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
rpayne72@myfairpoint.net

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.

Click for a printable pledge sheet.

Once again this May teams of OCAS birding volunteers will spend a 24-hour period scouring Addison County to find as many species as we can for our annual Birdathon fundraiser. All the money raised will go to support our educational and outreach programs. For example, this year we committed to give $9308 to 18 Addison County classrooms to fund field trips and class projects. We have also awarded a scholarship to a local teacher to the National Audubon Society’s Hog Island camp in Maine. Though the Covid-19 outbreak has changed when these programs might happen, we plan to fulfill these commitments when as things return to normal in the near future.

Money from Birdathon also goes to support our Cabin Fever Lecture Series, Otter Tracks Newsletter and many other programs, none of which would be possible without your financial support. You can help us out by either pledging an amount for each species found, giving us a flat gift, or by creating your own Birdathon team.

ANONYMOUS DONOR MATCHING CHALLENGE

This year we have had a special opportunity to expand our Addison County educational grants when an anonymous donor pledged to gift $4,000.  Historically with current funds, we have not been able to fully support all approved grants.  The additional donation pledge allowed us to fully fund the approved grants.  We are hoping for a successful Birdathon as all money raised will be matched dollar for dollar up to $4,000.00.  This will allow us to maintain our high level of educational participation throughout Addison County. 

You can participate by using the printable or by donating online with the button on our Donate page.

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

  • Red-bellied Woodpeckers in the Champlain Valley
  • Order Out of Chaos?
  • New Partnerships for the Birds
  • Letter to the Editor
  • Atrazine Back in the News
  • Cornell Lab Education Newsletter for Kids Available
  • Vermont’s Declining Bird Species
  • A Season on the Wind, a review
  • Calendar of Events
  • Anonymous Donor Matching Challenge
  • A Change of Plans

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.

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.

On Thursday, March 12, at the Ilsley Public Library in Middlebury, Otter Creek Audubon held the last of our three Cabin Fever Lecture series presentations for 2020. ‘Why Ghana?’ presented by world-traveling birder, Hank Kaestner. Ghana is a seldom visited West African nation which is rich in history, culture and, of course, birds, many of which are range restricted to western Africa. From the rain forests in the south, to the sub-Saharan desert in the north, colorful birds abound. Hank spent two weeks chasing “lifers” there, seeing almost 300 species of birds, one third of which were new for his life list. If you missed this presentation it can viewed online here thanks to the production facilities of Middlebury Community Television.

Hank Kaestner

We will be back again next year with three new presentations, but in the meantime, if you would like to see more, many of our past presentations can be viewed at this link.

On Thursday, February 13, at the Ilsley Public Library in Middlebury, Otter Creek Audubon held the second of three Cabin Fever Lecture series presentations for 2020. ‘Plants for Birds’ was presented by Gwendolyn Causer, Audubon Vermont, teacher/naturalist and Communications Director. Native plants provide food and shelter for birds and wildlife. To survive, birds need native plants and the insects that have co-evolved with them. Bird-friendly landscaping provides food, saves water, and fights climate change. If you missed this presentation it can viewed online here thanks to the production facilities of Middlebury Community Television.

Our next lecture will be, ‘Why Ghana’ presented by Hank Kaestner. Ghana is a seldom visited West African nation which is rich in history, culture and, of course, birds, many of which are range restricted to western Africa. From the rain forests in the south, to the sub-Saharan desert in the north, colorful birds abound. Hank spent two weeks chasing “lifers” there, seeing almost 300 species of birds, one third of which were new for his life list.This will take place on March 11, 7pm at the Ilsley Library in Middlebury. In the meantime, if you would like to see more, many of our past presentations can be viewed at this link.

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.

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

  • The 2020 Great Backyard Bird Count
  • Carbon Reduction: Ever More Intolerable
  • Bicknell’s Thrush Survival
  • Kirtland’s Warbler: No Longer Endangered
  • Environmental Education Grants Announced
  • 2019 Status of Vermont’s Rare Birds
  • Sign Up for 2020 Salamander Escorts
  • Heading to Hog Island Camp
  • Results on 2019 Christmas Bird Counts
  • Extremely Long-lived Trees

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.

On Thursday, January 9, at the Ilsley Public Library in Middlebury, Otter Creek Audubon held our first of three Cabin Fever Lecture series presentations for 2020. Titled ‘The Search for Long-eared Owl in Addsion County,’ OCAS Board President, Ron Payne told us about a successful collaborative search to learn how to reliably find these elusive owls in our area. If you missed this presentation it can viewed online here thanks to the production facilities of Middlebury Community Television.

Our next lecture will be, ‘Plants for Birds,’ presented by Gwendolyn Causer, Audubon Vermont, teacher/naturalist and Communications Director. Native plants provide food and shelter for birds and wildlife. To survive, birds need native plants and the insects that have co-evolved with them. Bird-friendly landscaping provides food, saves water, and fights climate change. This will take place on February 13, 7pm at the Ilsley Library in Middlebury. In the meantime, if you would like to see more, many of our past presentations can be viewed at this link.

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