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Entries in citizen science (49)


West Rutland Marsh - May 2019

If you could choose one word to describe birding in Vermont this past week or so, it would have to be WOW!

That was certainly our reaction today. Twenty-one participants gathered to see what West Rutland Marsh had to offer on a beautiful spring day. The weather was sunny with a light breeze, perfect for birding. We recorded our highest number ever for May with 78 species seen and/or heard. This is 10 more than a year ago May and 10 more than our average for this month of the year.

It was a day for warblers! Twenty species were observed. The yellow warblers and common yellowthroats were busy as this is breeding habitat for them. Two female yellow warblers were seen building nests at different spots along the boardwalk.

Bay-breasted WarblerAlong Marble street, we saw the warbler species that have been thrilling Vermont birders all week – bay-breasted warbler and Cape May warbler. Tennessee warblers were tapping out their songs and several blackpoll warblers were seen and heard. Canada warbler and magnolia warblers were also counted among the warbler species here. A single female black-throated blue warbler was seen foraging among the trees.

The ‘bees buzz’ song of a blue-winged warbler that has been observed along Marble Street over the past couple weeks was heard and then briefly seen. A mourning warbler, a species we have observed only once before on our monthly marsh walks, was also along Marble Street. Perhaps the habitat in this area has grown more suitable for blue-winged warblers and mourning warblers.  

One Nashville warbler was heard singing and then seen along Whipple Hollow Road, where we also heard black-throated green warblers, Blackburnian warblers, and more Canada warblers.

Philadelphia VireoIn the midst of the many red-eyed vireos and warbling vireos, a Philadelphia vireo was spotted. Two yellow-throated vireos were heard. At first we thought one was a blue-headed vireo, but when seen it turned out to be one of the yellow-throated, singing an oddly sweet song.

Two yellow-billed cuckoos were heard at two different spots along Marble Street.

The flycatchers are all in. Both willow and alder flycatchers were heard at their usual spots throughout the walk. Eastern kingbirds are back, busy defending their territories. The ‘reep reep’ of the great crested flycatcher was heard as well as the ‘peeeo-weeee of the eastern wood-pewee. Eastern phoebes were present near the homes along Whipple Hollow Road. Our bonus flycatcher was a yellow-bellied flycatcher seen in some cedars along Marble Street.  

Oddly, many of the ‘marsh’ birds were absent from our list. Although both marsh wrens and swamp sparrows were very vocal, we neither saw nor heard any sign of American bittern, least bittern, sora or great blue heron. We did see a green heron fly over and a belted kingfisher rattled over.

What a morning!

Our next walk is scheduled for Saturday, June 22, at 7 a.m.

The list:


Canada Goose
Mourning Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Virginia Rail
Green Heron
Turkey Vulture
Broad-winged Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Belted Kingfisher
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
Alder Flycatcher
Willow Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Yellow-throated Vireo
Philadelphia Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
House Wren
Marsh Wren
Eastern Bluebird
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Purple Finch
American Goldfinch
White-crowned Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Baltimore Oriole
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Common Grackle
Northern Waterthrush
Blue-winged Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Mourning Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Cape May Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Canada Warbler
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
House Sparrow





West Rutland Marsh - April 2019

The morning of April 13 dawned warm and drizzly, when 23 birds of all generations, including visitors from Southern Adirondack Audubon Society, set out on our monthly monitoring walk around West Rutland Marsh, the last one for the season to be held at 8 a.m. (on our May 23 walk, we will start at 7 a.m.).

The trip along the length of the boardwalk produced multiple Swamp Sparrows, new arrivals, legions of nosily cackling Canada geese, and the expected Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles and Song Sparrows. A few members were lucky enough to hear an American Bittern and a Virginia Rail as well, but alas, this author did not.

Travel along Marble Street brought a surprise five-minute downpour, and then six Wild Turkeys, one make in full display, were sighted, creating lots of excitement for everyone and photo ops for the camera buffs.

A more dismaying event took place as well, five coyote carcasses were round in the ditches along the roadside. It would seem that trappers or hunters had thrown them there after their catch. While this was an unpleasant sight for adults, it was perhaps most horrifying for the children in our group.

Luckily, we spied a patch of spring’s first wildflowers, too, as if to counteract the ugliness. These were snowdrops and soooo lovely. The Pleasant Street bridge yielded our first Tree Swallows of the year (FOY, in birder’s terms), such a delight to watch them wheeling about, in pursuit of their next snack, whatever insect was flying.

On to Whipple Hollow Road we went where a Winter Wren sang loudly and sweetly, making it impossible to ignore its presence. At the walk’s end, many claimed this species to be the highlight of the walk for them.

But still other delights lay ahead. A Barred Owl sang out ‘who, who cooks for you?” as we passed by. Several Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned kinglets showed up too. The Ruby-crowned even sported his crown on this day.

Turning onto Water Street, all were listening for a Virginia Rail, often heard here. None appeared, but while observing the bluebird house near the end of the street, several sharp-eyed birders spied a Palm Warbler (FOY). And, on the bridge, we all watched a leucistic Canada Goose swim lazily around, keeping apart from the other geese.

As we departed for our cars, the Kulas’s excitedly reported having seen two Black-crowned Night-Herons fly overhead, ending our trip with a bang! Next month there will be nearly too many birds to count, but this month was wonderfully exciting.

The next walk is Thursday, May 23, at 7 a.m.

