What You Can Do
National Audubon
Blog Archive

Entries in field trips (23)

Sunday
Jan182015

trip report: winter regulars & rarities

Meach CoveSpectacular blue skies compensated for the bitter cold experienced during RCAS’s Winter Regulars and Rarities field trip on January 17. Nineteen participants, dressed from head to toe in winter gear, stopped at various points along Lake Champlain and the open fields of Addison County and southern Chittenden County to survey for birds that spend the winter in Vermont. 

Ducks are always a highlight of a winter trip. Stops at Shelburne Point, Shelburne Farms, Meach Cove and Charlotte Town Beach were the most productive as the ice continues to close in. Shelburne Point offered Common Goldeneye, Ring-necked Duck, Common Merganser as well as Mallard and American Black Duck. 

Five Horned Grebes were seen at Shelburne Farms and two Common Loons at Charlotte Town Beach. The only Bufflehead of the day were seen here as well. A male Northern Pintail was curled up among the resting Mallards at Meach Cove (aka Shelburne Beach). 

A single Snow Goose was among a flock of Canada geese at Converse Bay. 

In addition to the above, large rafts of waterfowl, well out of identifying range, were observed at several points along the route. 

Four Bald Eagles, two adult and two immature, were seen at Meach Cove. A fifth Bald Eagle was seen later along the route. A beautiful gray male Northern Harrier was swooping over the fields along Jersey Street while just south of there a Peregrine Falcon was actively hunting pigeons around a farm.

Another highlight of the day was spotted while the group scanned the water at Kellogg Bay. One of the participants turned to find a Ruffed Grouse, unperturbed by our presence, feeding in a tree immediately behind us.

Snow Buntings were in short supply as were Horned Larks (none were seen). However, 12 Rough-legged Hawks made up for that as well as numerous Red-tailed Hawks. 

Eastern Bluebirds are always a welcome sight. A small flock was spotted along Converse Bay Road. A couple of American Robins were seen in this area as well. 

Ruffed GrouseOne of the last stops of the day was in Bridport at a feeder location that has hosted a Harris’s Sparrow, a rare visitor to the state, since November. This was a life bird for several members so the wait for its appearance in the deepening cold of the closing day was worth it. 

The total species list for the day was 42 with 20 eBird checklists were submitted. Thanks to Roy Pilcher for serving as the trip leader!

Trip list:

 

Snow Goose
Canada Goose
American Black Duck
Mallard
Northern Pintail
Ring-necked Duck
Bufflehead
Common Goldeneye
Common Merganser
Ruffed Grouse
Common Loon
Horned Grebe
Northern Harrier
Cooper's Hawk
Bald Eagle
Red-tailed Hawk
Rough-legged Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Peregrine Falcon
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
European Starling
American Tree Sparrow
Harris's Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
House Finch
House Sparrow

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday
Jun012014

century count XIX

RCAS was a decade short of a century on May 31. Our 19th annual attempt to tally 100 species in Rutland County missed what seemed to be very obvious species. However, what we lacked in quantity was more than compensated by some unusual species as well as the opportunity to view some of Vermont’s beautiful scenery on our tour around the county.

After a couple quick stops, the real birding began along the Pleasant Street power line in West Rutland. As the early morning mist lifted over West Rutland Marsh below, the Prairie Warblers, Eastern Towhees and Field Sparrows were tuning up. Among the growing bird song we heard ‘bee buzz’ and knew one of the winged warblers was about, probably a Blue-winged Warbler. Following the new guidelines for reporting the winged warblers, we tracked them down (two males) and found they were indeed Blue-winged Warblers with all the appropriate field marks.

Sharp ears picked up a Brown Thrasher on the power line. A Nashville Warbler was also spotted and a Red-breasted Nuthatch was heard in the conifers along the edge. Oddly, we saw no White-breasted Nuthatch during the count.

