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

During these trying times OCAS does not feel that it is safe to hold public in-person events, but we are continuing our regularly scheduled walks at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland so that we can collect bird data. And also, so that through these posts, we can share our sightings with you. Public walks will resume once public health officials say it is safe to hold gatherings again.

This month’s walk at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland on a calm and clear morning, an hour earlier than usual for this time of year so this observer could attend an Audubon Chapter Assembly meeting.

At Otter View Park things were quieter than usual on the path down to the boardwalk, but from there things got interesting. A Red-bellied Woodpecker was browsing from tree to tree on the edges of the marsh making its “nyuk-nyuk” call. Down river from the end of the boardwalk, a Great Blue Heron was seen browsing along the shore. Not far from it, the hard work of Beavers could be seen in the expanded size of their lodge. On my way back I saw the most interesting bird of the day, a melanistic Tufted Titmouse that has been hanging around the neighborhood for months now. You can see a picture of that bird in our latest Otter Tracks newsletter.

Over at the Hurd Grassland the best action was in the hedges around the fields. A large number of American Goldfinches were chattering away in the background throughout my walk. Four Eastern Bluebirds were calling to each other as they flew around the property. An American Tree Sparrow was seen as well, a bird that announces that winter has truly arrived, at least on the calendar if not with the weather. A lingering White-throated Sparrow was also found hanging out with a Dark-eyed Junco. Some freshly cut pine trees in the shrubland section showed that our partners at MALT have been hard at work doing habitat maintenance work. The best bird here was also the last bird. Just as I was getting in my car I heard the call of a Northern Flicker.

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.

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

  • Hog Island Audubon Camp… Summer 2021
  • PET Control: One Step Forward
  • Three Environmental Bills of Interest to Audubon Members
  • Wrapping Up an Environmental Education Grant
  • Plants Battle Climate Change with Added Pigment
  • 2020 Status of Rare Vermont Birds
  • Minimizing Motion Smear
  • OCAS 2020 Annual Meeting
  • Addison County Annual Christmas Bird Counts
  • Lamoille River Sea Lampreys and Mudpuppies

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.

During these trying times OCAS does not feel that it is safe to hold public in-person events, but we are continuing our regularly scheduled walks at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland so that we can collect bird data. And also, so that through these posts, we can share our sightings with you. Public walks will resume once public health officials say it is safe to hold gatherings again.

This month’s wildlife walks at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland took place on a blustery morning during the peak of fall migration. This led to an interesting mix of species, activity and also inactivity.

At the Park despite the stiff north wind, there was a fairly good fallout of birds, mostly to be found in the shelter of the shrubs and marsh along the boardwalk. Activity was also centered on the water accumulated in pools created by beaver dams in that area. An Eastern Phoebe was hawking for bugs just above one of the pools, and a Robin and a Yellow-rumped Warber were seen taking drinks below. A good number of Purple Finches were seen in the trees here. One bird who may have mistaken October for March was a male Red-winged Blackbird that was at the top of an ash singing its spring song. Down at the end of the boardwalk a pair of Wood Ducks, resplendent in their fresh breeding plumage, were seen swimming downstream. Coming back along the trail there was a frustratingly brief look at a warbler which may have been an Orange-crowned, but unfortunately this observer didn’t get good enough of a look to say for sure.

Another missed opportunity came not long after. As I was walking along the sidewalk on Pulp Mill Bridge Rd. I spotted a dark, crow-sized bird winging south using the strong tail-wind. I picked it up too late to see the head, or to get an impression of the tail, but the wing shape was unlike anything I had seen before. Pointed an wavy looking, with just a hint of lighter feathers on the inner part of its primary feathers. It was not a corvid, not a raptor and not a gull. My mind went to sea birds and the closest thing I could come to was a Jaeger. But without a better view of the bird, its ID will forever remain unknown.

Over at the Hurd Grassland the wind was really playing up. This kept most of the birds down out of sight, but also played into the best sighting there, a Northern Harrier using the breeze to cruise slowly over the big fields. Insects were well represented with an Isabella Tiger Moth caterpillar, AKA Wooly Bear, seen crossing a trail, as well as a good number of Bumblebees visiting the still abundant Asters in the edges of the shrubland. With the leaves off most of the shrubs, bird nests hidden so well in the summer have become obvious, including one—which may have been a Field Sparrow nest—which had the remains of a chick that never fledged inside.

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.

During these trying times OCAS does not feel that it is safe to hold public in-person events, but we are continuing our regularly scheduled walks at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland so that we can collect bird data. And also, through these posts, so that we can share our sightings with you. Public walks will resume once public health officials say it is safe to hold gatherings again.

September’s wildlife walk at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland took place a week late because the person who was supposed to do it was really caught up in a good book and just plain forgot about it. No, harm done, really as it just moved the visits more into the heart of the migration season.

At Otter View Park, I had to carefully pull my car into the parking lot as there was a Mourning Dove that for some reason would not flush away from the car. When was safely out of the way, and I had parked and got out, it was still sitting nearby under a bush. That is until a minute later when a Cooper’s Hawk zoomed overhead, and then it flew away rather briskly. As the Hawk passes through a nearby tree, it spooked out yet another Cooper’s Hawk which then followed it away out of sight. Along the trails there was a good mixture of sparrows including White-throated, Song and even a young Swamp that I found confusing before settling on its ID. A hard frost the night before had caused almost all the Spotted Touch-me-not seedpods to explode in the night, littering boardwalk with seeds and casings. Another neat sighting I had came on my way back, walking along Pulp Mill Bridge Rd., when I spotted a Chestnut-sided Warbler in a tree across the road. And while I was looking at that, an immature Scarlet Tanager popped out near it as well.

