Sightings listed for the Southeastern Vermont Audubon Society

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

BIRD NOTES ~January 28, 2008


Ivory Gull, Gloucester, MA© Hector Galbraith and Hawk Owl, Peru, NY © Jeff Goulding


Bird Notes


Redpolls & Siskins

There were 7 Common Redpolls with 10 Pine Siskins feeding on birch catkins on Wantastiquet Drive in Brattleboro this morning (1/25). There was also one male C. Redpoll brightening up the flock of ~ 40 Pine Siskins at our feeders on Bonnyvale Rd. this afternoon.

---Dave Johnston, W. Brattleboro, VT



Great Horned Owl in Chatham

In Chatham on Cape Cod this week, we enjoyed hearing a pair of Great Horned Owls calling to one another through the evening. 


The fourth call down on the list of recordings on this website:


is exactly what we heard.  It made for a change from the Barred Owl calls we hear more regularly in Southern Vermont.  My Audubon field guide says the Great Horned Owl is "one of the first birds to nest, laying its eggs as early as late January when there is still snow on the ground." 

---Ann Wheelock



Hungry Visitor

We bought a new bird feeder - squirrel proof- recently and suspended it from a tree branch. All of a sudden when we looked this a.m. it was empty of seed!  When my husband went out to refill it, he discovered deer tracks and poop droppings nearby.  At least it wasn't a bear, for which we are thankful!

---Judy Myrick, West Brattleboro, VT



Hawk Owl

Jeff Goulding shares his photo of the first Hawk Owl of the season that was hanging out in Peru, NY, a short time before the Eden, VT owl arrived.(See attachment) By the way, that Eden Owl was still in the same area as of Tuesday 1/27.



Ivory Gull in Gloucester, MA

The Ivory Gull is an inhabitant of the Arctic and only makes an occasional appearance south of its polar cap home. On the 17th the news hit the birding world that there was one hanging out near the lighthouse at Eastern Point in Gloucester, MA. Several days later a second bird was found in Plymouth, MA. I remember a decade ago when an adult bird was discovered in Cornwall Bay on the Hudson River, 50 miles north of New York City. And again two years ago when another adult was discovered at Piermont Pier on the Hudson, just a few miles north of NYC.


As you can see it isn’t an every winter occurrence, so on the 19th I accompanied Hector Galbraith in a quest for this extremely rare find. We arrived at Eastern Point at about 10:15 a.m.


Nearing our destination on Eastern Point Blvd., there were cars parked on the right shoulder for about a quarter mile. So, we parked behind the last car and I scrambled out into the deep snow bank clutching my gloves, with warmers inserted, along with a hat with ear-flappers. The wind chill off the ocean was frosty and biting.


When we got close enough, we could see that it was wall to wall people. They were pressing their eyes to the eyepieces of their scopes, but looking in all directions. That’s not a good sign, I thought, the bird can’t be here. It wasn’t. It had been seen a half hour ago(the story of my life). But, we were all in the same boat, so to speak, and there were other things to look at and talk about. There was a Nelson’s Gull, a possible Thayer’s Gull, an Iceland Gull, a couple of Horned Grebes, several Gadwall ducks and a couple of Snow Buntings. But the conversation always drifted back to “will it come back?” We were all very optimistic though and our two hour wait finally paid off when we heard a voice shout “here he comes”! All binoculars swung in unison to the pure white bird that was now only yards away. It swooped by the crowd on a tail wind, hardly moving its wings. We could hear the multitude of oohs and aahs being emitted as each drank in its beauty. Completely white, black beady eyes, black legs & feet, and as it passed ever closer we could see the dark bill with orange tip. How could anything so plain white with black accessories be so beautiful? It banked around the cove and passed back by us again and landed on the snow covered Dog Bar Jetty, where it sat in the sun and posed for pictures.


Looking down the barrel of the scope, I burned him in my mind, so that when I closed my eyes I could still see him sitting there in the sun. By the way, it was a “life” bird. Awesome!

---Al Merritt



Please keep us abreast of what birds you are seeing, whether at home or on a trip in or out of the Windham County area.

Al Merritt

W. Brattleboro, VT


A friend is someone who reaches for your hand

 and touches your heart.






Saturday, January 24, 2009

BIRD NOTES ~ January 24, 2009

Hawk Owl by Dave Johnson  &  Wild Turkeys by Billie Stark


Bird Notes

Brattleboro Birds

Birding around Brattleboro in the snow today(1/18), I found what turned out to be a flock of ~40 WW Crossbills in a hemlock tree at the corner of Putney Rd and Terrace St. Initially, I thought there were ~4 crossbills; however, they kept popping out of the interior of the tree raising my estimate to ~15. Then they exploded out of the tree sending the snow flying, and I counted 42 crossbills flying off to the northeast. There were several flocks of Pine Siskins throughout Bratt. and W. Bratt., ranging from 6 to 50+ birds. Observing three large flocks of Cedar Waxwings (~130 birds on Bonnyvale RD, ~250 birds at CS Wholesale Warehouse on Putney Rd, ~100 birds on Maple St. by the park) produced no Bohemians.