Alder FlycatcherA good deal of time was spent at West Rutland Marsh where most of the expected species were seen or heard. This included five Virginia Rails heard along the boardwalk, Water Street and Pleasant Street and two American Bitterns flying over the marsh. A Marsh Wren was making a racket near the boardwalk so no doubt there is a nest nearby.

The next stop was the Route 4 rest area, which is probably ‘tick central’ for Vermont (please see our previous article for important information on ticks). American Redstarts are abundant in this area as are Scarlet Tanagers and Indigo Buntings. The highlight here and the highlight for the day was a Cerulean Warbler in the same area where it was seen in 2010 and 2011. It was in full song and, after much searching, we were able to glimpse enough of the bird to be confident of the identification.

After a break for cookies, we headed to the Lake Bomoseen area, where the north end (the Lake Bomoseen/Hubbardton Marshes IBA) is a good prospect for ducks. There we were surprised to find four male Ring-necked Ducks. We also saw our first Killdeer for the day (that and a Wilson’s Snipe at Lake Hortonia were our only shorebirds of the day).

As we headed down Black Pond/Moscow Road toward our lunch stop at Bomoseen State Park, we picked up Wood Duck, a Double-crested Cormorant on Breese Pond, a Black-billed Cuckoo and a Northern Waterthrush. A Ruby-throated Hummingbird was perched on a dead snag where we find him every year. Our only White-throated Sparrow of the day was found along this road.

A second Black-billed Cuckoo was at Bomoseen State Park where we also heard a Yellow-throated Vireo and saw an active Baltimore Oriole nest.

From the upper lot of the Kehoe Fishing Access along Lake Bomoseen we found the expected Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Black-and-white Warbler. A Red-bellied Woodpecker was heard here and a Common Loon in basic plumage was seen out on the lake.

KilldeerAt the Fair Haven Municipal Airport we found four fuzzy Killdeer chicks with their parents fussing nearby. A second pair of Killdeer was guarding a nest with four eggs.

Our travels toward and through Benson yielded the expected Bobolinks and a Savannah Sparrow. Along Pleasant Valley Road in Benson we were happy to hear a Northern Mockingbird and an Eastern Meadowlark as well as more Bobolinks.

At the fishing access on Lake Hortonia the aforementioned Wilson’s Snipe were calling incessantly and a female Wood Duck was being trailed by eight young. Two female Hooded Mergansers were on Burr Pond in Sudbury.

Our final stop along Route 73, at a property recently restored under the Wetland Reserve Program on the Sudbury/Brandon line, we were treated to Common Gallinule, Pied-billed Grebe, American Bittern and Virginia Rail.

Thanks to all the sharp-eyed, sharp-eared participants and to Roy Pilcher for planning the trip.

The full list:  

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Mallard
Ring-necked Duck
Hooded Merganser
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
American Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
Virginia Rail
Common Gallinule
Killdeer
Wilson's Snipe
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Black-billed Cuckoo
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Yellow-throated Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Marsh Wren
Eastern Bluebird
Veery
Hermit Thrush
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Ovenbird
Northern Waterthrush
Blue-winged Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Cerulean Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Canada Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Bobolink
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

 

 

Sunday
Jan122014

trip report: winter regulars & rarities

A day fit for neither man nor beast, but okay for birders. Such was the weather for the RCAS Regulars and Rarities in the Champlain Valley field trip yesterday. This annual winter trip has experienced a variety of meteorological conditions – sub-zero temperatures, howling winds and even weather sunny and warm enough for a picnic. Not January 11, however. A surprising 15 participants turned out for the adventure.

Temperatures rising to just under 50 and a more than intermittent rain produced thick clouds of fog over the snow-covered fields. Road conditions were fine for driving, but parking areas were slick sheets of ice. The viewing of waterfowl on Lake Champlain was actually quite decent, but inland raptors appeared as pale apparitions.

Nevertheless, a total of 30 species, comprising 10 eBird checklists, was tallied. At Shelburne Point, Mallard and American Black Duck dabbled at the water’s edge while further out flocks of Common Goldeneye and Bufflehead bobbed in the water. A single female Red-breasted Merganser was also seen as well as an adult Bald Eagle soaring far out over an island.

