Friday, June 30, 2006
As shrublands from abandoned pastures have slowly been lost to forest, so have Golden-winged warbler populations. The golden-winged warbler is declining precipitously in the northeastern U.S.
The decline may be due, in part, to a loss of shrubland habitat. But the decline also correlates with the range expansion of its close cousin, the blue-winged warbler. The areas they now share have led not only to increased competition, but also to widespread interbreeding and golden-wings are the losers.
Golden-wings, blue-wings and hybrids frequently nest in dry, upland sites produced by natural succession on abandoned farmland. They also occur in alder swamp and beaver meadows in southern locations and along the edge of tamarack swamps in northern locations. Dry areas are usually covered by goldenrod and scattered shrubs. In wetter areas the vegetation includes sedge and alder, but rarely cattails. They can be found in young conifer plantations that still have abundant open areas between the trees. Both birds occur in openings of several acres in clear-cuts.
Golden-wing and blue-wing territories are large, typically 2-4 acres. Within an individual’s territory the vegetation usually has patches of shrubs and some forest edge. These edges as well as scattered taller trees are used as singing perches.
Males of golden-winged and blue-winged warblers and their hybrids regularly sing songs phonetically represented as zee bee bee bee for golden-wings and beee buzzzz for blue-wings. This song is given most frequently when males first arrive on a breeding territory to attract mates and define a territory. Hybrids cannot be distinguished from pure individuals by song.
A small "colony" of golden-winged warblers on Hollow Road in Monkton was reported last week. Three males were singing Golden-winged songs. One bird was along a shrubby powerline, another in a willow-dominated wetland, and a third in a grove of young poplar trees. Of the birds observed, one bird was a pure blue-winged, the other a pure golden-winged.
Other highlights during the past week included least bitterns in West Rutland marsh and Grand Isle, a family of red-breasted mergansers on the Burlington waterfront, a single Caspian tern at Delta Park in Colchester, a rarely-observed laughing gull on Lake Dunmore in Salisbury, and an orchard oriole in Brattleboro. An active red-bellied woodpecker nest found in Manchester Center provided further evidence of this species' steady northward spread into Vermont.
You can learn about all bird sightings the past week and more on Vermont eBird.
Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Golden-winged Warbler Atlas Project.
Kent McFarland, VINS Ornithologist
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
The Quest for New Loon Nests 2006 - northern Vermont
Over my 9 years as the VINS loon biologist, the thrill of finding a
nesting pair of loons cannot be beat, especially a pair that has never
nested before (at least recorded). Our system for finding new nesting
pairs has improved dramatically over the years as the Vermont Loon
Recovery Project's network of volunteers expands. The first indication
that a lake should be surveyed more frequently is just the mere presence
of loons, especially if during past surveys no loons were observed.
Second, if we start seeing 2 adult loons together from May though
August, then volunteers or I will survey that lake much more frequently
in May and June during subsequent years. The more consistently a pair
is observed on a pond, the more likely we have a "potential" territorial
pair. Often, we will observe 2 loons together for short periods, then
nothing or 1 or some other inconsistent pattern. We will still keep
these latter types of lakes on our survey lists, but they won't have
priority over the consistent 2 loon lake. Third, we wait for the day
that a survey in late May or June reveals a single loon after 2 had been
observed on all the prior surveys that spring. Is one on a nest? The
male and female share equally in nest sitting duties and usually switch
places every 4-5 hours. Loons can be off their nest for many hours, but
usually the switch takes less than 20 minutes.
An NEK pond: 2 loons have occupied this pond since around 1999. We had
a report of chicks in 1999 or 2000, but VFWD biologist and myself never
saw them after several surveys. In 2004, I paddled the edge of the pond
to inspect nesting habitat availability and found a nest bowl by the
inlet. There had been a nest in some past year. I interviewed several
landowners and confirmed that there had been a successful nest, but that
the chicks had disappeared within a week of hatching out. 2004 and
2005: 2 loons most surveys. 2006: May 31 - 2 adults; June 8 - 2
adults; May 22 -- 1 ADULT! I unload the kayak and start looking. I
usually stay 100 feet from shore during my initial surveys like this
since most loon nests are highly visible (with a 10-15 pound bird on
it). The exception is if there are dense shrubs hanging over the
shoreline and the loons sneak a nest up into a small opening on a
hummock. I focus my searches to the edges of marshes and islands, where
loons usually nest to avoid nest predators. I go to the old nest site
at the inlet and cannot find any evidence of open spots recently
trampled down. In addition, there 3-4 camps within 200 feet of this
site plus docks. I move onto the next cove and easily spot the white
chest and black head. By staying away from the shoreline, the loons are
less likely to crouch into their hiding position. It's amazing how a
crouching loon can visually disappear into the grasses.
A north central VT pond: Loons have often been observed on this pond
since before I began in 1998. In 1999, we had that magic twosome. A
volunteer built and placed a nesting raft in the most remote cove,
because the pond lacked an island or marsh. Between 1999 and 2006, the
pair activity was strong in some years and very intermittent in others.
I don't visit this pond very often because there are several volunteers
nearby who keep me updated on what they see. Some of these volunteers
just report what they see when they drive or walk by. Others
occasionally get out there and conduct a more official count. On my way
home from the copiers and preparing the Loonwatch mailing, I plan on
quick surveys of 5 or 6 ponds. A quick survey consists of 5-10 minutes
of scanning a lake from several vantage points or a quick tour in the
kayak. I had received more messages about the twosome staying put this
year, but after 8 years of watching the occasional pair on this pond,
the volunteers and my expectations were not exactly high. I pull into
the boat access and scan around. No loons. I think that the pair is
back to flying about between the many local ponds, and maybe we should
not even call them a pair. The raft is at the far end of the pond, and
I try to look at it anyway with my shaky 10x binoculars. Is that
something darker than usual on the raft or a shadow? I often create
loons in my mind sitting on rafts and find that it's a mix of light or
dark materials on the raft or the light hitting funny. I get the scope
out and see the white and dark in the fading evening light. It IS....I
think. I drive down the road to get a bit closer as I'm still not
convinced. This time it's a loon, all loon, incubating. It's a busy
little lake so I quickly construct a few floating nest warning signs
from the supplies in the truck and canoe them out to the site. I see
the mate, finally, feeding near the shoreline in another part of the
lake. Like much of the spring, it was raining by the time I got back to
the truck. The volunteers had taken quick glances at the pond, but the
rain had kept them off the water for closer looks during the past 2
weeks. Thus, I got to be the lucky finder of the nest and the bearer of
good news. It was now dark, thus the other 5 ponds will have to wait.
Although volunteers and I often find new nests first, anglers and
kayakers and lake residents find another large percentage of first nests
or chicks. People have the instinct that someone should know about
this, and they often know about the VLRP or the loon lady or guy on the
lake. Within 1 to 3 phone calls, I somehow get word about the nest or
chicks. Last year, a Loonwatch form came back from a lake with no
previous history of nesting with a "2" in the chick box. Are you
serious!? was my reaction. I was there within 12 hours to confirm it.
Thus, our annual Loonwatch count in mid-July provides a great check on
some lakes that do not get visited too often.
Where will the next new nest or chick sighting be? I'm off to Long
Point in Ferrisburgh to try to validate a "chick riding on an adult
loon's back" reported to me on Tuesday, June 27. No nest or loon chick
has ever been documented thoroughly on Lake Champlain. I say
"thoroughly" as we've had what appear to be valid reports of loon
chicks, but no follow-up surveys or 2^nd sightings have confirmed the
initial sightings. If I find anything, I'll report it here.
-Eric Hanson, Conservation Biologist (photo by Danielle Owczarski)
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
From Vermont Public Radio:
Listen to Interview
One of Vermont's most popular songbirds doesn't enjoy such a good reputation in a part of the world where they also flourish in concentrations far greater than researchers previously thought.
Biologist Dr. Rosalind Renfrew of Brookfield recently returned from South America where she found massive flocks of Bobolinks in Bolivia. She spoke with Mitch Wertlieb about her discovery.
LEARN MORE about this breaking news
Weekly Vermont Bird Report 6-26-06
This is the Weekly Vermont Bird Report for June 26, 2006 covering the period June 19-25, 2006.
LAUGHING GULL was spotted at Branbury Beach State Park on Lake Dunmore in Salisbury June 18th. No follow-up reports have been made. Current status unknown. State Park information: http://www.vtstateparks.com/htm/branbury.cfm. Directions: From Middlebury: Go 7 mi S on U.S. 7, then 4 mi S on Hwy. 53
ORCHARD ORIOLE was spotted in Brattleboro on June 23rd. No further reports available. Current status Unknown.
OTHER NOTEWORTHY OBSERVATIONS:
LEAST BITTERN was seen at West Rutland Marsh on the 20th of June and on Grand Isle on the 21st.
RED-BREASTED MERGANSER with 19 ducklings was spotted at the Burlington waterfront on June 20th.
CASPIAN TERN was sighted at Delta Park on June 20th.
BLACK-BILLED CUCKOOS continue to be sighted with regularity, and YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOOS were seen at the West Rutland Marsh (1) on June 20th, in Killington (1) on the 23rd and in West Brattleboro (1) on the 24th of June. See CBD Blog for more natural history information - http://vinsbird.blogspot.com/2006/06/vermont-weekly-bird-note622006.html.
An active RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER nest was found in Manchester Center on June 24th, and a sighting of a RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER in West Brattleboro on the 24th.
A BLUE-WINGED WARBLER was observed along the Pleasant Street power line in West Rutland on June 24th. A BREWSTER'S back-cross was very agitated when spotted by a birder on Snake Mt. June 25th. You can read more about identification of Golden-winged and Blue-winged Warblers at http://www.birds.cornell.edu/gowap/idpage.html.
For other species reported, review all Vermont bird sightings reported to Vermont eBird at http://www.ebird.org/goVINS/eBirdReports?cmd=Start.
This Vermont Bird Report is a service of the Vermont Institute of Natural Science Conservation Biology Dept. VINS is a non-profit, membership organization located in Woodstock with regional centers in Quechee, Montpelier and Manchester. Founded in 1972, VINS' mission is to protect our natural heritage through education and research. Your membership supports these goals and this reporting service. Updates are typically made on Fridays.
Please report your bird sightings to Vermont eBird at http://www.ebird.org/VINS/.
Saturday, June 24, 2006
The sound of the whip-poor-will might be associated with sleepless nights for some, but it's music to the ears of birdwatchers. Whip-poor-wills are widely recognized by their distinctive song, but it's rare to see this nocturnal bird.
The whip-poor-will, or Caprimulgus vociferous, is a member of the goatsucker family. Literally translated, Caprimulgus means goat milker, derived from Greek legend when the bird was observed concentrating around groups of goats in the evening. In reality, the birds were not sucking milk from the goats, but eating the insects disturbed by them. Vociferus is an obvious reference to their loud, repeated song. The birds are so vocal, in fact, that naturalist John Burroughs counted 1,088 non-stop, consecutive songs from one singing male!
Whip-poor-wills breed across eastern North America. They prefer to nest in deciduous and mixed forests with little or no underbrush and lay their two eggs directly on the forest floor. The precocial young leave the nest immediately and spread out from other chicks, perhaps to deter predators from finding them.
An important lifestyle feature of this bird is its interconnectedness with the lunar cycle. Whip-poor-wills forage for flying insects at dawn, dusk, and by moonlight. Their vocal activity is markedly increased when the moon is more than half full. Parents even time egg-laying so that the chicks hatch 10 days prior to a full moon to maximize available moonlight for foraging and feeding their chicks. Birders and researchers take advantage of this lunar cycle in their searches for whip-poor-wills by conducting surveys on calm, clear nights during the two weeks around full moon. The next peak lunar period for hearing whip-poor-wills starts July 3.
The species, though difficult to study because of its nocturnal lifestyle, appears to be declining in some states. To better understand their distribution and abundance in Vermont, VINS coordinates Whip-poor-will surveys during peak lunar periods. In the past week, volunteers reported whip-poor-wills in East Corinth and Concord.
Other notable species observed in Vermont this week included two Sandhill cranes in Lunenburg on June 15. A laughing gull, a rare visitor that normally breeds on the coast, was observed on Lake Dunmore on the 19th.
Three Virginia rails and a northern harrier were observed at the West Rutland Marsh on June 19. A least bittern was seen at the same location on the 20th. One Caspian tern was seen at Delta Park in Colchester on the 20th and a great egret was sighted in South Burlington on the 17th.
Friday, June 23, 2006
Thursday, June 22, 2006
The Dominican Republic Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, through the Undersecretary's Office of Protected Areas, today sent the judge advocate general for the Defense of Environment and the Natural Resources two men to whom 12 young Hispaniolan Parrots (Amazon ventralis) were seized in Pedernales.
The seizure was made as a result of a denunciation by a member of the Ornithological Society of the Hispaniola, according to Jorge Brocca, Director of SOH and close partner with VINS CBD Department.
Hispaniolan Parrots are an endangered species found only in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Photo: Amaryllis Poland , Director of Wildlife and Biodiversity, Daneris Santana, Undersecretary of Protected Areas and Jorge Brocca, Director of the Ornithological Society of the Hispaniola.
Your can read the orginal press release in Spanish here.
Visit the Ornithological Society of Hispaniola web site.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Mt . Mansfield, Vermont
at 3,800 ft elevation
64 F. with the summit in the clouds and an afternoon storm
This is the 14th year of our Bicknell's Thrush research on Mt. Mansfield. This morning we captured and banded 3 new individuals and an old friend. His band read 1221-90059 and he was captured mid-morning in the same mist net location as last year. He was in good health. We first trapped him on Sept. 9, 2000 as a juvenile. Six years old is respectable for such a small bird. Each year we have sampled his blood and tested it for mercury contamination and each year it has been around 0.1 ppm.
The singing and calling activity has died down somewhat now that most females are probably incubating eggs. However, we had some call and sing as late as 10:30 am. So there is plenty of time to get up the mountains and see (or at least hear) a Bicknell's Thrush.
Birds Observed or Captured:
Number of species: 20
(Bold indicates unusual species for montane fir habitat)
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher X
Red-eyed Vireo X
Winter Wren X
Golden-crowned Kinglet X
Bicknell's Thrush ~15
Swainson's Thrush X
Wood Thrush X
American Robin X
Cedar Waxwing X
Nashville Warbler X
Magnolia Warbler X
Black-throated Blue Warbler X
Yellow-rumped Warbler X
Blackpoll Warbler X
Chipping Sparrow X (only find these around development at this elevation)
White-throated Sparrow X
Dark-eyed Junco X
Indigo Bunting X (like ski trail edges a bit lower down for nesting)
Purple Finch X
Pine Siskin X
Friday, June 16, 2006
Written and sent to us by 10 year old CBD fan, Finn M. from Woodstock, VT.
There are many different birds, but only one is a VINS biologist’s favorite, Bicknell’s Thrush! The Vermont Institute of Natural Science found one of several of this kind in 1997. They banded it on
Over the course of 10 years, this thrush has been found by VINS on the mountain. They have found it so often that they made an official name for it. Her name is Roxy. She is the oldest Bicknell’s Thrush known. Researchers Kent McFarland, Chris Rimmer and many others from the Institute, have yet to find out why they catch her on Stratton every year.
Do you know why? Do you have a guess? Where will we find Roxy next?
Sadly, we haven't seen old Roxy yet this year, but we keep trying!
The current hot topic among Vermont birders is, of course, the weather. It has been a wet spring so far and people are noticing its impact not just on their spirits, but on nesting birds.
Rain can flood nests, cause nests to fall apart, destroy eggs, and kill young due to exposure. Rain also influences the abundance of food. When food is scarce, chicks dont develop as quickly and can even starve. When a whole nest fails, many birds will make another nest. If this re-nesting attempt is late in the season, the young have less time to grow before fall migration, which makes it harder to survive.
Many people are reporting nest failures this year, but is it really effecting bird populations? Scott Sillett of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center is one of the researchers studying the impacts of global weather patterns on songbird populations. His long-term study of Black-throated Blue Warblers investigates differences between El Niño and La Niña years. Many of us are familiar with the El Niño event of 1997 when California was drenched in rain. In Jamaica, where Black-throated Blue Warblers winter, El Niño years bring less rain and the warblers have a harder time surviving the winter because there is less food. Similarly, on their breeding grounds in New Hampshire, Scott found that during El Niño years there is less food available and, consequently, fledglings weigh less.
These findings have direct consequences on the population, and, whats more, these effects carry-over between the breeding and wintering grounds. If it is an El Niño year, less adults will survive the winter in Jamaica, there will be less birds breeding in New Hampshire that summer, the chicks wont gain as much weight, and fewer will survive and return to breed the following year.
What does this mean for our birds this summer? The National Weather Service has a U.S. Climate Prediction Center that analyzes the weather each year to predict where on the continuum between El Niño and La Niña weather patterns will fall. This year is a neutral year, indicating that the weather will fall between the extremes. This is good news, at least for Black-throated Blue Warblers, which can expect to have average breeding success this summer.
Notable bird sightings from the last week include four Caspian Terns and a Common Moorhen at Colchester's Delta Park on the 10th, a Great Egret in South Burlington on the 9th, and a Carolina Wren in Brandon on June 11th.
You can learn about all bird sightings the past week and more on Vermont eBird.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
I got back Wed from a Mountain Birdwatch double-header in northern Vermont. Belvidere Mountain was my first stop. I was a little leery of the wind forecast; it was extremely windy after the weekend storm, but it was "suppose to die down over night". The hike was a very enjoyable gradual ascent accented by a run-in with a porcupine. I have seen porcupines plenty of times before, but always in a tree or on the ground. This one I was able to watch actually climbing, doing a series of mini-pull-ups it seems.
I had hoped to eat a late dinner on the fire tower at the summit, but only one-third of the way up the tower, the wind was so strong I thought I'd blow off. Needless to say, it was a restless night's sleep. I woke up nearly every hour just to hear the wind whipping around. What relief I felt in the morning when the wind died down to a code 4 (13-18 mph) and I could hear one Bicknell's singing! Later, at my third point, I was intrigued to see not one, but a pair, of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. They seemed to be getting pretty cozy despite seeming so out of place.
The river crossings on the hike down from Belvidere ensured that my boots were sopping wet for my long trek into North Jay Tues evening. Dan warned me that there were a lot of ups and downs, but they aren�t just any ups and downs, they are STEEP ups and downs, with one up and down being Jay Peak itself. Once my leg muscles warmed up and my brain was used to finding good footings on the rocky slopes, it was actually a very enjoyable hike.
Does anyone else feel like the Blackpolls laugh at them on the trails? It seems like when I walk through a territory of theirs, they follow me along the trail, singing and gently chiding me for my slow, two-legged mode of transport while they flit about with apparent ease. At least I get good looks at them.
I woke up at 3:40am Wed morning to pack up camp and head up to North Jay for my survey. (You gotta love putting on wet boots at that hour!) It was an ominous start with rain kicking in at 4am, but it stopped just before 4:30am and didn't rain the rest of the morning. What a difference a good expanse of high-elevation habitat makes! I had 7 Bicknell's during the morning survey, plus more Blackpolls and less Swainson's than usual. Three more Bicknell's after 9am on Jay Peak brought the day's total to 10.
Nothing beats a good local diner and a hearty omelet breakfast after a long morning hike. All in a day's work (well, two).
Happy hiking, birding, and mountain birdwatching,
Monday, June 12, 2006
Read the rest of the story in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.
Friday, June 09, 2006
During the winter of 1993-94 residents in Washington, D.C. saw house finches with severely swollen and weeping eyes at their feeders. The condition was determined to be mycoplasmal conjunctivitis, a bacterial infection that caused the bird’s eyes to swell shut. The disease was a well-known cause of illness in poultry and was first described in North America in 1936. However, it had not previously been considered a disease in wild birds.
House finches, native to western North America, are pinkish-red and brown songbirds that come to most feeders filled with sunflower or niger seeds. In Vermont, if you feed birds in a town, chances are you feed some house finches. They were introduced in Long Island in 1940 when pet dealers realized they were illegal and let them go. From these few birds, a rapid population expansion occurred in the 1960’s.
Vermont’s first sighting occurred in 1968 in Marlboro. They appeared on a Christmas Bird count for the first time in 1975 in Ferrisburg and were found breeding for the first time in 1976 in Bennington. A bird banding station at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science first banded them in 1983 when 9 flew into a mist net. Eight years later they netted 410 finches. By 1999 the finches had all but disappeared in Woodstock.
This echoes a study by Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology that used a network of bird feeder reports and the annual Christmas Bird Count. "Our data showed that high-density populations of House Finches that became infected with mycoplasmal conjunctivitis experienced a dramatic drop in numbers within two to three years after the epidemic began and that they stabilized at about 40 percent of their previous abundance," said André Dhondt, director of Bird Population Studies at the lab. "At the same time, emerging House Finch colonies increased to approximately those same levels, despite the presence of the disease."
Last week house finch reports were scattered across the state, mostly from urban areas where they commonly nest.
Other interesting sightings included a least bittern spotted at the West Rutland Marsh on June 4. A red-bellied woodpecker was found at Mt. Independence on May 27. This species appears to be breeding farther north each year.
The more boreal black-backed woodpecker was seen at Moose Bog on May 29 and 30 and on the Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge May 27 and 28 along with three gray jays.
The last migrating warblers noted were a Tennessee warbler at Mt. Tabor on June 2, A bay-breasted warbler Wallingford Pond on June 4 and a Wilson’s warbler in South
Starksboro on May 26 and at Mt. Independence on the 27th.
You can learn about all bird sightings the past week and more on Vermont eBird.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
This past weekend marked my debut into the Mountain Birdwatch hall of fame. I am officially a Mountain Birdwatcher. I was only able to conduct 2 out of the 3 surveys I had planned because of the weather, but I still managed to find some adventure along the way....
Sadly, no Bicknell's Thrushes were present on my first route on Brousseau Mtn in northeastern Vermont, but it looks like it has an amazing view. I say "looks" like, because when I hiked up in the morning it was too dark to see, and when I returned after playbacks, the fog had rolled in. I could tell that there is an amazing cliff and I confirmed my suspicions that Peregrines might find it attractive with a question to our Peregrine expert here at VINS. Too bad for me, I'll have to plan a picnic supper to enjoy the view and the Peregrines before my follow-up playbacks later this month.
I had better luck with the birds on Gore Mountain, also up near the Vermont-Canada border. I think it would be a nice trail if it hadn't rained so much prior to my visit. There are gorgeous waterfalls, bogs, and it's a gradual uphill. As it was, it seemed little more than a moose trail--muddy, slushy, and pocked full of moose prints. And the rivers were a little higher than I think they were intended for the river crossings. All I can say is, thank goodness for gaitors. The trail being under water or covered in mud, made it hard to follow. I lost it for a while at a nice little bog and picked it up again some 45 minutes later. On the way, I had to pause for an angry Ruffed Grouse who was ready to attack me. After she calmed down, I took one step forward and three fluffy ping-pong balls on legs screeched out onto the trail after their mom. I still made it up to the summit in time for the dusk chorus where numerous Blackpolls, Winter Wrens, Swainson's Thrushes, White-throats, Magnolias, and Yellow- rumpeds greeted me. Three Bicknell's sang off-and-on for over an hour, one staked out by the old cabin (you mean I lugged my tent up for nothing?), one by the outhouse (who knew?), and one off on the opposite side of the ridge. Sure enough, I awoke to their singing shortly after 4am. The hike down was very pleasant and I only had one scare when I heard a clamoring in the woods. I thought I had the mountain to myself, but, no, those moose tracks were fresh. Shouldn't he be heading down the mountain to that bog by now...?
In response to Dan Lambert's experience eating Chips Ahoy for breakfast and his resulting queasy stomach, here is my breakfast suggestion: try putting some granola in a bag with some dry milk, add water, and voila--cereal! Or, if you need sugar, try dried fruit like pineapple, mango, papaya, banana, or apple. Ok, ok, I know, maybe too healthy....
I am looking forward to my next route in the Adirondacks!
Mountain Birdwatch Coordinator
Friday, June 02, 2006
Early summer is a great time to explore Vermont's hillsides. But, before you head out, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department recommends you make sure the cliff area you're planning to hike or climb is open. Eight cliff areas are currently closed to protect nesting peregrine falcons
"We close the cliffs to reduce the chance of people disturbing the nesting birds," said Doug Boldgett, Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department biologist. "Peregrine numbers are steadily increasing, but the population remains vulnerable. We had 23 pair successfully rear young last year. The areas will be closed until August 1, but if a falcon pair doesn't nest or if the nest is not successful, the areas will be reopened."
The areas closed include the portions of the cliffs where the birds are nesting and the trails leading to the cliff tops or overlooks. In many cases the lower portions of the trails are still open. Signs are posted at the trailhead or along the trail indicating which areas are off limits.
Cliff areas or portions of cliff areas currently closed include:
Nichols Ledge in Woodbury - cliff top and overlook only
Fairlee Palisades in Fairlee - cliff top and overlook only
Deer Leap in Bristol - cliff top and overlook only
Bolton Notch in Bolton- cliff only, Preston Pond trail is open
Rattlesnake Point in Salisbury- southern overlook only, western overlook is open
Barnet Road Cut in Barnet- scenic pullout on Route 5 is closed
Snake Mountain in Addison - small portion of southern cliff top, all trails are open
Ryegate Quarry in Ryegate
Peregrine falcons disappeared from Vermont in the mid-1900s when widespread use of pesticides caused reproductive failure. Recovery efforts began in the 1970s with the first reintroduction of captive-bred peregrines.
The Vermont peregrine falcon recovery project, a partnership between Vermont Fish & Wildlife, National Wildlife Federation, Vermont Institute of Natural Science, and others monitored and protected peregrine nesting sites over the past two decades, and has successfully restored Vermont's peregrine falcon population. In April 2005, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources removed the peregrine falcon from Vermont's Endangered and Threatened Species List.
Updated information on cliff closures is listed on the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department website or by calling 802-241-3700.
You can report peregrine sightings on Vermont eBird.
The sound of frass raining down in Vermont forests must be music to cuckoos. Stand in any hardwood forest right now and you will probably hear caterpillar dung, known as frass by entomologists, bouncing off tree leaves as it tumbles from above.
Forest tent caterpillars have begun chewing their way through forests in what likely will be a repeat of last summer, when they defoliated 230,000 acres of Vermont leaves. While that may not be good news to sugarbush owners, it is for cuckoos.
A cuckoo can devour thousands of caterpillars. One closely watched gluttonous black-billed cuckoo ate 36 forest tent caterpillars in five minutes and then continued to consume 29 more in several minutes. After a brief rest, it ate 14 more.
Many birds avoid eating tent caterpillars because of the covering of stiff hairs, but cuckoos can. First they give the caterpillar a hair knocking hammer on a branch. Any remaining hairs pierce the lining of the stomach and remain there like a fur coat. When this interferes with digestion, the entire stomach lining is shed and regurgitated as a pellet.
You can find both the black-billed cuckoo and the yellow-billed cuckoo in Vermont. They are more often heard than seen. The black-billed has a fast rhythmic series of two to five notes on the same pitch, with a brief pause between each set: "cu-cu-cu-cu, cu-cu-cu-cu", while the yellow-billed call is a throaty "ka, ka, ka, ka, ka, kow, kowp, kowp, kowp, kowp." The tendency to call more frequently before rain explains why both black-billed and yellow-billed cuckoos are sometimes called "rain crows."
This week black-billed cuckoos have been reported from across the state. The rarer yellow-billed was seen in Danby on May 25, and at the West Rutland Marsh on the 27th.
Other noteworthy birds found this week included a tri-colored heron, a rare visitor to Vermont, with a snowy egret at Delta Park in Colchester on May 26. Three more snowy egrets were reported at Herrick's Cove in Rockingham on the 28th.
Shorebirds were stopping to refuel in Vermont on the way to arctic breeding grounds. Semipalmated and black-bellied plovers, greater and lesser yellowlegs, solitary sandpipers, least sandpipers and dunlin were reported on the Connecticut River and the Champlain valley. Over 500 short-billed dowitchers were seen at Herrick's
Cove on the 24th, but most were gone by the 25th.
Interesting warblers continue to arrive, including blue-winged warblers in the Rutland region and Woodstock, golden-winged warblers in Brandon and Shaftsbury, and a cerulean warbler in Vergennes on May 23.
You can learn about all bird sightings the past week and more on Vermont eBird.