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Nine people came out for this month’s wildlife walk at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland. The weather was perfect for an early July morning, and the birds were deep in their breeding cycles. Speaking of which, one of the neatest finds of the morning came when we spotted an American Goldfinch nest right in the parking lot of the Park. Also seen nearby was an Eastern Cottontail Rabbit, one of a bumper crop of these guys in the area this year. Down on the boardwalk Marsh Wrens were still making a bunch of noise in the marsh, and Red-winged Blackbirds were seen tending recently fledged chicks. A Mulberry Tree on a slope near the marsh was loaded with ripe berries, and this attracted all sorts of birds, most prominently American Robins and Gray Catbirds.

Over at the Hurd Grassland Brown Thrashers were found skulking around a hedge near the entrance where they are often seen. In the field we saw a Song Sparrow catch a large insect which pictures later revealed to be a Preying Mantis. Song Sparrows were very agitated when we got near one of the new birdhouses we added to the property this year suggesting they were still nesting in it. In the shrubland we both saw and heard Field Sparrows. The most unusual observation of the day was hearing a Scarlet Tanager singing at the property. They are much more usually found in denser woods than at the Grassland. And as a nice bookend to our walk, we again saw Thrashers in the same hedge as we were leaving.

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, Aug. 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. We hope to see you there.

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.

During these trying times OCAS does not feel that it is safe to hold public in-person events, but we are continuing our regularly scheduled walks at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland so that we can collect bird data, and also, so that through these posts, we can share our sightings with you. Public walks will resume once public health officials say it is safe to hold gatherings again.

This Month’s wildlife walks at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland took place on a Sunday rather than a Saturday because the person who was supposed to do it forgot. But no harm no foul, with data being collected a day late, and there were some cool sightings that might not have happened on the correct day.

At Otter View Park, Carolina Wrens, Song Sparrows and Eastern Phoebes were all singing their heads off while I took the requisite picture of the park from the MALT Phenology Calendar photo stick. A Tree Swallow and Osprey both seen flying overhead were both expected April sightings. Down on the boardwalk, the Red-winged Blackbird females had arrived and the Males were all heavily engaged in claiming territories and trying to attract mates. No waterfowl were sighted on the river, but while looking I had the unusual experience of seeing two Wild Turkeys fly across to the park side. A few minutes late while walking out, I saw them again flying across the marsh to the west, and even managed a blurry picture of one. Still hanging on from their abundance in winter was one Common Redpoll heard flying nearby. The best sighting of the day came near the end, though when I spotted a Vesper Sparrow from the sidewalk on Pulp Mill Bridge Road. It was cooperative enough to perch in a tree long enough for me to see all its field marks. 

While at the Park, I was surprised not to hear any Swamp Sparrows in the marsh, but that was fixed over at the Hurd Grassland where four of them were heard in cattails around the property. Northern Flickers were very conspicuous flying around giving their long “ke-ke-ke” calls. Of special note, I spotted an Eastern Meadowlark perched on power lines across Weybridge Rd. from the property, hopefully contemplating nesting in our grass. A Mallard was spotted on the pond east of the trail which flushed when I went by, and more of them were sighted in flight later in the walk. In the shrubby section which has seen recent management work to set back the growth of the bushes, a Field Sparrow was heard doing its bouncing ball song. At the very northern end of the property I heard what I thought was a very quiet call of a Red-tailed Hawk and other squawking raptor complaint sounds. It gave me the notion that there might be a hawk nest in some tall pines in the adjacent property, but I was disabused of that idea when a Blue Jay hopped out and revealed that it had been mimicking those sounds all along. And the final neat sighting of the day was a Pileated Woodpecker feeding on suet at Gale Hurd’s house.

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.

During these trying times OCAS does not feel that it is safe to hold public in-person events, but we are continuing our regularly scheduled walks at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland so that we can collect bird data, and also, so that through these posts, we can share our sightings with you. Public walks will resume once public health officials say it is safe to hold gatherings again.

