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

31 people came out on Mother’s Day morning for the return of our Warbler Warm-up walk at the Watershed Center in New Haven. Led by OCAS President, Ron Payne, and Watershed Center volunteer, Chris Runcie, we split into two groups and went in search of migrating warblers and other birds. I

Since out last event here three years ago there had been some major changes. One of the main tails has been flooded by beaver activity, so a new trail circumventing it that spot had been built. We marveled at all the hard work which had been put in on this project including a lovely footbridge over a wet section.

As for birds, things were a bit on the quiet side, but what we may have lacked in quantity, we more than made up for in quality. Yellow Warblers, Yellow-rumps, Black-throated Green, Black-and-white, Common Yellowthroat and Northern Waterthrush made up the slate of our marquee bird family, as well as a Blackburnian Warbler which patience most allowed everyone in both groups to get good looks at it. Also of note were drumming Ruffed Grouse, singing Winter Wren and Blue-headed Vireo. Seen through the treetops, a Red-Shouldered Hawk made several passes above us giving us chances to be sure of the ID, and for OCAS VP, Gary Starr to get a nice picture of it. Common Raven chicks, nearly ready to fledge, were seen in their customary nesting place on a cliff.

Of course, as usual we enjoyed the lovely wildflowers which grow around the property. And as we were on our way out, a participant spotted a fuzzy orb in tree, which bushwhacking around to the other side was revealed to be a Raccoon, looking unhappy that its hiding place wasn’t working as well as it thought it would.

Thanks to all who joined us for this enjoyable outing. You can see the full eBird checklists of our two groups at the links below.

Ron Payne’s group.

Chris Runcie’s group.

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 $4742 to eight schools and educational organizations to fund field trips and class projects. We have also awarded a scholarships to local educators to the National Audubon Society’s Hog Island camp in Maine.

Money from Birdathon also goes to support our presentations, 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.

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

Four people came out on a misty wet morning for the April Monthly Wildlife Walk at Otter View Park and The Hurd Grassland. The walk was mostly a tale of expected returns. Song Sparrows were back in good numbers around the trail. Female Red-winged Blackbirds had joined their male counterparts, who where displaying vigorously in the marsh. A flock of Canada Goose were seen winging their way to points further north. The best sighting from this portion of the walk was probably an Eastern Phoebe seen hunting for bugs in the cattails. On our way out, we met a neighbor of the park who told us a story of seeing a Peregrine Falcon kill a Ring-billed Gull over the meadow a couple of days before. Some of the feathers from the unfortunate gull were still in evidence.

Over at the Hurd Grassland Tree Swallows were seen zooming over the field when we arrived, and were later seen already staking out a birdhouse to move into. Eastern Bluebirds were also taking an interest in our nest boxes. White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos were heard singing from the hedgrows. While we were at the park we didn’t see any ducks on the river, but at the grassland we saw both Wood Ducks and Mallards flying by overhead. Down in the shrubby section we heard a mysterious bird song, probably from a sparrow, but failed to get a recording of it, so its ID will forever remain unknown.

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, May 14 at 7:00 AM. Meet at the parking area of Otter View Park at the intersection of Weybridge St. and Pulp Mill Bridge

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

  • VT Rare Species Status Change
  • Eight Ways to Help Birds
  • Education Happenings
  • Look Ahead to 2022 Environmental Education Grants
  • Scout Bridge at the Hurd Grassland
  • Amphibians on the Move
  • 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.

Here is Jim Andrews’ final report on amphibian activity on the evening of April 7th at Morgan Road in Salisbury. There is likely to be more amphibian movement this spring, especially outside of the Champlain Valley, for those of you who who crave more amphibian action or who were unable to make it to either of our two public events at Morgan Road. You will need to sign up again next year for alerts to two movement events at Morgan Road. I start the list over again each year. We hope you enjoyed this year’s action. Many thanks for your help.

—Warren King

Here in Salisbury, we had our second and last public education event for the season at Morgan Road. We had 61 volunteers that reported a total of 477 amphibians (and one passing car) over the 1 & 3/4 hours that we were on site. Keep in mind that many more amphibians moved after we had left the site and on other evenings when we were not watching. Also, we hope that thousands more are moving in areas where there are not roads between their overwintering and breeding areas. Maintaining these undeveloped and connected lowlands and uplands is important for all wildlife.

Our species totals at Morgan Road were:

Blue-spotted and related hybrids, 214 alive, 1 dead
Four-toed Salamanders, 133 alive, 1 dead
Eastern Red-backed Salamanders, 98 alive
Spotted Salamanders, 17 alive
Eastern Newt, 2 dead
Wood Frog, 6 alive
Spring Peeper 5 alive

—Jim Andrews

A pair of Wood Frogs

Here is Jim Andrews’s report from last night’s salamander crossing event in Salisbury:

Morgan Road, March 31, 2021

Herpers, it was a big night at Morgan Road in Salisbury last night at our public educational event. This annual event is organized by the Otter Creek Audubon Society and the Salisbury Conservation Commission. Last night we had 57 volunteers on site from 8:15 PM to 10:15 PM. Those volunteers tallied a total of 919 amphibians of seven species and one reptile. We knew the temperatures would be ideal (50 F). The only question was would the rains come through our area and really get the roads and soils wet. When I arrived at 7:45 to get set up, a few Wood Frogs and a couple Four-toed Salamanders were the only amphibians visible. By the time the public arrived though, the Blue-spotted Salamanders, Spotted Salamanders, Eastern Red-backed Salamanders, and Spring Peepers were moving through as well. Over the two hours, we tallied 305 Blue-spotted group (Blue-spotted Salamanders and their associated hybrids), 255 Four-toed Salamanders, 168 Eastern Red-backed Salamanders, 121 Spotted Salamanders, 50 Wood Frogs, 18 Spring Peepers, 1 Eastern Newt, and 1 Common Gartersnake. Only two cars went through during our visit, so total mortality was only four amphibians. Two reporters from VPR were there making recordings and taking photos, so we will showing up on air and on their website at some point in the future. Special thanks go out to Warren King for managing the e-mail list; and Ron Payne, Kathy and Gary Starr, and Preston Turner for helping on site.

