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This month’s wildlife walk at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland continued to be a Covid-19 safe walk, but with the slight addition of two more OCAS Board Members, Gary & Kathy Starr, who joined me to survey birds and other wildlife while maintaining a safe social distance as much as possible. This was another odd weather day, unseasonably cold, but at least it hadn’t snowed the night before like last month. Still, the cool weather did seem to restrain the birds a bit and though we did have most of the usual suspects on our walk, some others were being inconspicuous.

At the park we had Catbirds hanging out right in the parking lot and noted European Starlings going in and out of a natural cavity in a Silver Maple tree. We also noticed that the Arrowood bushes there had been hit hard by Viburnum Leaf Beetle this spring. They were almost completely bare, but they usually manage to re-leaf later in the summer. Down on the boardwalk we hear Yellow Warbler and Common Yellowthroats. Red-winged Blackbirds went nuts with their alarm calls when a Cooper’s Hawk flew by right over our heads. On the creek there were no sign of waterfowl, but a Belted Kingfisher was seen moving from perch to perch in the trees, and Tree Swallows were seen coursing back and forth low over the river. Also notable were a couple of Great-crested Flycatchers

Usually we would carpool over to the Hurd Grassland, but times being what they are, we traveled in separate cars. From the head of the trail we observed Eastern Bluebirds and House Wrens making use of some of the many birdhouses on the fence line. Down in the lower field we were very pleased to see a male Bobolink singing from perches and dropping into the grass. Since this is our first sighting of one here this year, we speculate that this bird is a refugee from recent cutting of hay-fields in the area. In the shrubland section we had a Field Sparrow and an Eastern Towhee each give a hesitant call, probably conserving energy for a warmer moment. Alder Flycatchers are regulars to this section of the property almost every year, but we were pleased to also find a Willow Flycatcher using it as well. These are two bird species which can only reliably be told apart by their songs. Another neat sighting was a group of what we believe are Fragile White Carpet moths, which seemed unbothered by the light rain that had stated by the end of our walk

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.

This past Saturday we continued our solo monitoring of Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland in lieu of our regular monthly wildlife walks. Hopefully we will be able to invite the public to join us on these walks again soon, but in the meantime, you can come along with me virtually, and reader, let me tell you it was a weird walk.

Obviously when planning a birding walk in May, one doesn’t expect to have to plan for snow. But there I was at Otter View Park with a half inch on the ground, flowers bowed under the weight of snow, and recently arrived migrants not very willing to show themselves. Birds like Virgina Rail, American Bittern, Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat which had been recorded at this location in the past week were not to be found. More hearty birds like American Robins, Read-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles seemed unperturbed. A Mallard and a Wood Duck seemed OK with things as well down on the river. I suspect a Canada Goose that was sitting unmoving down on the bank of the river with its belly feathers fanned out below it was hiding a number of goslings underneath, but we shall never know. One new species that hadn’t been reported recently, showing that migration hadn’t stopped completely was a pair of Spotted Sandpipers seen flying up the river. Back at the parking lot I also got a good look at a Northern Flicker which was foraging on the trunk of a tree.

At the Hurd Grassland, grassland birds were not in evidence, and if they were anywhere nearby, I hope it was somewhere warmer than under the snow-covered grass. An Eastern Bluebird was seen on several occasions carrying food to a nest box leading me to believe there are chicks inside. Tree Swallows were also busily jostling for positions in the unoccupied nest boxes nearby. A Barn Swallow was also seen flying overhead and likely looking for a place to set up shop too. The most interesting sighting of the day came when I was down in the lower field when I heard the “pipit” call directly over my head allowing me to look up in time to see an American Pipit fly overhead. In the shrubland the only bird specific to that habitat that was observed was an Easter Towhee heard repeatedly calling. Odd as the weather was, it did afford the opportunity to take some interesting winter-in-may photos.

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.

This month’s walk at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland was of course cancelled due to the current Covid-19 situation. But these walks have always served a dual purpose. Both giving the public a chance to go birding with us, and also to compile data over time of the birds and other wildlife using these two properties. When we were writing the management plan for the Hurd Grassland last year, that data came in very useful in showing the species trends due to past management. And so, not wanting neglect that second purpose, monitoring of both properties was done solo by your truly, and thus I can present you this report.

The weather was quiet lovely with clear skies and a waning moon hanging in the sky to the west. The first notable bid observation came from the parking lot of the park from which a Chipping Sparrow could be heard giving its long mechanical trill. Common Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds were abundant, but the female red-wings had yet to show up. Song Sparrows were quite vocal all around the property and White-throated sparrows were also heard giving their “sweet Canada” song. Down at the end of the boardwalk, two Osprey were seen flying overhead, most likely the pair that nest below the Middlebury Lower Project dam. Walking back out, the “way” call of a Hermit Thrush alerted me to its presence, and patience allowed me to see it and get a picture. When I got back to the parking lot, I had the amusing experience of watching an American Robin attack its own reflection in the window of my car. After shooing it off, I left taking the “interloper” with me.

Over at the Hurd Grassland Dark-eyed Juncos were still hanging around and an Eastern Bluebird was seen singing from atop a birdhouse. A flight of Tree Swallows seen overhead will certainly soon be looking for nesting sites for themselves. From down in the lower field I spotted a Merlin zooming through the grounds of the farm across the road, then perched atop a spruce tree to scan for prey. The first Swamp Sparrow I’ve heard this year was singing from the wetland, and a pair of Mallards were dabbling in a small temporary stream. Last month we had an Eastern Meadowlark fly overhead, but they weren’t there while I was visiting this time. In the shrubland section, however, a Field Sparrow, one of our target species for that habitat, was seen singing from a small pine 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 public walk will take place once public health officials say it is safe to hold gatherings again.

Six people came out to this month’s wildlife walk at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland. Early March means early migrants, and we certainly had our share of those. Common Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds are back in force in and around the marsh at the park. Song sparrows were singing from all directions. Down on the Otter Creek we saw quite a few Canada Geese and a pair of Mallards. Some winter birds are still hanging on too, an American Tree Sparrow being good evidence of that.

Over at the Hurd Grassland we saw much the same when it comes to blackbirds. A few good sized flocks of Canada Geese heading further North up above us. Eastern Bluebirds were paired up and gifted us with good looks at their colorful plumage. But the biggest news of the day was an Eastern Meadowlark, one of the target species for management at the property, flying over the field and briefly perching in a tree overlooking it.

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, April 11 at 7:00 AM. Meet at the parking area of Otter View Park at the intersection of Weybridge St. and Pulp Mill Bridge Road.

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.

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.

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.

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