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Entries in citizen science (52)


West Rutland Marsh - May 2018

The May 12 West Rutland Marsh walk started off with a remarkable display of American bitterns. Ordinarily a shy bird of the cattails, two pairs flew repeatedly up and down the marsh. We wondered if this was a territorial display or a mating ritual. After that exciting spectacle we continued along and spring was evident with other birds that have returned and were singing. Marsh wrens, swamp and song sparrows were noted.

Golden-winged WarblerThe big excitement of the morning was the number of warbler species seen. A stunning Blackburnian warbler was seen high in a hemlock while a black-throated blue warbler foraged low near the ground. Ovenbirds called their song of "teacher, teacher" while warbling vireos did indeed warble. A real prize was a golden-winged warbler seen by all and for one participant it was a life bird!

Great-crested flycatchers were heard and seen, but we noted the absence of willow and alder flycatchers. Four species of swallows coursed over the marsh as did a lone chimney swift catching insects. Canada geese had five goslings in tow. Other waterfowl included the beautiful wood duck and mallards.

A merlin flew by seemingly on a mission while other raptors were soaring overhead. The nesting ravens have fledged their young while other birds are just beginning the nesting season. The marsh has come alive not only with birds but amphibians which were calling as well.

By the time we had completed the loop we had tallied 68 species of birds. This month’s walk attracted 15 participants.

Join us for our next trip around the marsh on Thursday, June 21, at 7:00 a.m. Our new meeting place is at the boardwalk in the marsh.

The list:


Canada Goose  14    
Wood Duck  3
Mallard  4
American Bittern  4    
Great Blue Heron  1
Turkey Vulture  5
Cooper's Hawk  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Virginia Rail  3
Mourning Dove  7
Chimney Swift  1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  3
Belted Kingfisher  3
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  1
Downy Woodpecker  4
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  2
Pileated Woodpecker  2
Merlin  1
Least Flycatcher  3
Eastern Phoebe  1
Great Crested Flycatcher  2
Eastern Kingbird  8
Warbling Vireo  7
Red-eyed Vireo  3
Blue Jay  13
American Crow  3
Common Raven  8   
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  1
Tree Swallow  4
Barn Swallow  7
Cliff Swallow  1
Black-capped Chickadee  12
Tufted Titmouse  2
House Wren  1
Winter Wren  1
Marsh Wren  2    
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  2
Veery  5
Wood Thrush  3
American Robin  13
Gray Catbird  14    
European Starling  18
Ovenbird  7
Northern Waterthrush  1
Golden-winged Warbler  1    
Golden-winged/Blue-winged Warbler  1    
Black-and-white Warbler  7
Nashville Warbler  2
Common Yellowthroat  15
American Redstart  4
Magnolia Warbler  2
Blackburnian Warbler  1
Yellow Warbler  12
Chestnut-sided Warbler  2
Black-throated Blue Warbler  2
Black-throated Green Warbler  3
White-throated Sparrow  2
Savannah Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  9
Swamp Sparrow  16
Northern Cardinal  3
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  4
Baltimore Oriole  4
Red-winged Blackbird  26
Brown-headed Cowbird  2
Common Grackle  13
Purple Finch  2
American Goldfinch  12





West Rutland Marsh - April 2018

American BitternClear blue skies and sunshine greeted the 35 participants for the West Rutland Marsh walk on April 21. The birds were as happy as the birders with the promising spring-like day. The feeders by the boardwalk were still busy with chickadees and American tree sparrows. Out on the boardwalk swamp sparrows were singing and seen as they proclaimed their territories. A Virginia rail was heard but remained hidden in the cattails. Red-winged blackbirds sang their rusty hinge sounding song and some displayed their red epaulets.

Notable were several raptor species overhead. No doubt glad for a day for hunting after so many gloomy ones.

As we proceeded around the route both ruby-crowned and golden-crowned kinglets were seen flitting among tree branches seeking a meal. The unseasonably cool weather has made insects hard to find for some of our early migrants. The importance of the marsh with insects rising from the waters make it a haven for these birds.

Swamp SparrowOne sharp-eyed observer found a chickadee excavating a nest hole in a broken stub of a rotten tree.

A yellow-bellied sapsucker was observed attending the wells it had drilled, while other woodpecker species were heard drumming. A winter wren, only 4 inches long, joyously sang its complicated song and a yellow-rumped warbler was seen high in the treetops. A total of 40 species was tallied for the morning. Our next walk takes place May 12th at 7:00 a.m. Many returning migrants should be present!

