Friday, April 28, 2006
It doesn't breed exclusively in Louisiana. It doesn’t swim in water. And it’s not a thrush. But it’s called Louisiana waterthrush. It’s actually a warbler. Hey, no one ever said bird watching was easy. But find a swift moving stream in the woods and you’re likely to hear and maybe see a Louisiana waterthrush in Vermont.
The Louisiana and northern waterthrushes are similar species whose breeding ranges overlap in Vermont. While they look alike (brown and streaky), their songs and habitats differ. The Louisiana's song usually descends like the hilly streams that constitute its favorite habitat. The northern waterthrush’s song begins with three notes on about the same flat pitch, like the flat wetlands where it prefers to breed.
Both species bob their tails as they walk along water’s edge. This unusual locomotion is shared by some sandpipers and a variety of birds that forage along the edges of streams, rivers and ponds. By continually changing the waterthrush's angle of vision, the bob may improve its ability to spot small, often cryptic, aquatic prey through the glare of sunlight on the water's surface. The Louisiana waterthrush is like the native brook trout. It feeds almost entirely on mayflies, stoneflies and other insects found in clear mountain streams.
The Louisiana’s nest is an open cup of mud and bits of vegetation placed along a stream under an overhanging bank, a fallen log or within the roots of an upturned tree.
Last week Louisiana waterthrushes, among our earliest arriving warblers, were reported from Bristol, Norwich, Putney and Woodstock.
Meanwhile, the first reported Virginia rails and soras were seen in the West Rutland marsh on April 22. Also on that date, a Caspian tern was reported from Delta Park in Colchester. A birdwatcher at Burlington Intervale reported a rare sighting of the more southern fish crow on the 20th.
Northern rough-winged swallows began arriving from their Central American wintering grounds last week. Five bank swallows were spotted in Danby on April 18. And Barn swallows were seen in Putney, West Rutland marsh and East Creek Wildlife Management Area in Orwell.
Other first arrivals last week included; blue-gray gnatcatcher in Putney on April 22, a gray catbird in Hartland on the 23rd and a rose-breasted grosbeak in Rochester the 24th.
Singing purple finches were reported throughout the region last week.
Check out Vermont eBird for a full report of birds.
Kent McFarland, Conservation Biologist
Friday, April 21, 2006
Ruby-throated hummingbirds weigh about the same as a nickel, yet they fly nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico when migrating to the Northeast. They are the only species of hummingbird that breeds in eastern North America. The first hummingbird this spring in Vermont was reported on April 14th in Essex.
There is little flower nectar when they arrive in early spring. Instead, ruby-throated hummingbirds take advantage of naturally tapped trees. The yellow-bellied sapsuckers drill rows of small holes in tree bark and use their feather-like tips on their tongues to lap up the oozing sap. Hummingbirds have a similarly long, brushy-tipped tongue and hover near the sapsucker taps licking sap and occasionally eating insects enjoying the sugar too. They can extend and retract their tongue about 13 times a second and use the same technique to lap up nectar from blooming flowers later in the spring.
Hummingbirds beat their wings 40-80 times a second, breath 250 times a minute and are powered by a heart beating 250 times per minute at rest and 1,200 times while feeding. They normally fly at 30 mph but can reach speeds as high as 60 mph in a dive.
Males are easily identified by the iridescent, red throat called the gorget. Females have white tipped tail feathers and are larger than males.
Waterfowl continued to be seen throughout the state, with the largest numbers being reported from Grand Isle, including green-winged teal, ring-necked duck, greater and lesser scaup, common and a Barrow’s goldeneye, hooded and common mergansers and bufflehead all observed on April 10. A pair of northern shoveler was seen at Brattleboro Retreat Meadows on April 11 as well as eight mute swans. A native of northern and central Eurasia, as an introduced species it is of concern because of its effects on native wildlife. Its aggressive nature can disrupt the nesting of native waterfowl. They have not been found nesting in Vermont yet.
Other first spring arrivals last week included blue-headed vireo and Louisiana waterthrush in Dummerston, rough-winged swallows in Westminster, an early wood thrush in Bellows Falls, a northern mockingbird in Poultney, a palm warbler in Hartland, and ruby-crowned kinglets were reported across the state. Each day of spring dawns with more and more migrants arriving on south winds.
A complete list can be seen on Vermont eBird.
Monday, April 17, 2006
Friday, April 21, 7pm
The Unitarian Church in downtown Montpelier, Vermont
VINS NATURALIST JOURNEYS: STORIES OF PEOPLE AND PLACE 2nd Annual Slideshow Series
Suggested donation $5 adults, $2.50 children.
