Spectacular 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.
One 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!