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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.

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.

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.

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.

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