The list:


Canada Goose  11
Wood Duck  3
Mallard  4
American Bittern  1
Great Blue Heron  2
Turkey Vulture  7
Northern Harrier  1
Sharp-shinned Hawk  1
Cooper's Hawk  1
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Wilson's Snipe  1
Mourning Dove  3
Belted Kingfisher  3
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Downy Woodpecker  6
Northern Flicker  1
Pileated Woodpecker  1
Eastern Phoebe  3
Blue Jay  6
American Crow  2
Common Raven  2
Tree Swallow  5
Black-capped Chickadee  13
Tufted Titmouse  1
Winter Wren  2
Golden-crowned Kinglet  3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  7
American Robin  17
European Starling  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1
American Tree Sparrow  3
Dark-eyed Junco  13
White-throated Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  18
Swamp Sparrow  6
Northern Cardinal  4
Red-winged Blackbird  14
Common Grackle  12
American Goldfinch  17




West Rutland Marsh - February 2018

Today’s weather did not deter seven participants in today’s West Rutland Marsh walk, our 199th consecutive walk around the 3.7-mile loop. We tallied 19 species, one more than our February average, but two less than a year ago.

Not much out of the ordinary was seen this morning. The feeders at the kiosk at the boardwalk were busy with American tree sparrows, black-capped chickadees and a lone male red-winged blackbird. Red-winged blackbirds were seen again later in the walk, keeping company with European starlings.

Cedar WaxwingA flock of cedar waxwings was a bright spot in a very overcast morning. Several of them were taking advantage of the high-bush cranberry still heavy with fruit.

A singled golden-crowned kinglet was flitting low to the ground along Whipple Hollow Road. A short time later two ruffed grouse were flushed from the shrubs on side of the road. This is the area we have seen grouse on recent walks.

Our single raptor of the day was a red-tailed hawk, sitting in a tree and harassed by American crows.

Our next walk is scheduled for Saturday, March 24, at 8 a.m.





Today’s list:


Ruffed Grouse  2
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Downy Woodpecker  3
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Pileated Woodpecker  1
Blue Jay  22
American Crow  9
Black-capped Chickadee  23
Tufted Titmouse  3
White-breasted Nuthatch  2
Golden-crowned Kinglet  1
European Starling  12
Cedar Waxwing  27
American Tree Sparrow  14
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)  26
Northern Cardinal  3
Red-winged Blackbird  13    
American Goldfinch  1
House Sparrow  4






2017 Christmas Bird Count Results

Red-tailed HawkRutland ‘s Christmas Bird Count is over. All that is left to do is review the final results and learn from them. Before going on, let’s recognize our faithful leader, Roy Pilcher for his many years of chairing this event and writing this summary. Roy accepted this responsibility for many years and inspired most of the present RCAS board members and friends to keep the tradition alive. Thank you, Roy, for all you have done. We know your efforts have enriched our lives and appreciate all the help you continue to provide. Once again Roy participated in the count as a team leader.

Last year Kathleen Guinness took over organizing the count and the potluck supper held at the Proctor Library. Thanks to Kathleen for carrying on this important tradition!

To help me get started I read some of the previous summaries on our website journal. It’s shocking to read ‘weather was more like April,’ ‘the meadows were green’ and ‘ponds and rivers were free of ice.’ This year my team started its count at 7:30 with the thermometer reading minus 10. We were dressed for the weather and did our best to perform the count despite the bone-chilling weather.

This year our CBC field teams and feeder watchers counted over 7,000 individual birds representing 52 species. Considering the minus temperatures (the day’s high rose to only about 11), this is quite an accomplishment.

Here are a few points of interest starting with regular species that show up year after year.

Mallard: 178

This is down from the 25-year average of 251. Still water was completely frozen, but the small streams was partly open giving them the necessary food and shelter.

Mourning Dove: 329

Down from the average of 523. Fortunately, doves have been flocking to feeders, but perhaps some were missed due to the difficulty in counting in such extreme cold.



Red-tailed Hawk: 23

Our average. This is a positive sign since a stable raptor population may indicate stability of other species lower down on the food chain

Red-bellied Woodpecker: 14

Up from the average of 3. This species has expanded throughout the state in the past 15 years. None were reported in the early years of the count.

American Crow: 2,663

Up from an average of 1,090. Our record high was 1,809 in 2003. To get an accurate count, volunteer Tracy Busony started weeks ahead of time watching the crows as they came to roost at various locations around Rutland City. With help from a neighbor on count day they counted the whole flock, one by one.

