Sightings listed for the Southeastern Vermont Audubon Society

Saturday, October 31, 2009

BIRD NOTES ~ October 31, 2009

Painted Turtles by Paul Miller


Bird Notes



Bonnyvale Birds

When I took the dogs out this morning around 7 a.m., I wasn't particularly expecting to hear a rustling of wings in the large apple tree right outside our house, and look up to see a female Ruffed Grouse. But there she was.


Also, on Wednesday in the rain I looked out our window and saw at least one Eastern Bluebird, and one other probable. With the rain sheeting down the window, I couldn't see colors well enough to determine a gender on that one.

--Ned Pokras, W. Brattleboro, VT



Snow Buntings

While watching for hawks on Putney Mountain on 10/27, Hilke Breder reported seeing 1 and possibly 2 Snow Buntings, but not a hawk was to be found. For photos see

Sad Ending to a Rare Find
My wife and I, driving to Halifax for business meetings this weekend, decided to take a detour this morning up to Tracadie-Sheila to try and see the Fork-tailed Flycatcher that was reported.  With excellent directions from Frank Branch, we found the home and were welcomed by the lady of the house (whose name I didn't catch).  She was very accommodating and suggested we hike around the fenced areas at the rear of her house. They hadn't seen the bird at that point, but as I was getting my camera ready, Pattie called out a kingbird-like bird with a long tail, and we had our first view along the fences at the rear of 4220 Rue Foster. For the next 15 minutes or so we walked along the road in front of the houses to watch the bird fly catch, and occasionally take a drink from a leaky rain gutter.  It was sitting in a bush in front of 4220, and I was on the road waiting for it to fly, hoping to get a picture with its tail spread.  The son of the family at 4220 had joined us at that point and was watching with us. Pattie and I both noticed that it was quite "puffed". There was some snow along the way from Moncton to Tracadie, and the temperature was around 2C. We speculated as to how much longer it would find food. However, the forecast for the next few days was looking good.
All of a sudden, a white cat came out of the bush and took the bird, and though their son and I tried finding the cat it disappeared very quickly into a barn to the rear of the street.  The farmer at that barn informed us there were some 40 cats there, 15 of which were white.  We had lost the bird, and so has anyone else who might have wished to see this magnificent specimen.  
You have no doubt read statistics of the number of birds taken by stray and pet cats, but to see this happen first hand with such a rare bird, was quite unsettling.  
---Paul Mansz and Pattie McKerral, Rothesay, Canada



Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area

The scheduled field trip to Addison, VT to view the Snow Geese at the viewing area along Rt. 17 was a complete wash out on Saturday. So, we rescheduled it for Sunday in hopes of getting a better day. We lucked out and the sun came up to reveal a nearly cloudless sky as we started our 2½ hour drive. We arrived about 9:30 and started scanning the fields for the tell-tale white landscape. No sign of them yet, so we entertained ourselves with scoping a wet spot that contained 2 Pectoral Sandpipers. In the cornfield directly in front of us were several Red-winged Blackbirds, and 2 very obliging Vesper Sparrows. A small flock of birds caught our fancy as they flew helter-skelter over the grassy fields and finally coming to rest on the roadside ahead of us. They were American Pipits showing their white outer tail feathers as they gleaned the seedy grasses. At approximately 9:55 the honking of geese could be heard. It wasn’t the same Canada Goose gabble that we were in the habit of hearing, it sounded a little different.


Binoculars sprang into action from all sides and almost in unison the cry of “here they come” arose from our group. Two very large flocks of Snow Geese came into view flapping and sailing across the clear blue sky above. Black-tipped white wings with pure white bodies flashed in the morning sunlight. We estimated a couple of thousand birds. Adjectives like beautiful and gorgeous were not able to describe this sight but were used over and over as everyone witnessed the arrival of our target birds. They circled over several times. With each pass another group broke away and set their wings for a landing in the distant pasture, until all were down and the gabbling subsided. We looked at each other in disbelief at our perfect timing. We had somehow hit it just right for this incredible display.


We stayed for more than an hour scoping the flock and found a lone Blue Goose (a morph of the Snow) among them. There were other distractions too, such as the Northern Harriers hunting low over the fields, a flyover of a Raven, and a Peregrine Falcon that was sitting in a bare deciduous tree many yards in front of us. We were hoping it would turn and face us for a different view, but it never did, and it never flew while we watched.


A side trip to Brylea Access turned up a few waterfowl: Green-winged Teal, Ruddy Duck, American Widgeon, the usual Blacks & Mallards, and more than enough duck hunters. In a small pond near the parking area a log provided a runway for a lineup of Painted Turtles. Paul Miller got a great photo of them (see attachment). Another stop down the road at Oven Bay, behind the water treatment plant, turned up some great finds. Bonaparte Gulls, Red-breasted Mergansers, Common Loons, Red-necked Grebes, Horned Grebes, and three Scoter Species: Black, White-winged, and Surf.


Seven members of the Southeastern Vermont Audubon Society counted a total of 37 species on an unforgettable day in the Champlain Valley.



Happy Halloween!


Don’t forget to turn back your clocks.


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




Friday, October 23, 2009

BIRD NOTES ~ October 23, 2009

Bluejay photo by Paul Miller


Bird Notes


Of Hawks and Jays

Yesterday while packing our corn pile, I enjoyed watching the Northern Harrier hunting just south of our barns. It was especially interesting when he was chasing a sandpiper. The hawk was unsuccessful.


The attached photo of an immature Blue Jay was taken in the parking lot at our Town Forest yesterday afternoon. The snake was still wiggling and the Jay was having a hard time swallowing the snake. The bird did not pay much attention to me as he was preoccupied with trying to eat the snake. He also seemed to have a crippled right leg so he could not perch. I do not think he has too long a future.

Thanks again for your column.

---Paul Miller, Vernon, VT



Migrating Thrush

I saw a Swainson's Thrush feeding on some wild berries by a community garden on the SIT campus, probably passing through on its migration further south. Here are some photos: crowned-sparrows.html  

---Hilke Breder, Brattleboro, VT


*Trivia Note: Years ago this thrush was known as the Olive-backed Thrush and we always used its eye ring as a “crutch” for identification. The eye ring would stand for the “O” in Olive-backed.



Shorebirds at the Marina Cornfield

This morning I observed a flock of about 20 (of what I thought were) Lesser Yellowlegs flying over the cornfield behind the Marina. One, probably a juvenile, settled down in a flooded part of the field close to me and allowed me to get a couple of nice photos. (See


Correction: I stopped by the cornfield again today and saw the same flock of shorebirds.

  These were definitely Killdeer and not Lesser Yellowlegs. I am not sure whether the Lesser Yellowlegs was part of a mixed flock or just an isolated bird stirred up by the commotion of the Killdeer and then settled down again near me.

---Hilke Breder, Brattleboro, VT




Kestrel in Vernon

Late Monday morning, I saw a Kestrel hunting over one of the corn fields on Pond Road in Vernon. Couldn't get a gender, but the bird gave me a great flash of that colorful tail.

---Ned Pokras, Brattleboro, VT




Local Bald Eagle

A Bald Eagle has been hanging out just north of the Hinsdale bridges near downtown Brattleboro. Several pictures made the front page of Tuesday’s Brattleboro Reformer as it sat on a tree stump and flew over the river from the Vermont side. Today (10/22) it was perched high in a dead tree on one of the small islands near the bridge. It must be good fishing in that neighborhood.




Canada Geese are Gathering

More and more Canada Geese are gathering each day at the Retreat Meadows. The numbers are well into the hundreds now. Keep a watchful eye out for the pint size Cackling Geese that occasionally make an appearance with them. They are miniature Canadas about the size of a Mallard Duck. Then too check them out for any numbered/lettered yellow collars and let me know of them. A team from Denmark is banding and collaring them in Greenland and are extremely interested in their migration habits.




Christmas Bird Count

This year the Brattleboro Christmas Bird Count will be held on Saturday, December 19. If you wish to be out in the field with one of the teams or sitting at home doing a feeder count, please contact me as soon as possible. I know you are thinking that this is a little early, but there is much work to be done in organizing the teams and supplying each with maps and instructions. So, please feel free to email me at or call me with your intentions at 254-4820. Thank you and Happy Birding.

---Al Merritt, West Brattleboro, VT




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