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Seven people came out for this month’s wildlife walks at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland. Counting started right away as we worked to get a number of House Sparrows chirping from inside a bush. Things were otherwise quiet until we made our way to the boardwalk where we saw two Ravens flying over. Down by the river we heard some cryptic squeaking calls which turned out to be coming from either a Song Sparrow or some American Tree Sparrows. The highlight of the day came as we worked our way back around the trails, we came across a flock of seven Eastern Bluebirds which seemed to be sharing an interest in Ash tree seeds with American Goldfinches and House Finches.

On our commute over to the Hurd Grassland, we had to stop on the side of Weybridge Rd. to ID a Red-tailed Hawk that was being mobbed by a group of Crows. In the small hedgerow by the entrance to the property we spotted a group of Tufted Titmice as well as some Blue Jays. There wasn’t much activity in the big field, with even the silo across the road not producing a single Pigeon. But things picked up in the shrubland section with Chickadees and Cardinals and other regulars. On one dead tree we had the opportunity to work on the difference between Hairy Woodpeckers and Downy Woodpeckers as both were working away on its trunk. A group of Canada Goose seen flying to the south attested to the fact that there was open water somewhere in the area. And just for symmetry’s sake we ended our day counting another flock of House Sparrows also making a racket in a bush.

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, Jan. 14, at 8:00 AM. Meet at the parking area of Otter View Park at the intersection of Weybridge St. and Pulp Mill Bridge Rd. We hope to see you there.

This month’s walk at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland took place on a classic early June morning featuring near perfect weather. Eight people in total came together to help survey birds and other wildlife at the two properties, and had a very enjoyable morning. 

At Otter View Park most of the action took place down on the boardwalk. The big news of this summer is that we have at least two pairs of nesting Marsh Wrens, making a lot of racket rattling around their nest sites in the cattails. Also quite active were Green Herons, two of which were seen hunting from logs down the river and flying over the marsh. Also spied on the river was a small family of Hooded Mergansers, a mother with at least three ducklings. Another nice treat was seeing a River Otter pop its head out of the water very near the end of the boardwalk. And a male Baltimore Oriole provided a nice look at its blaze orange belly as it flew past overhead.

Over at the Hurd Grassland, we were very happy to see Tree Swallows making use of some of the 11 new bird houses recently installed on the property. Barn Swallows were also seen zooming back and forth over the grass. In pleasing news for our management of the fields, we saw three Bobolinks doing display flights, the timing of their appearance suggesting they are refugees from other cut fields in the area. In the shrubland we had both Field Sparrows and Brown Thrashers present, both focus species for that section, as well as Chestnut-sided Warblers, another good shrubland species. We also had nice looks at several butterfly species, including Black Swallowtails and Eastern Wood Nymphs.

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, Jul. 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. We hope to see you there.

In this issue of Otter Tracks you will find the following articles:

  • Great Blue Heron by Sudan Roney Drennan
  • Migratory Bird Protection in Vermont
  • Grant Applications Available Soon
  • Greenland’s Glaciers Pass Tipping Point
  • Loss of Arctic Sea Ice
  • A TAM Adventure
  • Chlorpyrifos
  • Monarchs Amid a “Ubiquity of Pesticides”
  • New Emperor Penguin Colonies
  • OCAS Calendar of Events
  • Update on the Environmental Education Grants

Otter Creek Audubon Society members will receive a copy in the mail but you can always find the latest issues of Otter Tracks in color on our home page. You can also browse issues going back to the year 2000 in our Otter Tracks Archive.

One of the regular features of Otter Creek Audubon board meetings is that we take time at the start of each one to share interesting wildlife sightings we have had in the previous month with each other. This has been a long-standing practices but we thought it would be a fun idea also share these sightings with you.

Warren King reported finding a Pine Warbler in Ripton during his birdathon, a sighting he considers unusual. Dave Hof agreed but said he had found also found one in a different location in Ripton. Ron Payne said he was surprised to find one at a similar altitude at Silver Lake in Leicester.

Gary and Kathy Starr were excited to see a Bobcat in their yard in Weybridge. Gary also found an Eastern Eyed Click Beetle in his workshop. Wikipedia says their larvae feed on decaying wood, something there might be a good quantity of in the building.

Carol Ramsayer spotted a Gray Fox walking down her driveway in Middlebury, and has also heard reports of a Black Bear in the South St. area. She has also seen many Bobolinks lately in fields that the Trail Around Middlebury runs through.

