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Field Trip Report: Winter Regulars & Rarities

We could not have asked for a better day for our Winter Regulars and Rarities in the Champlain Valley field trip on January 20. Temperatures pushed up to 46 degrees and the light breeze made standing on the shores of Lake Champlain better than just bearable. The winter scenery was spectacular.

Spotting waterfowl is one of the goals of this annual trip. The morning kicked off at Shelburne Point which was rather quiet with several American black ducks, a few mallards and a single common goldeneye. Shelburne Farms was more productive as we added several passerine species including a flock of snow buntings, one of our winter visitors, and eastern bluebirds. A sharp-shinned hawk was also spotted (coincidence?). We saw our first common loon of the day. A total of eight loons was seen during the day.

Gadwall at Charlotte Town BeachThree gadwalls, along with horned grebes and three more common loons, were seen at Shelburne Town Beach at Meach Cove.

No doubt the best stop of the day was at Charlotte Town Beach. A group of birders was already there and had the anticipated pair of harlequin ducks staked out. Gadwall were also present at this stop including one right below us on the shoreline. There was a large raft of common goldeneye and five red-breasted mergansers. The harlequin ducks were the real treat and a life bird or state bird for many of us. The two, a male and a female, were constantly diving, but with patience everyone had a look.

Our first bald eagle was spotted at the Charlotte Ferry Landing. A very handsome pair of hooded mergansers was also present. There were nine buffleheads as well. We saw six bald eagles during the trip.

The rest of the stops along the lake included Converse Bay, Ft Cassin, Kellogg Bay, Button Bay and Arnold Bay. More eagles, common and hooded mergansers, and common loons were seen among other species. The only concentration of gulls was at Kellogg Bay with 90 plus ring-billed gulls and a handful of herring and great black-backed gulls. 

Snowy Owl at Dead Creek WMAThe other highlight for the day was seeing THREE snowy owls, one on Walker Road in Ferrisburgh, one at the goose viewing area at Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area and a third on Gage Road in Addison. The last stop had the added bonus when we heard a great horned owl hooting in the distance. This really is turning out to be another snowy owl year. On a side note, Roy Pilcher spotted one near Post Road in Rutland Town on his way to meet the field trip.

The day ended on Gage Road with a beautiful sunset and many happy birders.

Thirteen checklists were submitted for the trip. A total of 35 species was reported plus a rough-legged hawk, 16 wild turkeys and a pileated woodpecker seen along the way.

Many thanks to C. J. Frankiewicz for leading a great trip.


winter regulars & rarities field trip

Barred OwlMaybe standing on the shores of Lake Champlain in mid-January when the temperature is in the 20s is not everyone’s idea of a good time. But it was for sixteen participants in Rutland County Audubon’s annual Winter Regulars & Rarities field trip held on January 14th.

Fourteen stops at key birding hotspots yielded 29 species. The day's count of bald eagles was six with four of them, three adults and one immature, at Shelburne Bay.

Most of the day was concentrated on winter ducks and other water birds. Numerous horned grebes were tallied, 13 in all, at Shelburne Point, Shelburne Beach, Charlotte Town Beach and at the Charlotte Ferry Landing. And five common loons were seen at these locations.

Waterfowl consisted of common goldeneye, throwing their heads back in courtship display, bufflehead and common merganser. One female red-breasted merganser was seen on the lake off Shelburne Point and four hooded mergansers, three males and female, were diving in the bay.

A single snow goose was among the thirty-one wild turkeys, 150 American crows, and 300 Canada geese frantically feeding in a cornfield on Greenbush Road in Charlotte. The geese included one leucistic goose, its head partially white and its neck a speckled black and white. This group of geese had flown from McNeil Bay at the Charlotte Town Beach while we were at that previous stop.

The highlight of the day turned out not to be ducks, but owls! A barred owl was spotted along the road to Kellogg Bay in Ferrisburgh. An eastern screech-owl was enjoying the view from the entrance hole of a wood duck box on Basin Harbor Road. And the final stop yielded a short-eared owl on Gage Road while a great horned owl hooted in the distance.

Thanks to Nate Dansereau for organizing and leading the trip and to C. J. Frankiewicz for assisting.

The full list for the day (14 eBird checklists submitted): 

Canada Goose
American Black Duck
Common Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Wild Turkey
Common Loon
Horned Grebe
Bald Eagle
Red-tailed Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Eastern Screech-Owl
Barred Owl 
Short-eared Owl
Great Horned Owl
Belted Kingfisher
American Crow
Common Raven
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
American Robin
Dark-eyed Junco




un-hawk watch - september 17

Of all the bird outings, hawk watches are probably the hardest to plan. Not because of difficult birders, but because migrating hawks are so subject to weather conditions.

So it was on September 17 as we sent off for our annual trip to Mt. Philo State Park. As soon as we settled ourselves on the rocky promontory, we realized the gusting south wind was not in our favor. After sighting three immature bald eagles, two broad-winged hawks and one osprey, we sat down for our picnic lunch and plotted other stops for the day. Fortunately, there is always birding hotspot worth checking out in Addison County.

