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Entries in citizen science (33)

Monday
Mar202017

patagonia picnic table effect

What do picnic tables have to do with birds? The Patagonia Picnic Table Effect is an expression that longtime birders know as the phenomenon of one ‘good’ bird attracting more birds. What it really means is the ‘good,’ or rare bird, will attract more birders who will in turn find more birds. It has its roots with a sighting of a black-capped gnatcatcher at a rest area in Patagonia, Arizona. It was an unusual sighting even for that very birdy area. Subsequent visitors to the rest area found more and more species as word of the gnatcatcher spread.

Rutland County recently had its own version of the Patagonia Picnic Table Effect. In the second week of March an alert observer noticed a swan in a flooded area off Route 73 in Brandon. Mute swans occur occasionally in Vermont, but they are not a native species and are often unwanted because of the habitat destruction they can cause. Tundra swans pass through the state on migration, infrequently, but not unexpectedly.

This swan was a bit different and expert birders, aided by today’s digital photography, determined that the Brandon swan was a trumpeter swan. Trumpeter swans are the largest of our North American swans and the shape of its beak is different, longer and straighter than a tundra swan’s beak. Further, if accepted by the Vermont Bird Records Committee, this will be only the second state record of trumpeter swan in Vermont, the other seen in Addison County on Lake Champlain in May 2014.

Kent McFarland of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies noted that reintroduction efforts in Ontario and the Great Lakes may mean that more trumpeter swans could be seen in Vermont in the future if reintroduction efforts ares successful.

As of March 20, 37 other species have been observed at the site of the trumpeter swan in Brandon. Many are the expected species such as nuthatches, woodpeckers and chickadees. Others reflect the changing season and consist of returning waterfowl, including wood duck, northern pintail, green-winged teal, bufflehead and both hooded and common merganser. Not to mention a good number of mallards, American black ducks and Canada geese!

Robins, a northern harrier and an American kestrel were seen. Red-winged blackbirds and common grackles were reported in high numbers. Most unusual was a golden eagle spotted at the site on the 9th and again on the 12th.

Just as impressive though, and maybe more important, is the fact that 65 eBird checklists were submitted, checklists that contain not only the swan, but the other species noted at the time.

Trumpeter swans may be expanding their range. We hope they do. We would love to see more of them. But if the occurrence of a rare species means more reports of the species we expect in Vermont so much the better.

Note: the swan was still present as of March 20. 

Saturday
Jan282017

west rutland marsh - january monitoring report

Sometimes the best comes last. A surprising 17 people showed up for today’s monitoring walk around West Rutland Marsh. We are now halfway through our 16th year! Twenty-two species were tallied, one more than last year and four more than our January average.

Many of the ‘usual suspects’ were seen or heard including singing tufted titmice and 31 very active chickadees. American tree sparrows were also singing parts of their song. Eastern bluebirds were heard and seen briefly in flight.

Our only raptor of the day was a red-tailed hawk, but a pair of ravens was engaged in synchronized aerobatics.

The woodpeckers were represented by hairy, downy and red-bellied woodpecker, the last a species we are seeing more of at the marsh.

A ruffed grouse was surprised by the side of Whipple Hollow Road. So were the birders.

And the best and last bird of the day? An adult bald eagle soaring in lazy circles over the marsh.

Next month’s walk is scheduled for Saturday, February 18, at 8 a.m. The walk will be held in conjunction with the Great Backyard Bird Count.

 

 

 

Today’s list:

Mallard  2
Ruffed Grouse  1
Bald Eagle  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  3
Mourning Dove  9
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Downy Woodpecker  4
Hairy Woodpecker  2
Blue Jay  9
American Crow  13
Common Raven  3
Black-capped Chickadee  31
Tufted Titmouse  5
White-breasted Nuthatch  4
Eastern Bluebird  7
American Robin  1
American Tree Sparrow  5
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)  3
Northern Cardinal  3
American Goldfinch  21
House Sparrow  4

Thursday
Dec082016

west rutland marsh - december monitoring report

There were a lot of new faces among the 16 participants in today’s walk around West Rutland Marsh, which made it a lot of fun. Temperatures in the mid-30s and a light breeze made it a pleasant walk. Bird numbers were on target for December with 20 species tallied. This compares to 22 last year and is above our average of 19 for this month of the year.

Two large flocks of American robins in flight put that species in the lead for the most counted bird today.

A murder of crows was dive-bombing an unseen enemy along the tree tops. A common raven appeared in the fray and may have been the foe.