Dave Hof reported finding a Gray Cheeked Thrush in a place one might not think to look for one, on the shore of Lake Champlain on Turkey Lane in Ferrisburgh. You can see pictures of the bird on his eBird Checklist. He also was surprised to see a Common Nighthawk in Ripton.

Ron Payne reported hearing an odd sounding bird with a four note rising song that he couldn’t immediately identify. After a not insignificant wait, he managed to see the bird, which turned out to be a Wood Thrush. You can hear a recording of it on his eBird Checklist. He regrets not getting a better recording.

And finally, Amy Douglas reported a Piliated Woodpecker in her yard in Shoreham during our teleconference!

Please let us know what interesting things you have been seeing lately in the comments.

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.


Last Thursday, several OCAS Board Members received a message from Gale Hurd with the troubling first line:

“I think a bird has flown down the chimney and gotten trapped in the
wood stove in my office.”

It just so happened that I had a meeting with one of the other recipients of that email, Barb Otsuka, shortly after getting that message. When I arrived, Barb asked if I had gone to investigate, and I told her I didn’t know what to do about it because I didn’t have a net. Then Barb informed me that she had a butterfly net on a pole we could use. And so we decided to go together to see what we could do.

When we arrived things were decidedly silent. Not even tapping on the stove brought evidence of a bird inside. We began to wonder if we were too late, but suddenly without prompting, there was a fluttering noise from within.

Ascertaining that there was indeed something inside, the next trick was to open the Garrison Stove, which has a pair of iron doors on its front. The key to open it was long lost according to Gale, but we were able to achieve the feat by using a pair of needle nose pliers in a way they were never intended to be used.

Our plan was to open one of the doors and hold the butterfly net in front of the opening in hopes the bird would hop into. I was on the door, and Barb was on the net. But when I popped open the door nothing happened but some more fluttering. We tried knocking on the stove again to get it to jump out, but no go.

Perhaps it was too big to fit out one door, but revealed a problem. Barb’s net wasn’t wide enough to cover the entire opening if both doors were open. So onto Plan B.

We closed up the shades to all the windows in the room, and the adjoining kitchen, which already had all other doors leading to it closed. Then we opened up a big patio door. This time we hoped that with both doors open, the bird would hop out, see the huge opening to the outdoors and fly away.

Once again I was on duty on the stove, this time using the butterfly net pole to open it up. As soon as I pushed it open, out came the bird which plopped on the floor in front of us. And now we could finally see what it was. A female American Kestrel!

I barely had time to say the name of the bird before it took off, headed right for the open doorway as planned only to fly up and land at the top of the door frame.


I tried slowly approaching it with the net to try to catch it or shoo it out the door. But it didn’t like that at all and flew into the kitchen where it landed on a shelf. Another attempt at moving towards it ended with it flying back into the office where it crashed into a window shade, fell onto a chair, and then to the floor, where finally we were able to get it into the net.

After a little cajoling to make sure it was securely inside the net, we took it outdoors to the deck where we took a brief moment to take some pictures of it. After which I gently shook it free from the net, and a leaped strongly into the air flying away to the sounds of alarmed songbirds surprised to see a Kestrel suddenly flying overhead.

And so, hearts racing, we left proud of the success of our rescue mission.

On warm, wet nights from mid-March to mid-April frogs and salamanders move from their wintering sites on high ground to wetlands to mate and lay eggs. Their route to the nearest vernal pool sometimes takes them across a road. Read the rest of this entry »


On the afternoon of December 18, OCAS President, Ron Payne, was walking down Mill St. in Middlebury on his way to the post office when he spotted an unusual bird in a flock of Chickadees. Recognizing that it was a Warbler, which meant whatever else it was, it was a good bird for December, he got out his camera and started taking pictures and had the good fortune of getting some good shots. But even with those, he had look the bird up to ID it as a Yellow-throated Warbler, and then was able to count it as a new life bird for his list. Read the rest of this entry »

On a recent evening visit to Otter View Park in Middlebury, I ran into a friend who told me they knew the location of a Warbling Vireo nest. They took me to where it was, and it couldn’t have been in a more convenient place to view it. Just off the main trail, in a Maple tree below a berm, putting the nest nearly at a reasonable height in relation to a viewer. Read the rest of this entry »


Two Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were found June 5 in Shoreham on Richville Pond, an impounded portion of the Lemon Fair River, by Wesley Butler who posted them in an eBird checklist. The normal breeding range of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks is in Florida, Texas and Mexico along the coasts, but eBird shows they go vagrant all over the east, as Read the rest of this entry »

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