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West Rutland Marsh - April 2019

The morning of April 13 dawned warm and drizzly, when 23 birds of all generations, including visitors from Southern Adirondack Audubon Society, set out on our monthly monitoring walk around West Rutland Marsh, the last one for the season to be held at 8 a.m. (on our May 23 walk, we will start at 7 a.m.).

The trip along the length of the boardwalk produced multiple Swamp Sparrows, new arrivals, legions of nosily cackling Canada geese, and the expected Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles and Song Sparrows. A few members were lucky enough to hear an American Bittern and a Virginia Rail as well, but alas, this author did not.

Travel along Marble Street brought a surprise five-minute downpour, and then six Wild Turkeys, one make in full display, were sighted, creating lots of excitement for everyone and photo ops for the camera buffs.

A more dismaying event took place as well, five coyote carcasses were round in the ditches along the roadside. It would seem that trappers or hunters had thrown them there after their catch. While this was an unpleasant sight for adults, it was perhaps most horrifying for the children in our group.

Luckily, we spied a patch of spring’s first wildflowers, too, as if to counteract the ugliness. These were snowdrops and soooo lovely. The Pleasant Street bridge yielded our first Tree Swallows of the year (FOY, in birder’s terms), such a delight to watch them wheeling about, in pursuit of their next snack, whatever insect was flying.

On to Whipple Hollow Road we went where a Winter Wren sang loudly and sweetly, making it impossible to ignore its presence. At the walk’s end, many claimed this species to be the highlight of the walk for them.

But still other delights lay ahead. A Barred Owl sang out ‘who, who cooks for you?” as we passed by. Several Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned kinglets showed up too. The Ruby-crowned even sported his crown on this day.

Turning onto Water Street, all were listening for a Virginia Rail, often heard here. None appeared, but while observing the bluebird house near the end of the street, several sharp-eyed birders spied a Palm Warbler (FOY). And, on the bridge, we all watched a leucistic Canada Goose swim lazily around, keeping apart from the other geese.

As we departed for our cars, the Kulas’s excitedly reported having seen two Black-crowned Night-Herons fly overhead, ending our trip with a bang! Next month there will be nearly too many birds to count, but this month was wonderfully exciting.

The next walk is Thursday, May 23, at 7 a.m.

The list:


Canada Goose  26
Mallard  5
Hooded Merganser  2
Ruffed Grouse  3
Wild Turkey  6
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  1
Mourning Dove  5
American Bittern  1    heard
Great Blue Heron  2
Black-crowned Night-Heron  2   
Turkey Vulture  4
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Barred Owl  2
Belted Kingfisher  1
Downy Woodpecker  7
Hairy Woodpecker  2
Pileated Woodpecker  2
Northern Flicker  2
Eastern Phoebe  8
Blue Jay  5
American Crow  6
Common Raven  2
Tree Swallow  6
Black-capped Chickadee  10
Tufted Titmouse  5
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Brown Creeper  1
Winter Wren  1
Golden-crowned Kinglet  7
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Eastern Bluebird  2
American Robin  9
European Starling  8
House Finch  3
American Goldfinch  6
American Tree Sparrow  3
Dark-eyed Junco  14
White-throated Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  15
Swamp Sparrow  7
Red-winged Blackbird  18
Common Grackle  15
Northern Cardinal  3
House Sparrow  1




West Rutland Marsh - March 2019

     The ringing tones of the first Red-winged Blackbirds of the year greeted us as we stepped out of our cars at the kiosk on Marble Street on March 16. Overhead, at the tops of bare trees, we could see their shiny black feathers gleaming in the early morning sunlight. And, soon after, we heard the raspy “chucks” of the Common Grackle, which had also just returned from its southern winter sojourn. But, even more surprising, the opening notes of the Song Sparrow pealed out as we headed off on our 3.7-mile trek. For sure, despite the ice and snow still covering the wetland plants and the sad lack of green in the reeds, spring had come to West Rutland Marsh once again. 
     Inspired by such an auspicious outset, eight of us tramped along the road, spying a Bald Eagle, two Sharp-shinned Hawks, and a Turkey Vulture, all soaring high in the clouds above the hills to the west of us. We also stole a quick glimpse of a Merlin, as he attempted to catch his breakfast at a bird-feeding station en route and were delighted by the rosiness of three House Finches hidden in the bushes at this same station.
     Up close and personal, five Wild Turkeys trotted across the road in front of us, giving us each a clear view of these magnificent American birds and their multi-colored feathers. The photographers among us were happy to have a good photo op while these grazed in the field they had reached. Of course, there were still the typical winter birds around and we catalogued twenty-seven species in all for the two and a half-hour jaunt. All in all, it was a glorious and very solid day of monitoring the marsh. 


The day's list (27 species):

Canada Goose  8
Wild Turkey  5
Mourning Dove  12
Turkey Vulture  1
Sharp-shinned Hawk  2
Bald Eagle  1
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Downy Woodpecker  3
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Merlin  1    
Blue Jay  1
American Crow  26
Common Raven  4
Black-capped Chickadee  23
Tufted Titmouse  5
White-breasted Nuthatch  6
Eastern Bluebird  1
American Robin  16
European Starling  17
House Finch  3
American Tree Sparrow  5
Dark-eyed Junco  4
Song Sparrow  3
Red-winged Blackbird  25
Common Grackle  13
Northern Cardinal  6
House Sparrow  1

West Rutland Marsh - February 2019

For mid-February it was a pretty nice day to be out birding. Sixteen birders participated in today’s walk around West Rutland Marsh, which coincided with this weekend’s Great Backyard Bird Count.

Despite the mild weather, the number of species was fairly low with 17 species seen and/or heard. This is one less than our February average of 18 and two less than one year ago.

Except for 29 black-capped chickadees, the number of individuals was low as well – one downy woodpecker, two hairy woodpeckers, four tufted titmice, one white-breasted nuthatch. But there was definitely a bit more bird song than in January!

The highlight of the day was an out-of-season gray catbird, lurking in the brush and phragmites along Whipple Hollow Road. We did see pussy willows along the route today so maybe spring is not all that far off!

We heard a Carolina wren singing and the walk ended with four American robins. The feeders near the boardwalk are still busy with American tree sparrows.

The Great Backyard Bird Count runs through Monday, February 18, so there is still time to get out and count birds!

Our next walk is scheduled for Saturday, March 16, at 8 a.m.


Ruffed Grouse  1
Mourning Dove  34
Red-tailed Hawk  3
Downy Woodpecker  1
Hairy Woodpecker  2
Blue Jay  7
American Crow  7
Common Raven  3
Black-capped Chickadee  29
Tufted Titmouse  4
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Brown Creeper  1
Carolina Wren  1
American Robin  4
Gray Catbird  1   
American Tree Sparrow  4
Northern Cardinal  4




West Rutland Marsh - January 2019

Black-capped ChickadeeEight, very bundled up birders, managed to tally 21 species on January’s walk around West Rutland Marsh. This is two more than our average for this month of the year and one more than a year ago.

The morning started at 2 degrees, but when we really concentrated, we could feel the warmth of the sun on our backs (admittedly not a lot). Fortunately, there was no wind.

Black-capped chickadees were the winners of the day as far as numbers go. Forty-eight were counted along the route, some in groups of seven or eight. American robins were second, in two groups, one of about 30 or so. Three cedar waxwings were spotted among the robins.

One sharp-eyed birder stayed back along Pleasant Street where he spotted a northern shrike, which has been seen in the area since our December walk.

Eighteen wild turkeys were seen in fields along Whipple Hollow Road.

We ended the day with a white-throated sparrow among the American tree sparrows and chickadees near the boardwalk.

Our next walk is scheduled for Saturday, February 16. The walk is being held in conjunction with the Great Backyard Bird Count, February 15-18. If being out in the cold isn’t your thing, click here to find out how you can participate in the GBBC.

The list: 

Wild Turkey  18
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  3
Mourning Dove  19
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Downy Woodpecker  5
Hairy Woodpecker  3
Northern Shrike  1
Blue Jay  30
American Crow  5
Common Raven  2
Black-capped Chickadee  48   
Tufted Titmouse  8
White-breasted Nuthatch  4
American Robin  42
Cedar Waxwing  3
American Goldfinch  1
American Tree Sparrow  6
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)  2
White-throated Sparrow  1
Northern Cardinal  2
House Sparrow  4





West Rutland Marsh - December 2018

by Kathleen Guinness

Monitoring the West Rutland Marsh for birds in December can be a tricky thing; it can be bone-chillingly cold or the weather can be as warm as it is in early spring. Today, the eleven of us from RCAS who set aside our Christmas busy-ness and who set out were given the gift of a spring–like day, with a sun peeking out at us to start and becoming more bright with every step we took and temperatures rising into the 40s. It made all of us feel optimistic and maybe even a little giddy, after the cold spell we’d had just two days earlier.

But, better than the weather, even, were the exciting birds we spotted along the 3.7 mile walk. There were the usual suspects at the feeders at the kiosk: sparrows, cardinals, downy woodpeckers, and chickadees. Further up, there were titmice and nuthatches and a spectacularly harsh sounding raven. It was after we rounded the bend that we got our second gift of the day - a northern shrike, appearing at the top of a distant deciduous tree and looking like a cotton bud or a catkin to an inexperienced birder. This sighting made us jump for joy, as it is so infrequently seen. Everyone had a happy face as we headed onto Whipple Hollow Road and spied our first junco of the day.

On Whipple Hollow Road, a group of eight turkeys surprised us, too. And, then....someone spotted a big-eyed, flying squirrel poking its sweet head out of a birdhouse made by Marv Elliott. Several good pictures were taken of that special creature, even though it was not a bird (Audubon treasures all of wildlife). It was our third gift.

No, there was not a Partridge in a Pear Tree, but there were seventeen, lovely species, with the high count being friendly, chirping chickadees, on a beautiful day in mid-December. With these gifts, who could want a hippopotamus for Christmas?!


The List:
Wild Turkey  8
Mourning Dove  10
Downy Woodpecker  6
Hairy Woodpecker  5
Pileated Woodpecker  1
Northern Shrike  1
Blue Jay  4
American Crow  3
Common Raven  1
Black-capped Chickadee  26
Tufted Titmouse  9
White-breasted Nuthatch  3
European Starling  5
American Goldfinch  6
American Tree Sparrow  5
Dark-eyed Junco  1
Northern Cardinal  3