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Entries in citizen science (25)

Thursday
Mar192015

west rutland marsh - march monitoring report

Winter is not quite ready to release its grip as evidenced at today’s monitoring walk at West Rutland Marsh, our 164th consecutive monthly trip. Seven participants started out at 11 degrees and were facing into a brisk north wind. Nevertheless, 21 species were tallied, one more than last year and one less than our average for March.

Looking back, the records show a wide swing in the number of species that might be seen in the fickle month March. 2009 and 2010 showed species counts of 32 and 31 respectively. With no open water today, the difference is mainly in the number of waterfowl species seen – none today!

Black-capped ChickadeeThe winter birds are still with us. The Northern Shrike that has been lurking along Marble Street was seen just south of the green house. Eight American Tree Sparrows, all near feeders along the route, at least nodded to spring by bursting into song. If you aren't familiar with their song, click here at National Audubon's new online field guide to hear it.

On a brighter note, eight male Red-winged Blackbirds have staked out positions on the cattails out the marsh and were also singing. Are these perhaps members of the small flock that spent the winter in the area huddled over the feeders?

The second half of the route along Whipple Hollow Road was mostly quiet except for two Golden-crowned Kinglets in the hemlocks, two Red-breasted Nuthatches and a single outburst of song by an American Creeper.

American Tree SparrowThe small south-facing depression along Whipple Hollow Road, known for sheltering Mourning Doves in cold windy weather, contained 15 today, all well camouflaged in the brush and fallen leaves. At least they were warm!

Today’s list:

Wild Turkey  23
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  3
Mourning Dove  18
Downy Woodpecker  5
Northern Shrike  1
Blue Jay  8
American Crow  11
Common Raven  1
Black-capped Chickadee  32
Tufted Titmouse  4
Red-breasted Nuthatch  2
White-breasted Nuthatch  2
Brown Creeper  1    
Golden-crowned Kinglet  2
European Starling  2
American Tree Sparrow  7    
Northern Cardinal  4
Red-winged Blackbird  9
House Finch  3
American Goldfinch  6
House Sparrow  3

Saturday
Feb142015

west rutland marsh - february monitoring report

Wild TurkeysDespite the light snow and the temperature at a superfluous one degree, no wind made it an almost pleasant day for the 163rd monthly monitoring walk around West Rutland Marsh. Six participants tallied 20 species, two fewer than February 2014, but above the average of 18 for this month of the year.

Two of the highlights came from two seasons. The klonk-er-ree of a Red-Winged Blackbird was heard, probably from the small group of blackbirds that have overwintered at the marsh. Hope that spring may actually arrive!

A short while later a Northern Shrike was spotted atop a tree on Pleasant Street while a flock of chickadees below sounded the alarm.

A Common Raven was making popping sounds from one of the power poles that cross the marsh.

Twenty-three Wild Turkeys were taking shelter in a row of evergreens along Whipple Hollow Road.

The next marsh walk is scheduled for Thursday, March 19.

Today’s list:

Wild Turkey  23
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Mourning Dove  13
Downy Woodpecker  2
Hairy Woodpecker  2
Northern Shrike  1
Blue Jay  17
American Crow  6
Common Raven  1
Black-capped Chickadee  33
White-breasted Nuthatch  3
American Robin  1
European Starling  19
American Tree Sparrow  3
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)  10
Northern Cardinal  13
Red-winged Blackbird  1    
House Finch  8
American Goldfinch  7
House Sparrow  9

Thursday
Jan222015

west rutland marsh - january monitoring report

Today’s monitoring walk around West Rutland Marsh, our 162nd consecutive monthly walk, started out on the chilly side. The temperature soon rose to the mid-20s and, with sunshine and no wind, turned into very pleasant day. Four participants tallied 22 species, three more than January last year and well above our average of 18 for this month of the year.

A Northern Shrike was seen in the same vicinity it was last year, no doubt attracted by the birds coming to the feeders at the kiosk and the house up the road.

Three Red-tailed Hawks and a Cooper’s Hawk were noted. Two Common Ravens were quite vocal.

Highbush Cranberry, Viburnum opulusBlack-capped Chickadees and Blue Jays were abundant. Eight Downy Woodpeckers was an unusually high number. Seven Red-winged Blackbirds were seen.

Although fruit supplies seem to be dwindling, about 20 American Robins and a couple of Cedar Waxwings were observed.

The next marsh walk is scheduled for Saturday, February 14, and is being held in conjunction with the Great Backyard Bird Count.Today's list:

Cooper's Hawk  1
Red-tailed Hawk  3
Mourning Dove  23
Downy Woodpecker  8
Hairy Woodpecker  2
Northern Shrike  1
Blue Jay  31
American Crow  5
Common Raven  2
Black-capped Chickadee  45
Tufted Titmouse  2
White-breasted Nuthatch  3
American Robin  20
European Starling  10
Cedar Waxwing  2
American Tree Sparrow  7
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)  3
Northern Cardinal  4
Red-winged Blackbird  7
House Finch  2
American Goldfinch  5
House Sparrow  3

Thursday
Jan082015

golden-winged warbler survey

Golden-winged Warbler/photo by Mark LaBarrThe Golden-winged Warbler has been in the bird news a lot lately, but mostly for the wrong reason. Its numbers are declining at an alarming rate. Suitable habitat is getting harder for it to find. Also, it is being out-competed by its cousin, the Blue-winged Warbler, with which it hybridizes.

Golden-winged Warblers are pretty fussy about their habitat and for that reason occur only in certain areas of Vermont. A quick look at eBird data for the past ten years shows them on the western side of the state, primarily in the Champlain Valley and down into Rutland County. Click here to see a map. Only a scattering of reports show them in the southeastern portion of the state. Some of the best habitat for Golden-winged Warbler as well as Blue-winged Warbler, Eastern Towhee, Brown Thrasher, Prairie Warbler, Field Sparrow and American Woodcock occur along power lines. The early successional shrubbery interspersed with open areas is exactly what these species need for successful nesting.

Good citizen scientists always love a project! For the past three years Audubon Vermont has partnered with VELCO (the Vermont Electric Power Company) to determine the population and location of Golden-winged Warblers and the other above named species along VELCO’s power lines in the Champlain Valley. Rutland County Audubon members and other volunteers from Otter Creek Audubon and Green Mountain Audubon took to the power lines enthusiastically (what true birder can resist birding with a purpose?).

The work was not without its challenges – ticks, hot weather, cold weather, steep hills, thorns, barbed wire, cows, and, on one occasion, yaks. Sites from West Rutland north to Williston were surveyed. The other above-named species were counted as well along with Brown-headed Cowbirds.

Some good news has come out of the project. Forty locations were surveyed and 60 Golden-winged Warblers were located, a higher number than expected. Seventy-three Blue-winged Warblers were tallied. Observations of these two species were confirmed by sight as the songs and calls produced by hybrids can sound like Golden-winged, Blue-winged or a combination of the two. Fifty-three hybrids were also counted (check your field guide to see just how confusing this can be!) along with 38 ‘winged’ warblers that were heard only.

Hopefully the power line surveys will continue in 2015. If you are interested in participating, contact us at birding@rutlandcountyaudubon.org. And if you are out birding and see any of these species this spring, please submit your sightings to eBird.

Thanks to Margaret Fowle of Audubon Vermont for much of the above information.

Sunday
Jan042015

rcas's 41st christmas bird count

Red-tailed Hawks were well-represented during the CBCTraditionally the Rutland County Annual Christmas Bird Count takes place on the last weekend of December or the first weekend of January depending as to when Christmas day lands. Saturday, December 27 was the designated day for this year’s count, count number 41 for Rutland County and count number 115 for National Audubon since the first bird count was inaugurated by Frank Chapman as an alternative to the “side hunt," a Christmas tradition of shooting birds.

The 15-mile diameter count circle, once delineated, remains the same from year to year. Participation and effort seem to follow an even pattern so “weather” is left as the great arbiter. If one had misplaced the calendar, field observers this year may well have imagined that they were out during the first week in April. Meadows appeared lush and free of snow, streams were flowing strongly and ponds were mostly free of ice. Temperatures were in the 32° to 43° F. range. Some roads and fields were flooded adding to some interruption in coverage.

A reasonable assumption would be that under such weather conditions birds both waterfowl and song would disperse more widely as compared to an immediate frozen and snow covered habitat. And so it was to be. Individual bird numbers came in at 5,705 as compared to a running ten-year average of 8,638. That is almost a 34% decrease! The species count was not so depressed with 50 species tallied just one less than the running ten-year average of 51.1 species.

CBC field formTwo previous species records were equaled, namely the sighting of two Peregrine Falcons and the sighting of three Great Blue Herons.  A new record of 10 individuals was set for Red-bellied Woodpecker. Looking back over the past 40 years of Rutland’s Christmas Bird count records, a single Red-bellied Woodpecker was first observed in 1990, then two in 2003, four in 2004, five in 2010, six in 2011 and finally 10 in 2014. Quite a progression and a nice illustration as to why the collection of all this data is so important!

Thanks is due to the 21 field observers who drove 333.7 miles and walked 20.15 miles, spending a total of 65 party-hours on the beat. Thanks is also due to the seven feeder watchers who spent 37.5 hours at home tallying the birds at their feeders.

At the conclusion of the day, 25 weary but content participants enjoyed a great spread at the traditional pot luck supper and count-down at the Proctor Free Library.

Next year’s Christmas Bird count is set for Saturday, January 2, 2016. 

two Barred Owls were observed on the countThe numbers:  Great Blue Heron [3], Canada Goose [140], Wood Duck [1], American Black Duck [21], Mallard [133], Common Goldeneye [1], Common Merganser [6], Sharp-shinned Hawk [1], Cooper’s Hawk [2], Red-tailed Hawk [32], Peregrine Falcon [1], Merlin [1], Wild Turkey [84], Wilson’s Snipe [1], Rock Pigeon [305], Mourning Dove [417], Barred Owl [2], Belted Kingfisher [2], Red-bellied Woodpecker [10], Downy Woodpecker [67], Hairy Woodpecker [47], Northern Flicker [2], Pileated Woodpecker [13], Blue Jay [366], American Crow [1063], Common Raven [21], Black-capped Chickadee [697], Tufted Titmouse [69], Red-breasted Nuthatch [17], White-breasted Nuthatch [123], Brown Creeper [9], Carolina Wren [12], Golden-crowned kinglet [1], Eastern Bluebird [35], Hermit Thrush [1], American Robin [4], Northern Shrike [1], European Starling [1027], Common Yellowthroat [1], Northern Cardinal [102], American Tree Sparrow [97], Song Sparrow [6], White-throated Sparrow [2], Dark-eyed Junco [141], Red-winged Blackbird [16], Brown-headed Cowbird [2], House Finch [105], Pine Siskin [29], American Goldfinch [158], House Sparrow [308].

Roy Pilcher begins the countdown

 Thana McGary and Lana and Fred Bates help with cleanupLarry Booker tallies the numbers

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