What do Bolivian rice farmers and Vermont dairy farmers have in common? Here in North America, the cheerful, bubbly song of the Bobolink often entrances birders, filling our hayfields with life each spring. But the details of their winter life in South America, a mere 6,000 miles away, have remained a mystery to ornithologists. Rosalind Renfrew will present her ground-breaking (and sometimes shocking) discoveries about wintering Bobolinks, including video footage from Bolivia.
Rosalind Renfrew obtained her BS degree at the University of Vermont and her Masters and PhD at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where she studied grassland bird nesting ecology. She returned to Vermont three years ago to join the Conservation Biology Department at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science. She has traveled to South America for the last three winters, in search of the Bobolink.
Friday, April 14, 2006
The Conservation Biology Department is pleased to welcome Julie Hart back to VINS. Beginning today, Julie will coordinate day-to-day operations for Mountain Birdwatch and provide technical support for several other CBD projects. Some of you may know Julie as a 2005 field biologist for the Vermont Breeding Bird Atlas and a fixture on the VTbird listserv (back in December, she reported Vermont’s first Black-tailed Gull). Before her first tour of duty at VINS, Julie worked as a bird conservation specialist at Audubon New York and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. There, she authored 50 species accounts and the bird conservation text for the excellent online resource, All About Birds. She designed and coordinated publication of The North American Landbird Conservation Plan. She managed data and maps for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker search. And she initiated a monitoring program for New York’s Important Bird Areas. Julie grew up in the foothills of the Green Mountains and is a 2001 graduate of the University of Vermont. We are very proud to have her as a member of our team.
On a warm day this past November, Fred Bates looked out his window and saw a small, strikingly yellow bird at his feeders. A quick glance through binoculars revealed that it wasn’t the familiar goldfinch.
“I put my binoculars down and went straight for my field guides, suspecting that it could be a
The Cape May warbler breeds across the boreal forests of
The curled and semi-tubular tongue of the
“It’s been a fun experience for us,” says Fred. “We met birders from near and far. We hope he will make it through the rest of spring and head north at the appropriate time to breed.” Cape May warblers typically pass through
New birds continue to be reported each week as spring slowly returns. The first reported barn swallow of the year was sighted at
Two other species of warbler joined the
The harlequin duck continued to be observed at the
See the entire list of birds in Vermont this past week and enter your own sightings at Vermont eBird.
Kent McFarland, Conservation Biologist
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Read more field stories by Mountain Birdwatch volunteers like Catherine’s and consider adopting your own route this year!
Morgan Mountain Birdwatch
By Catherine Sheard, a sophomore at Hugh C. William High School in Canton, NY, where her favorite class is math. She has been birding with her parents all her life, but especially like hawks.
The abrupt stop jolts me out of my stupor. “Are we there?” I ask my father sleepily as he shuts off the engine. He nods and passes me a flashlight from his backpack. I yank on my hiking boots and sling my binoculars over my shoulder. It’s 2:00 AM, Saturday June 20, 2005, just a few days after my last day of ninth grade. My father and I are going to climb Morgan Mountain, in the northeast corner of the Adirondacks, and search for the elusive Bicknell’s Thrush.
There is nobody around for miles on this empty mountain road, although the frogs and insects are deafening. The stars are brilliant, but they are soon blocked by the trees as we disappear into a trailhead barely visible during the day, much less by flashlight.
The trail begins gently – it was once accessible to vehicles, and the path follows the imprints of the tire tracks. However, after about half a mile, the tracks disappear, and the trail becomes a rocky, overgrown track following, and sometimes merging with, a streambed. There has been a lot of rain; mud coats my boots and my jeans become soaked from rubbing against the brush. The trail quickly becomes steep, and negotiating a route in the dark without breaking an ankle becomes an event. To combat the eerie blackness of the woods, my father and I play words games and test each other’s knowledge of obscure bird species.
Slightly over two hours later, we reach a pond, across which is our first survey site. The previous year, a determined beaver had flooded part of the trail, so we are forced to alter our route creatively. We arrive at the first point, a large, flat rock overlooking the pond, just as the sky begins to lighten. My father tosses me a granola bar and we get set up for the survey.
As if on cue, the frogs stop simultaneously. There is a few heartbeats’ worth of silence, which is pierced by a shrill “Oh sweet Canada-Canada-Canada-Canada” from across the lake. Our first bird of the morning is a White-throated Sparrow. Other birds quickly follow, leaving my father and me to sort out their identities and determine whether we’re hearing two different birds or one bird that merely moved.
By the time we complete the last site, the sun is shining brightly and the dawn chorus has ceased. We have heard or seen four of the five target species. There have been Winter Wrens, Blackpoll Warblers, White- throated Sparrows, and Swainson’s Thrushes aplenty. However, if there are Bicknell’s Thrushes on Morgan Mountain, they weren’t singing in front of two intruders on this morning. My father and I survey the sites again, but to no avail. We haven’t found the Bicknell’s Thrush.
