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

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.

SIGH!

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.

Eight people came out for this month’s walk at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland on what could be only described as a perfect August day. Sunny and cool and lacking the high humidity we had been having recently, it mad for a pleasant outing.

Song Sparrow were the early greeters along as we started off at the park, and would be a theme throughout the morning. Along the boardwalk we noticed some new beaver work, extending their dam further and retaining a lot of the three inches of rain we had in the previous days. A pair of Marsh Wrens kept teasing us with their scolding while hidden in the cattails, finally revealing themselves to some persistent watcher. Down at the river we watched three Green Herons fly up and land at the tops of trees. On our way back we spotted an Empidonax flycatcher that sat long enough in one place for us to definitively identify it as a Least Flycatcher.

Over at the Hurd Grassland we watched Barn Swallows zooming back and forth over the newly mowed field. Song Sparrows again were conspicuous dotted around the trails alone and in family groups with youngsters — we tallied 22 of them in all. A Common Yellowthroat and Swamp Sparrow briefly popped up where they could be viewed, but were otherwise only heard. An Eastern Towhee was observed in the shrubland section of the property singing its “drink your tea” song. Field Sparrows weren’t singing, but one of them did pop up to give us great looks at it. An Osprey was seen flying overhead as were several Turkey Vultures. We ended our morning in Gale Hurd’s kitchen enjoying a snack and some Ruby-throated Humming birds visiting her feeders.

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, September 14 at 7:00 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 walks at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland took place on a seasonally warm morning. Our crew this time out were all walk regulars which made for a companionable outing.

At the park, a Catbird was keeping up a constant racket while we gathered in the parking lot. Along the trail we spotted an Eastern Cottontail Rabbit that quickly dived for cover when it saw us. At the end of the boardwalk we saw thee families of Wood Ducks that we tallied at twenty in total of both adults and ducklings. A female Mallard was doing its best impression of a piece of wood, sleeping standing in front of a log, only her slight movements and orange legs giving her away. A Baltimore Oriole perched in a tree and a Green Heron flying over the river were also nice sightings.

The big feature at the Hurd Grassland was Dragonflies. Along the paths we saw several Widow Skimmer, a Common Whitetail and many unidentified Meadowhawks. A Monarch Butterfly was also seen visiting the milkweed in the field. Down in the shrubby section we had two Field Sparrows countersigning with each other. A Brown Thrasher flew across the trail in front of a pair of participants who had fallen behind and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird was seen visiting Gale Hurd’s flower garden.

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, August 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.

On Saturday, June 22, OCAS and the Middlebury Area Land Trust held our annual Beginners Birding Walk at Wright Park in Middlebury. Beginning birder’s of all ages, many equipped with OCAS’s binoculars, broke into three groups led by OCAS President Ron Payne, birder and former MALT director Josh Phillips, and MALT Executive Director Jamie Montague and searched for birds around the various trails of the Park. Birding highlights were many singing Cooperative Catbirds and Red-eyed Vireos, singing Yellow Warblers and American Redstarts, and Eastern Kingbirds acting flashy.

If you missed the walk, remember that beginning birders are always welcome at our Monthly Wildlife Walks at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland on the second Saturday of every month. And another dedicated walk for beginning birders will take place during Dead Creek Days in Addison on October 5th. Please see our Calendar of Events for more information.

Seventeen people came out for our Monthly Wildlife walk at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland on a gorgeous June morning to view and help us survey birds and other wildlife at these two properties.

At Otter View Park, Eastern Kingbirds acted as our greeters and we started our walk, flitting between apple trees. Down on the boardwalk, a sharp-eyed participant spotted a Ruby-throated Hummingbird perched at the very top of a tree. Marsh Wrens, Song Sparrows, Swamp Sparrows provided a constant soundtrack for us in the Marsh. A Virginia Rail was heard several times but not seen, even when it was right next to the boardwalk. A lone male Wood Duck was seen down the river as was a female Hooded Merganser which we saw fly up into some trees. A Mallard mom with 14 ducklings made a brief appearance on the riverbank too. At one point we saw a Baltimore Oriole perched in a very distant tree. Later we thought we had found it again, but that turned out we were tricked by a Red-winged Blackbird with a red covered leaf in front of its body.

After a quick carpool, we started our walk at the Hurd Grassland where we saw an Eastern Bluebird atop a birdhouse and heard several House Wrens singing their heads off. In the field we spotted a Merlin circling up in the sky. Unfortunately we didn’t see any grassland birds in the Hurd fields, but we did later spot a Bobolink at the property to the north giving hope that they are at least using our habitat for feeding. The shrubland section of the property was much better for the species we are targeting with our management. Alder Flycatchers, an Indigo Bunting, Field Sparrows and an Eastern Towhee are all evidence that things are going well there. But the highlight was a male Blue-winged Warbler heard singing its “bee-buzz” song, then later seen by our group foraging around the top of an elm 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, July 13 at 7:00 AM. Meet at the parking area of Otter View Park at the intersection of Weybridge St. and Pulp Mill Bridge Road.

Twelve people came out for this month’s walk at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland on a beautiful morning, with lots of beautiful birds to be seen. As we walked the trail one of the neighborhood Merlins zoomed overhead spooking all the Red-winged Blackbirds. Down on the boardwalk we watched a Marsh Wren carrying cattail fluff down into a nest it was constructing. Two Virgina Rails were briefly seen, the hear making their grunting call from the marsh. And a trio of Baltimore Orioles flew in and chased each other across the property.

Over at the Hurd Grassland we were treated to the sight of both Eastern Bluebirds and Tree Swallows taking up residence in bird houses. A Norther Mockingbird was a surprise site flying along a hedgerow. In the field an Eastern Meadowlark briefly popped up out of the grass and disappeared again, giving us hope they might nest there again this year. Down near the pond we enjoyed long looks at an American Bittern that was trying unsuccessfully to make us think it was a tree stump. A Field Sparrow was spotted in the shrubland section of the property. And at the end of our walk, while enjoying snacks and conversation with Gale Hurd, we saw a Ruby-throated Hummingbird visiting her feeder, the first of the year for many on 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 walk will take place Saturday, June 8 at 7:00 AM. Meet at the parking area of Otter View Park at the intersection of Weybridge St. and Pulp Mill Bridge Road.

Fourty-seven people broke up into three groups and scoured the trails of the Waterworks property in Bristol for migrating warblers and other bird species. Though we did generate a very respectable list of 48 species, our walk was probably just a few days too early because our warbler count was a little light with only seven species. We did score some nice looks at Black-and-white Warbler, Yellow Warbler and a Pine Warbler that landed in the middle of the trail in front of one of our groups.

Other birds made up for the lack of warblers however. Raptors were very apparent with an Osprey seen near the reservoir, and a Broad-winged Hawk that was seen passing overhead. One of the highlights of the day was a very noisy Red-shouldered Hawk that made itself seen several times. Another big highlight was a pair of Barred Owls that two of our groups had very close encounters with.

For the third straight year we enjoyed seeing young ravens in their next on the cliffs near the anticline of folded rock. A young walker found a large rodent skull, which we believe came from a Muskrat, on the ground nearby, clearly leftovers from one of the Raven’s meals.

Waterfowl were very active at the reservoir with Canada Geese getting into territorial fights, both Common and Hooded Mergansers feeding, and a lone male Wood Duck showing off his breeding plumage. Spotted Sandpipers were seen bobbing on logs, and Belted Kingfishers were seen pair-bonding atop a duck box.

And as usual at the Watershed Center at this time of year, we were treated to a wonderful variety of wildflowers including Triliums, Spring Beauty, Hepatica and Dutchmans Breeches, to name a few.

A full checklist of the birds seen on our walk can be viewed here: https://ebird.org/vt/view/checklist/S55926158

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 have committed to give $6100 to 15 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. 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.

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

  • Salisbury Fledglings
  • Windshield Phenomenon
  • Woody Plants of the Northern Forest: a review
  • Endangered Species
  • Beginners’ Bird Walk
  • One Wild Bird at a Time, a review
  • Vermont Audubon Assembly
  • 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.

Barn Swallows

Six people came out to this month’s wildlife walk at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland on what was one of the most beautiful days of the spring s far. On the songbird side of things, a recent arrival at the park was the Eastern Phoebe, and an Easter Bluebird was also seen hanging around. Read the rest of this entry »