Three red-tailed hawks were circling high in the clouds and were our only raptors of the day.

Fourteen wild turkeys were seen along the edge of the woods on Whipple Hollow Road and a golden-crowned kinglet was heard in the white cedars a little further along that section. A small flock of cedar waxwings flew over our heads as well.

We reached a new high for red-bellied woodpeckers today – three! This species has only recently appeared during our marsh walks. The only other woodpecker was a downy. Heavy tapping may have been from a pileated, but that was not confirmed.

Our next walk is scheduled for Saturday, January 28, at 8 a.m.

Today’s list:

Wild Turkey  14
Red-tailed Hawk  3
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  11
Mourning Dove  3
Red-bellied Woodpecker  3
Downy Woodpecker  1
Blue Jay  11
American Crow  19
Common Raven  1
Black-capped Chickadee  26
White-breasted Nuthatch  2
Golden-crowned Kinglet  1
American Robin  76
European Starling  13
Cedar Waxwing  7
American Tree Sparrow  8
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)  5
Northern Cardinal  4
American Goldfinch  1
House Sparrow  6

Saturday
Nov192016

west rutland marsh - november monitoring report

Birders almost equaled bird species for RCAS’s monthly monitoring walk around West Rutland Marsh this morning. With clear skies and the forecast promising temperatures in the 60s, no one minded much.

Nineteen observers counted 21 species. Although this seems low it still beats last year’s 19 which is also our 16-year average. Past November walks have yielded anywhere from 11 to 27 species.

There were no real surprises. Raptors consisted of five red-tailed hawks and one Cooper’s hawk.

A belted kingfisher was seen from the boardwalk as it flew from Water Street to the power lines. A northern flicker was heard and a red-bellied woodpecker was seen.

Eastern bluebirds were heard singing, but not seen.  Sparrows were represented by three American tree sparrows and a lone junco.

The next walk is scheduled for Thursday, December 8.

Today’s list:

Mallard  4
Cooper's Hawk  1
Red-tailed Hawk  5
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  6
Mourning Dove  4
Belted Kingfisher  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Downy Woodpecker  4
Northern Flicker  1
Blue Jay  23
American Crow  9
Common Raven  2
Black-capped Chickadee  43
Tufted Titmouse  1
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Eastern Bluebird  2
European Starling  20
American Tree Sparrow  3
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)  1
Northern Cardinal  4
American Goldfinch  20

Sunday
Oct162016

west rutland marsh - october monitoring report

The fall foliage is still brilliant on the hillsides, but the crystal coating on the cattails and other marsh vegetation this morning was a reminder of what is to come. Eighteen participants, sporting wool caps and warm gloves for the first time this season, joined together for our monthly monitoring of West Rutland Marsh.

Today’s tally was 37, three more than one year ago, and five more than our average for October (the high was 39 in October 2007).

Many species have departed or are at least packing their bags. In sharp contrast with September, only one gray catbird was recorded. No common yellowthroats or marsh wrens were observed, but a swamp sparrow sang weakly in the cattails.

Several ruby-crowned kinglets were flitting in the trees and goldenrod seedheads along with a few golden-crowned kinglets. Their contrasting call notes were quite obvious.

White-throated sparrows and dark-eyed juncos were seen in several spots along the route as well as song sparrows. Our first vesper sparrow for this walk was seen briefly along Marble Street. This is the third month in a row we have added a new species to our monitoring list.

Three purple finches, the two males looking particularly bright in the morning sun, sat in a bare tree. One was heard singing.

Three red-tailed hawks were noted, but no turkey vultures.

Our next walk: November 19 (Saturday) at 8 a.m.

Today’s list:

Canada Goose  2
Wood Duck  2
Mallard  2
Red-tailed Hawk  3
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  6
Mourning Dove  6
Belted Kingfisher  2
Downy Woodpecker  6
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)  1
Pileated Woodpecker  1
Peregrine Falcon  1
Eastern Phoebe  1
Blue Jay  19
American Crow  45
Common Raven  4
Black-capped Chickadee  25
Tufted Titmouse  2
White-breasted Nuthatch  3
Brown Creeper  1
Carolina Wren  1
Golden-crowned Kinglet  4
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  5
American Robin  65
Gray Catbird  1
European Starling  3
Chipping Sparrow  1
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)  17
White-crowned Sparrow  2
White-throated Sparrow  10
Vesper Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  9
Swamp Sparrow  2
Northern Cardinal  5
Red-winged Blackbird  49
Purple Finch  4
American Goldfinch  17