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

32 people came out on an unseasonably warm for the return of our First Day Hike at Button Bay State Park. Put on in partnership with Vermont State Parks, we aim to start the year right with both a good walk and a good start to our birding year lists.

The birds were in fairly low numbers, as is the current trend for them this winter, but we did manage to get some good sighting. Along the trails we found a flock of songbirds including a White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Juncos, and Blue Jays, which were spotted and ID’d by a seven-year-old participant in the walk. One of our group was lucky enough to see a Brown Creeper, but it crept away before anyone else got to see it. Out on the water around Ship point there was a moderate sized flock of American Black Ducks and Mallards, as well as some very distant Hooded Mergansers. We went out to the point across from Button Island and got better looks at those Mergansers, and got a great look at a Horned Grebe which surfaced seemingly from nowhere right in front of us. On our way back we found some more songbirds along the road, including some American Tree Sparrows. And to crown things off, while looking at a large flock of European Starlings, we were excited to see a Peregrine Falcon fly through them in an unsuccessful attempt to catch a meal.

It was great to return to doing this event, and we fully plan to do it again next year.

Click here for a full list of the birds we saw.

Seven people came out for this month’s wildlife walks at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland. Counting started right away as we worked to get a number of House Sparrows chirping from inside a bush. Things were otherwise quiet until we made our way to the boardwalk where we saw two Ravens flying over. Down by the river we heard some cryptic squeaking calls which turned out to be coming from either a Song Sparrow or some American Tree Sparrows. The highlight of the day came as we worked our way back around the trails, we came across a flock of seven Eastern Bluebirds which seemed to be sharing an interest in Ash tree seeds with American Goldfinches and House Finches.

On our commute over to the Hurd Grassland, we had to stop on the side of Weybridge Rd. to ID a Red-tailed Hawk that was being mobbed by a group of Crows. In the small hedgerow by the entrance to the property we spotted a group of Tufted Titmice as well as some Blue Jays. There wasn’t much activity in the big field, with even the silo across the road not producing a single Pigeon. But things picked up in the shrubland section with Chickadees and Cardinals and other regulars. On one dead tree we had the opportunity to work on the difference between Hairy Woodpeckers and Downy Woodpeckers as both were working away on its trunk. A group of Canada Goose seen flying to the south attested to the fact that there was open water somewhere in the area. And just for symmetry’s sake we ended our day counting another flock of House Sparrows also making a racket in a bush.

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, Jan. 14, at 8:00 AM. Meet at the parking area of Otter View Park at the intersection of Weybridge St. and Pulp Mill Bridge Rd. We hope to see you there.

The remnants of Hurricane Nicole must have kept most people away from our November wildlife walk at Otter View Park and The Hurd Grassland, but the three who came out were rewarded with rapidly clearing skies, warming temperatures, and some interesting sightings.

At the park Carolina Wrens were being their noisy selves, loudly calling as is their tendency for this time of year. The recently brush-hogged fields were relatively quiet, but down at the end of the boardwalk we observed some similar recent cutting done by Beavers, clipped Red Osier Dogwood stems cached for winter eating in the river at the edge of the bank. We seemed to run into talkative flocks of Tufted Titmice everywhere we went that morning. One of our best finds of the day came as we came back off the boardwalk and spotted a Winter Wren crossing the trail into the bushes. These small birds have become regular winter visitors to the marsh at the park for the past several years. Much less likely to be seen here in November though, were the pair of Gray Catbirds foraging in the grass along the trail back around to the sidewalk. To cap it off, nearby, we also found a pair of White-throated Sparrows who defied multiple attempts to get pictures of them.

Over at the Hurd Grassland, we were greeted by the sight of a Mosquito, likely one of the overwintering species tricked by the warm weather into leaving its hiding spot. Other unseasonal insect sightings on our walk included still a extant grasshopper, and a couple of Fall Crickets attempting to make it into winter. Six Eastern Bluebirds were seen around the edges of the fields. In a large tree at the north end of the shrubby section, a couple of Red-tailed Hawks were seen hanging their wings attempting to dry themselves out. The hedgerows were filled with Black-capped Chickadees, of which we estimated fifteen, but that was likely an undercount. A boldly patterned Song Sparrow was also seen in the bushes, as was a Dark-eyed Junco, a sure sign of winter. But on a day filled with mixed messages, we also heard two Spring Peeper Frogs calling from trees.