This month’s walks at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland did their absolute best to confirm that it was actually taking place in March. But before we get to seasonal birds, I have to report that we had a sighting of the the melanistic Tufted Titmouse that you can see a picture of in our November issue of Otter Tracks. It was good to see that this bird is still hanging around the area. As far as signs of spring go, a pair of Eastern Bluebirds foraging together is a good sign. And so was an American Robin scratching on the ground on an adjacent yard. Two White-throated Sparrows might have been migrants or overwintering birds. But down in the Marsh, Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles singing from high perches really set a spring tone. Flocks of Canada Geese flying overhead and a passing Turkey Vulture helped too.

Over at the Hurd Grassland the theme continued with a big flock of Grackles and Blackbird refueling beneath a nearby feeder. Two Common Ravens flew by in the same direction, both of them carrying what looked like food in their bills, a possible indication that they already have a nest with chicks. Bucking the trend a bit were some still remaining Common Redpolls seen at a feeder. When we were down in the lower field we made sure to take a picture from the Photo Post next to the Birdhouse. You can see how that process works, and the results in the pictures above. And we ended our walk with the nice treat of a close flyby by a Red-tailed Hawk.

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.

During these trying times OCAS does not feel that it is safe to hold public in-person events, but we are continuing our regularly scheduled walks at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland so that we can collect bird data, and also, so that through these posts, we can share our sightings with you. Public walks will resume once public health officials say it is safe to hold gatherings again.

This month’s monitoring walk at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland took place on the 13th, one one of the coldest days in recent memory with temperatures down in the teens. With a fairly brisk wind, and solid snow cover on the ground, it felt very peak February. However with the sun shining through a thin layer of clouds—as can be seen in the pictures taken from the MALT Phenology Calendar photo sticks—the birds were actually fairly active, getting into early form for the coming spring. Northern Cardinals, Carolina Wrens, Black-capped Chickadees and American Tree Sparrows were all heard singing their territorial songs. The best sighting at the park, however, was a huge flock, of what I estimated at 70, Common Redpolls seen overhead making their way to the bird feeders at Starr Decoys.

Not to be outshone, though, the Hurd Grassland also feature a large Redpoll flock, I tallied in at about 60, that were swarming Gale Hurd’s feeders. Besides that, a singing Eastern Bluebird continued the very early spring theme, as did a Tufted Titmouse which was singing one of its non-toot songs. A passing Raven that was “quorking” and doing barrel rolls was also entertaining. Tracks were very evident all around the property, the most notable ones being Coyote and Bobcat, and abundant Eastern Cottontail Rabbit tracks which likely attracted the interest of the two predators to the 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.

During these trying times OCAS does not feel that it is safe to hold public in-person events, but we are continuing our regularly scheduled walks at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland so that we can collect bird data, and also, so that through these posts, we can share our sightings with you. Public walks will resume once public health officials say it is safe to hold gatherings again.

This month’s Wildlife Walk at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland took place on a Sunday rather than the normal Saturday so it wouldn’t clash with the Winter Eagle Survey which this observer was taking part in. I was joined on the morning by fellow board members, Gary and Kathy Starr and we set out wearing masks and keeping social distance to find birds.

At the Park there were unfortunately not may birds to speak of all, but some of the ones observed were good ones. Down at the end of the boardwalk we saw a flock of nine Mourning Doves, which interestingly were seen down on the ice of the recently re-frozen Otter Creek, perhaps finding water at the base of reeds coming through the ice. Down there we also heard a Pine Grosbeak across the river giving it’s distinctive 2-3 note call, but never did manage to see it. Also of note in the marsh were some very recent Beaver cuttings of shrubs, probably from the previous week when the river was flowing.

Over at the Hurd Grassland, the first bird we counted was a Pileated Woodpecker which was seen working on tree at the corner of the property along the road as we drove by. As we walked down into the fields, a Common Raven flew past, doing a couple of barrel rolls for its own entertainment. Lots of rabbit tracks were seen in and around the hedges all over the property, and probable Bobcat tracks were in among them. We paused at the photo stick at both properties to take pictures for the Middlebury Area Land Trust Phenology Calendar. The best sighting of the day, though, goes to a flock of Common Redpolls that is still persisting in the area, and like last month, were mostly interested in the seeds in the birch trees in front of Gale Hurd’s house.

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.

