April 30, 2020

Rock Point Rocks!

30 April 2020
7:00 AM
55 degrees Farhenheit
cloudy, drizzly
Rock Point
Burlington, Vermont

“Good morning, birds!” said some walkers.

“Tweet-tweet-tweet!” responded some birds.

This morning, Sophia, Allegra, Emily and I ventured to Rock Point to check out some birds. Arriving at 7:00 AM on this cloudy fifty-something degree day, some Tufted-titmice welcomed us with their calls and chirps. We Began the walk to the sounds of Black-capped Chickadees and the bright splashes of yellow daffodils that speckled the trail.

We enjoyed listening to some White-throated Sparrows at the edge of a field. Just barely caught the sight of the distinguishing yellow spot on that striped head of theirs in some shrubs. At the same place, we heard the unmistakable hammering of a beak against a tree. As if he was performing for us, a White-breasted Nuthatch expertly scampered down an Eastern White Pine as he showed off his bright white belly. Four Black-capped Chickadees played around the shrubs near our White-throated Sparrow friend and made their way high into the trees before disappearing just as a Blue Jay emerged from the forest and perched on an evergreen. Precariously balanced on the top limb, he was silhouetted against the slightly bright gray sky and confirmed our speculations of his identity as he called his classic call.

We continued down the trail and enjoyed the sight of some beautiful rather conspicuous spring forest flowers. I adore plants and am always conflicted whether or not to have my eyes up to the trees to peep some avians or down to seek some herbs and ferns. While the wind was whistling across the lake at the point of our walk, birds were silent so I allowed my gaze to drift down to the ground. Early blue cohosh, Yellow trout lily, Liverwort, Early saxifrage, Siberian squill, Common periwinkle, Mountain bellwort, and Pennsylvania sedge all graced us with their flowers and inflorescences.

Plant identifying was a lovely time today! Birding today was full of common species and nothing particularly exciting. It was, however, particularly exciting to share birding with friends – while practicing safe social distancing – especially some that I haven’t seen in quite some time. Very grateful to have friends who enjoy slow, slow walks through the forest to identify plants and birds around the trail.

Posted on April 30, 2020 15:36 by claudia-sacks claudia-sacks | 9 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 22, 2020

A Morning Jaunt to Colchester!

21 April 2020
7:00 AM
37 degrees Fahrenheit
Sunny, clear, little clouds
Breezy from the West
Delta Park
Colchester, VT

Sophia and I arrived at Delta Park to practice some social distance birding. Face masks fogging up binoculars, we enjoyed each other’s company as well as the sights and sounds of some avian pals.

At 7:15, we heard the first Phoebe of the morning! A lovely lady or gentleman whose relative’s feather I was gifted some time ago. Later we saw two Black-capped Chickadees preening in a shrub next to the path. These are the friends that everyone has been looking for! Kind hearted, brave, beautiful little lads and ladies. They are accurately described as “the small boy of the woods” according to Birds of America (1937).

We watched four Yellow Warblers hip and hop around branches overhead. Fast twitch muscles seemingly abundant, their sudden movements look to be out of a cartoon!

Once we made our way to the bridge, we spotted six Double-crested Cormorants flying and diving around! Although they weren’t particularly close to each other, they did not seem to show any type of aggression toward the others. Previously, I had seen this species only singularly. Is this the beginning of their mating season? Is that why they are gathering?

A Belted Kingfisher graced us with his presence. He sat on a branch not far from the trail on the South side of the Bridge. I suppose we ventured too close and he promptly but calmly took off to the Southeast and landed on another branch.

There were some American Goldfiches that showed some signs of territoriality. Perhaps they were merely playing, but it seemed as though the four males that we watched were chasing each other from a particular tree. This could be the beginning of their mating ritual. Delineating and defending a territory to woo a lady Goldfinch.

If the Double-crested Cormorants were indeed beginning a mating process, they did so on the lake, in the water where the American Goldfinches were performing in the nearby trees. Perhaps the Cormorants choose a mate on the water and return to the shore or land to build a nest, copulate, and incubate a nest. American Goldfinches seemed to be defending trees or a series of nearby trees. Perhaps this is for resource protection, including nesting site and food. They typically nest in cup-like nests in trees so it follows that they would be protecting trees that could well facilitate such a nest site.

