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the Christmas Bird Count results are in!

The Rutland County Audubon Christmas Bird Count held on December 26 produced forty-three species and a total of 6,333 individual birds. This compares to a 10-year running average of 49.5 species and 9,103 individual birds.

This year family gatherings, work obligations and illness reduced the number of field teams from eight to seven, comprised of 19 observers. Dire predictions of sleet and rain did not materialize, but winds of 10 to 15 mph with gusts of 30 to 35 mph no doubt affected the numbers as birds, like us, dislike being out in bad weather.

Nevertheless, dedicated birders, plus nine feeder watchers, prevailed, completing RCAS’s 36th annual CBC. 749 Black-capped Chickadees were seen during this year's CBCAnd, as in most years, new records were broken. The numbers of Mallard and Common Merganser set new highs with 474 and 16, respectively. Other species have established themselves as regulars on the annual list such as Red-bellied Woodpecker (1) and Carolina Wren (4). Bald Eagle made its second CBC appearance.

Other species, whose numbers are cyclical and tied to food sources, were in low numbers or absent altogether this year such as White-winged Crossbill (0), Common Redpoll (0), and Pine Siskin (1). Other species, sadly, seem to be observed in declining numbers as the years pass. For example Evening Grosbeak has not been observed since 2007 when 45 were counted. In 1983 there were a record 1,871 grosbeaks!

One bonus is Christmas Bird Count protocol which allows 142 Dark-eyed Juncos were countedspecies seen during the count week, but not the day of the count, to be included in the final tally. This year, thanks to keen eyes and a bit of extra effort, Cooper’s Hawk, Barred Owl, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Northern Shrike, and Pine Siskin were added during count week.

Stories of the day and a countdown of the day’s birds were shared that evening at the potluck supper at the Proctor Library. Good food and the camaraderie of fellow birders closed out the birding year for RCAS. 

Many thanks to Roy Pilcher for making sure the CBC happens, as he does every year, and to all the participants for their dedication to the Christmas Bird Count!

Information on past counts across the country can be found at the National Audubon website.  Once the final results are reviewed, the 2009 data will be available as well.

Hope to see you at the 2010 count!


local Christmas Bird Count set for Saturday, December 26

On Saturday, December 26, Rutland County Audubon will participate in the longest running Citizen Science survey in the world, National Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count. From Alaska to Antarctica, tens of thousands of volunteers will add a new layer to over a century of data vital to conservation. Armed with binoculars, local volunteers will join this Citizen Science initiative to count birds in a prescribed 15-mile diameter circle centered where Route 4A crosses the Otter Creek in Center Rutland. The Rutland count will be one of eighteen counts between December 14, 2009 and January 5, 2010 in Vermont. This will mark the 36th local count and the 110th national and international count. Last year the total number of Christmas Bird Counts exceeded 2,000 and over 65 million birds were tallied!

Last year the Rutland count fielded 29 observers in 8 teams who covered 25 miles on foot and 278 miles by car and along with the 8 feeder watchers tallied 10,533 individual birds (9,350 is the 10-year running average).

Scientists rely on gathered data to better understand how birds and the environment we share are faring. Just like canaries in the coal mine, birds serve as early indicators of problems that can eventually affect people and wildlife. 

The Christmas Bird Count began in 1900 when the founder of Bird-Lore (the progenitor of Audubon magazine), Frank Chapman, suggested an alternative to the “side hunt,” in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most game, including birds. Chapman proposed that people “hunt” birds only to identify, count, and record them. These “Binocular Brigades” often brave winter’s chill, ice and snow to record changes in resident bird populations and their ranges.

Traditionally the count day concludes with a potluck supper. It is a time to exchange stories and experiences and to establish a tentative list of the day's sightings. All participants and friends are welcome to meet at the Proctor Free Library at 6 o'clock. Tableware and beverages will be supplied and participants are encourages to bring their choice of a hot dish, salad or dessert.

New participants are always welcome as field observers or feeder watchers. This year new recruites are particularly welcome as several veteran particpants will be away over the holidays. Any new participants will be assigned to an experienced team leader! If interested, please give Roy a call at 775-3461.



a special seed sale thanks

Rutland County Audubon’s November seed sales and membership drive were a big success!  The seed sales help fund our conservation efforts at West Rutland Marsh, environmental programs such as Audubon Adventures and the Bridge-to-Bridge Interpretive Trail, field trips and programs, and this website.