     This morning (1/24) there were at least 16 Bohemian Waxwings mixed in with about 175 Cedar waxwings by the C&S Warehouse on Putney Rd in Bratt.

---Dave Johnston, W. Brattleboro, VT


West B. Turkeys

This is the scene from under our feeder today (see attachment), during the snowstorm. We have had anywhere from 10 to 30 turkeys trapsing through our fields and woods, and then yesterday, they found our feeders, with the scratch on the ground underneath.

At one point, as they meandered there way out of the woods and across the back yard, a few of the larger birds, were literally "jumping" to reach the berries on the bittersweet vine by our treehouse. I have never seen this behavior before, but it was fun to watch as they stretched their necks, then rose up out of the snow in a quick jump! Another group of three climbed into a VERY thorny rose bush and were eating the rosehips. It was great entertainment. for a snowy afternoon.

---Billie Stark, West Brattleboro



HAWK OWL, IVORY GULL & More Delectables

I went to Center Harbor, NH on Saturday to see the Hawk Owl, a very cooperative bird (See attachjment). There were also Pine Grosbeaks, Bohemian Waxwings, and White-winged Crossbills at the same location on Coe Hill Rd. On Monday I made a quick trip to Gloucester for the Ivory Gull show and was not disappointed. It is indeed a beautiful bird, especially in flight. I thought the attached photo might be of interest to some. Locally there were 42 WW Crossbills feeding on cones in a hemlock tree on the corner of Terrace Ave. and Putney Rd during the snow on Sunday. Keep your eyes peeled. Good birding.

---Dave Johnston, W. Brattleboro, VT




A flock of perhaps 20 Bohemian waxwings were eating crab apples and regular apples at the (Marlboro) College today.  There was also a single Robin.

---Bob Engel, Marlboro, VT


I have a Red-bellied Woodpecker visiting daily.  Also I've seen many robins throughout the month.

---Mick Durante, Guilford, VT


There have been many Evening Grosbeaks around this week.

 ---Mitch Harrison, Wardsboro, VT




Northern Hawk Owl

On January 17, the NORTHERN HAWK OWL was perched on top of a tall pine tree on Rt. 118, just in back of mailbox 1111 in Eden, VT, exactly as your instructions indicated. The tree was no more than 10 yards off the road and the owl was facing the road, so we had a wonderful diagnostic look at it as soon as we pulled up. There were already four cars parked by the side of the road and a handful of birders enjoying the bird, which after a while flew a bit further off to the top of another tree, allowing us to study it from different angles.


The ease with which we found the bird partially made up for the disappointment we experienced on the rest of the trip, in that we were unable to find any other northern birds. Nonetheless, the hawk owl was a “lifer” for the both of us and more than made the trip worthwhile. The information and map you provided were key to finding the bird. We are both grateful for your assistance. Thanks very much!

---Molly Martin and Michael King, Marlboro, VT



Bellows Falls Eagles

Driving along the frozen Connecticut River in BellowsFalls Vt (1/23)  I found two Bald Eagles. I watched them eating off of a dead deer carcass on the ice. (I parked in Combie's) I checked for them on my way back through three hours later and no signs of the eagles but the deer looked like the eagles had been there feeding for a while. Good birding!

---Peter Manship



Observation of a Coopers’ Kill

Friday, January 16th, 10 degrees and sunny in Newfane. We have suet and sunflower in the front yard, which this year has attracted a pretty steady presence of a dozen or more Blue Jays. Around 12:40 PM, I noticed a large-ish bird sitting on the snow, maybe 30 feet beyond the feeders, or around 70 feet from the house. Expecting nothing more than a mourning dove, I reached for the binos anyway to be sure. The bird was in the process of rapidly pulling loads of feathers out of a carcass on the ground. Obviously not a Mourning Dove, but also not any of the half-dozen raptors I can readily identify.

Miraculously, the bird stayed right there feeding for a solid hour. Plenty of time to set up my scope and consult several field guides. The definitive reference was Peterson’s 1987 guide to the Hawks by Clark & Wheeler. The immature Cooper’s Hawk had a heavily streaked breast and belly, banded tail, blocky head with a yellow eye well forward of center, and quite distinct white mottling on its wings (a juvenile feature not always mentioned in guides). It methodically tore into its prey, which did turn out to be a Blue Jay, feeding for several minutes, then pausing for a few minutes to look around. It is a lot of work to eat something 2/3 your own size!