Black-capped Chickadee: 453

Down from an average of 1,014. Sadly chickadees, our beloved feeder birds, are in decline. Hopefully some of this year’s low number can be attributed to the difficulty in counting due to the extreme cold weather.

How about some surprises?

Wilson’s Snipe: 1  

This is a surpise to many, but not to the team that leads this section of the count along Otter Creek. This is a species that migrates, but a few may stay behind if they find open water and a food supply. They are hard to spot so maybe more are around than we know.

Red-shouldered hawk: 1

Most have departed, but like the snipe, occasionally one or two can remain. Not a first for the Rutland CBC, our first in 25 years. There are more reports of over-wintering Red-shouldered Hawks in Vermont than in the past.

Eastern Bluebird: 24

Our average of 17. Many people think bluebirds always migrate, but if the food is here, some may stay (even if it is minus 10!)

American Robin: 14

This is down from an average of 23. Many folks think of the robin as our symbol of spring, but it really isn’t. The number of robins remaining is dependent on the food supply. We had just over a dozen this year year, but have recorded many more in prior CBCs.

Red Crossbill: 3

We don’t always get crossbills as they are known to follow cone crops. This is one of those years. Keep a lookout for them as winter wears on!

Snow Bunting: 162

Up from an average of 85. It’s hard to say what a normal year is because it can range from none to several hundred. They do migrate here from farther north looking for food. If you haven’t seen Snow Buntings then watch the cornfields for a burst of white wings and a swirling flock. It’s a wonderful sight.

Dark-eyed Junco: 1,352

Up from an average of 267. Many of us expected to see more juncos this year because we have had so many at our feeders. Fortunately, one of our volunteers has knowledge of them. Normally many more would be farther south in areas like Maryland. The CBC results from those areas (so far) have shown lower than normal numbers. The birds are still here so now we’ll watch to see if they pack their bags or hang around our feeders all winter.

What was missing?

There are numerous species that we see one year, but not the next. That is a normal pattern. No American Kestrels or Northern Harriers were reported. Wild Turkey numbers were way down, but they are probably still in the woods. Only one Belted Kingfisher was reported. A look around the frozen ponds and streams tells you why.

Many of us would love to see a Snowy Owl here in Rutland County, but we’re still waiting for that. They have been reported in Vermont in a few places this year. 

It is amazing we have completed this same count for 44 years in spite of the holiday rush. The data is important. One year may not tell us anything, but the sum of many years is valuable information. That is why we eBird all of our sightings year-round as well as participate in as many citizen science projects we can. We are always looking for volunteers to join our teams, do a feeder watch at home or participate in various projects. Our Christmas Bird Count data will be available in a final form within a few weeks on the National Audubon web site so you can explore it further. If you have any questions please let us know by email from birding @rutlandcountyaudubon.org.




West Rutland Marsh - December 2017

Nine birders gathered for today’s walk around West Rutland Marsh, our last walk of 2017. The seasonal temperature and no wind made it a refreshing day to be out. The species total for the day was 21, two more than our December average and one more than a year ago.

With vegetation dormant and a skim of ice on the water, we are left with mostly our resident species. One exception is a winter visitor, the American tree sparrow. They were active at the feeders at the boardwalk. A few more were found along the walk.

A mixed flock of eastern bluebirds (no, they don’t all leave in winter!), several chickadees and a few golden-crowned kinglets fed in the trees along Marble Street. Kinglets were also found in small groups on Pleasant Street and Whipple Hollow Road.

Red-bellied woodpeckers are becoming a regular sight on the walk. We saw two today on Pleasant Street.

A brown creeper was seen and heard along Whipple Hollow Road.

The highlight of the walk was a winter wren. At first we heard its call note up in the woods. It then flew across the road and scolded us several times before disappearing into the phragmites.

Our next walk is scheduled for Thursday, January 11, at 8 a.m.

Today’s list:


Mallard  4
Mourning Dove  3
Red-bellied Woodpecker  2
Downy Woodpecker  4
Blue Jay  12
American Crow  12
Common Raven  1
Black-capped Chickadee  24
Tufted Titmouse  5
White-breasted Nuthatch  3
Brown Creeper  1
Winter Wren  1    
Golden-crowned Kinglet  13    
Eastern Bluebird  6
European Starling  23
American Tree Sparrow  9
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)  3
Northern Cardinal  1
Purple Finch  1
American Goldfinch  28
House Sparrow  1