During these trying times OCAS does not feel that it is safe to hold public in-person events, but we are continuing our regularly scheduled walks at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland so that we can collect bird data, and also, so that through these posts, we can share our sightings with you. Public walks will resume once public health officials say it is safe to hold gatherings again.

This month’s walks at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland took place on an unseasonably warm morning which led to an increase in the usual bird activity. But before I get to the birds, I want to talk about a new addition to both Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland, photo posts, which have been placed as part of a joint MALT/Otter Creek Audubon phenology project. You can see one pictured above with very clear instructions on how to use it. The main point is to allow people to take pictures from the same location and perspective showing changes in the land throughout the year. We plan to make taking pictures from these posts a regular part of our monthly wildlife walks in the coming year, and you can see the first two such pictures posted above.

OK, back to the birds. On my way on to the park’s trail a Pileated Woodpecker flew by towards the utility access road. I followed in that direction and managed to find the bird whacking away on a boxelder tree where I managed to get a pretty good picture of it. Fun fact, in the time since the walk, the thick branch the woodpecker was working on has since blown down in the wind. From all directions around the Park, Carolina Wrens were singing their heads off. I counted four in all and at the end of the boardwalk I was able to get a recording of one. A Red-tailed Hawk was perched in a tree down river from there as well. And an Eastern Bluebird hanging out in a tree with a flock of House Finches was a good find there at this time of year.

Over at the Hurd Grassland I got a picture of the most patient Blue Jay ever which stayed in the same perch for a good ten minutes while I worked my way close enough to it to get a good picture. I skirted around the big central hedgerow in hopes of digging up some good birds, and was happy to find a White-throated Sparrow in there among a group of Northern Cardinals. Things were quiet around most of the lower fields, but when I came back up through the Hedgerow things started to pick up. A flock of 38 Robins flew in from the north and started foraging in the shrubs below. Then I had one of my better sightings of the day when I started spotting Pine Siskins, of which I eventually counted 18 in all. As I worked my way back to the parking, a very handsome immature Red-tailed Hawk flew over the fields. And just as I was about to leave, I found a flock of 24 Common Redpolls feeding on seeds in the birch trees in front of Gale Hurd’s house.

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.

During these trying times OCAS does not feel that it is safe to hold public in-person events, but we are continuing our regularly scheduled walks at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland so that we can collect bird data. And also, so that through these posts, we can share our sightings with you. Public walks will resume once public health officials say it is safe to hold gatherings again.

This month’s walk at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland on a calm and clear morning, an hour earlier than usual for this time of year so this observer could attend an Audubon Chapter Assembly meeting.

At Otter View Park things were quieter than usual on the path down to the boardwalk, but from there things got interesting. A Red-bellied Woodpecker was browsing from tree to tree on the edges of the marsh making its “nyuk-nyuk” call. Down river from the end of the boardwalk, a Great Blue Heron was seen browsing along the shore. Not far from it, the hard work of Beavers could be seen in the expanded size of their lodge. On my way back I saw the most interesting bird of the day, a melanistic Tufted Titmouse that has been hanging around the neighborhood for months now. You can see a picture of that bird in our latest Otter Tracks newsletter.

Over at the Hurd Grassland the best action was in the hedges around the fields. A large number of American Goldfinches were chattering away in the background throughout my walk. Four Eastern Bluebirds were calling to each other as they flew around the property. An American Tree Sparrow was seen as well, a bird that announces that winter has truly arrived, at least on the calendar if not with the weather. A lingering White-throated Sparrow was also found hanging out with a Dark-eyed Junco. Some freshly cut pine trees in the shrubland section showed that our partners at MALT have been hard at work doing habitat maintenance work. The best bird here was also the last bird. Just as I was getting in my car I heard the call of a Northern Flicker.

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 public walk will take place once public health officials say it is safe to hold gatherings again.

During these trying times OCAS does not feel that it is safe to hold public in-person events, but we are continuing our regularly scheduled walks at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland so that we can collect bird data. And also, so that through these posts, we can share our sightings with you. Public walks will resume once public health officials say it is safe to hold gatherings again.

This month’s wildlife walks at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland took place on a blustery morning during the peak of fall migration. This led to an interesting mix of species, activity and also inactivity.

