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On Thursday November 14, the Otter Creek Audubon Society will be holding our Annual Dinner and Meeting, a chance for us to get together with the OCAS community and celebrate the work we have done over the past year, and the volunteers who have made that work possible.

Our featured speaker this year will be Bridget Butler, The Bird Diva. As a naturalist with over 20 years of experience, Bridget is on a mission to tap into each person’s innate passion for nature and to turn that passion into action. In her presentation titled Time to Fly, Bridget, will explore the fall migration of birds leaving our area, and those that are coming to us. Where did they all go and why? Is it even worth it to go birding after the fall migration? Um, YES!

Bridget Butler

We are also very pleased to be be presenting our Silver Feather Award to to Al Karnatz for his work with the Vermont Land Trust and his continued devotion and dedication to the preservation of the natural communities of Addison County.

The meeting will be held at the The American Legion, 49 Wilson Road, Middlebury, Vermont. Preceded by a social hour, a Lasagna dinner will begin at 6pm. The cost for the meal is $20.00, and you can use this invitation (pdf) to make reservations.

The meeting at 6:45, Silver Feather presentation at 7:15 and the featured speaker beginning at 7:45 are free and open to the public.

This month’s wildlife walk at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland started off with a slightly ominous sighting. Three Turkey Vultures perched on a bare tree overlooking the parking lot. But after checking the health of our participants, we decided that all was well, and it was just birds making use of a good roosting site.

Down on the boardwalk we did observe what might have been a life and death situation. A Black-capped Chickadee flew past us and started interacting noisy with another chickadee. After a moment’s confusion, we realized that one of them had become stuck on some burdocks. One of our participants, Gary Starr, went to attempt to help it out—after taking some pictures first. But when he reached out to try to free the bird, it redoubled its efforts and managed to escape from the clingy trap on its own.

Other sightings in the park included a fearless Ruby-crowned Kinglet which allowed us get up close views, and snap some good pictures. A group of Wood Ducks down on the Otter Creek which were joined by a flock of Canada Goose who landed on the river as we watched. A variety of blackbirds were evident, including Red-wings a couple Common Grackles, as well as a lone Rusty Blackbird which alerted us to its presence with its song. Also, on our way back up the boardwalk we got a great look at a Blue-headed Vireo.

Over at the Hurd Grassland insects were more of a feature than birds. We saw several Monarch Butterflies, Painted Ladies, and Clouded Sulfurs. And one of our group (Me) had a brief look at Milbert’s Tortoiseshell Butterfly as well. We weren’t completely bereft of birds, however. A pair of Common Ravens gave a s good airshow flying in tandem together. A Red-tailed Hawk was seen far to the north of the property in a thermal with a bunch more Turkey Vultures. We were a little disappointed in our haul of Sparrows on the walk, but we did manage to flush a White-throated Sparrow at the end.

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.

Our Next walk will take place Saturday, November 9 at 8:00 AM. Meet at the parking area of Otter View Park at the intersection of Weybridge St. and Pulp Mill Bridge Road.

On Saturday September 28, OCAS along with The Moosalamoo Association held a hike to celebrate National Public Lands Day up to Silver Lake in Goshen. Twelve people came together on a crisp autumn morning at the Silver Lake trail parking area on Lake Dunmore Rd. in Salisbury. Our goal for the day was to find some migrating warblers and hopefully spot some water birds on Silver Lake.

Things started off very well with a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker seen high in a tree at the parking lot, and as we started out, A Common Loon was heard calling from nearby Lake Dunmore. Birds were more quite as we climbed the trail, but we did find a Gray Catbird along the way. Further on we had a brief look at two Hermit Thrushes as they flushed in front of us. Heard but not seen were singing Blue-headed Vireos and a calling Winter Wren.

When we reached the lake we were treated to a distant look at a Common Loon at the far end of the lake. That not being good enough for us, we circled around the lake hoping for a better view. Along the way we found a flock of four Golden-crowned Kinglets hopping around some Hemlock trees.

Our attempt to get a better look at the loon was a success when we made our way to a northern cove and were able to see an adult and a juvenile Loon at close range. Better yet we were able to watch the adult catching fish and feeding them to the young loon, and also see the latter exercising its wings. From this spot we also had a great look at a Belted Kingfisher as it flew across the lake.

At this point, half of our group had to rush back, but those who took a more leisurely walk back down the mountain were treated to more birds, and finally some Warblers. Tennessee Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler and Black-throated Blue Warbler all gave us a chance to get a look at them, as well as a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. And when there weren’t birds, we passed the time examining insects, flowers, mushrooms and other flora and fauna to be seen in these rich woods.

All in all this was a very fun trip, one we hope we can turn it into an annual event.

CLICK HERE FOR A CHECKLIST OF THE BIRDS WE OBSERVED.

A Wren’s Nest preschooler explores a classroom puddle with a new collecting net.

Otter Creek Audubon Society (OCAS), the Addison County chapter of the National Audubon Society, is pleased to announce the availability of a limited number of grants to help finance environmental education projects for Addison County schools. The mission of Otter Creek Audubon Society is to protect birds, other wildlife and their habitats by encouraging a culture of conservation within Addison County. All local efforts are volunteer-run.

Grant funds may be used to help defer the cost of transportation, admission fees, equipment, outside presentations, or other expenses that will improve students’ understanding of the natural world. Grants of up to a maximum of $800 per request will be awarded for use in 2020. Requests for other resources, such as OCAS volunteers’ time or the loan of materials from the OCAS Lending Library, may also be included in the proposals. Otter Creek Audubon Society seeks to assist schools in multiple school districts. Also, proposals that get students into the natural world will be favored. Applicants will be judged based on their response to the following questions:

  • What is the environmental education value of the field trip or event?
  • What are the education outcomes you expect from your students
  • How many students with the field trip or event serve?

Please distribute the attached application materials widely to your school’s teachers. Applications are due by Monday, November 4, 2019, and can be sent to cgramsmac@mac.com. Successful grant recipients will likely be contacted by Thursday, December 19, 2019. Grant recipients will also be asked to provide a one to two-page summary, including photos, of their field trip/event after it takes place.

Otter Creek Audubon is continually refining the field trip/event grant application process. If there are any questions or recommendations about the application process please contact Carol Ramsayer at 802-989-7115 or email cgramsmac@mac.com.

CLICK HERE FOR AN APPLICATION FORM

This year’s Buck Mountain hawk watch took place on a day in which the weather seemed perfect in every respect except one. While it was sunny and there were high clouds which aid in spotting hawks, there was also a noticeable South Wind, and in the opinion of Ron Payne, the leader of the walk, and author of this article, that meant we weren’t going to see many hawks at all. Fortunately, when at the Ferrisburgh Park & Ride, the pre-event meeting place, he was immediately proven wrong when 27 Broad-winged Hawks, a Bald Eagle and an Osprey being harassed by a Cooper’s Hawk went overhead using some very effective thermals.

With that cheery information in hand, we carpooled over to the Buck Mountain trail-head, meeting some other people there and started our hike up to the overlook. On our way up, as usual we admired the rich woods of the mountain and pointed out interesting things along the way. Of note this year was a tree covered in a recent hatch of flying ants, and a Butternut tree that had dropped a large number of nuts alongside the trail.

At the overlook, we were indeed treated to a very good Broad-winged Hawk showing. Several “kettes,” hawks rising up on thermals together like bubbles rising in a boiling pot, were seen, including one that formed right above us. Most of the Broad wings we saw, though were already streaming off kettles that had formed somewhere out of sight to the northwest of us. Other hawks seen were a Sharp-shinned Hawk, a non-migrating Red-tailed Hawk and a probable Kestrel. In total we had 69 Broad-wings in the hour and a half we spent on top of the mountain making this one of our more successful hawk watch events.

Click here for a full checklist of the birds we saw.

Seven people came out decked out in rain-wear for This month’s wildlife walk at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland took place on a morning with threatening weather that never arrived. Something that nobody complained about.

At Otter View Park, skittish juvenile Song Sparrows and a noisy passing Northern Flicker kept us entertained as we started out. And a small skein of ten Canada Goose set a bit of an autumnal tone. Further along, we admired the continued expansion of beaver dam terraces under the boardwalk. A Marsh Wren teased us with its call from the cattails letting us have only brief looks at it. A Warbling Vireo was doing some half-hearted singing, and a couple of Common Yellowthroats popped up where we could see them. The best sighting of this part of the walk was a flyby by an adult Bald Eagle, and on the other end of the size scale, a Wilson’s Warbler popped out of a bush so shortly that only those quick with their binoculars could see it.

Over at the Hurd Grassland the bird activity was dampered a bit by the wind. We did ‘spish’ a Swamp Sparrow out of some reeds in the lower field. A pair of Ravens were seen a couple of times gliding about and talking to each other. A flight of three Wood Ducks were seen zooming by overhead. A spry leap by one of our participants led to the capture of a Spring Peeper Frog which afterword seemed content to be photographed while sitting on another participant’s jacket. And on the trail back up to the starting point, we spotted some Yellow-bellied Sapsucker wells on a maple tree.

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.

Our Next walk will take place Saturday, October at 8:00 AM. Meet at the parking area of Otter View Park at the intersection of Weybridge St. and Pulp Mill Bridge Road.

Eight people came out for this month’s walk at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland on what could be only described as a perfect August day. Sunny and cool and lacking the high humidity we had been having recently, it mad for a pleasant outing.

Song Sparrow were the early greeters along as we started off at the park, and would be a theme throughout the morning. Along the boardwalk we noticed some new beaver work, extending their dam further and retaining a lot of the three inches of rain we had in the previous days. A pair of Marsh Wrens kept teasing us with their scolding while hidden in the cattails, finally revealing themselves to some persistent watcher. Down at the river we watched three Green Herons fly up and land at the tops of trees. On our way back we spotted an Empidonax flycatcher that sat long enough in one place for us to definitively identify it as a Least Flycatcher.

