RCAS was a decade short of a century on May 31. Our 19th annual attempt to tally 100 species in Rutland County missed what seemed to be very obvious species. However, what we lacked in quantity was more than compensated by some unusual species as well as the opportunity to view some of Vermont’s beautiful scenery on our tour around the county.
After a couple quick stops, the real birding began along the Pleasant Street power line in West Rutland. As the early morning mist lifted over West Rutland Marsh below, the Prairie Warblers, Eastern Towhees and Field Sparrows were tuning up. Among the growing bird song we heard ‘bee buzz’ and knew one of the winged warblers was about, probably a Blue-winged Warbler. Following the new guidelines for reporting the winged warblers, we tracked them down (two males) and found they were indeed Blue-winged Warblers with all the appropriate field marks.
Sharp ears picked up a Brown Thrasher on the power line. A Nashville Warbler was also spotted and a Red-breasted Nuthatch was heard in the conifers along the edge. Oddly, we saw no White-breasted Nuthatch during the count.
A good deal of time was spent at West Rutland Marsh where most of the expected species were seen or heard. This included five Virginia Rails heard along the boardwalk, Water Street and Pleasant Street and two American Bitterns flying over the marsh. A Marsh Wren was making a racket near the boardwalk so no doubt there is a nest nearby.
The next stop was the Route 4 rest area, which is probably ‘tick central’ for Vermont (please see our previous article for important information on ticks). American Redstarts are abundant in this area as are Scarlet Tanagers and Indigo Buntings. The highlight here and the highlight for the day was a Cerulean Warbler in the same area where it was seen in 2010 and 2011. It was in full song and, after much searching, we were able to glimpse enough of the bird to be confident of the identification.
After a break for cookies, we headed to the Lake Bomoseen area, where the north end (the Lake Bomoseen/Hubbardton Marshes IBA) is a good prospect for ducks. There we were surprised to find four male Ring-necked Ducks. We also saw our first Killdeer for the day (that and a Wilson’s Snipe at Lake Hortonia were our only shorebirds of the day).
As we headed down Black Pond/Moscow Road toward our lunch stop at Bomoseen State Park, we picked up Wood Duck, a Double-crested Cormorant on Breese Pond, a Black-billed Cuckoo and a Northern Waterthrush. A Ruby-throated Hummingbird was perched on a dead snag where we find him every year. Our only White-throated Sparrow of the day was found along this road.
A second Black-billed Cuckoo was at Bomoseen State Park where we also heard a Yellow-throated Vireo and saw an active Baltimore Oriole nest.
From the upper lot of the Kehoe Fishing Access along Lake Bomoseen we found the expected Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Black-and-white Warbler. A Red-bellied Woodpecker was heard here and a Common Loon in basic plumage was seen out on the lake.
At the Fair Haven Municipal Airport we found four fuzzy Killdeer chicks with their parents fussing nearby. A second pair of Killdeer was guarding a nest with four eggs.
Our travels toward and through Benson yielded the expected Bobolinks and a Savannah Sparrow. Along Pleasant Valley Road in Benson we were happy to hear a Northern Mockingbird and an Eastern Meadowlark as well as more Bobolinks.
At the fishing access on Lake Hortonia the aforementioned Wilson’s Snipe were calling incessantly and a female Wood Duck was being trailed by eight young. Two female Hooded Mergansers were on Burr Pond in Sudbury.
Our final stop along Route 73, at a property recently restored under the Wetland Reserve Program on the Sudbury/Brandon line, we were treated to Common Gallinule, Pied-billed Grebe, American Bittern and Virginia Rail.
Thanks to all the sharp-eyed, sharp-eared participants and to Roy Pilcher for planning the trip.
The full list: