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Entries in citizen science (46)


west rutland marsh - may monitoring walk

To borrow a phrase from the texting world, OMG applies to today’s walk at West Rutland Marsh. A total of 81 made this our highest species count in almost 14 years of monthly monitoring thanks to the 18 pairs of eyes and ears participating this morning. Sixty-two species were observed in May 2014 and our average for this month of the year is 68.

A Least Bittern, heard, seen and photographed by many birders over the past two weeks, made itself heard when two participants picked up its low chuckling between the boardwalk and the power line. American Bittern was also heard.

A Solitary Sandpiper and a Spotted Sandpiper were taking advantage of the mud flats under the power line (cleared from work on the lines this past winter). Three Virginia Rails were also seen here with two having a bit of a kerfuffle.

A female Wild Turkey was spotted crossing True Blue Road.

Both Alder and Willow flycatchers are back.

Wood Thrush and Hermit Thrush lent their voices to the morning chorus as well as Veery, which is back in full force (and voice!).

Raptors included a Merlin, a Red-tailed Hawk, and high flyover of an Osprey.

Fourteen warbler species made the day with several seen and/or heard mostly along Whipple Hollow Road. They were Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Black-and-white, Nashville, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Magnolia, Blackburnian, Yellow, Chestnut-sided, the hard to hear Blackpoll, Black-throated Blue and Black-throated Green. In addition, getting a good look at a Canada Warbler on Marble Street was a thrill while another was singing on Whipple Hollow.

The real treat of the day was a single Evening Grosbeak in a tree along Whipple Hollow Road, a life bird for a couple participants.

The next marsh walk is scheduled for Saturday, June 13, at 7 a.m.

Today’s list:

Canada Goose  12
Wood Duck  3
Mallard  6
Wild Turkey  1
American Bittern  2
Least Bittern  1    
Great Blue Heron  2
Green Heron  2
Turkey Vulture  4
Osprey  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Virginia Rail  7   
Spotted Sandpiper  1
Solitary Sandpiper  1
Wilson's Snipe  1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  1
Mourning Dove  6
Chimney Swift  2
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  3
Downy Woodpecker  2
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  1
Pileated Woodpecker  1
Merlin  1
Alder Flycatcher  5
Willow Flycatcher  3
Least Flycatcher  3
Eastern Phoebe  2
Eastern Kingbird  7
Warbling Vireo  11   
Red-eyed Vireo  6
Blue Jay  14
American Crow  10
Common Raven  1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  1
Tree Swallow  17
Barn Swallow  4
Black-capped Chickadee  8
Tufted Titmouse  1
House Wren  3
Winter Wren  1
Marsh Wren  6
Veery  10
Hermit Thrush  1
Wood Thrush  3
American Robin  7
Gray Catbird  14
Brown Thrasher  1
European Starling  2
Ovenbird  2
Northern Waterthrush  4
Black-and-white Warbler  5
Nashville Warbler  2
Common Yellowthroat  15
American Redstart  7
Magnolia Warbler  1
Blackburnian Warbler  1
Yellow Warbler  12
Chestnut-sided Warbler  3
Blackpoll Warbler  1
Black-throated Blue Warbler  1
Black-throated Green Warbler  1
Canada Warbler  2
Eastern Towhee  1
Chipping Sparrow  2
Savannah Sparrow  2
Song Sparrow  6
Swamp Sparrow  13
White-throated Sparrow  1
Scarlet Tanager  1
Northern Cardinal  2
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  4
Red-winged Blackbird  23
Common Grackle  9
Brown-headed Cowbird  2
Baltimore Oriole  3
House Finch  2
American Goldfinch  13
Evening Grosbeak  1
House Sparrow  3


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


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


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


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.