More waterfowl was seen on Shelburne Bay from both Harbor Road and the fishing access. A handsome male Red-breasted Merganser was close enough for good viewing while Horned Grebes, six in all, were further out and three Hooded Mergansers hugged the opposite shore. A Canvasback was a highlight, seen from the fishing access, and a life bird for some. A second Bald Eagle, this one an immature, was sitting on the ice.

Shelburne Beach (Meach Cove) had the greatest waterfowl variety including Ring-necked Duck, both scaup and, best of all, a female Barrow’s Goldeneye.

The Charlotte Ferry landing produced another adult Bald Eagle, two Horned Grebe and three gull species – Ring-billed, Herring and Great Black-backed.

The rest of the day was spent in what began to seem like a fruitless search for a Snowy Owl. A couple of passes along Route 17 between the goose viewing area and the West Addison General Store came up empty although an American Kestrel, a Rough-legged Hawk and two Red-tailed Hawks were seen. Finally, along Town Line Road in Bridport the bird we were all hoping for appeared. It was sitting atop a power pole where it remained long enough for everyone to have a good look before disappearing as a ghost in the fog.

Trip List:

 

American Black Duck  
Mallard
Canvasback
Ring-necked Duck
Great Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Bufflehead
Common Goldeneye
Barrow's Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Horned Grebe
Bald Eagle
Red-tailed Hawk
Rough-legged Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Snowy Owl
Hairy Woodpecker
American Kestrel
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Black-capped Chickadee
American Robin
European Starling
Northern Cardinal
House Finch

 

 

Friday
Sep202013

hawk watching at Mt. Philo

Hawk watches might seem a bit strange especially to novices. A group of birders perch on a rocky outcrop staring out into the sky and clouds, seemingly at nothing and sometimes at unidentified specks.

Raptors (hawk, falcons and accipiters) migrate over several weeks in the fall, but the Broad-winged Hawk movement is restricted to a short period in mid-September. However, pinpointing the exact moments raptors will pass over a hawk watch site is an inexact science. So it went with RCAS’s annual visit to Mt. Philo State Park on September 14.

the view from Mt. PhiloFortunately, the breaks in the action, and there were many, were filled with the camaraderie of birders. There was much joking, laughing and the more serious business of sharing birding knowledge and experiences. With the backdrop of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks, the morning went quickly.

One of the early highlights was an immature Broad-winged Hawk sailing beneath the outcrop, its markings clearly visible to even the inexperienced. Bald Eagles caught the attention of non-birding picnickers. In all eight raptor species were identified (Osprey, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk and Red-tailed Hawk).

a kettle of hawkJust before we departed a kettle of broad-wings came from behind Mt. Philo and into our line of vision. A kettle is a group of migrating raptors taking advantage of thermal updrafts to gain altitude and then ‘peeling off’ and moving on, an energy saving measure.

As always there are other things to see in the Champlain Valley. Earlier reports of shorebirds on Lake Road in Charlotte drew us there after leaving Mt. Philo. Although few birds were left, we did manage to scope an American Golden-plover, a Baird’s Sandpiper and two Pectoral Sandpipers along with several Killdeer. A late stop at the Brilyea Access at Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area gave us a hint at the next group of migrants to pass through - waterfowl. There we saw Green-winged Teal, a couple Blue-winged Teal and, overhead, a skein of Canada Geese.

Sunday
Jul072013

wetland restoration field trip - july 13

suitable habitat for a variety of birds along Otter CreekOver the last five years, private landowners, federal/state agencies and non-profit groups have been working together to restore wetlands along Otter Creek. Find out what was done and why and see the results firsthand. RCAS and SER-New England will have a joint field trip to Rte 73 in on the Brandon/Sudbury line to visit restored land there. 

Click here to read more about the property.

Rain or shine. Bring boots. 9 AM at the pull-off on the east side of the the Otter Creek bridge on Rte 73 (approximately 3.25 miles west of Brandon).