The March monthly wildlife walk at Otter View Park and The Hurd Grassland was originally scheduled for the morning of a blizzard. One attendee did show up, but with the snow coming down hard, and visibility nonexistent, we mutually agreed to reconvene on the next day and try then. A good choice since a 24 hour wait gave us a beautiful sunny morning.

A March walk at the park would not be right without the return of Red-winged Blackbirds, and we were treated to a couple of males singing from treetops around the property. We also had the neat experience of seeing a female Northern Cardinal singing like a male from a prominent perch. Females of this species are known to sing, bur rarely do it out in the open like this. Canada Geese were seen flying overhead as well as making use of the recently melted Otter Creek. And we also had fun observing a noisy and rambunctious flock of Blue Jays.

As the other walk participant had to leave, I continued on to the Hurd Grassland on my own, taking the opportunity to go on foot and make use of the new footbridge to get across the swale. Near the bridge American Robins and Eastern Bluebirds were making use of open water in a pond to get a drink. And then came a series of remarkable sightings. Walking into the shrubland section I heard a repeated “hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo” call behind me that I didn’t recognize. I thought it might have been a Pileated Woodpecker being weird, but when I turned around I spotted a Short-eared Owl flying across the field. I later learned the sound they were making is their breeding call. That could have stood as the sighting of the day if not for later when I walked the trail through the hedgerow and spooked up a Northern Shrike with an American Goldfinch it had caught in its bill. So good was this sighting that I’m not even annoyed that I only managed to get a terrible picture of it. And then just to cap things off, I heard a squeaky call coming from the top of a tree, and when I looked at that, it turned out to be a Rusty Blackbird which I got a pretty good picture of.

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, Apr. 9 at 8:00 AM. Meet at the parking area of Otter View Park at the intersection of Weybridge St. and Pulp Mill Bridge

Spotted Salamander

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

Otter Creek Audubon and the Salisbury Conservation Commission will patrol an amphibian crossing site in Salisbury again this year. Across Vermont, groups of concerned individuals attempt to alter amphibians’ lethal odds by moving them off the road during nights of significant movement. At the most dangerous crossings amphibians may suffer 50 percent mortality, but the crossing we monitor has little traffic. This site retains not only large numbers of amphibians but also remarkable species diversity: four salamander and three frog species. If we happen to get a “Big Night”, we’ll move more than a thousand amphibians in a two-hour period. The site affords all who participate an opportunity to experience this remarkable natural phenomenon first hand.

You can witness and help perpetuate this migration if you sign up for the 2022 amphibian email alert. The 2022 window is Monday, March 21 to Sunday, April 10. You’ll receive a confirming email at about 6 pm. Movement starts around 8:15 pm and can run for several hours. Volunteers may arrive and leave when they wish and are responsible for their own safety and the safety of others in their group. We strongly encourage you and all others in your group to wear a mask to reduce the risk of COVID spread. Upon arrival, Jim Andrews and OCAS will provide species identification tips and a reminder of appropriate behavior. With your help we’ll record the numbers of each species we move for two hours.

Sign up at kinglet@together.net, even if you were on the list in a previous year

This month’s wildlife walk at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland started out overcast but throughout the outing transitioned into one of those bright February days where you start to really feel the warmth of the sun again.

The first task at the park was to successfully navigate the treacherously slippery parking area which featured freshly fallen snow sitting atop a solid layer of ice. That done we could start looking for birds, most of which were of the common winter varieties. Northern Cardinals, Blue Jays, American Goldfinch and Starlings, of course. The most notable thing on the first half of the walk to and from the boardwalk was the sound of woodpeckers engaged in territorial drumming, a sign of winter’s end. On the trail to Pulp Mill Bridge Rd. we spooked up a trio of White-throated Sparrows, and as we walked back along the sidewalk, we spotted a White-breasted Nuthatch that had taken an interest in a chimney for some reason.

The next interesting sighting took place on our way to the Hurd Grassland when we spotted a Cooper’s Hawk perched in a tree on the edge of the property. On the trails themselves, we spotted a good flock of Goldfinches, and heard the warbling singing of House Finches. Around the lower field we found three Eastern Bluebirds hanging out in the vicinity of some of our nest boxes. In the shrubland section we spotted the tracks of a Bobcat which had wended its way back and forth across the trails, as well as the shuffling trail of a Skunk. We also found another flock of White-throated Sparrows there, ten in number, with a lone American Tree Sparrow keeping company with them.

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, Mar. 12 at 8:00 AM. Meet at the parking area of Otter View Park at the intersection of Weybridge St. and Pulp Mill Bridge

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

  • Great Backyard Bird Count
  • Extreme Weather in 2021
  • Denali’s Muldrow Glacier Surge
  • 2022 Environmental Education Grants
  • Sign Up for 2022 Salamander Escorts
  • Winter Wren
  • 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.

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