The list:


Canada Goose  26
Mallard  5
Hooded Merganser  2
Ruffed Grouse  3
Wild Turkey  6
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  1
Mourning Dove  5
American Bittern  1    heard
Great Blue Heron  2
Black-crowned Night-Heron  2   
Turkey Vulture  4
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Barred Owl  2
Belted Kingfisher  1
Downy Woodpecker  7
Hairy Woodpecker  2
Pileated Woodpecker  2
Northern Flicker  2
Eastern Phoebe  8
Blue Jay  5
American Crow  6
Common Raven  2
Tree Swallow  6
Black-capped Chickadee  10
Tufted Titmouse  5
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Brown Creeper  1
Winter Wren  1
Golden-crowned Kinglet  7
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Eastern Bluebird  2
American Robin  9
European Starling  8
House Finch  3
American Goldfinch  6
American Tree Sparrow  3
Dark-eyed Junco  14
White-throated Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  15
Swamp Sparrow  7
Red-winged Blackbird  18
Common Grackle  15
Northern Cardinal  3
House Sparrow  1




West Rutland Marsh - March 2019

     The ringing tones of the first Red-winged Blackbirds of the year greeted us as we stepped out of our cars at the kiosk on Marble Street on March 16. Overhead, at the tops of bare trees, we could see their shiny black feathers gleaming in the early morning sunlight. And, soon after, we heard the raspy “chucks” of the Common Grackle, which had also just returned from its southern winter sojourn. But, even more surprising, the opening notes of the Song Sparrow pealed out as we headed off on our 3.7-mile trek. For sure, despite the ice and snow still covering the wetland plants and the sad lack of green in the reeds, spring had come to West Rutland Marsh once again. 
     Inspired by such an auspicious outset, eight of us tramped along the road, spying a Bald Eagle, two Sharp-shinned Hawks, and a Turkey Vulture, all soaring high in the clouds above the hills to the west of us. We also stole a quick glimpse of a Merlin, as he attempted to catch his breakfast at a bird-feeding station en route and were delighted by the rosiness of three House Finches hidden in the bushes at this same station.
     Up close and personal, five Wild Turkeys trotted across the road in front of us, giving us each a clear view of these magnificent American birds and their multi-colored feathers. The photographers among us were happy to have a good photo op while these grazed in the field they had reached. Of course, there were still the typical winter birds around and we catalogued twenty-seven species in all for the two and a half-hour jaunt. All in all, it was a glorious and very solid day of monitoring the marsh. 


The day's list (27 species):

Canada Goose  8
Wild Turkey  5
Mourning Dove  12
Turkey Vulture  1
Sharp-shinned Hawk  2
Bald Eagle  1
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Downy Woodpecker  3
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Merlin  1    
Blue Jay  1
American Crow  26
Common Raven  4
Black-capped Chickadee  23
Tufted Titmouse  5
White-breasted Nuthatch  6
Eastern Bluebird  1
American Robin  16
European Starling  17
House Finch  3
American Tree Sparrow  5
Dark-eyed Junco  4
Song Sparrow  3
Red-winged Blackbird  25
Common Grackle  13
Northern Cardinal  6
House Sparrow  1

West Rutland Marsh - February 2019

For mid-February it was a pretty nice day to be out birding. Sixteen birders participated in today’s walk around West Rutland Marsh, which coincided with this weekend’s Great Backyard Bird Count.

Despite the mild weather, the number of species was fairly low with 17 species seen and/or heard. This is one less than our February average of 18 and two less than one year ago.

Except for 29 black-capped chickadees, the number of individuals was low as well – one downy woodpecker, two hairy woodpeckers, four tufted titmice, one white-breasted nuthatch. But there was definitely a bit more bird song than in January!

The highlight of the day was an out-of-season gray catbird, lurking in the brush and phragmites along Whipple Hollow Road. We did see pussy willows along the route today so maybe spring is not all that far off!

We heard a Carolina wren singing and the walk ended with four American robins. The feeders near the boardwalk are still busy with American tree sparrows.

The Great Backyard Bird Count runs through Monday, February 18, so there is still time to get out and count birds!

Our next walk is scheduled for Saturday, March 16, at 8 a.m.


Ruffed Grouse  1
Mourning Dove  34
Red-tailed Hawk  3
Downy Woodpecker  1
Hairy Woodpecker  2
Blue Jay  7
American Crow  7
Common Raven  3
Black-capped Chickadee  29
Tufted Titmouse  4
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Brown Creeper  1
Carolina Wren  1
American Robin  4
Gray Catbird  1   
American Tree Sparrow  4
Northern Cardinal  4




Great Backyard Bird Count

Lots of fun things happen in February – Ground Hog Day, Valentine’s Day and……the Great Backyard Bird Count!

The Great Backyard Bird Count aka the GBBC is an annual, world-wide event sponsored by National Audubon, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada. Last year over 160,000 people participated. From two Blue-headed Macaws in Peru to six Oriental Greenfinches in Japan to eight Wild Turkeys in Castleton, Vermont, birdwatchers provided of a four-day snapshot of bird species across the globe.

We’ve been experiencing some pretty cold weather, but you don’t have to be IN your backyard to participate although you can be outside if you chose (more on that below). From Friday, February 15, through Monday, February 18, fill your feeders, grab your favorite cold weather beverage, take a sit by the window, and count the birds.

Common RedpollIt’s simple to participate. Count birds anywhere (not just your backyard) for as little as 15 minutes for any or all of the four-day event. Click here to find out more. It’s easy and fun and a great family project.

In conjunction with the GBBC, Rutland County Audubon, will be holding its monthly walk around West Rutland Marsh (fingers crossed for above freezing temperatures) on Saturday, February 16. We'll meet at the boardwalk on Marble Street in West Rutland at 8 a.m. The route is 3.7 miles, but there is an option to go halfway.

This year we have an added GBBC event for beginners. On Wednesday, February 13, Rutland County Audubon will hold a training session at the Poultney Library on Main Street from 3 to 5 p.m. Come learn how to be a citizen scientist and participate in the GBBC! But warning - birdwatching can be addictive!