Lesser YellowlegsAt Charlotte Town Beach we spotted a black-bellied plover, two killdeer and a group of common mergansers. At the confluence of Otter and Dead creeks, a flock of 15 lesser yellowlegs with a single least sandpiper were near our viewing point. Further out in the water we could see a great egret and six great blue herons. A late barn swallow flew overhead.

Hoping for more shorebirds we stopped at the ‘Stone Bridge’ and came up with three more lesser yellowlegs, a Cooper’s hawk and an osprey.

When the birding slows down, birders eat ice cream! A stop at Goodie’s Snack Bar in West Addison left everyone smiling. And in an ironic twist to the day, a broad-winged hawk landed in the single tree outside the snack bar, said “nyah nyah nyah” and flew off.

Our last stop of the day was at McCuen Slang, we spotted another great egret, another osprey and a single lesser yellowlegs.



century count xxi

Bingo! 100 on the nose for today’s RCAS annual Century Count, our annual attempt to tally 100 species in the county. 

Prairie WarblerThis year marked our 21st attempt and, after two years of falling short, it was satisfying to reach our goal. Although grateful for the sunny weather, it felt more like the 4th of July rather than Memorial Day weekend. Bird song seemed to be a bit muted. 

As the group gathered at the West Rutland Price Chopper parking lot a Belted Kingfisher flew over, an unusual site for that location, but a good omen for the day. A brief stop at West Rutland Marsh yielded the usual suspects – Willow and Alder flycatcher, Yellow Warbler and Swamp Sparrow. A Wild Turkey was taking an early morning stroll down the road. 

The Pleasant Street power line is always pleasant in the early morning.  Prairie Warblers, Eastern Towhees and Field Sparrows were heard immediately. “Bees buzz” alerted us to the presence of a winged warbler which turned out to be the real deal, a Blue-winged Warbler, suitably attired for its species. A Prairie Warbler was seen carrying nesting material to an undisclosed location. A Magnolia Warbler was heard in the adjacent woods.

Then it was back to the marsh for the real treat of the morning – the fledgling Northern Saw-whet Owls. Three were spotted in the trees and brush near the nest box. Who would have thought that Least Bittern and Virginia Rail, both also heard, would be eclipsed by owls at the marsh?

Whipple Hollow Road, on the opposite side of the marsh, produced many of the same warbler species observed on last week’s marsh walk: Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Black-and-white Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided Warbler and Canada Warbler. 

Next it was on the take on the ticks at the Route 4 rest area. Eastern Wood-Pewee was heard for the first time for the day. Two Wood Thrushes gave a lovely concert despite the traffic noise from Route 4 below. Then finally we found our target – the Cerulean Warbler! At the same area both the Cerulean and a Blackburnian Warbler were singing, reminding us that it is impossible to discern a Cerulean by song alone. Finally, after much neck-breaking searching, we spotted a male Cerulean quite high (of course!) in the trees. It appeared to be hawking insects and, at one point, sat on a branch quivering its wings, leading us to believe a female was nearby.

Along the nature trail at Castleton University we picked up Pine Warbler and Louisiana Waterthrush. While sitting in traffic waiting for the marching bands from the Castleton parade to clear, we added Chimney Swift and Carolina Wren.

Our lunch stop at Bomoseen State Park was a welcome respite from the heat. While there we heard Yellow-throated Vireo and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. An American Redstart was building nest and a Scarlet Tanager was spotted.

KilldeerBobolinks were found at the Fair Haven Airport and two very hot Killdeer were sitting tight on their nests to keep their eggs cool. 

It is becoming difficult to see anything on the conserved land along Route 73 in Brandon/Sudbury as the willows and other vegetation has grown up. However, six Great Blue Herons were seen in flight, along with two Wood Duck. There was a lot of rattling of Marsh Wrens. A Common Gallinule was also heard.

The day ended with a stop at Wildcat Road and Lefferts Pond in Chittenden, where we picked up Winter Wren, Brown Creeper, Black-throated Blue Warbler and Yellow-rumped Warbler. A Broad-winged Hawk was seen perched in the dark woods. And the final bird of the day: a Common Loon floating serenely on Chittenden Reservoir. 

Every Century Count has a species that is inexplicably missed. This year there were three: Hermit Thrush, Black-throated Green Warbler and House Finch (a Purple Finch/House Finch was seen, but its true identity was never determined).

Once again, thanks to Roy Pilcher, for planning the trip and the 12 participants who used their sharp eyes and ears to good advantage.

The day's list (27 eBird checklists were entered for the day):


Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Wild Turkey
Common Loon
American Bittern
Least Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Northern Harrier
Broad-winged Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Virginia Rail
Common Gallinule
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Northern Saw-whet Owl
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
American Kestrel
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Alder Flycatcher
Willow Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Yellow-throated Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
House Wren
Winter Wren
Marsh Wren
Carolina Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Louisiana Waterthrush
Northern Waterthrush
Blue-winged Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Cerulean Warbler
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Pine Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Canada Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
White-throated Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Eastern Towhee
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow



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