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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.


trip report - winter regulars and rarities in the Champlain Valley

RCAS had a spectacular day for the annual Winter Regulars and Rarities in the Champlain Valley trip on January 16. Nineteen participants, perhaps suffering from cabin fever and inspired by the day’s beautiful weather, gathered to tally 42 species at various points along Lake Champlain. Previous years’ trips have averaged about 33 species.

Sunshine, no wind, and warm temperatures made for good, and comfortable, viewing conditions. The day was even fair enough to enjoy lunch outdoors at Ferrisburg Town Beach once the picnic table was cleared of snow with a snowbrush.

Waterfowl, the highlight of any winter trip along the lake, included a good number of Common Goldeneye (581). At Meach Cove in Shelburne they were in close enough to shore to see them in close detail, including the males throwing their heads back in courtship display. One Horned Grebe was also seen at Meach Cove. Another eight grebes were at Charlotte Town Beach. Two Common Loons, no longer sporting their formal summer attire, were also seen there. A third Common Loon was observed at Converse Bay, but what drew the observers’ attention was a Double-crested Cormorant, about seven weeks out of season. A Belted Kingfisher, also uncommon in winter, was also heard.

Other highlights included a high number of Red-tailed Hawk (29) and Bald Eagle (16). The eagles included two immatures bathing side by side in the water along the shore. Four Rough-legged Hawks, being reported in lower numbers this year, were observed. Last year we reported 19.

Other birds which birders search for in winter are Northern Shrike and Snow Bunting. The group enjoyed good looks at a shrike through a spotting scope as perched high in a tree in the bright sunshine. Snow Buntings were located in two locations, sparkling across snowy fields in small flocks.

Eastern Bluebirds and American Robins in several locations were another cheerful addition to the day as was a Red-bellied Woodpecker at Kingsland Bay. The day ended with 80 Horned Larks on Nortontown Road in Addison.

A total of 25 checklists were submitted to eBird.

A special thanks to Roy Pilcher for leading a sometimes unruly, but grateful, crowd through the Champlain Valley.

Total Species List:

Canada Goose 9 Bufflehead 6 Common Merganser 94
American Black Duck 36 Mallard 44 Common Goldeneye 581
Hooded Merganser 8 Wild Turkey 2 Common Loon 3
Horned Grebe 9 Double-crested Cormorant 1 Bald Eagle 16
Cooper's Hawk 1 Red-tailed Hawk 29 Rough-legged Hawk 4
Ring-billed Gull 167 Herring Gull 9 Great Black-backed Gull 16
Rock Pigeon 3 Mourning Dove 3 Belted Kingfisher 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1 Downy Woodpecker 2 Hairy Woodpecker 1
Northern Shrike 2 Blue Jay 4 American Crow 25
Common Raven 2 Horned Lark 80 Black-capped Chickadee 7
Tufted Titmouse 2 White-breasted Nuthatch 4 Eastern Bluebird 5
American Robin 20 European Starling X American Tree Sparrow 8
Dark-eyed Junco 2 Snow Bunting 54 Northern Cardinal 2
House Finch 1 American Goldfinch 1 House Sparrow 4

West Rutland Marsh - 55 more acres preserved!

We have exciting news about our preservation efforts at West Rutland Marsh. As many of you know, Rutland County Audubon has undertaken a long-term Yellow Warblereffort to preserve the marsh through bird monitoring and offering environmental education opportunities. Much of the wetland is owned privately, which potentially makes the ideal bird and wildlife habitat vulnerable. While there has been no immediate threat of development, there is also no guarantee.

Thanks to a grant from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB) that has changed. Spearheaded by RCAS, the town of West Rutland succesfully applied for the grant and now the town owns another 55-acre parcel which will be protected. This particular parcel is important because of its habitat and location. The property consists of a broad marshy stretch of the Castleton River's headwaters and a grove of old growth white pine. It is located between Whipple Hollow Road and Marble Street and is bordered on the north and west by lands already preserved. This key piece provides a continguous parcel of protect habitat.

The grant process, begun in July 2008, has been a long one. VHCB supported us throughout the process despite budget cuts in a difficult economic time and our attorney helped steer us through some legal glitches. One of the strong points of the application was the partnership between a municipality and a non-profit organization.

The news comes with responsiblity. RCAS has accepted the challenge of helping plan and implement conservation goals to this parcel and the additional 200 plus acres owned by the town. We will need plenty of volunteer help and probably financial support. We must develop an action plan to have everyone understand what needs to be done and in what order. If you are interested in helping, let us know by contacting me at vtbirdhouses@yahoo.com or at 775-2415.

It is a thrill to be making a positive effort in preserving bird habitat. We believe that places like this must be preserved. In fact it may be more important now than ever to keep places like West Rutland Marsh unspoiled by development. It is during the tough times that we most enjoy the natural world.



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.