A balmy December, unfrozen lakes, and many eager birders in the field conspired to produce Tufted Duck, Pacific Loon, White-eyed Vireo, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and a smattering of other rare and usual birds in Vermont during the past few weeks.
Although Christmas bird counts generated many of the rarities, birders also discovered oddities beyond their count circles. Here is an admittedly incomplete “Rarity Roundup” from Christmas counts and beyond — presented in no particular order.
One of the hottest birds came from the Burlington count, during which a White-eyed Vireo, first discovered by Liz Lackey, continued at Oakledge Park as recently as January 2. Lots of birders got to see this southerner. Also notable on the Burlington count: a Red-shouldered Hawk, a Fish Crow, a Rose-breasted Grosbeak and a dozen Rusty Blackbirds.
In the Champlain Islands, a record high count of 84,500 Snow Geese (reported from Point Au Roche, NY) helped the count shatter it old record of 28,305 individual birds — with a new high of 95,044. A Ross’s Goose was a first for the count, and birders tallied record high counts for Hooded Merganser (270), Northern Harrier (8), Peregrine Falcon (4), and Red-bellied Woodpecker (5).
Highlights from the Middlebury count included a Tufted Duck and two Pacific Loons from Lake Champlain in Bridport. Other noteworthy species included Fish Crow and Blue-winged Teal. A full report on the Middlebury count is online at Otter Creek Audubon’s web site.
The Mad River/Northfield count, held on December 18, featured a Ross’s Goose on Berlin Pond and, elsewhere, a Green-winged Teal. The next day, on the Plainfield Count, a drake Canvasback was big news on a small pond in Plainfield. The Winhall count came in with an average species total, but low bird counts overall. Two Bald Eagles and a female Hooded Merganser were each second-timers on the Winhall count. And highlights from the Bennington count included three Bald Eagles and a Merlin.
On the Barnet count, birders seemed to be finding relative high numbers of these species: Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Common Goldeneye, Northern Flicker, Belted Kingfisher, Common Grackle, and Pine Grobeak.
Meanwhile, a Townsend’s Solitaire showed itself (and posed for some nice photos) in mid December in Dummerston, where an Iceland Gull was also being seen as recently as January 3. Three Sandhill Cranes were seen as recently as January 3 in Fairfax.
And last, certainly not least, Noel Dodge, compiling the Lamoille count, reported nothing out of the ordinary, except lots of Purple Finches and an odd looking Mallard-domestic duck cross. (Hey, we’ll take it! Thanks, Noel!)
My apologies for not getting to all the Christmas count results and ancillary rarities. But the point is that our coldest months hardly bring an end to the warmth that comes with rare birds (or even common birds, for that matter). To keep tabs on what’s hot this winter, at least in your inbox, check out Vermont eBird’s email Alerts.
Happy (and “Birdy”) New Year!