Tuesday, June 12, 2007


June 13, 2007

The first priority after the bridge was Missiquoi NWR. Most of the birds on my Vermont list had come from there on the previous trip, so I was starting with 45. This trip was earlier in the year and it was easier finding birds singing. Almost as soon as I got out of the truck, I got a Purple Finch singing on a tree down a railroad track. Vermont is like West Virginia in having a short state list, about 370, probably because it's small and has no ocean, though Champlain is supposed to be good for winter ducks. I was following "Birdwatching in Vermont" by Murin and Pfeiffer. I had read through all the areas that I thought I might get to visit and had plotted them in the mapping software. About the only thing not included were the southwestern corner, and it proved unnecessary.

Missiquoi was good, and I hiked most of the way to the end of their nature trail, but in my hurry I hadn't coated myself with repellent. I didn't make that mistake again. I was giving blood to the food chain. Some good birds were Hairy Woodpecker, Black Tern, and the first Veery of the trip. I got to know that call very well. I spent two hours there, until I was faint from loss of blood, and then headed for Carmi Lake State Park. That was a hard place to bird since the lake views were restricted by woods, and the campsites were walled by thicket. Still I walked around and was able to hear and sometimes see a few more birds.

June 14, 2007

It turns out the real draw at Carmi is the bog along the entrance road. I walked it from end to end twice. One spectacular sighting was a lingering Canada Warbler in full breeding plumage about ten feet away for five minutes. It just wouldn't leave, even if I moved around. I had drawn it in using the owl and chickadee recording. The bog was strangely bugless, and I wondered if they sprayed. There weren't many flycatchers, but sparrows made a good showing, including a Lincoln's. From there I headed back into Burlington, and found a C-store with good free Wifi, and was able to do some catch-up. First I went north of Burlington on the Interstate to the first island in Champlain. The south end had some good lake views, with Common Goldeneye, and there was a wetland with a decent trail where I found several birds including an Eastern Screech-Owl that came in for the tape. There wasn't much actual water visible, the level was way down, and the shallow areas revealed were dense but mucky thickets. I tried walking in a couple of times and retreated without much success. From there I went back into Burlington where the University had a nice woodland on campus, called Centennial Woods. It wasn't very birdy, but I spent twenty minutes watching a snake swallowing a toad that was way too big. In that whole time he managed to move it about a quarter inch deeper into his throat. At first it was wary when I showed up, but when no harm came from me, it went on with the process.

At this point my focus shifted to finding a Bicknell's Thrush, which meant getting above four thousand feet. South on the Interstate to place I had noted on the map, but it didn't pan out, not high enough and I couldn't figure out how to get to the park I was looking for. Some glitch between the atlas and the software maps. I did find my first Common Raven while eating lunch and revising the plan. The next possibility was to take the toll road up Mt Washington, so it was back north to Stowe. When I got there it was too late, the hours for the road are not birder friendly, not opening until nine, when sunrise was about five, and then it closes hours before sunset. There's a State Park just north of there, Smuggler's Notch, so I figured I'd stay there and try again in the morning. The notch itself had some good birding, but many of the trails were closed to protect nesting Peregrine Falcons. Back at the park, I scared up a Black-throated Blue Warbler, who settled into a tree just overhead, and sang off and on until dark. I learned that song really well.

June 15, 2007

I had a lot of time to kill in the morning waiting for the Toll Road to open. Went into Stowe and bought Maple Syrup that had been requested in jest by one of the librarians back home. Found some Wifi at a motel, and then settled in at the parking lot to wait. Bad idea, because after I'd gone through the email etc I had time to contemplate the $20 toll. It didn't seem worth it, and I was antsy to get on with birding. So back south again for another stab at a mountain with thrush. It involved walking about three miles on a part of the Long Trail. I started with a good will, but my ankle got progressively more unwilling. I tried a get on a road that ran on the ridge along the trail, but found it wouldn't take me where I needed to go. Another retreat. Somewhere around this time the truck developed an alarming symptom, a miss and jerk, that would show up at random times for the rest of the trip. I never could make sense of it, but fed it dry-gas and injector cleaner and high-test gas and anything else that seemed like it might help. That went on for the rest of the trip. There was a nature preserve just outside of Montpelier that had some great trails and nice habitat variety, well worth spending more time, but I wish I'd been there at dawn instead of sitting in a blacktop parking lot. Another good place from the book was a reservoir south of Barre, where it gave almost perfect directions to Olive-sided Flycatcher and Winter Wren.

From there I went back north to an area called Victory Bog. Now we're getting into special Vermont birding. Almost any stop would yield some good Boreal birds. Just after I got there I met a couple of birders, Dan Finizia and Susan Talbot from Providence, RI. Turns out Dan is the top state lister there. They were very good birders, way better than I. But I had the owl and Chickadee tape, so we got along well. We'd drive along until a spot looked interesting, or we heard something, and we'd get out and play the tape and get excellent looks at close up birds. They were up working on a Vermont list, and liked my story about the hundred species in eight states goal. We were both planning on the same place the next day, so after about three hours at Victory, they headed for their motel and I went on to find a camping place. It was easy; there was a parking area just inside the WMA, known as Wenlock, supposedly a good place for Spruce Grouse. The entrance to Conte NWR is right along there as well, and it stretches for miles to the north basically all the way to Canada.

June 16, 2007

Barred Owls in the night, and a strange whirtling sound at dawn, that I heard often that morning and other places, and never did find out what it was. Mystery still present in the world. Dan and Susan showed up about an hour after I was up; I had been just walking up and down the road and hanging by a little bog crossing. The beginning of a great morning. We followed a trail specified in the book that led back to the open water pool at the heart of the bog. Worked our way down some deer trails to the opening, squishing along, found a moose who ambled off, found birds, best find being a Northern Goshawk. It flew over and screamed once, and Dan was almost sure of the ID. So I played a recording of their call so he could hear it, and the bird called back. That was a buzz. We kept hoping for the Grouse, but it was a dip. We did find a good assortment of Boreal birds, the usual warblers, a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, a very gratifying Boreal Chickadee, and further down the road as we circled the area, Winter Wrens and assorted Thrushes. After about three hours in there, we were back on the Highway going west to a small airfield where we were able to hear Vesper Sparrows. Then we went into town for restrooms and snacks at another small park. Dan and Susan went back to explore Conte, and I stopped for groceries. I had 97 species in Vermont at that point. So close. As I drove past he road into Conte, they were on the side of the road, so I stopped to have one last good-bye, and they showed me the Mourning Warbler they'd found. 98. I was still hoping for more after crossing into New Hampshire, and kept watching the side of the road with the river that had Vermont on the far side. Hoping for maybe a hawk of some kind. Finally had to admit that I'd have to go back or settle for a near miss.


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