Over at the Hurd Grassland we watched Barn Swallows zooming back and forth over the newly mowed field. Song Sparrows again were conspicuous dotted around the trails alone and in family groups with youngsters — we tallied 22 of them in all. A Common Yellowthroat and Swamp Sparrow briefly popped up where they could be viewed, but were otherwise only heard. An Eastern Towhee was observed in the shrubland section of the property singing its “drink your tea” song. Field Sparrows weren’t singing, but one of them did pop up to give us great looks at it. An Osprey was seen flying overhead as were several Turkey Vultures. We ended our morning in Gale Hurd’s kitchen enjoying a snack and some Ruby-throated Humming birds visiting her feeders.

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.

Our Next walk will take place Saturday, September 14 at 7:00 AM. Meet at the parking area of Otter View Park at the intersection of Weybridge St. and Pulp Mill Bridge Road.

This month’s wildlife walks at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland took place on a seasonally warm morning. Our crew this time out were all walk regulars which made for a companionable outing.

At the park, a Catbird was keeping up a constant racket while we gathered in the parking lot. Along the trail we spotted an Eastern Cottontail Rabbit that quickly dived for cover when it saw us. At the end of the boardwalk we saw thee families of Wood Ducks that we tallied at twenty in total of both adults and ducklings. A female Mallard was doing its best impression of a piece of wood, sleeping standing in front of a log, only her slight movements and orange legs giving her away. A Baltimore Oriole perched in a tree and a Green Heron flying over the river were also nice sightings.

The big feature at the Hurd Grassland was Dragonflies. Along the paths we saw several Widow Skimmer, a Common Whitetail and many unidentified Meadowhawks. A Monarch Butterfly was also seen visiting the milkweed in the field. Down in the shrubby section we had two Field Sparrows countersigning with each other. A Brown Thrasher flew across the trail in front of a pair of participants who had fallen behind and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird was seen visiting Gale Hurd’s flower garden.

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.

Our Next walk will take place Saturday, August 10 at 7:00 AM. Meet at the parking area of Otter View Park at the intersection of Weybridge St. and Pulp Mill Bridge Road.

On Saturday, June 22, OCAS and the Middlebury Area Land Trust held our annual Beginners Birding Walk at Wright Park in Middlebury. Beginning birder’s of all ages, many equipped with OCAS’s binoculars, broke into three groups led by OCAS President Ron Payne, birder and former MALT director Josh Phillips, and MALT Executive Director Jamie Montague and searched for birds around the various trails of the Park. Birding highlights were many singing Cooperative Catbirds and Red-eyed Vireos, singing Yellow Warblers and American Redstarts, and Eastern Kingbirds acting flashy.

If you missed the walk, remember that beginning birders are always welcome at our Monthly Wildlife Walks at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland on the second Saturday of every month. And another dedicated walk for beginning birders will take place during Dead Creek Days in Addison on October 5th. Please see our Calendar of Events for more information.

Seventeen people came out for our Monthly Wildlife walk at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland on a gorgeous June morning to view and help us survey birds and other wildlife at these two properties.

At Otter View Park, Eastern Kingbirds acted as our greeters and we started our walk, flitting between apple trees. Down on the boardwalk, a sharp-eyed participant spotted a Ruby-throated Hummingbird perched at the very top of a tree. Marsh Wrens, Song Sparrows, Swamp Sparrows provided a constant soundtrack for us in the Marsh. A Virginia Rail was heard several times but not seen, even when it was right next to the boardwalk. A lone male Wood Duck was seen down the river as was a female Hooded Merganser which we saw fly up into some trees. A Mallard mom with 14 ducklings made a brief appearance on the riverbank too. At one point we saw a Baltimore Oriole perched in a very distant tree. Later we thought we had found it again, but that turned out we were tricked by a Red-winged Blackbird with a red covered leaf in front of its body.

After a quick carpool, we started our walk at the Hurd Grassland where we saw an Eastern Bluebird atop a birdhouse and heard several House Wrens singing their heads off. In the field we spotted a Merlin circling up in the sky. Unfortunately we didn’t see any grassland birds in the Hurd fields, but we did later spot a Bobolink at the property to the north giving hope that they are at least using our habitat for feeding. The shrubland section of the property was much better for the species we are targeting with our management. Alder Flycatchers, an Indigo Bunting, Field Sparrows and an Eastern Towhee are all evidence that things are going well there. But the highlight was a male Blue-winged Warbler heard singing its “bee-buzz” song, then later seen by our group foraging around the top of an elm tree.

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.

Our Next walk will take place Saturday, July 13 at 7:00 AM. Meet at the parking area of Otter View Park at the intersection of Weybridge St. and Pulp Mill Bridge Road.