Many thanks to our sponsoring partners, Garland’s Agway of Rutland and Blue Seal Feeds of Brandon, who make it possible .

Thanks also to the Audubon volunteers who gave their time and energy for the day. Our organization is dependent on the efforts of our volunteers and we sincerely appreciate the effort.

And thank all of you for supporting RCAS with your seed purchases and memberships!



There’s No Such Thing As A Free Lunch! Feed the Birds and Feed RCAS

Goldfinches are great to watch at the feeder... especially when that first hint of bright yellow shows up in their plumage in mid-February. Photo by David Jenne.

A quick read of all the programs and field trips sponsored by Rutland County Audubon on our Events page will reveal that they are all free and open to the public. 

However, Rutland County Audubon’s education outreach into the community, in particular the schools, is a serious financial commitment.  For example, Audubon Adventures, a program designed to engage our elementary school students, has been very well received and at $45 a classroom it is an investment that we continue to make each year. Thus, once a year we provide you and your friends with the opportunity to support Audubon’s educational and outreach programs through the Annual Bird seed Sale.

We aren't likely to see a winter with as many Pine Siskins as we did last year, but we can always hope! Photo by David Jenne

If you are a member of Rutland County Audubon and reading this post, firstly, thank you for your support, if you are not, please consider becoming a member.  As a volunteer organization we appreciate not only your commitment to the mission of the organization but also to its financial viability.

In partnership and cooperation with Garland’s Agway in Rutland and Brandon Blue Seal Feeds, we offer members and the general public an opportunity to support financially Rutland County Audubon through the upcoming Annual Bird Seed Sales and Bottle Drive.

As a reader of this web site and as a member and/or friend of Audubon, and as one who enjoys feeding and watching birds, you are encouraged to support Rutland County Audubon, either in Rutland or Brandon by purchasing your winter’s supply of bird seed at the following locations:

Rutland, Garland’s Agway - Saturday, November 7 between 8:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. 

Brandon, Blue Seal Feeds - Saturday, November 14 between 8:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.

We would love to meet you and talk about birds and winter bird feeding.  Our members will be present to introduce themselves and -- if you are new to bird feeding -– introduce you to the birds you will meet over the course of the coming winter! 


exciting sparrow discovery at Pomainville WMA

On October 17, 2009 three of Vermont’s top birders Ted Murin, Craig Provost and Allan Strong reported exciting discoveries at the Pomainville Wildlife Management Area in Pittsford Le Conte's Sparrow– a Nelson’s Sparrow (formerly called the Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow, infrequently seen in Vermont), and, even rarer, a LeConte’s Sparrow. Both birds are in migration this time of year.

Rutland County Audubon is happy to include Pomainville WMA as one of its “Birding Hotspots” We have monitored the area for the past seven months, appreciating the area more with each visit. Thanks to the generosity of landowner Edward Pomainville, Jr., and the combined efforts of Ducks Unlimited, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Vermont Fish and Wildlife, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Pomainville WMA preserves a wonderful tract of wetland and upland habitats along the Otter Creek.  While none of the birds found reach the level of excitement as a LeConte’s or Nelson’s sparrow, RCAS and others have recorded 99 species there. This includes Virginia Rail, Marsh Wren and nesting Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Yellow-throated Vireos.

The recent sparrow report highlights two important things. First is the value of conserved land. It provides places for many species (butterflies, mammals, plants, amphibians and reptiles as well as birds) that have specific habitat needs. And at the same time we have the opportunity to visit these wonderful public places and connect with nature.

Second, unless we get out and look, we may miss birds that either travel through during migration or stay here to nest. Who knows what birds may be here and when simply because we haven’t bothered to check? To quote Aldo Leopold “the first rule of an intelligent tinkerer is to keep all the pieces.” So if want to preserve what is important to us, and we don’t look, we won’t know what those pieces are. In this case the pieces are birds.

One more reason to bird locally! Thanks to Ted, Craig, and Allan for finding and reporting these sparrows!