A few years ago on a long family drive, I remember stopping at a small rest area off an Ohio highway and submitting a quick eBird checklist of the House Sparrows and European Starlings around the parking lot and the Red-tailed Hawks and Turkey Vultures soaring above the Interstate. Noticing that the surrounding habitat offered some nice fields and forests, I later suggested the location as an eBird hotspot, in case any other birders decided to stop in for a birding break sometime in the future. A few days later I received an email from a man named Ken Ostermiller inquiring if I had any photos of or information about the new hotspot I had suggested. He mentioned that he had been working on creating web pages for every single hotspot in the state for his website, Birding in Ohio. I provided what meager info I could about the little rest stop, and proceeded to get lost in the wealth of information that Ken had put together about Ohio birding locations. “How cool would it be to have something like this in Vermont?” I remember thinking to myself.
This past August, a familiar name appeared in the Vermont Birding email listserv. Ken was moving to Vermont and beginning the monumental task of thoroughly documenting every Vermont eBird hotspot on his new website Birding in Vermont. This fantastic resource is now up and running, providing a one-stop shop for all your Vermont eBird needs and more. From bar charts to a list of birding clubs/organizations, constantly updating rare bird alerts to vast lists of eBird hotspots, this website puts enormous amounts of Vermont eBird data on one easy-to-maneuver page that one could spend hours exploring.
The most exciting and in-depth parts of this site are the hotspot descriptions for roughly 1,200 hotspots all across the state. Ken has sourced and cited information from books, websites, mapping programs, and other resources to provide a handy snippet of information for each and every one of these birding locations. These resources can only provide so much information though, and Ken is relying on the help of Vermont’s knowledgeable birders to provide what information they can on their favorite local hotspot. As he said in one of his listserv posts, birders are welcome to contribute “photos of the habitat, tips for birding, where to park, sections of an area that are good to visit, a trail you love to visit over and over, and birds of interest that you often find there. I will gladly add what you send and give you a credit line.”
I can certainly think of a number of local hotspots that could use some extra information on the site, and I look forward to revisiting them to take photos of my favorite patches of habitat and flesh out the site’s descriptions of access and birding tips. Using Ken’s easily navigable lists of hotspots by county, browse around some of your favorite local birding locations and see if any could use an update! If you have photos or information to provide for a hotspot page, you can use the “Contact” button in the upper right corner of the website to get in touch with Ken. This noncommercial, ad-free site is a labor of love that all Vermont birders are welcome to contribute to in order to help expand this resource Ken has spent countless hours putting together. Filling in this database with crowd-sourced information is a vast undertaking, but so many birders often know their local hotspots like the back of their hand. And, in a state with the most eBirders per capita in the US, Vermonters are well-poised to create one of the most thorough and complete databases of local birding knowledge.