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On Thursday, February 13, at the Ilsley Public Library in Middlebury, Otter Creek Audubon held the second of three Cabin Fever Lecture series presentations for 2020. ‘Plants for Birds’ was presented by Gwendolyn Causer, Audubon Vermont, teacher/naturalist and Communications Director. Native plants provide food and shelter for birds and wildlife. To survive, birds need native plants and the insects that have co-evolved with them. Bird-friendly landscaping provides food, saves water, and fights climate change. If you missed this presentation it can viewed online here thanks to the production facilities of Middlebury Community Television.

Our next lecture will be, ‘Why Ghana’ presented by Hank Kaestner. Ghana is a seldom visited West African nation which is rich in history, culture and, of course, birds, many of which are range restricted to western Africa. From the rain forests in the south, to the sub-Saharan desert in the north, colorful birds abound. Hank spent two weeks chasing “lifers” there, seeing almost 300 species of birds, one third of which were new for his life list.This will take place on March 11, 7pm at the Ilsley Library in Middlebury. In the meantime, if you would like to see more, many of our past presentations can be viewed at this link.

Nobody came to this month’s wildlife walk at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland, which was wise because the roads were terrible after the previous day’s heavy snow and the parking lot at the park was unplowed and inaccessible. But the walk leader, who lives within walking distance of the park, and had no problem getting there safely, proceeded to walk the normal rout as usual. And honestly, it was a lovely morning. Though quite cold, the sun was glistening through the ice-laden tree branches, and the birds were happy to make use of the nicer weather to sing and find some food.

At Otter View park, Cardinals were visiting the Winterberry bushes in the parking lot. Woodpeckers were well represented with Piliated, Downy and Hairy all seen and heard. Getting down to the marsh was a little tricky as branches were bowed across the path and the boardwalk itself. It was worth getting there though for a nice flock of sparrows of Song Sparrow, American Tree Sparrow and Dark-eyed Juncos in the cattails and bushes.

Over at the Hurd Grassland birds were swarming the hedges and Gale Hurd’s feeders consisting mostly of a large group of American Goldfinches. American Robins were catching sun while sheltering in some White Cedars. A pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers were seen taking turns at a suet block. A big mixed flock including House Finches, Eastern Bluebirds and Blue Jays made a colorful tableau in the iced branches of a Black Cherry tree. The neatest thing seen on the walk, though, was a set of Bobcat tracks which wound in and out of the main hedgerow that runs down the center of the property.

Hopefully the weather will be better for the next walk, and we will be able to enjoy sightings like this with a good group of people.

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, March 14 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 Thursday, January 9, at the Ilsley Public Library in Middlebury, Otter Creek Audubon held our first of three Cabin Fever Lecture series presentations for 2020. Titled ‘The Search for Long-eared Owl in Addsion County,’ OCAS Board President, Ron Payne told us about a successful collaborative search to learn how to reliably find these elusive owls in our area. If you missed this presentation it can viewed online here thanks to the production facilities of Middlebury Community Television.

Our next lecture will be, ‘Plants for Birds,’ presented by Gwendolyn Causer, Audubon Vermont, teacher/naturalist and Communications Director. Native plants provide food and shelter for birds and wildlife. To survive, birds need native plants and the insects that have co-evolved with them. Bird-friendly landscaping provides food, saves water, and fights climate change. This will take place on February 13, 7pm at the Ilsley Library in Middlebury. In the meantime, if you would like to see more, many of our past presentations can be viewed at this link.

American Goldfinch

Five people came out to this months wildlife walk at the Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland, once again ably led by regular participant and volunteer, Jim Phillips. At Otter View Park the highlight of the walk was a Sharp-shinned Hawk while over at the Hurd Grassland, another raptor, a Red-tailed Hawk took top billing.

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, January 11 at 8:00 AM. Meet at the parking area of Otter View Park at the intersection of Weybridge St. and Pulp Mill Bridge Road.

Thirty people came out on a lovely morning for our annual First Day Hike at Button Bay State Park. This is the fifth year we have held this event in collaboration with Vermont State Parks. This event combines the tradition of birding on New Year’s Day to start building a birding year list, with the relatively new tradition of holding walks at parks on the first day of the year.

The search for birds proved a little challenging at first with just common species like Chickadees, Blue Jays and Crows being seen at first. But as when we reached the first overlook of the lake, we spotted a nice flock of White-throated Sparrows in the bushes along the shore. With them were a Dark-eyed Junco, Cardinals and a Carolina Wren which didn’t allow us to see it, but went through all it’s variety of calls except for it’s main song.

On the water, we found four Common Loon, all far enough away that we needed spotting scopes to see them well. Also popping out from marsh along the shore edge were a group of American Black Ducks which may or may not have been flushed out by the exuberant explorations of some of our younger walk participants. An overflight by a Bald Eagle was also a highlight from this point.

Further along the trails we stirred up some Cedar Waxwings and a Robin, in and around some Red Cedar trees, which we noted had plenty of berries for the birds to eat. We also spotted a Downy Woodpecker too.

Down at the end of the trail on the point opposite Button Island, we added a few more water birds with a passing Common Goldeneye, several Common Mergansers, and a group of Mallards. Far across the lake we were also able to observe some Ring-Billed Gulls actively flying and diving in the water.

On our way back we had one of our most unusual sightings of the day, a Large Yellow Underwing moth caterpillar seen crossing the snow encrusted roads. This is a non-native species that is occasionally seen in winter locally for whatever reason.

This walk has become a favorite for its leaders and our many repeat participants over the years. We look forward to holding it again next year, and hope you will join us too.

A FULL LIST OF THE BIRDS WE SAW CAN BE VIEWED AT THIS LINK.

European Starlings

December’s Monthly wildlife walk at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland took place on a morning with just terrible weather. Rainy and foggy with questionable road conditions. And that’s probably everybody wisely stayed away. Everybody except for walk leader, Jim Phillips, that is. Jim did the due diligence and walked the trails at both properties generating the kind of uninspiring, but useful ebird checklists containing some of the very few birds willing to show themselves on a morning such as this. And for doing this we thank him greatly.

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, January 11 at 8:00 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 walk at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland took place on a sunny but seasonably cool morning. One of the best sightings of the day happened right at the start when we spotted an immature Norther Harrier coursing back and forth over the Park’s upper meadow before it went away going south. Down on the boardwalk we noted how the beaver dams that were built this summer did a good job of catching sediment from the recent hard rainfall. At the creek we saw a Wood Duck which flew from a log on our side of the river to disappear into the vegetation on the other side. Four Common Mergansers also zoomed past us headed upriver. And a Northern Cardinal posed for us with its feathers all puffed out while eating grapes.

Over at the Hurd Grassland we were met with a rather brisk breeze. American Goldfinches were seen bouncing around the skies together, and Pigeons were on their regular perch atop the silos at the farm across the road. A couple of small flocks of White-throated Sparrows were found in the hedgerows, as were a few Dark-eyed Juncos, the first of the fall seen by many in our group. Some of the best action of the day was at Gale Hurd’s feeders, which we watched while gratefully sipping hot cider. House Finches, Goldfinches, Black-capped Chickadees and Tufted Titmice all vied for the seed, sometimes multiple species perched together at the same time.

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, December 14 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 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.

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