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Audubon at the fair

Rutland County Audubon will have an exhibit at the Vermont State Fair in Rutland this year. The Web of Life  is part of the display at the Forestry Building. The exhibit includes some interesting connections among segments of our environment such as birds, forests and humans and includes photos of some of our local favorite birds. Our friends from the forestry building invited us to be there because of the link between birds and forests.

We hope you stop by! The fair runs from September 4 through the 13th. Wednesday, September 9, is free admission to the fair.


eight years of marsh monitoring completed

On Thursday, July 16, 2009, a group of Rutland County Audubon members and friends completed eight years of monthly marsh monitoring of the birds associated with the West Rutland marsh. The first of these walks around the 3.7 mile perimeter of the marsh took place on August 16, 2001, with 15 observers during which 45 species were tallied. The number of species tallied is now 137 while observer participation has reached 1127. The lowest number of species ever recorded on a monthly walk was 28 on April 16, 2005, and the highest number was 70 on May 18, 2006.

Bird monitoring at the marsh has several objectives. One objective is to raise the awareness and appreciation of the general public to this Important Bird Area as an exceptional natural resource. A corollary to the awareness and appreciation is the hope that the future of the marsh and its sustainability will be ensured. A second objective for monthly bird monitoring is that it offers an educational opportunity for birders of all ages and experience to sharpen their identification skills, both visual and auditory, in a collegial and welcoming environment. Finally, with all sightings entered on eBird, the cumulative record will provide researchers an opportunity to advance bird conservation here in Vermont and beyond.

Marsh walks are scheduled monthly generally on a Thursday or a Saturday. Participants meet at the West Rutland Price Chopper parking area at 7:00 a.m. except during winter months when the gathering time is 8:00 a.m. All walks are free and open to the public. Come join us!


a rare gift!

Common Loon Parents and newly hatched chick at Spring Lake in Cuttingsville.

It all started with a phone call late Thursday evening. For close on two months Connie had watched over a pair of nesting Common Loon and by her best estimate hatching was imminent, probably the next day. But Connie was off the next day for a three day conference, would it be possible for me to be there the following day to record the highly anticipated event.

By 8.45 the next morning, Friday, I was ready, camera poised, adult on the nest, mate patrolling nearby and the sun clear and well placed. Fifteen short minutes later, the female loon, slid from her nest followed immediately by a single fluffy black chick. The chick “hit the water running” scampering over the surface at full throttle, ending up with a couple of head dips two or three meters later! For the next thirty minutes the two adults introduced the single chick to its immediate surroundings. The male, again I assume, took it upon himself to catch the first shiny morsels for the chick, but the actual transfer was not observed. The two adults, usually swimming together with the chick between them, if they decided temporarily to separate, the chick appeared to be in two minds as to whom to follow, but invariably, if the observer’s determination was correct, it would choose “Mom”.

After a thirty minute leisurely “swim about”, with the chick at times hitching a ride, the female loon clambered back on to the nest site, this time in the opposite direction to that first observed. Common Loon usually produce two eggs, hence the female must have decided that there was a second chick to be brought into the world.

For the next two hours the male’s behavior was somewhat confusing. With a very small minnow clasped in his beak, he was seen to circle many times around the nesting platform with the intent of feeding either the chick or his mate both on the nest. But the mate was apparently facing in the wrong direction and he could not fulfill his intent. What appeared to be in desperation, still clasping the shiny morsel and on three separate occasions the male clambered not only on to the nest but he appeared to be on top of his mate. While the trio was on the nest a few low vocalizations were heard. The retreat back into the water was “clumsy” to put it delicately!

Shadows began to close the curtain of opportunity to any further picture taking and so the events that followed were once again returned to the intimate privacy of the principal participants.

To be present at the birth of one’s own child, is humbling. To be present at the “coming out” of a not so common Common Loon chick, is a rare gift!


a successful year for RCAS

Rutland County Audubon celebrated another successful year at its annual meeting and potluck supper at the Proctor Library on June 26, 2009. Twenty-six people enjoyed a lively social hour filled with birding banter and the many delicious dishes contributed by all.

Roy Pilcher presented his program The Nesting Strategies of Birds. Using photos of birds and their nests, Alder Flycatcherwhich he took over 40 years, Roy explained how different species use materials (or sometimes lack of) and locations to maximize their chances of successful reproduction. The program was presented on RCAS’s new laptop and PowerPoint projector obtained with a grant from Audubon Vermont.

The Board of Directors feels that the past year has been a productive one and hopes its constituents feel likewise. Adhering to our motto Birding with a Purpose, we try to make our programs and field trips a valuable experience by educating others, advocating for birds and the environment, and contributing to citizen science efforts. This past year we brought Audubon Adventures to several classrooms and homeschools, applied for funding to conserve land at West Rutland Marsh, and continued our monitoring efforts in several locations. We hope you will join us in the coming year to make the 2009-2010 even better.

You can download a copy of the 2008-09 Annual Report here.


Kent Pond

Semipalmated Sandpiper Kent Pond


Kent Pond is a man made impoundment at an elevation of 1560 feet aligned with the ridge of the Green Mountains. Kent Pond is situated at the apex of the right angle formed by Route 4 East and Route 100. It may be accessed from either highway.

The pond itself, although relatively small and a popular fishing site from both the impoundment and by boat, has provided several surprises for bird enthusiasts. Among those surprises are Brant, Pacific Loon, Pied-billed Grebe, Red Phalarope and Semi-palmated Sandpiper, all seen and documented during the month of May. To these may be added Lesser Yellowlegs in April and Dunlin in June.

Another common thread running through most of these sightings is that they occurred during or following an extended period of overcast and/or rainy weather. If these shorebirds were in fact migrating and following the ridge of the Green Mountains, Kent Pond would serve as a temporary sanctuary from the inhospitable elements.

At the time of writing this entry in the Birding Journal, (late June), Kent Pond is host to a pair of nesting Common Loon.