Spring(ish) Bird Walk at Sandbar SP and South Hero Marsh

March 25 2016
1-4:30 PM
50 degrees F
West wind 10 mph
cloudy, damp. Following 12 hours of rain.

Twelve people joined us on this Friday Field Walk, a weekly series of trips led by UVM's Field Naturalist and Ecological Planning Programs. The cohort represented Ornithology students, FN/EP students, community members, and Green Mountain Audubon Society members. We spent about an hour at Sandbar State Park. The north edge of the causeway and beach holds the last ice on Lake Champlain, and has concentrated thousands of gulls and waterfowl. An apparent fish kill, perhaps alewife, was drifting under the ice, and gulls were patrolling ice edges to access these fish. Bald eagles are becoming more territorial as juvenile birds get harassed by adults on the sheer thermals in the milton foothills generated by a steady west wind.
A careful drive along the shoulder of the causeway allowed us to use the vehicle as a blind, minimizing the concern of dozens of notoriously skiddish wood ducks. Pintails, wigeons, mallards, and black ducks also filled the open pockets in the marsh and floodplain forest. Many of the species that have been sitting on the open lake all winter are finally accessing freshly-thawed ponds and flooded fields. Once the ice along these north-facing edges melts, I bet the waterfowl density inland will really pick up. The same pattern would probably be true down at Crown Point right about now.
There was a recent incidental observation by a third party of a small white-winged gull on the south side of the causeway. Perhaps a Boneaparte's Gull still in winter plumage, or perhaps a Thayer's or Little Gull? A mystery.

We moved to the South Hero Marsh, accessed by a rail trail off Tracy Road. Among other things, we had First of the Year Osprey, tree swallows, and northern flicker. We expected to find rusty blackbirds at this site, and despite the unseasonably warm winter and today's warm weather coming in from the south, the numbers of migrant icterids were surprisingly small. The water here has thawed since being 90% frozen on Tuesday.

Birders are reporting lots of activity in flooded fields lately, especially after all the rain. The forage available in these ephemeral fields is likely more plentiful than the thawed permanent wetlands. Waste grains and invertebrates in flooded corn fields, for instance, are plentiful, but can only be accessed during a short annual window in these sorts of conditions, whereas perennial ponds and marshes receive foraging pressure throughout the warmer months.

Posted by sebeckett sebeckett, March 26, 2016 11:53

Observations

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Canada Goose Branta canadensis

Observer

sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

4

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Wood Duck Aix sponsa

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sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

3

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Mallard Anas platyrhynchos

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sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

7

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Common Merganser Mergus merganser

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sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

610

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Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator

Observer

sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

1

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Northern Harrier Circus hudsonius

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sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

1

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Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus

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sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

4

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Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis

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sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

1

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Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis

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sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

1600

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Herring Gull Larus argentatus

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sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

40

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Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus

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sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

30

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American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos

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sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

5

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Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus

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sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

1

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White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis

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sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

1

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American Robin Turdus migratorius

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sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

2

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Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia

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sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

2

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Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus

Observer

sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

6

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Common Grackle Quiscalus quiscula

Observer

sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

4

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No photos or sounds

What

Canada Goose Branta canadensis

Observer

sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

8

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Wood Duck Aix sponsa

Observer

sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

11

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American Wigeon Mareca americana

Observer

sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

2

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American Black Duck Anas rubripes

Observer

sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

11

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Mallard Anas platyrhynchos

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sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

33

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Northern Pintail Anas acuta

Observer

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Date

March 25, 2016

Description

2

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Bufflehead Bucephala albeola

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sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

2

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Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula

Observer

sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

3

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Common Merganser Mergus merganser

Observer

sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

6

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No photos or sounds

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American Robin Turdus migratorius

Observer

sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

1

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No photos or sounds

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Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus

Observer

sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

4

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Cooper's Hawk Accipiter cooperii

Observer

sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

Female, flying over road

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Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura

Observer

sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

33

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Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia

Observer

sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

3

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Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris

Observer

sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

1

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Hooded Merganser Lophodytes cucullatus

Observer

sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

4

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Brown Creeper Certhia americana

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sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

2

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Osprey Pandion haliaetus

Observer

sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

1, FOY. With fish in talons.

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Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor

Observer

sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

2, FOY

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Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus

Observer

sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

1, FOY

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Downy Woodpecker Dryobates pubescens

Observer

sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

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Hairy Woodpecker Dryobates villosus

Observer

sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

1

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White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis

Observer

sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

1

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No photos or sounds

What

Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus

Observer

sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

20

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Common Grackle Quiscalus quiscula

Observer

sebeckett

Date

March 25, 2016

Description

5

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