At the Park despite the stiff north wind, there was a fairly good fallout of birds, mostly to be found in the shelter of the shrubs and marsh along the boardwalk. Activity was also centered on the water accumulated in pools created by beaver dams in that area. An Eastern Phoebe was hawking for bugs just above one of the pools, and a Robin and a Yellow-rumped Warber were seen taking drinks below. A good number of Purple Finches were seen in the trees here. One bird who may have mistaken October for March was a male Red-winged Blackbird that was at the top of an ash singing its spring song. Down at the end of the boardwalk a pair of Wood Ducks, resplendent in their fresh breeding plumage, were seen swimming downstream. Coming back along the trail there was a frustratingly brief look at a warbler which may have been an Orange-crowned, but unfortunately this observer didn’t get good enough of a look to say for sure.

Another missed opportunity came not long after. As I was walking along the sidewalk on Pulp Mill Bridge Rd. I spotted a dark, crow-sized bird winging south using the strong tail-wind. I picked it up too late to see the head, or to get an impression of the tail, but the wing shape was unlike anything I had seen before. Pointed an wavy looking, with just a hint of lighter feathers on the inner part of its primary feathers. It was not a corvid, not a raptor and not a gull. My mind went to sea birds and the closest thing I could come to was a Jaeger. But without a better view of the bird, its ID will forever remain unknown.

Over at the Hurd Grassland the wind was really playing up. This kept most of the birds down out of sight, but also played into the best sighting there, a Northern Harrier using the breeze to cruise slowly over the big fields. Insects were well represented with an Isabella Tiger Moth caterpillar, AKA Wooly Bear, seen crossing a trail, as well as a good number of Bumblebees visiting the still abundant Asters in the edges of the shrubland. With the leaves off most of the shrubs, bird nests hidden so well in the summer have become obvious, including one—which may have been a Field Sparrow nest—which had the remains of a chick that never fledged inside.

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 public walk will take place once public health officials say it is safe to hold gatherings again.

During these trying times OCAS does not feel that it is safe to hold public in-person events, but we are continuing our regularly scheduled walks at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland so that we can collect bird data. And also, through these posts, so that we can share our sightings with you. Public walks will resume once public health officials say it is safe to hold gatherings again.

September’s wildlife walk at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland took place a week late because the person who was supposed to do it was really caught up in a good book and just plain forgot about it. No, harm done, really as it just moved the visits more into the heart of the migration season.

At Otter View Park, I had to carefully pull my car into the parking lot as there was a Mourning Dove that for some reason would not flush away from the car. When was safely out of the way, and I had parked and got out, it was still sitting nearby under a bush. That is until a minute later when a Cooper’s Hawk zoomed overhead, and then it flew away rather briskly. As the Hawk passes through a nearby tree, it spooked out yet another Cooper’s Hawk which then followed it away out of sight. Along the trails there was a good mixture of sparrows including White-throated, Song and even a young Swamp that I found confusing before settling on its ID. A hard frost the night before had caused almost all the Spotted Touch-me-not seedpods to explode in the night, littering boardwalk with seeds and casings. Another neat sighting I had came on my way back, walking along Pulp Mill Bridge Rd., when I spotted a Chestnut-sided Warbler in a tree across the road. And while I was looking at that, an immature Scarlet Tanager popped out near it as well.

At the Hurd Grassland, I decided that taking the long route around the big field wouldn’t be very profitable, so instead I stuck close to the hedgerow where I could find birds in the trees and bushes. This payed off when I turned the corner around the tip of the hedgerow and found a Black-throated Green Warbler browsing in the trees. A little further down I also spotted a Lincoln’s Sparrow which popped out of a bush and showed of its buffy breast with fine streaks. Not long after that I spotted a small raptor diving towards a scattering group of birds. I got my binoculars up an was able to see it was American Goldfinches which were escaping from a Sharp-shinned Hawk. The hawk then landed in a tree nearby allowing me to get some pictures before it took off after some more birds. All through my walk I was spotting groups of Blue Jays up about 100 feet in the air winging south. Though we have Blue Jays all year, their cousins to the North are not year-round residents of their breeding grounds, and can be seen migrating through our area at this time of year. I counted 44 in all in the hour I was at the grassland.

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.

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