Several interesting incidents. Activity continued at the feeders the whole while. Several of the Blue Jays ventured very near the Cooper, to a shrub less than 10 feet away. At the time, I thought it a touching moment. Lamenting a lost mate, a sibling, a comrade? One or two even alighted briefly near the Cooper, as if to taunt it. The hawk was unperturbed, and continued feeding, pulling out and swallowing long stringy bits of now-frozen meat.

Later, higher up on the lawn, in strode two Turkeys. The Cooper stopped feeding and looked around attentively. The Turkeys ignored the hawk and waddled over to underneath the feeder. They hung out there for perhaps 20 minutes, after which one of them walked over towards the Cooper. That was enough, and the hawk finally flew off. But it had eaten its fill, and I could see there was little left of the dead jay.

What happened next was a surprise. The blue jays returned and dropped down to the kill site to investigate. Mourning and weeping and lamentations over a lost comrade? Not quite. They were more interested in the scraps. I witnessed at least 2 jays picking out bits of remaining meat and swallowing them. When it is this cold out ( minus 9 that morning ), guess it doesn’t pay to be squeamish about cannibalism.

I donned boots and coat, and went out to investigate. Just feathers and blood stains - something had hauled away the entire carcass in the few minutes it took to get there. There were a number of wing-marks in the snow where the blue jays had landed. Better yet, there were some much larger wing-marks that had to have been the Coopers. There was one set with a very clear tail and wings, and a deeper indent where the body had hit. Another was perhaps a foot further up in the direction of travel - this one had a blood stain. The hawk had been feeding yet another foot farther along in the same direction. It looked like it had driven the jay into the snow, bounced and drew blood by the second touchdown, and it was all over on the third landing.

Easily among the most memorable events I have seen in more than 20 years of birdwatching!

---Steve Squires, Newfane, VT

P.S. - Al, thanks so much for doing these birding emails. I seldom participate in organized birding anymore, and have met you only once.  Between your emails and Chris Petrak’s column, interested birders get a pretty good account of what is around in the area. Nice work :-).



Please keep us abreast of what birds you are seeing, whether at home or on a trip in or out of the Windham County area.

Al Merritt

W. Brattleboro, VT


A friend is someone who reaches for your hand

 and touches your heart.




Wednesday, January 21, 2009

BIRD NOTES ~ January 21, 2009


Sharp-shinned Hawk © John A. Lowery III

Bird Notes




Tree Sparrows and a Common Redpoll

We've also had several tree sparrows as regulars, and in the past couple of days, about 25 pine siskins, a few goldfinches, the rest of the usuals -- titmouse, chickadee, hairy and downy woodpeckers, juncos. Late in the week, a flock of cedar waxwings, and four male bluebirds were at and near the feeder for a day or so. Yesterday a lonely REDPOLL appeared. I looked in vain for a flock of them, but just the one, briefly early yesterday morning.
---Barbara Evans, Dummerston, VT



Red-bellied Woodpecker and Cedar Waxwings

It sure took a while for them to get here, but on Sunday the 11th, our sunflower feeder was visited by the first Red-Bellied Woodpecker (female) we have ever seen at our home here at 1300 feet in Newfane. My vintage 1980 Peterson shows the northern edge of its range ending in central Connecticut. She had no trouble fending off the large (dozen or so) flock of blue jays that usually monopolize the feeder. We have also had small numbers of Pine Siskin, a few Evening Grosbeaks, and even a brief cameo appearance by a small flock of Cedar Waxwings (unusual for us in winter).

---Steve Squires, NewfaneVT




Common Redpoll

Please add a Red Poll to the list -–it appeared stuffing itself in the feeder on Thursday morning fending off all other visitors while getting in a good feed.

---Barbara Cole, Wilmington, VT




Pine Siskins and a Common Redpoll

My rather large contingent of Pine Siskins continue to delight me with their antics.  They have been joined by 2 Goldfinches, 2 Chickadees, 3 Nuthatches  -  and this morning, a beautiful male Common Redpoll...  What a beautiful little bird...
---Sandra Sweet, Vernon, VT





Pileated Woodpeckers and Sharp=shinned Hawk

An interesting day in the Lowery backyard.  The two Pileated Woodpeckers on my dead pine tree is a great picture.  There has been one bird frequenting that tree for about a year but last week was the first time we had two there at the same time. 

And obviously the reason why we put so much generalized small bird seed along our back wall is to attract numerous birds but also because about 20 – 60 pigeons come in there every other day.  Some of the neighbors don’t like it but that’s OK.  They don’t understand the magnificent beauty of nature’s way especially when we get rarely Red-Tailed Hawks on our bank, but frequently Sharp-Shinned Hawks at least once a week. Then there is the once every two or three months when one of the Sharpies nails a pigeon and we get to watch him rip and tear the pigeon to pieces.  This Sharpie ate the entire pigeon. (See attachment)  Mary & I watched him for an hour and a half.  You can see in one picture where the Sharpie nailed the pigeon on the ground and dragged him over under the bush for cover near my bow & arrow block. This is where the smorgasbord was. The feathers are all that remain.

We also have two Grey Fox’s almost every night in the backyard and a couple times a week there are anywhere from 2 – 8 deer back there eating seeds that fall out of the bird-feeders right next to the fox’s and they are only a couple of feet away from each other.   Very interesting considering you would never see a deer anywhere near something like a coyote, and they are both predators.  I guess the deer don’t fear something as small as a fox and probably know they could kick them with their hooves if they wanted.

---John A. Lowery III



Rare Bird Alert

For those of you that are interested, there are two rare birds from north of the border that can be found within a 3 hour drive from Brattleboro.


A Northern Hawk Owl is hanging out in Eden, Vermont and an Ivory Gull in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Both are awesome birds that may not be reported close by again for another decade. If you want directions to one or both of these gems, drop me a note and I will be glad to send it to you.

Al Merritt




Please keep us abreast of what birds you are seeing, whether at home or on a trip in or out of the Windham County area.

Al Merritt

W. Brattleboro, VT


A friend is someone who reaches for your hand

 and touches your heart.



Sunday, January 11, 2009

BIRD NOTES ~ January 11, 2009


Bird Notes


Red-bellied Woodpecker & Tree Sparrows

Well it is exciting to report that I have a red -bellied woodpecker at my suet feeder - son Andrew had seen it down the road a few days ago but could not positively ID it - thought it was a woodpecker!!


I have two tree sparrows at my feeder along with a junco, a pine siskin, male and female purple finch, female goldfinch, a dozen blue jays, 2 white-breasted nuthatches, a red-breasted nuthatch, dark-eyed junco, hairy and downy woodpeckers, 2 tufted titmice, a few mourning doves, and a large group of chickadees.  The ravens are in the air and a dozen turkeys are in the yard.                          ---Barbara Cole, Wilmington, VT



There was a flock of about a half dozen beautiful bluebirds along the River behind downtown, both last week and today.  And on Tuesday, 2(!) pileated woodpeckers.

---Jeff Nugent, Brattleboro, VT




For the first time in 22 years, there are a pair of Cardinals eating seed in my driveway.  The male has been a steady visitor for several weeks, but this morning he was joined by a female.  This may not be exciting news for those living in town, but for me up here in the woods, it's a special treat.  


This week brought a number of species to the feeders.  The regulars were joined by 4 Evening Grosbeaks, 1 female Red-bellied Woodpecker, 1 Red-breasted Nuthatch and 20+ Pine Siskins.  The number of Chickadees and Blue Jays are larger than in past years and the number of Juncos and White-breasted Nuthatches smaller.  One large flock of Goldfinches flew in for a day of feeding, but have not returned. Anxious to see what shows up when the next deep freeze hits.

---Molly Martin, Marlboro, VT



Barrows Goldeneye & more

Here's what we saw at Lake Wantastiquet last night during our Monadnock Chapter Field Trip. 

17 American Black Ducks, 12 Mallards, 349 American Black Duck/Mallards, 1 Ring-necked Duck, 187 Common Goldeneyes, 1 BARROWS GOLDENEYE, 85 Hooded Mergansers, 59 Common Mergansers, 1 Sharp-shinned Hawk, 1 Herring Gull, 1 White-breasted Nuthatch, 1 Golden-crowned Kinglet, and 1 American Tree Sparrow. Also had a pair of adult Bald Eagles at Bellows Falls. 

---Lance Tanino, Keene, NH



Avian Conjunctivitus

This morning(1/8) I took some photos of the activity around my feeder and when looking through them found one of a house finch with mycoplasmal conjunctivitis. See photo: (scroll down on page).


I am following the advice on the Cornell site to take down the feeder and clean it with bleach. Once the snow has gone I'll have to rake up old seeds and droppings underneath the feeder. So far all the other finches and the many pine siskins around my feeder look healthy, although apparently early stages are easy to miss. I guess I'll have to stop feeding for a couple of months :-(

---Hilke Breder, Black Mountain Rd., Brattleboro



Please keep us abreast of what birds you are seeing, whether at home or on a trip in or out of the Windham County area.


Al Merritt

W. Brattleboro, VT




A friend is someone who reaches for your hand

 and touches your heart.