At the Hurd Grassland, I decided that taking the long route around the big field wouldn’t be very profitable, so instead I stuck close to the hedgerow where I could find birds in the trees and bushes. This payed off when I turned the corner around the tip of the hedgerow and found a Black-throated Green Warbler browsing in the trees. A little further down I also spotted a Lincoln’s Sparrow which popped out of a bush and showed of its buffy breast with fine streaks. Not long after that I spotted a small raptor diving towards a scattering group of birds. I got my binoculars up an was able to see it was American Goldfinches which were escaping from a Sharp-shinned Hawk. The hawk then landed in a tree nearby allowing me to get some pictures before it took off after some more birds. All through my walk I was spotting groups of Blue Jays up about 100 feet in the air winging south. Though we have Blue Jays all year, their cousins to the North are not year-round residents of their breeding grounds, and can be seen migrating through our area at this time of year. I counted 44 in all in the hour I was at the grassland.

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.

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 2021. 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/event/project?
  • What are the education outcomes you expect for your students?
  • How many students will the field trip/event/project serve?

OCAS realizes that educators must follow certain guidelines this year because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We encourage teachers to be creative in designing their proposals around these guidelines.  For example, given the relative safety of the out-of-doors, grant writers might consider an innovative outdoor learning space project.  Requests for other resources, such as the loan of materials from the OCAS Lending Library, might not be available until the spring of 2021.  OCAS wants to support Addison County educators, and we look forward to hearing what teachers need as they strive to provide their students with natural world experiences.  Keep in mind, though, that OCAS volunteers will be unable to offer in-class programs for the time being.

Please distribute the attached application materials widely to your school’s teachers.  Applications are due by Monday, November 2, 2020, and can be sent to cgramsmac@mac.com. Successful grant recipients will likely be contacted by Monday, December 21, 2020. Grant recipients will also be asked to provide a one to two-page summary, including photos, of their field trip/event/project after it takes place. 

Otter Creek Audubon is continually refining the field trip/event/project grant application process.  If there are any questions or recommendations about the application process please leave a message for Carol Ramsayer at 802-989-7115 or email cgramsmac@mac.com.   

CLICK HERE TO GET AN APPLICATION:
PDF or DOCX

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.

During this continuing covid era, we are still doing monitoring walks with just OCAS board members, so we can still see what is happening at the Otter View Park and Hurd Grassland and still stay safe. This time I was joined by Gary & Kathy Starr. August’s monthly wildlife walk took place on the 8th of the month and broke our string of bad weather.

At Otter View Park bird activity was winding down with he bulk of the breeding activity done. An Eastern Kingbird was still nosily defending its territory, however. A family of three Northern Flickers seen moving through the thickets together suggest a successful nesting season for them. The highlight of here was a Purple Finch fledgling, which preened itself at the top of a tree long enough for at least one of us to get a good picture of it. Purple Finches generally breed in the mountains, so this bird had likely come down from the Greens to find food in the valley.

Over at the Hurd Grassland, this walk came too late for us to see the fledgling Bobolinks confirmed by myself on walks at the property in late July. American Goldfinches were abundant and very active, since as late nesters they were probably still working to feed nestlings. A Coopers’ Hawk was spotted in a bare Elm Tree, and as we observed, it took off and zoomed down very low over the fields. And in the shrubland section we heard an Eastern Towhee repeatedly giving its “towhee” call, though other shrubland birds were silent and unseen.

Apologies for the lateness of this report. Due to a post scheduling error by the author, it has sat in the drafts folder for almost a month.

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.

I am beginning to think that our wildlife walks in this closed-to-the-public, covid-19 era may be cursed by the weather. The May walk happened the morning after a blizzard, the June walk on an unseasonably cold morning, and the July 11 walk was during a Tropical Storm. Now as far as Tropical Storms go, Fay was kind of a bust, but there was still a fairly significant rainfall happening on the morning of the walk. But the birds won’t count themselves, so armed with good boots and an umbrella I set out to monitor the wildlife at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland.

While at the park the rain hadn’t really gotten going yet so I was able to get some pictures of flowers like Spotted Joe-Pye Weed and Buttonbush blossoms. The big Mulberry tree near the boardwalk is full of fruit and therefore attracting lots of bird and squirrel activity. The only birds I could make out through the gloom in the tree were Gray Catbird and American Robin. At the end of the boardwalk, a lone male Wood Duck duckling skittered away from me across the water like a high-speed hyrdroplane. And and Osprey was seen flying down the creek as well.

Over at the Hurd Grassland the rain had really set in and the walk became just a list of birds that aren’t bothered much by the wet. Red-winged Blackbirds, Song Sparrows, Swamp Sparrows and Common Yellowthroats all kept dauntlessly singing despite the rain. The surprise for me among them was a Alder Flycatcher that horned in with its song too. Only surprising because I would have thought them a more weather shy species. The most exciting part of the Hurd portion of the walk was when I stopped in “The Birdhouse” to get a few moments out of the wet. Inside, I found an Ultronia Underwing Moth trapped in the screened in enclosure. After getting some good pictures of it I was able to catch it and release it outside unharmed.

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 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.

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.

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