with fewer than 10 nesting pairs statewide.Common Loon at Spring Lake Conservation and volunteer efforts have brought the loon numbers back to over 60 pairs in Vermont today, including 11 nesting pairs in the southern half of Vermont. Eric will discuss the threats facing loons and much about their fascinating behaviors and amazing natural history. The Vermont Loon Recovery Project is a program of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies and the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department.    

As the loon population expands, volunteer and lakeshore owner assistance has become even more critical, especially in educating fellow lake users about “their” loons and what they need to be successful. Eric will also discuss the role of loons as an indicator of water quality, especially with reference to mercury contamination.