With COVID restrictions for outdoor events loosened by Vermont health officials, the OCAS board voted at our board meeting on May 6th to allow the public to again attend our monthly wildlife walks at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland. With just a couple of days for publicity to get out about this change we were pleased to have seven people show up to help us document wildlife at these two properties. 

As people arrived at the Otter View Park parking lot, I took the opportunity to take a picture from the Middlebury Area Land Trust’s phenology calendar photo stick, getting the first picture of the year there dominated by the color green. As we stated out on the walk propper, Gray Catbird was head chattering away from nearby shrubs. Down on the spur trail to the boardwalk, the slow whistling song of a Blue-headed Vireo alerted us to its presence, and showed itself quite well hopping around in the branches of a tree alongside a Yellow Warbler. A little further down the boardwalk the other common local marsh warbler announced itself with its “witchity-witchity-witchity” song, but remained hidden throughout our visit. On the boardwalk we also ran into two birding college students who told us they had just seen two Virginia Rails, and sure enough, not long after we heard one calling too. On our way back out we saw a Ruby-crowned Kinglet which seems to be an absolutely ubiquitous bird anywhere you go in the Champlain Valley right now.

After a short commute we began the second part of our walk at the Hurd Grassland. Along the fence line at the edge of the property we were pleased to see a Tree Swallow peeking its head out of one of the birdhouses mounted there. Not long after we saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk zooming past overhead with mobbing Barn Swallows and Tree Swallows harassing the raptor to quicken its pace out of the area. Down in the grassland we were pleased to hear a single song from a Savannah Sparrow. Then as we were about to exit the loop around the field, we heard the jangling song of a Bobolink—a male perched at the end of the hedgerow overlooking the grass. Hopefully this presages a summer of nesting by both of these species at the property this year. Though the Bobolink was exciting, we were distracted from it by a drama happening in some nearby trees. A group of Crows were excitedly mobbing something hanging from a branch. It turned out to be a Red-tailed Hawk, dangling from a tree, wings outstretched with Crows repeatedly diving at it making a serious racket. We speculate the Hawk was in this posture to threaten the crows with its talons. After a couple of minutes of this the Hawk dropped into the brush below out of sight, the Crows continuing to mob it for a few more minutes before giving up. After that excitement we had the fun of parsing out the ID of an Empidonax Flycatcher, which we eventually decided was a Least Flycatcher after close examination of a blurry picture. And rounding out the good potential breeding news of our walk, we heard both a Field Sparrow and a Brown Thrasher singing in the appropriate habitat of the shrubland section of our property. 

All our bird sightings have been submitted to eBird and the full checklists can be viewed at the following links:

Otter View Park

Hurd Grassland

Other wildlife sightings are submitted to the Vermont Atlas of Life.