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, Nov. 10 at 8:00 AM. Meet at the parking area of Otter View Park at the intersection of Weybridge St. and Pulp Mill Bridge Rd. We hope to see you there.

On, the evening of Thursday, Nov. 10, OCAS held our Annual Meeting online via Zoom. Our President, Ron Payne, gave an update on our activities for the past year, then we held a board election. If you weren’t able to attend, you can watch a recording of it in the video posted above.

We are currently in the process of amending our Bylaws and Constitution to give us the flexibility to hold our meeting at a different time of year, so we hope this will be the last Annual Meeting we will have had to hold online.

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

  • Sharing Nature: An Educator’s Week
  • Telephone Gap
  • Outdoors Is Best!
  • Bird Migration Explorer
  • Hog Island Summer Camp
  • Purple Martin Status
  • Chapter Report
  • 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.

Otter Creek Audubon Society is pleased to announce their annual $1000 scholarship to the renowned Hog Island Audubon Camp, available to an Addison County educator or teen.  Located off the scenic coast of Maine, the camp is run by the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Every summer they offer sessions for adults and teens, each lasting about 5 days.  The spectacular surroundings and excellent instructors offer a truly enriching experience.  Read all about it at https://hogisland.audubon.org .

The scholarship for educators is for the session entitled “Sharing Nature: An Educator’s Week.”  This unique week is especially designed for educators committed to engaging their students with nature. More information on this program can be found here: 
https://hogisland.audubon.org/sharing-nature-educator-s-week

The scholarship for a teen (age 14-17) who is especially keen on birding, is for the session “Coastal Maine Bird Studies for Teens, Session 2.” More information on this program can be found here:
https://hogisland.audubon.org/bird-studies-teens

Please find the OCAS scholarship applications attached below.  The deadline for submission is December 31, 2022.  The scholarship recipient will be notified by January 6, 2023.  Questions?  Email Carol at cgramsmac@mac.com.

Additional scholarships may be available from National Audubon. Applications for these National Audubon Ambassador Scholarships must be made by January 15th.  For details and a National Audubon scholarship application refer to: https://hogisland.audubon.org/programs/scholarships

Most importantly, OCAS urges folks to share this scholarship information with any students or educators passionate about birds and the natural world.  It is an exceptionally inspiring opportunity!  

DOWLOAD EDUCATOR APPLICATIN HERE

DOWNLOAD TEEN APPLICATION HERE

Seven people came out on a spectacular fall morning for this month’s walk at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland. Action picked up right away in the parking lot with birds taking advantage of the fruiting shrubs and seeding forbs. Chipping Sparrows, Song Sparrows and House Sparrows were all busily foraging in that area. Blue Jays were also very active, some seeking food, and some higher up migrating south. Down on the boardwalk a lone Red-winged Blackbird male was singing as if it was spring. He was briefly joined by a large flock of females and juveniles, they soon headed out and left him to his solo performance. There was not much activity at all on the river itself, but in the nearby bushes we heard a lingering Gray Catbird, and had a close encounter with a group of Tufted Titmice. Back on the trail out, we spotted a flock of White-throated Sparrows busily eating dogwood berries in the bushes along the trail, and up above them, there was a flock of Purple Finches feeding on ash seeds. An Eastern Phoebe was maybe the last notable sighting at the park.

Over at the Hurd Grassland, we caught sight of some of the water birds we were missing on the river at the park, spotting flocks of Canada Geese all headed in that direction from fields in the West. As usual we counted the Pigeons who hang around the Silos across the road from the property. But this time we notices an all white one, likely a bird released at a wedding or some other celebration, hanging out with them. Around the trails it seemed like every patch of goldenrod had groups of Yellow-rumped Warblers looking for food among the foliage. Eastern Bluebirds were seen also in dogwood bushes, and using one of our birdhouses as a perch. The most exciting sighting we had in this portion of the walk was a passing Cooper’s Hawk which circled enough for us to go through all the field marks to be sure of our ID.

