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Entries in citizen science (52)

Thursday
May022019

West Rutland Marsh - March 2019

KONK-A-REE !
     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
Saturday
Feb162019

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

 

 

Saturday
Feb022019

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!

 

Thursday
Jan172019

West Rutland Marsh - January 2019

Black-capped ChickadeeEight, very bundled up birders, managed to tally 21 species on January’s walk around West Rutland Marsh. This is two more than our average for this month of the year and one more than a year ago.

The morning started at 2 degrees, but when we really concentrated, we could feel the warmth of the sun on our backs (admittedly not a lot). Fortunately, there was no wind.

Black-capped chickadees were the winners of the day as far as numbers go. Forty-eight were counted along the route, some in groups of seven or eight. American robins were second, in two groups, one of about 30 or so. Three cedar waxwings were spotted among the robins.

One sharp-eyed birder stayed back along Pleasant Street where he spotted a northern shrike, which has been seen in the area since our December walk.

Eighteen wild turkeys were seen in fields along Whipple Hollow Road.

We ended the day with a white-throated sparrow among the American tree sparrows and chickadees near the boardwalk.

Our next walk is scheduled for Saturday, February 16. The walk is being held in conjunction with the Great Backyard Bird Count, February 15-18. If being out in the cold isn’t your thing, click here to find out how you can participate in the GBBC.

The list: 

Wild Turkey  18
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  3
Mourning Dove  19
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Downy Woodpecker  5
Hairy Woodpecker  3
Northern Shrike  1
Blue Jay  30
American Crow  5
Common Raven  2
Black-capped Chickadee  48   
Tufted Titmouse  8
White-breasted Nuthatch  4
American Robin  42
Cedar Waxwing  3
American Goldfinch  1
American Tree Sparrow  6
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)  2
White-throated Sparrow  1
Northern Cardinal  2
House Sparrow  4

 

 

 

Thursday
Jan032019

Christmas Bird Count Results

Another Christmas Bird Count is in the books, Rutland County Audubon’s 45th and National Audubon’s 119th.

A total of 48 birders, consisting of eight field teams and 12 feeder watchers, tallied 46 species. Two additional species, great blue heron and peregrine falcon, were sighted during Count Week (the three days before count day and three days following when species not seen on count day may be included in the tally).

The day started in the low 40s and was mostly cloudy, and ended in the low 30s, with some light rain and snow, but virtually no snow cover. Whether this is what affected the lower number of birds is hard to tell. Although this is time of year when the lowest number of species is expected, most of the field teams and feeder watchers noted exceptionally low activity.

Our average count for the past 10 years is 51 species with a high count of 58 in 2011 and a low count of 43 in 2009.

Bohemian WaxwingsWe had several new participants this year with two coming from as far away as Georgia. Two teams had seven participants and two teams achieved 35 species for their areas. And more territory was covered on foot this year. There were a few new feeder watchers and they did an excellent job, including one who had the dubious privilege of counting the American crows as they came in to their evening roost.

But there were highlights despite low species numbers!

Several bird species have irrupted from the north this season. An irruption is defined as a “dramatic, irregular migration of large numbers of birds,” usually in response to food supply. Two of these species were observed on the count: pine grosbeak seen by three field teams and Bohemian waxwings by two teams. Hopefully we will see more of them as the winter progresses. Ornamental crabapples are the place to look for these.

Two other irruptive species being seen in Vermont this season were not recorded on our count – common redpolls and evening grosbeaks. The pine siskins seen this fall seem to have moved on.

Two new species had a record high of individuals for the count: eastern bluebirds, with 51 observed, and 14 red-bellied woodpeckers, a species that has been increasing rapidly in the state over the past 15 years or so.

There were some unusual species that were not new, but are never guaranteed. Two Wilson’s snipe were spotted along Otter Creek by the same team that also saw a winter wren.

MerlinOverall raptor numbers were low, 22 red-tailed hawks were spotted, about half our high which occurred in 2017. Three sharp-shinned hawks and five Cooper’s hawks were seen, contrasting with a high of nine in 1995 and eight in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Only one barred owl was noted. Two of the ever-increasing bald eagles were seen. A photo of one raptor, originally thought to be a kestrel seen in poor light, turned out to be a merlin. No other raptors, other than these and the count week peregrine falcon, were observed.

Some misses included no belted kingfishers, despite all the open water; no-snow no-show snow buntings; and no golden-crowned kinglets.

On a non-avian note, a green frog was seen at Rocky Pond at Pine Hill Park in Rutland and reported to the Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas.

Of course, the highlight of the count is the potluck supper where we countdown the day’s results and enjoy everyone’s best potluck contribution. We had a high number of birders attend the supper – 35! Although bird numbers were down, spirits were high!

Thanks to Kathleen Guinness for organizing a successful count! It’s a lot of work, but it comes together year after year.

 

 

 

Species List:

Canada Goose                                     
Mallard                                    
American Black Duck              
Common Merganser                
Ruffed Grouse                                             
Wild Turkey                             
Rock Pigeon                           
Mourning Dove                       
Wilson's Snipe                        
Great Blue Heron                   
Sharp-shinned Hawk               
Cooper's Hawk                         
Bald Eagle                                
Red-tailed Hawk                       
Barred Owl                                
Red-bellied Woodpecker           
Downy Woodpecker                   
Hairy Woodpecker                      
Pileated Woodpecker                
Northern Flicker                                
Merlin                                         
Peregrine Falcon                    
Northern Shrike                       
Blue Jay                                   
American Crow                    
Common Raven                       
Black-capped Chickadee           
Tufted Titmouse                        
Red-breasted Nuthatch            
White-breasted Nuthatch          
Brown Creeper                           
Winter Wren                                
Carolina Wren                            
Eastern Bluebird                        
American Robin                          
European Starling                       
Bohemian Waxwing                    
Cedar Waxwing                          
Pine Grosbeak                            
House Finch                                
American Goldfinch                    
American Tree Sparrow              
Dark-eyed Junco                        
White-throated Sparrow              
Song Sparrow                             
Red-winged Blackbird                 
Northern Cardinal                        
House Sparrow