Your wildlife sightings are news to us! If you have pictures or stories of encounters with fauna or flora in the area, please email them to us and interesting ones will be posted to this page.

Ron Payne

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.

With the holiday season nearly upon us, we are happy to announce that Gary Starr is again graciously offering proceeds from the sale of his bird ornaments to support Otter Creek Audubon Society environmental and educational programs. These beautiful handcrafted pieces are perfect as gifts, for a Christmas tree, or to beautify your home year-round. Please see the order form for a list of all the ornaments available, pricing and instructions on making a purchase.

When ordering by telephone at 802-388-6552 or through the website, please clearly indicate that your purchase is for this OCAS fundraiser.

Thank you to everyone who came out to Dead Creek Wildlife Day this past Saturday. Here is a photo gallery of just a few of the events and displays.


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.


A Wren’s Nest preschooler explores a classroom puddle with a new collecting net.

Otter Creek Audubon Society (OCAS), the Addison County chapter of the National Audubon Society, is pleased to announce the availability of a limited number of grants to help finance environmental education projects for Addison County schools. The mission of Otter Creek Audubon Society is to protect birds, other wildlife and their habitats by encouraging a culture of conservation within Addison County. All local efforts are volunteer-run.

Grant funds may be used to help defer the cost of transportation, admission fees, equipment, outside presentations, or other expenses that will improve students’ understanding of the natural world. Grants of up to a maximum of $800 per request will be awarded for use in 2020. Requests for other resources, such as OCAS volunteers’ time or the loan of materials from the OCAS Lending Library, may also be included in the proposals. Otter Creek Audubon Society seeks to assist schools in multiple school districts. Also, proposals that get students into the natural world will be favored. Applicants will be judged based on their response to the following questions:

  • What is the environmental education value of the field trip or event?
  • What are the education outcomes you expect from your students
  • How many students with the field trip or event serve?

Please distribute the attached application materials widely to your school’s teachers. Applications are due by Monday, November 4, 2019, and can be sent to Successful grant recipients will likely be contacted by Thursday, December 19, 2019. Grant recipients will also be asked to provide a one to two-page summary, including photos, of their field trip/event after it takes place.

Otter Creek Audubon is continually refining the field trip/event grant application process. If there are any questions or recommendations about the application process please contact Carol Ramsayer at 802-989-7115 or email


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.

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

  • LEAD IN AMMUNITION A Call for Dialog
  • Our Safety Net, An Editorial
  • How Some Fish Travel
  • Spring Environmental Education Grants Wrap-up
  • Bridge School Teacher’s Thanks
  • Grant Applications Available Soon
  • Twelve Neonics Cancelled
  • Local Loon Successes and Losses
  • OCAS Calendar of Events

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.

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.