But we’ll keep trying. This drab little bird cannot evade us for long. Someday, we will spot its subtle stripes or hear its magnificent trills. We will send in our data to help save the species, so that someday I can go hiking with my kids to look for a Bicknell’s Thrush.
At its recent meeting, the Partners in Flight Implementation Committee voted unanimously to adopt a resolution to help educate birders and PIF partners about the value of the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp. Sales of this stamp has helped to raise over $670 million for habitat security since the 1930s. Current sales of stamps contribute approximately $1.7 million per year to protect and restore habitat for many wetlands-dependent. More basic information is available at www.fws.gov/duckstamps. The bottom line is that PIF would like everyone who carries binoculars to also carry a Migratory Bird Stamp.
Because this is a rapidly changing arena, we have been advised to rely on the National Wildlife Health Centerfor the latest information. This site is updated several times each day.
Sunday, April 09, 2006
You can read about this story and learn more about songbirds in Miyoko Chu’s new book, Songbird Journeys: Four Seasons in the Lives of Migratory Birds, in which she explores the intricacies underlying the ebb and flow of migration, the cycle of seasons, and the interconnectedness between distant places. Songbird Journeys pays homage to the wonder and beauty of songbirds while revealing the remarkable lives of migratory birds and the scientific quest to answer age-old questions about where songbirds go, how they get there, and what they do in the far-flung places they inhabit throughout the year.
Learn more about our conservation biology studies in Hispaniola.
Friday, April 07, 2006
Large flocks of Bohemian waxwings have been noted across Vermont this winter and early spring. You can often find them on and below crab apple trees along streets and in parking lots eating dried or frozen fruit ignoring passing pedestrians.
Only three species of waxwings exist in the world with both Bohemian and Cedar waxwings occurring in Vermont and another species in Japan. You can tell the Vermont species apart by the calls they make, Bohemians have a high-pitched trill, rougher and lower pitched than that of Cedar Waxwing. Also, Bohemian waxwings have rusty-colored feathers under their tails.
The name "Bohemian" refers to the nomadic movements of winter flocks. It comes from the inhabitants of Bohemia, meaning those that live an unconventional lifestyle or like that of gypsies. The Bohemian Waxwing does not hold breeding territories, probably because the fruits it eats are abundant, but available only for short periods. One consequence of this non-territorial lifestyle is that it has no true song. It does not need one to defend a territory. They do not breed in Vermont, but just visit during some winters.
Snow geese were passing through in large numbers last week, with a majority being seen at Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area and Lake Champlain. Over 3,000 were seen on March 28th in Grand Isle. As of April 1st the harlequin duck was still at the Charlotte Town Beach. On March 29th an American widgeon was spotted at Sand Bar State Park, a long-tailed duck at Charlotte Town Beach and two redheads near the Causeway in South Hero and in a cove on the Connecticut River north of Bellows Falls. A white-winged scoter was seen on Tinmouth Pond on April 1st, an unusual observation away from Lake Champlain.
Raptors are arriving and are beginning to nest. Ospreys were back on a nest along Route 2 just south of the Sandbar Causeway and a northern goshawk nest was discovered in Middlesex. Goshawks can be extremely aggressive around there nest sites, often chasing unsuspecting hikers.
Tree swallows arrived across Vermont this week prospecting for nest boxes in fields and meadows. Five rusty blackbirds, a species that has declined drastically, were sighted in Pownal on March 30th.
VINS conservation biologist
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Thanks to all of you for what we have accomplished in Vermont, with 3,287 checklist submitted last month to Vermont eBird, more than even New York or Texas!
TOP 10 Submissions by Month - March 2006 (10+ checklists)
VINS Conservation Biologist
Sunday, April 02, 2006
Vermont's black bears are emerging from their winter dens and looking for their first meal in several months. If you have been feeding birds, you can help prevent the bears from getting into trouble by removing your bird feeders now according to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.
"We are getting reports of bears being active already this year," said Wildlife Biologist Tom Decker. "We are urging people to help by removing any food sources that may tempt the bears."
"We are asking people to stop feeding birds from April through late October," added Decker. "Also, don't leave pet food outside, wash down your barbecues when done, and secure your garbage containers. And above all, never purposely leave food out for bears. Feeding bears may seem kind, but it is almost a sure death sentence for the them."
"Help keep our bears wild," said Decker. "We care about these bears as much as anyone. Having to destroy one that has become a threat to human safety is not a pleasant experience, and we know that moving them to another location doesn't change their behavior. They continue to seek food near people because they have learned that it works."
Bears often eat seeds in the wild, so a birdfeeder chock full of high-energy seed is a concentrated source of what a bear considers natural food. And they are smart. Once they learn to raid birdfeeders, they will be back for more, often escalating their behavior to obtain food.
To learn about black bears, go to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department Black Bear Factsheet.
For Further Information please contact: Tom Decker at email@example.com