• Reflections from 65 (Collective) Years of Birding the Upper Valley

    Left: Birders peer through October mist; Right: Swallows perch in a tree. Both were taken at Lake Runnemede. © Cynthia Crawford, see more photos on her website and Flickr

    By Chris Rimmer and Kyle Jones

    Some retirees seek new pursuits in life, branching out and diversifying with their newfound free time. Others simply do more of what they always did. Chris Rimmer and Kyle Jones embody this latter approach, birding local Upper Valley haunts more than ever since their recent retirements (Chris from VCE, Kyle from Marsh-Billings-Rockfeller National Historical Park). The two recently joined forces to publish an article in the journal Bird Observer, highlighting seven of the Upper Valley’s top birding hotspots (four in Vermont’s Windsor County, three in New Hampshire’s Grafton County). From south to north in Vermont, they profile Lake Runnemede/Evarts Pond, Windsor Grasslands Wildlife Management Area, Wilder Dam boat ramp (also known as Kilowatt South Park), and Campbell Flats. In New Hampshire, Chris and Kyle showcase Mink Brook, Wilder Wildlife Management Area and Grant Brook, and Post Pond/Chaffee Wildlife Sanctuary. Their profiles of each site feature an overview of avian highlights, mention of selected rarities over the years, logistical birding recommendations, and detailed driving and parking tips. Their goal was simply to encourage more birders to visit (and eBird!) these terrific, user-friendly hotspots.

    Kyle and Chris do bring some experience to the table. Between them, they have collectively birded the Upper Valley—especially the Vermont side—for no fewer than 65 years, amassing during that time 11,714 eBird checklists in Windsor County and 701 in Grafton. Kyle, the all-time Windsor champ with 251 total species (Chris and Ed Hack are nipping at his heels with 246 apiece), is clearly the more efficient birder of the two, as he has accumulated that impressive total via only 3,677 eBird checklists, compared with Chris’s 7,995. The two staged an epic, but highly collaborative and friendly, “battle” during 2019, as each quested (often while birding together) to see how many species could be found in Windsor County during a single calendar year. Their extremely close race was touch-and-go until the final days of December, with Chris barely managing to eke out a “win”, 211 species to 209. Both know that neither is likely to ever top that tally, so their birding has adopted a more leisurely, but no less active, pace.

    Left: Autumn road in Campbell Flats; Right: Savannah Sparrow photographed at Campbell Flats. © Cynthia Crawford, see more photos on her website and Flickr

    In addition to this current Bird Observer article, birding resources that may be of interest to Upper Valley (and other) birders include eight other Bird Observer “Where to Go Birding” articles (in pdf or online format) that cover eight Vermont and 12 New Hampshire hotspot areas, Ken Ostermiller’s “Birding Hotspots” web site, Bill Shepard’s “Connecticut River Birdling Trail” maps available in local stores, and local resident Jim Block’s “Upper Valley Birding Sites” web page with its stunning photos. Chris, Kyle, and VCE’s corps of dedicated birders hope to see many of you at Upper Valley birding hotspots during the months and years ahead!

    Bird Observer subscribers can read Chris and Kyle’s full article here.

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