Tag Archives: Birds

Bird-watching Opportunities at Vermont WMA’s

Bird-watching Opportunities at Vermont WMA’s

Bird-watching Opportunities at Vermont WMA’s

Spring is finally here and wildlife enthusiasts are dusting off their binoculars and heading out looking for birds as they migrate into the Lake Champlain Basin from the south. Some of the best bird-watching opportunities are on the area’s wildlife management areas, or WMAs. 

Wildlife management areas are owned by the States of Vermont or New York and managed for wildlife habitat and for wildlife-based recreation such as hunting, fishing and bird-watching. 

Paul Hamelin, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department biologist who coordinates habitat management and access on Vermont’s WMAs, believes that while there are opportunities for birding at every WMA, a few stick out to him as particularly good places to spot birds. 

“Dead Creek WMA in Addison is perhaps the crown jewel of birding in Vermont,” said Hamelin. “An incredible two hundred bird species can be found there, particularly ducks, shorebirds, and hawks. And each spring and fall, thousands of snow geese touch down at Dead Creek on their annual migration.” 


Dead Creek has trails and a lookout platform, but Hamelin suggests a canoe or kayak for best access. A new Dead Creek Visitor Center is scheduled to open this October. 

On the other side of the state, Hamelin recommends Wenlock WMA in Ferdinand, which has the endless bogs and boreal forests that the Northeast Kingdom is known for in a tidy, 2,000-acre package. He recommends people check out the new boardwalk and viewing platform at Moose Bog. 

“Wenlock is a great place for birders to check off four of Vermont’s premiere boreal bird species; the Canada jay, boreal chickadee, black-backed woodpecker, and state-endangered spruce grouse,” said Hamelin. “You might also get lucky and see another state endangered bird, the rusty blackbird, which is sadly becoming increasingly rare in the northeastern U.S.” 

For a rare bird sighting in southern Vermont, Hamelin recommends Birdseye Wildlife Management Area in the towns of Ira, Castleton, and Poultney.Wildlife management areasThis WMA, formerly known as Bird Mountain, recently increased by nearly 3,000 acres. At the center of the WMA is Birdseye Mountain, a large hunk of rocky cliffs that are home to the world’s fastest bird, the peregrine falcon, which can dive to over 200 mph. 

“Peregrine falcons are the star of the show at the Birdseye, but there are also fantastic opportunities to see and hear warblers, thrushes, and sparrows,” said Hamelin. “After the peregrine nesting season is complete in mid-August, there is a well-worn goat path that takes brave souls up the rocky slopes of the cliff face for fantastic views of the newly conserved ridgelines.” 

Vermont’s wildlife management areas are found in every corner of the state and there are birding opportunities at every one of them this time of year. Birding is inexpensive and is an easy activity to get started in. Hamelin recommends people check out their nearest wildlife management area this spring.

Access to Vermont’s wildlife management areas is free, but birders can help the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department in its effort to conserve habitat for birds and other species by purchasing an annual Vermont Habitat Stamp, available for $15 on the department’s website at vtfishandwildlife.com. There is also more information on birding opportunities on wildlife management areas on the Fish & Wildlife Department’s website. 


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Majestic Bald Eagle Over Lake Champlain 

Majestic Bald Eagle Over Lake Champlain

Majestic Bald Eagle Over Lake Champlain

Majestic Bald Eagle Over Lake Champlain


This photo of a majestic Bald Eagle flying over Lake Champlain was taken in Grand Isle, Vermont this morning (1/2/2017) by Matt and Betsy Dall.


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2016 a Record Year for Vermont Bald Eagles

Vermont Bald Eagles Nest in Record Numbers in 2016


2016 a Record Year for Vermont Bald EaglesIn 2016 bald eagles produced 34 successful young in Vermont, smashing the most recent record of 26 in 2013 according to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Dept. The birds remain on the list of species protected under Vermont’s state endangered species law, but this strong year has conservationists hopeful for their continued recovery.



This year also saw record nesting success for several other bird species monitored by biologists and volunteers in Vermont. Peregrine falcons successfully raised at least 81 young birds in 2016, breaking the previous state record of 67, according to Audubon Vermont who monitors nesting peregrine falcons in partnership with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.



2016 a Record Year for Vermont Bald Eagles and for Nesting Loon Success

Vermont also welcomed 80 new birds to the state’s loon population, breaking the previous record of 69. The Vermont Center for Ecostudies monitors the state’s nesting loons.

The mild weather this spring likely helped boost numbers of all three birds, according to John Buck, migratory bird biologist with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.


“The cooperative weather provided a bump to many species this year, but the continued recovery of these species is the result of a long-term effort by our department and our partners to conserve the habitat these birds need to thrive,” said Buck.

Peregrine falcons and bald eagles declined in the Twentieth Century nationwide due to loss of habitat, disturbance to nests, and the effects of the pesticide DDT. Laws such as the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and a ban on DDT have aided in the recovery of these birds. Loons similarly faced dramatic declines as a result of shoreline development and human disturbance of their habitat.

In 2005, peregrine falcons, loons, and osprey were removed from Vermont’s state endangered species list following years of conservation effort. Bald eagles have recovered in most of the contiental U.S. and have been removed from the federal endangered species list, but remain on Vermont’s state endangered species list as they continue to recover locally.

“Vermonters have played a huge role in the recovery of these species,” said Margaret Fowle, biologist with Audubon Vermont. “We work with a large number of citizen volunteers who help monitor nests, while the general public has aided in recovery efforts by maintaining a respectful distance from these birds during the critical nesting season. Paddlers have been keeping away from nesting loons, and the climbing community has been helpful by respecting cliff closures and getting the word out about where the birds are.”

2016 a Record Year for Vermont Bald Eagles supported by license plate sales

Vermonters can help researchers in their effort to conserve birds by donating online to the nongame wildlife fund at www.vtfishandwildlife.com or by purchasing a conservation license plate, including the new loon design plate.



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Injured Bald Eagle Released Back into the Wild

Injured Bald Eagle Released Back into the Wild

Staff with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department and Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences released a juvenile bald eagle back into the wild last week at Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area in Addison, Vermont.

The young eagle was injured when it fell from its nest early this summer. A local wildlife photographer notified the landowner and Fish & Wildlife staff that the eagle was injured. The bird was initially treated at the Outreach for Earth Stewardship rehabilitation facility in Shelburne, and then transferred to the Vermont Institute for Natural Science in Quechee to complete its rehabilitation. Biologists attached special identification bands to the eagle’s legs before releasing it to the wild.

“This release is a great moment for eagle restoration in Vermont,” said Fish & Wildlife bird biologist John Buck. “This day would not be possible without the dedicated efforts of the many people who care deeply about restoring the bald eagle to its rightful place among Vermont’s wildlife community.”

Bald eagles declined nationwide due to loss of habitat and the effects of the pesticide DDT. Laws protecting eagles, such as the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and a ban on DDT have aided in the recovery of the United States’ national symbol.

According to Buck, Vermont’s bald eagle population is in the midst of a strong recovery. He cites continued support from the public through funding wildlife programs like the Nongame Wildlife Fund and maintaining a safe distance from nesting eagles, in addition to the work of conservation partners, as critical to the species’ continued recovery in Vermont.



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New Law Protects Vermont’s Most Vulnerable Species

New Law Protects Vermont’s Most Vulnerable Species

Last May Vermont’s  Governor Peter Shumlin signed into law H.570, a bill that provides a new tool in the effort to prevent state-listed threatened and endangered species from disappearing from Vermont – the protection of critical habitat.  Prior to this law, while the species themselves were protected, the places critical to their survival were not.  Endangered bats often return to the same cave each autumn, and bald eagles frequently nest in the same tree year after year. Thanks to the new law, we have the ability to work with landowners and designate these critical habitats so they cannot be destroyed while the animals are elsewhere.

The bill represents only the first step in protecting habitat for these species and was designed to be limited in scope. While it does not protect large swaths of land for wide-ranging species like Canada lynx, it will protect those discrete, identifiable spots essential to the continued existence of these animals in Vermont. Hard work lies ahead to determine which threatened or endangered species need critical habitat protection, and then to enact those protections through the state rule-making process. But the bill’s passage provides impetus and optimism for the way forward.

How you can helpNew Law Protects Vermont's Most Vulnerable Species. Use the habitat stamp

For wildlife to be conserved, the habitat they need to survive must also be conserved.  It’s just that simple.  And now you can help in that effort through the Vermont Habitat Stamp.
Funds generated by the stamp help purchase lands for permanent conservation and provide funding to work with landowners to improve habitat for a wide range of species from golden-winged warblers to black bears.  The stamp has already contributed to the expansion of the Lemon Fair Wildlife Management Area.

The actual ‘stamp’ is a bumper sticker that is sent in the mail to people who donate online at vtfishandwildlife.com.  The suggested donation is $15, although some donors have chosen to contribute up to $1,000.


Critical Habitat – What is it and why is it critical?

New Law Protects Vermont's Most Vulnerable Species and critical habitatSo what exactly is critical habitat?  Critical habitat is the specific, limited area that a threatened or endangered species needs to survive.

For spiny softshell turtles, that could mean one of the few remaining small stretches of shale-covered beach that the turtles use for nesting.  For a timber rattlesnake, it could mean the south-facing scree fields they use as den sites to hibernate in winter.  Or for the northeastern bulrush, it could entail the few beaver wetland complexes in which they are still found in Vermont.

These small areas have a big impact on a threatened or endangered species’ capacity to thrive in Vermont.  Recognizing their importance and placing protections on these areas is one step in ensuring these species will remain a fixture of the Vermont landscape.


Bald eagles return to their nests

New Law Protects Vermont's Most Vulnerable Species like bald eaglesDid you know that bald eagles often return to the same nest every year?  Building a new nest may take months to complete, so if proven successful one year, eagles will continue to use the same nest year after year.

In the past, department staff have worked with landowners to protect trees with active bald eagle nests.  Vermonters love wildlife, so landowners have generally been extremely cooperative.  But now, thanks to H.570 we have a new tool to ensure that nest trees remain safe as long as eagles continue to use them.


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