A small group of OCAS members set out early in the morning  on a trip to one of the most species diverse spots in the state of Vermont, the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge.

After our hour plus long drive, our first stop was Mac’s Bend Road where we walked the road as far as the beginning of the Jeep Trail which is closed during the breeding season to protect Ospreys. On our walk we enjoyed a baker’s dozen of Yellow Warblers, singing Warbling Vireos, many active Baltimore Orioles, “chebeking”Lest Flycatchers and many other birds making use of the river habitat. The most interesting sighting was an Osprey engaged in an aerial territorial display called “sky dancing” during which it calls while going up and down rapidly flapping while carrying a fish. Also fun was a Common Snapping Turtle which had been laying eggs in the Jeep Trail parking lot, but when we arrived had finished doing so and was resting while taking “cover” with its head tucked into a milk crate that had been put out near it to prevent it from being run over.

Our next move was to join up with the Friends of Missisquoi Wildlife Refuge for a Nature / Photography walk  led by Ken Copenhaver and Joe Belanger on the Steven J. Young marsh trails. The trail takes you through the marsh and into a loop through the woods and back again. Early in the walk we spotted a female Common Goldeneye in the marsh, had a clinic on the difference between Willow and Alder flycatcher songs, and heard a calling Common Gallinule which unfortunately wouldn’t come out to give us a look at it. In the woods we had a very fun encounter with a Pine Warbler which sang above our heads and then dropped down to a branch directly in front of us giving everyone a good look. Out of the woods onto the other side of the marsh we had two Osprey near what Ken told us was a rebuilt, storm damaged nest. Around the marsh further we came to a short boardwalk which took us out into the marsh where we found ourselves surrounded by Dot-tailed Whiteface and other dragonflies. We also had the unusual experience of seeing a Veery sing completely out in the open from an exposed snag. Throughout the walk Ken was great letting us in on his local knowledge and Joe gave us useful photography tips.

After that we decided to visit the Refuge headquarters which is surrounded by large tracts of managed grasslands filled with Bobolinks and Savannah Sparrows. The headquarters building itself hosts nests of both Cliff and Cave Swallows, the latter we were able to get a good look at right above the doorway.

The next place we visited was the Charcoal Creek boat access to look for one of the main targets of our visit, Black Terns. Missisquoi is the only site in the state where this species breeds and Charcoal Creek runs adjacent to one of their main nesting areas. While we were there we were able to watch at least seven Black Terns swooping over the water as they hunted for food, truly the marquis bird of our trip.

Our last stop for the day was the Maquam Creek / Black Creek trails where we picked up another couple of unique species for the day, Northern Waterthrush and Yellow-throated Vireo. Unfortunately our time had run out and we weren’t able to explore this spot fully. In all we tallied 59 species for the day and were left wanting to come back again to try to sample more of this amazing place.

– Ron Payne

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