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Entries in West Rutland Marsh (66)


a decade of bird monitoring

On August 16, 2001, fifteen members and friends of Rutland County Audubon sallied forth with the simple goal of recording, on a monthly basis, all the birds seen and heard on the 3.7 mile walk around West Rutland Marsh. The tally for that day was forty-five species! On July 21, 2011, ten years later, and having never missed a single month, nine well seasoned and, still enthusiastic, birders recorded 48 bird species. The log of species in the intervening years has now risen to 143 and the total number of participants to a staggering 1,395! Unforeseen only ten years ago was the introduction of eBird, now the ever expanding repository of not only these local marsh monitoring records, but of bird sightings across North America and now, in fact, to the world beyond.

What accounts for this quite remarkable number of bird species within the confinement of this relatively small area is the diversity of habitats. These include an extensive cattail marsh, a shrub swamp, some red maple-black ash hardwoods, stands of northern white cedar and white pine, in addition to open meadows and some, but limited, scattering of homes and formal gardens. If you have never done so, consider taking the time to visit the ten stations of the Bridge-to-Bridge Interpretive Trail to learn more about these habitats.

a Virginia Rail escorts its young across Marble St.Very few of the bird species encountered rise to the level of requiring Rare Species Documentation. Nevertheless, some of the totals recorded in a single monitoring walk are quite impressive. These record highs include American Bittern (5), Least Bittern (3), Alder Flycatcher (10), Willow Flycatcher (11), Least Flycatcher (10), Eastern Kingbird (29), Warbling Vireo (11), Marsh Wren (19), Eastern Bluebird (28), Veery (16), Common Yellowthroat (24), and Rusty Blackbird (18).

The occurrence, sustainability and diversity of these bird populations are directly tied to the health and preservation of the habitat upon which they depend. The encouraging news is that both Rutland County Audubon and the Town of West Rutland through their elected representatives are united in the goal of preserving this wetland ecosystem and the lands surrounding it.


time to visit the marsh!

The trees are leafing out, the marsh marigolds are blooming, and the West Rutland Marsh is sparkling after volunteers descended upon the area on May 7 as part of Vermont’s annual Green Up Day. Seven RCAS members joined town residents and other volunteers in the cleanup. Thanks to Dave McDevitt of the Nature Conservancy, our task was made easier by a team of ten AmericCorps of members, who used their day off to help with the huge task. 

Mounds of tires, mattresses, computers and televisions, bags of household trash, and the usual roadside trash of fast food wrappers and beer cans were pulled from the roadsides and ditches around the marsh. Despite the mess, the birds were singing brightly, and while they may not appreciate the efforts, visiting birders in the coming weeks will. 

If you haven’t visited West Rutland Marsh lately, now is the time!  Most of the migrants are back including American and Least bitterns, Virginia Rail, Sora, and Marsh Wren. We await the arrival of the flycatchers, Willow and Alder, and maybe some surprises.


nine years of monthly bird marsh monitoring completed

monitoring walk #108On Saturday, July 22, 2010 Rutland County Audubon members and friends completed the 108th month of bird monitoring of the West Rutland Marsh. The monitoring consists of walking the 3.7 mile perimeter of the marsh each month and recording all birds seen and/or heard during the walk. Any individual who has participated in all 108 monthly monitoring walks would have covered 399.6 miles and would have seen or heard 139 different species of birds!

While those numbers may be impressive, what is more important is the ever expanding data set that has been faithfully recorded on eBird, a collaborative effort of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon and publicly available to researchers, bird enthusiasts and the curious. During nine years of marsh monitoring, 1,266 individuals participated, constituting a potential community of informed and empathetic advocates willing and ready to ensure the sustainability of the marsh and its diverse inhabitants.

While monitoring is both collegial and fun, many participate in welcoming the opportunity to hone their birding skills, both auditory and visual. It would be difficult to imagine a more dynamic and inviting classroom in which to learn, to exercise and to contribute.

While celebrating this birding milestone, there is more to the marsh than just the birds! The ten-station Bridge to Bridge Interpretive Trail, with the help of a brochure available at the kiosk, can expand the horizons of the curious to the flora, to the landscape and even to the soils characteristic of a wetland as it traverses River Street to the south and Marble Street to the east.

West Rutland Media CampThis summer, among the curious, there were three groups of young people who visited the marsh to experience some of the treasures that it has to offer, a Tapestry class from Rutland, the West Rutland Academy and the West Rutland School Media Camp. Click here to see the video created by the students.

Everyone is welcome to participate in Rutland County Audubon’s field trips and activities. There is no charge. Notice of events may be found in the local press and also on the Events section of this website.


green up Vermont every day

I spotted these words today on a sign at a general store. Yellow WarblerThey seem appropriate especially for this time of year. On Saturday May 1, RCAS volunteers and other members of the community descended on West Rutland Marsh for the annual Green Up Day cleanup. A mountain of trash was pulled out and once again the marsh is ready for the migrant birds that are already pouring in. Thank you to all who worked so hard!

Sadly this much trash is pulled out of the marsh each year. Every town has at least one area prone to illegal dumping. Unfortunately these areas are often in great birding habitat. The careless trash of cans and bottles and fast food bags seems inevitable, but it is hard to fathom the deliberate dumping of appliances and furniture, and even worse, items such as motor oil.

RCAS welcomes ideas for keeping West Rutland Marsh and other areas free from dumping. In the meantime we can all help out by leaving areas cleaner than we find them. Enjoy your sparkling clean marsh!


West Rutland Marsh - 55 more acres preserved!

We have exciting news about our preservation efforts at West Rutland Marsh. As many of you know, Rutland County Audubon has undertaken a long-term Yellow Warblereffort to preserve the marsh through bird monitoring and offering environmental education opportunities. Much of the wetland is owned privately, which potentially makes the ideal bird and wildlife habitat vulnerable. While there has been no immediate threat of development, there is also no guarantee.

Thanks to a grant from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB) that has changed. Spearheaded by RCAS, the town of West Rutland succesfully applied for the grant and now the town owns another 55-acre parcel which will be protected. This particular parcel is important because of its habitat and location. The property consists of a broad marshy stretch of the Castleton River's headwaters and a grove of old growth white pine. It is located between Whipple Hollow Road and Marble Street and is bordered on the north and west by lands already preserved. This key piece provides a continguous parcel of protect habitat.

The grant process, begun in July 2008, has been a long one. VHCB supported us throughout the process despite budget cuts in a difficult economic time and our attorney helped steer us through some legal glitches. One of the strong points of the application was the partnership between a municipality and a non-profit organization.

The news comes with responsiblity. RCAS has accepted the challenge of helping plan and implement conservation goals to this parcel and the additional 200 plus acres owned by the town. We will need plenty of volunteer help and probably financial support. We must develop an action plan to have everyone understand what needs to be done and in what order. If you are interested in helping, let us know by contacting me at vtbirdhouses@yahoo.com or at 775-2415.

It is a thrill to be making a positive effort in preserving bird habitat. We believe that places like this must be preserved. In fact it may be more important now than ever to keep places like West Rutland Marsh unspoiled by development. It is during the tough times that we most enjoy the natural world.