On our way back to the vehicles, we spotted a Ruby-crowned Kinglet! A beautiful little critter with such a bright spot! All About Birds states that Ruby-crowned Kinglets build a globe shaped nest that will stretch with the size of the brood. The female builds the nest over a period of days and does so with small twigs, mosses, spiderwebs and grasses. I think that a Ruby-crowned Kinglet would have a successful attempt at finding these things at the site that we spotted the male. The water and trees around and in it provides ample habitat for insects and consequently spiders. Since they are insectivores, this would also be a good location to raise a brood of maybe a dozen young.

Back at the cars, we spotted two Yellow-rumped Warblers. I’m always shocked at just how vibrant they are! Truly magnificent creatures.

Posted on April 22, 2020 23:59 by claudia-sacks claudia-sacks | 5 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 15, 2020

Back to Shelburne (this time in the morning!)


34 degrees Fahrenheit, sunny, and a light breeze, the day proved to be a beautiful day for birding. Shelburne Bay housed the location of my exploration once again! This time, at 6:40 in the morning, I enjoyed the sun which tends to be rare lately and a solidarity that I have all too much of right now. Truly, spring has sprung! The egg-bud of a Shagbark Hickory peeped out some pubescent first leaves, raspberry vines sprouted green, and unidentified spotted two-inch leaves littered the ground on the entire walk.

Immediately after arriving, a Mourning Dove called from a perch and dispersed the sounds of spring onto the parking lot.

Suddenly, I heard an incessant raptor’s call and he or she was carrying a fish in their talons!! Is that an osprey I spied? Or a falcon? Anyway, the bird landed on the platform on a post and presented the fish to his or her partner. “Awww! He brought her breakfast!” Promptly, she rejected it and sent him flying away with the fish in talon still. What was up with that behavior?! Upon returning home and consulting the ever-reliant Sibley’s Guide to Birds, I believe the pair that I spied was indeed an Osprey. Awesome.

Walking along the inlet, I saw four pair of Common Mergansers. On my way back that way, I heard them yell at something and it made me laugh out loud! Their quack is truly something else! Perhaps it can be described as “extra-ducky.”

At 7:08 AM, I wrote in my notebook “Who do Canada Geese constantly yell when they fly overhead so incessantly?” At the time, Sparrows’ and Chickadees’ melodic calls and chirps lulled me into a stupor until suddenly – the terrifyingly loud, nails-on-a-chalkboard abrupt, constant-as-rain-in-spring-in-Vermont quacks of the aforementioned species spooked me back to reality. Terrifying.

I heard many woodpeckers from many calling and hammering for ten minutes in some hemlocks. Finally, two Downy Woodpeckers showed themselves only to disappear just as quickly as they showed themselves.

I heard a Nuthatch (Red- or White-breasted? I’m not so sure thanks to the funny sun behind the bird’s perch!) and not long after saw the individual scurrying around an ancient hemlock. It was lovely to see such a small life force finding a friend on such an ancient one, especially since their lives seemed so equivalent.

Not long after, I saw a Hairy Woodpecker on the neighboring birch. His slightly larger body and long beak said “hello, I’m a Hairy Woodpecker.” To prove the point, he gave a little call! Woodpeckers’ calls always make me smile! For some reason, their calls don’t seem to match the brute hammering of trees that they are also capable of.

A Blue Jay called as he soared through some pines, announcing his presence.

On my way back to the parking lot, a hoard of Turkey Vultures sat on some branches. Oh my goodness! THEY’RE HUGE! I knew that of course, but it always is shocking! Six of them ruffled feathers in the sun, shuffled feet, shifted to a new spot on the trees, overall just hung out happily and enjoyed the sun.

I saw a person enjoying the Turkey Vultures from across the way. We made eye contact and waved. Some of the most meaningful human interaction I've had in a while. Blessing!

Arguably the most important take away from the day was that I learned that I could, for the rest of my life, hear nothing other than the calls, tweets, songs, and voices of Black-capped Chickadees and be content. Walking near the Turkey Vultures, there was a corridor of more Chickadee voices than I could count. I’m incredibly thankful for their brilliance and their willingness to share their songs with passersby.

Posted on April 15, 2020 15:40 by claudia-sacks claudia-sacks | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 09, 2020

Shelburne Bay Shenanigans!

Weather: 55 degrees, mostly sunny skies, bright, no wind.

5:15 PM

Today was an amazing day for birding! I arrived to Shelburne Bay and enjoyed the warmth that the sunshine bestowed upon the trails. As soon as I pulled into the parking lot, I heard a cacophony of songs and calls. Listening closely, I could hear many Black-capped Chickadees, American Robins, and plenty of Sparrows and Gulls. I heard a White-throated Sparrow in some pines, but could not see where he was coming from. A Downy Woodpecker explored the base of a willow tree for about fifteen minutes. While he was pecking away, I heard some loud repetitive calls slowly forming a perimeter around a group of trees and a field. Upon further investigation and reference to the Sibley’s Field Guide, I learned that this is a Northern Flicker! What a character! A one-footed Gull made my acquaintance as I walked toward the inlet and a couple of Song Sparrows journeyed in the reeds and brush at the water’s edge. I heard about three Red-winged Blackbirds in the trees across the road chattering away at each other. As I sat taking notes, an angry call from a Downy Woodpecker startled my from my concentration in a small group of trees. I happened to look up from the paper and see a Tern fly toward the lake! I jumped up, scurried to the edge of the water on the boat ramp, and watched him or her soar high, dive, and skip across the water. It was a beautiful display and I watched for about ten minutes. Suddenly, a large black form darted across my qlars (binny’s, nocs, binoculars) and I shifted the frame. A Double-crested Cormorant landed in the water with a splash and I watched him for a while. Dive, quiet, rise, swim, repeat! He took off in front of me and I am so thankful to have seen the bright bill, unique outline, and quirky personality. Right before I left, I saw a what I believe was a Turkey Vulture across the inlet, although the individual was rather far away to be sure.

A tried and true friend, the Black-capped Chickadee foregoes any attempt at migrating and spends their winter wherever they are find themselves at the end of the fall. The species is hardy enough to endure frigid days and smart enough to cache food for themselves come winter. I once read that a single Black-capped Chickadee can remember up to several thousand cache sites at once! They molt in the fall, so their coats are nice and fresh in the winter too. They overnight in small holes in trees – reported several birds in one hole! – and nestled against the trunks of many different evergreens. Perhaps they prefer to stay at a specific site for the duration of the winter because they don’t want to have to set up a new cache at each site it spends time.

Considering my new friend, the Northern Flicker is a migrant, albeit a facultative one. Researching about the species on the Audubon website, it looks like they have a large range and don’t necessarily have to travel that far. While Burlington is part of the common breeding territory for Northern Flickers, the southern edge of the state is far South enough for them to spend any season. Perhaps this individual only traveled about 110 miles from where he spent the winter to where he will breed. Either way, some challenges for this species returning to a site at the beginning of breeding season is that it may have to compete other individuals of the same and different species for a certain territory. This individual that I watched certainly seemed to be creating a perimeter around a field. Perhaps he was preparing for the breeding season.

Posted on April 09, 2020 17:58 by claudia-sacks claudia-sacks | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 30, 2020

A Good Home

The barn on campus has always been a relatively loud place. Whether it is the rumble of the tractor, the singing of our bovine ladies, or the chirps, whistles, and calls of various passerine species that spend their time here, there is always something to listen to. With this quarantine business going on, I've been working at the dairy barn for a lot of my time. During the down time, it has been exciting he weather on this particular day was sunny, about 45 degrees Celcius, and comfortable enough to lay in the middle of the barn watching birds go about their busy lives.

Over the winter, House Sparrows, Rock Pigeons, European Starlings, among various other common overwintering species spend most of their time inside the safety of the barn. They can be found jumping from fence to fence, picking at the cows' food of corn and hay silage, and traveling around together. For the most part, each "flock" stays separate from the other and doesn't interact with other species. Outside of the barn, there is a field, and some trees. Imaginably, the species observed above spend much of their time here as well. Perhaps they catch bugs and get other more natural forms of food.

This spring, a Rock Pigeon decided to build her nest atop a metal fan in the barn. More often than not, she can be found sitting on the nest, presumably watching the cows munch on food and other avian species flutter about. Watching this particular lady, when she leaves her nest, she escapes out the door of the barn and may be gone for only several minutes but as long as fifteen minutes.

Posted on March 30, 2020 20:57 by claudia-sacks claudia-sacks | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 11, 2020

Centennial Friends!

At 4:00 PM Tuesday afternoon, I made my way to Centennial Woods. It was about 40 degrees out and an overcast sky framed the scene of the adventure to come. Although there was not much diversity regarding the species sighted, a day birding is never a day wasted! Black-capped Chickadees welcomed me as soon as I stepped foot on a path next to a field that housed last season’s goldenrods. They perched in pines above and hid in shrubs closer to the ground. Higher in the sky, members of the American Crow Flock soared in straight lines across the sky. Their nearly constant flapping as well as their coarse throaty calls gave them away.

It is difficult to determine exactly how many of each of the viewed species were observed because of the calls making up. Over the course of about two hours, approximately 20 Black-capped Chickadees were observed but perhaps some of these were repeats because of the inability to confidently locate their movements in the trees and shrubs. Since it was near dusk, I would draw the conclusion that the Chickadees were planning on overnighting among the pines from which I heard them. I have spent some time learning about Chickadee habits and it seems as though they either nestle on an evergreen branch or in a cavity. Although I did not see exactly where they stayed for the night when they became quiet, other tells in the mornings (bent tails) could potentially be an indicator.

At this time of the evening, the Chickadees were hiding for the night and not actively (not obviously anyway) returning to their caches and eating.

I found several snags with a multitude of cavities in them. Each time I found one, I observed it for several minutes, then went over to the snag and tapped on it. None of the 3 snags that I encountered and tapped had anyone flutter away from my disturbance. Some of the cavities looked as though they were just woodpecker feeding spots while others looked (from my angle on the ground) as though they were deeper (perhaps nesting) holes.

Posted on March 11, 2020 17:40 by claudia-sacks claudia-sacks | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 20, 2020

Barnyard Bonus!

An unexpected sighting! At the barn on Monday evening, a Sharp-shinned Hawk and a Red-Tailed Hawk spent the night. Both soared the high ceilings of the barn and took refuge on the gates between the pens of cows or on the horizontal siding of the walls. At one point, the Red-tailed Hawk must have ventured a little too close to the Sharp-shinned Hawk and the latter let out several high calls and swerved out of the larger bird’s way. Both of their I returned the several days later and they were gone; out of the tall barn doors in which they came. Once again, the barn was loud and full of the sounds of Sparrows, Rock Pigeons, and European Starlings.

Posted on February 20, 2020 00:54 by claudia-sacks claudia-sacks | 1 observation | 2 comments | Leave a comment

To the Intervale!

On Monday afternoon, it was sunny with little to no cloud cover, about 25 degrees Fahrenheit, with wind from the North about 10-15 mph. I began the walk from the Old North End toward the Intervale and continued on the trails next to the Winooski. On the way down the steep hill into the floodplains, there is a birdfeeder next to a house. There were several species of birds on or near the feeder on my way there including a Downy Woodpecker and two Black-capped Chickadees.

While on the trails, I heard the calls of what I believed to be White-throated Sparrows (but didn’t see them), American Crows, and Black-capped Chickadees. On the trail, I attempted to pish for some Black-capped Chickadees and while some seemed to respond, none came too close. While observing them fluttering between trees’ branches, they would flap their wings, glide for a while, and flap again when they began to drop toward the Earth. This is a consistent habit with their elliptical wing type. Continuing the walk, I watched as an American Crow skirted the edge of a field. The bird’s high lift wings correspond with his or her regular flapping of wings.

Back up to the apartment, I returned to the bird feeder, stopped and watched as a White-Breasted Nuthatch made his or her way to the feeder, snatched a seed, brought it to a nearby snag, and munched away. Two House Sparrows also enjoyed a snack from the feeder at the same time. Nearby, a Downy Woodpecker watched on.

Posted on February 20, 2020 00:53 by claudia-sacks claudia-sacks | 2 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment