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Bad Landing, Good Person

Bad Landing, Good Person

I came home to an unusual (but really not that unusual) message last night after a long day working on ski trails and cross country ski races here in Vermont. A lady from Michigan called to say she thought she had a loon land in her field and she put it in a box after chasing it down. I must be near the top if you Google “loon rescue”. I’m not a big computer guy so I have yet to do it. I returned her call, and yes, she did have a waterbird in her possession that was either weak or made a mistake in where it landed. She sent me a photo via email and the bird was actually a Horned Grebe. Pretty cool!

Friday the 13th Brings Good Luck on Puerto Rico

Friday the 13th Brings Good Luck on Puerto Rico

Nearly a month into VCE’s Bicknell’s Thrush field surveys on Puerto Rico, our quarry has finally revealed itself. On February 13, VCE field technician Julio Salgado was birding the stunted elfin forest that cloaks Cerro de Punta, the island’s highest peak at 4,390 feet (1,338 meters) elevation. He had just finished marking and georeferencing five points on sampling block #6719, in preparation for the next morning’s dawn census. Ever hopeful of finding an elusive thrush, Julio walked along the small service road that winds to the summit, playbacks bursting from his handheld speaker at 50-meter intervals. He had a feeling.

Counting Vermont's Crows

Counting Vermont’s Crows

Vermont has two species of crows, and one is very scarce and tricky to identify with certainty. Fish Crows are near their northern limits in Vermont. An extremely small breeding population is well known in the Burlington area. Nesting has been located only four times, the latest in 2012. Well confirmed observations of birds are mostly one or two birds at a time; rarely three or four individuals have been well identified during an observation. The 2012 nesting had two adults and three juveniles, for an unusually high count of five.

Outdoor Radio: Exploring Life Above and Below the Ice

Outdoor Radio: Exploring Life Above and Below the Ice

Nordic skating, pond hockey, small planes landing and ice fishing – there’s a lot happening on Lake Morey’s ice.This month on Outdoor Radio, VCE biologists Sara Zahendra and Kent McFarland skate out and talked about life in the cold water below with some ice fisherman far out on the lake.

‘Nature’s Medicine Cabinet’ Helps Bumble Bees Reduce Disease Load

‘Nature’s Medicine Cabinet’ Helps Bumble Bees Reduce Disease Load

Researchers studying the interaction between plants, pollinators and parasites report that in recent experiments, bees infected with a common intestinal parasite had reduced parasite levels in their guts after seven days if the bees also consumed natural toxins present in plant nectar.

iNaturalist Vermont January Photo-observation of the Month

iNaturalist Vermont January Photo-observation of the Month

Congratulations to iNaturalist Vermont user “rebelgirl73” for winning the January photo-observation of the month. Her image of a Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)…

A Field Guide to February

A Field Guide to February

On February 5, wildlife and the rest of us here in New England crossed a threshold – arbitrary yet not insignificant: 10 hours of daylight. You can sense it when you head out in the morning: Black-capped Chickadees, Northern Cardinals and European Starlings are among birds breaking out into song. Even though we’ve got lots more winter, we’ve also got change. So here’s a Field Guide to February.

Historical Bird Data Going Digital

Historical Bird Data Going Digital

For nearly 30 years, Vermont bird watchers dutifully sent in their sightings each season to the Records of Vermont Birds. All of the original paper records were archived in boxes for the historical record. The 30 years of data undoubtedly hold many conservation and scientific discoveries, but the lack of a computer database for retrieval of these data has proven to be a roadblock to examining them.

Angels Trump Bicknell’s

Angels Trump Bicknell’s

Four days of scrambling up and down wet forested slopes on Puerto Rico. Nasal, piercing calls of Bicknell’s Thrush emanating from my small, handheld speaker. Ears on high alert for at least a muted response. Many miles logged from the western mountains of Maricao to the eastern ridges of Carite State Forest. No Bicknell’s Thrush, not yet anyway, but… angels appeared.

Outdoor Radio: Exploring the Trees On Vermont's Highest Peak

Outdoor Radio: Exploring the Trees On Vermont’s Highest Peak

When you’re on a ski lift or hiking up one of Vermont’s mountains see if you can spot the different forest types while you climb up the mountainside. Outdoor Radio hosts Sara Zahendra and Kent McFarland recently rode the gondola at Stowe Mountain Resort to check out the trees on Vermont’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield. Join them on their trip and learn about mountain trees.

Off to the Races with Vermont eBird

Off to the Races with Vermont eBird

Just about everyone who enters their bird data on Vermont eBird, a project of the Vermont Atlas of Life, is no doubt aware that some species can be identified in the field to recognizable races, Red-shafted and Yellow-shafted flickers or Eastern and Western Palm warblers are well-known examples. Although some species can be easily separated into races (but by no means all of them! Some are quite tricky.), many observers do not record their birds down to race when possible. But we really should when we can. Here’s why…

Among the Machetes

Among the Machetes

The world’s largest machete collection and Bicknell’s Thrush might seem to share little in common. However, the evening of January 18 saw VCE kick off our project to survey Bicknell’s Thrush across Puerto Rico, amidst the planet’s reputedly greatest assemblage of these age-old cutting tools.

Finding New Vermont Birding Hotspots Near You

Finding New Vermont Birding Hotspots Near You

Discover the best places for birding nearby or around the world using the Vermont eBird hotspot explorer. You can explore Vermont eBird hotspots in a map-based tool designed to provide quick access to all the information you need. Thanks to suggestions from Vermont eBirders, we have recently added numerous Vermont eBird hotspots for the main ridge and high peaks of the Green Mountains from Mt. Mansfield to Middlebury Gap.

Vermont Common Loons: The Limits of Success?

Vermont Common Loons: The Limits of Success?

One of Vermont’s greatest wildlife conservation triumphs is the return of the Common Loon. From a mere seven pairs three decades ago, Vermont’s loon population has steadily climbed to 84 pairs in 2014. But in recent years, something unusual has been happening among Vermont loons.

Champions Crowned for 4th Annual Vermont County eBird Quest

Champions Crowned for 4th Annual Vermont County eBird Quest

From the predawn hoot of a Great Horned Owl on January 1st to a Hoary Redpoll at a feeder during the waning days of 2014, hundreds of Vermont birders scoured fields and fens, mountains and meadows, lakes and lawns to discover as many species as possible during a single calendar year. The 4th annual Vermont County eBird Quest pitted county versus county, birder against birder — all engaged in a friendly rivalry for top birding honors.

The 2015 Christmas Bird Count Roundup

The 2015 Christmas Bird Count Roundup

As we all know, Christmas Bird Counts aren’t necessarily about finding rare birds. But all those birders out during the count period are bound to discover new and unusual birds. So here’s a summary, in no particular order, of what was hot during the 115th Vermont Christmas Bird Count season.

A Field Guide to January

A Field Guide to January

Although the days are slowly growing longer, life in the Northeast now finds itself in the coldest depths of winter. January is about survival. Wildlife that doesn’t migrate adapts instead in order to make it to spring.

Jason Hill Joins VCE as Post-Doctoral Research Biologist

Jason Hill Joins VCE as Post-Doctoral Research Biologist

With the new year, VCE welcomes post-doc Jason Hill, who has relocated from State College, PA to launch our 3-year, nationwide project studying the migration ecology of Upland Sandpipers and Grasshopper Sparrows.

Vermont Fish & Wildlife Publishes Landowner’s Habitat Management Guide

Vermont Fish & Wildlife Publishes Landowner’s Habitat Management Guide

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is announcing the release of the long-awaited book entitled A Landowner’s Guide – Wildlife Habitat Management for Lands in Vermont. The book is a comprehensive guide to wildlife habitat management on private lands. It is filled with colorful photos and helpful tips.

November Photo-observation of the Month Winner

November Photo-observation of the Month Winner

Congratulations to Joshua Lincoln for winning the November iNaturalist Vermont photo-observation of the month.

Happy New Year (and Give It Up for a Gray Jay?)

Happy New Year (and Give It Up for a Gray Jay?)

From all of us at VCE, have a great 2015 with wildlife. We’re looking forward to another productive year uniting people and science for conservation.

Ice-bound Loons

Ice-bound Loons

With the early cold weather, some loons simply fail to leave in time and get stuck in ice on small ponds. Usually these loons are chicks of the year (juveniles) that have to figure out migration on their own. The parents likely left in October or early November.

Owl Eats Owl

Owl Eats Owl

I was on my way to an event at the school gym here in Strafford, Vermont the other evening when I was called over by a bunch of kids who said they found an owl that they thought was sick or hurt because it was perched on a picnic table and didn’t fly away when it was approached. What I found surprised me!

The Persistent Tragedy of Sierra de Bahoruco: The Case of Las Mercedes

The Persistent Tragedy of Sierra de Bahoruco: The Case of Las Mercedes

For years we have been deeply worried about accelerated deforestation of Jaragua and Sierra de Bahoruco National Parks, core zones of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo in the Dominican Republic.

Keep Endangered Flora Alive and Well

Keep Endangered Flora Alive and Well

In Vermont we’re fortunate that critical habitat for rare species still exists. In fact, just recently, two of Vermont’s most endangered plants were rediscovered.

Outdoor Radio: Kinglets in the Cold

Outdoor Radio: Kinglets in the Cold

Weighing less than a nickel and not much larger than your thumb, golden-crowned kinglets are the smallest birds to winter in the New England woods. How does a bird this small stay alive during the long and cold winter night?

VCE's Five Tips for Happy Holiday Conservation

VCE’s Five Tips for Happy Holiday Conservation

‘Tis the season, when everywhere you turn, you’re inundated with holiday catalogs, electric reindeer, and online ads repeatedly showcasing those…

Miracles on Wings

Miracles on Wings

They say that miracles only happen once, but for VCE biologists a miracle with wings has now hit their nets three times.

VCE Turns to Puerto Rico for Field Work

VCE Turns to Puerto Rico for Field Work

VCE next year embarks on a new investigation into potential wintering habitat for Bicknell’s Thrush in Puerto Rico.

A Field Guide to December

A Field Guide to December

Even on these cold, short days, most of us might not be too far from warblers and butterflies. In this VCE Field Guide to December, we report on how animals adapt for winter, and how a few might even leave behind some nice impressions.