Rutland County Audubon Marks 15 Years of Monthly Vermont eBird Monitoring Walks at West Rutland Marsh

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A monthly crew on a beautiful morning of bird monitoring at the marsh.

A monthly crew on a beautiful morning of bird monitoring at the marsh. / © Sue Elliot

Over 2,000 participants, 666 miles, 180 bird checklists recorded comprising 149 species, and its all available for research, education and conservation at Vermont eBird. The monthly bird monitoring walk started on August 16, 2001 at West Rutland Marsh when 15 participants teamed up with Rutland County Audubon Society to record 45 species (including a rare Least Bittern); and it’s been happening every month since.

Roy Pilcher and Sue and Marv Elliott (all of whom have been awarded VCE’s annual Julie Nicholson Citizen Scientist of the Year Award) started the monthly monitoring walk with the idea that maybe they’d keep doing it for a year or two. But 15 years later, it’s still going strong.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat causes a missed monthly count. Sue recalls one time when, “three of us (Roy, Marv and I) did the route in January at -20 F. Marv drove the car in case one of us froze. I hopped in once in awhile, but Roy never did. I think we had three species that day. None of us got frostbite, but Roy’s hands were so cold he couldn’t turn the key to open his car when it was time to go home.”

A cold day of birding at West Rutland Marsh.

A cold day of birding at West Rutland Marsh. / © Sue Elliott

Besides adding valuable data for science and conservation, they’ve made new friends and attracted volunteers to the Rutland County Audubon Society (RCAS). For some, the monthly bird walks were their first experience with birding. For others they may have had their first sighting of a Sora or even a common Song Sparrow. A Virginia Rail with young has always been a highlight on late summer walks. Children, and even some older participants, have used binoculars for the first time on these walks. They’ve even been known to get distracted by other wildlife – butterflies, snakes, frogs and plants. And along the way they have all become better birders and naturalists.

Virginia Rail comes into view in the marsh.

A Virginia Rail shows where the saying – as thin as a rail – was started. / © Marv Elliott

So what happened today on their 180th monthly monitoring walk? The best bird of the day came last. As with the first walk 15 years ago, they spotted a Least Bittern as it flew a short distance when they rounded the corner of Water Street onto Marble Street. The day’s tally hit 50 species, a bit lower than last July when they ran the checklist up to 57 species. You can play with all the stats and more at Vermont eBird on the West Rutland Marsh eBird hotspot.

The next monthly monitoring walk, rain or shine of course, will be on August 20 (Saturday) at 7 a.m. Put on your walking shoes and join them. For more information about other regularly occurring Vermont eBird Monitoring Walks, visit our Vermont eBird Monthly Monitoring Walks page. Vermont eBird is a project of the Vermont Atlas of Life.

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