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, Nov. 12 at 8:00 AM. Meet at the parking area of Otter View Park at the intersection of Weybridge St. and Pulp Mill Bridge Rd. We hope to see you there.

An OCAS grant funded an “Adventure Bag” for each Mary Hogan Preschool student.  Each bag holds individual nature study materials, such as  binoculars, a journal and a magnifier bug box.    Photo credit:  Debra Martin

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 2023. 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 2023.  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 might be unable to offer in-class programs based on COVID restrictions.

Please distribute the attached application materials widely to your school’s teachers.  Applications are due by Tuesday, November 1, 2022, and can be sent to cgramsmac@mac.com. Successful grant recipients will likely be contacted by Monday, December 19, 2022. 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. 

To find out more about Otter Creek Audubon Society’s mission and activities, please visit our website at www.ottercreekaudubon.org.  There you can also find a “Join Us” link to take you to the membership page, where member benefits are described.  (Please note that membership is not a factor in grant decisions.)
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 email Carol Ramsayer at cgramsmac@mac.com.  

CLICK HERE FOR AN APPLICATION:
PDF or DOC

On Saturday, September 24, OCAS in partnership with The Moosalamoo Association held a walk to Silver Lake in Leicester in celebration of National Public Land Day. Starting at the trailhead in Salisbury, our walk up the 1.6 mi. trail was fairly uneventful, not surprising considering we were walking though mature woods on the shady side of a mountain in early morning. Once we got to the lake itself at the top, it was a bit of a different story.

The lake again hosted nesting Common Loons this year, and as soon as we got a view of the water, we got a look at two adults. The chick that I am told was raised there unfortunately eluded us. While looking at them we also had a little micro-flurry of songbirds which were making good use of the sunlit trees around the lake to browse for food. In this flock we saw Dark-eyed Junco, an Blue-headed Vireo with a very fat caterpillar in its bill, a Chestnut-sided Warbler and the briefest look at Golden-crowned Kinglets who were heard making their “seet-seet-seet” call. Another interesting bird with them was a Downy Woodpecker which confounded ID expectations by not having black spots on its outer tail feathers.

When we walked a bit around the lake to get a closer look at the loons, we had a couple more good sightings in a Yellow-rumped Warbler flitting in a Pine Tree, and then a couple Hermit Thrushes which we got unusually long looks at as they fed on staghorn sumac berries. And we did get that closer look at one of the Loons which resulted in the picture that you see above.

Our walk down was mostly as quite as our walk up was, but we did get one more good bird sighting in when we spotted a couple Black-throated Blue Warblers down low in the vegetation.

All of our bird sightings can be seen at the following link:
https://ebird.org/vt/checklist/S119721831

Five people came out for this month’s wildlife walk at Otter View Park and the Hurd Grassland. Things at the park started out with a rather dire looking sunrise, the sky turned orange by the smoke from western wildfires. In the fields we saw a large number of dew-covered spider webs almost all of them with a Banded Garden Spider sitting in the center of them. Down on the boardwalk we had brief lesson in one of the most challenging fall warbler identification problems when we saw both Blackpoll Warbler and Bay Breasted Warbler in their non-breeding plumage. We also saw several unidentified warblers flying up high which we speculated were at the tail end of the previous nights migration. A flock of immature Cedar Waxwings perched in a spot to give us a look at their incomplete masks and orang tail tips. Maybe the best sighting of the day happened on the trail back out when we spotted a Rose-breasted Grosbeak browsing for food in a tree.

Bird activity was significantly less over at the Hurd Grassland, but we still managed to see some nice things. Gray Catbirds were still well spread around the property and being very vocal. A couple of Eastern Phoebes were seen, one of them using one of our birdhouses as a perch to hunt for bugs from. Much like last month, we spotted a Field Sparrow embedded with a flock of Song Sparrows which of course led us to wonder if it was the same bird. And on our way out we peered into Gale Hurd’s backyard to spot a Ruby-throated Hummingbird which was 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, Oct. 8 at 8:00 AM. Meet at the parking area of Otter View Park at the intersection of Weybridge St. and Pulp Mill Bridge Rd. We hope to see you there.

About OCAS

Enter your email address to follow this site and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Donate