Tag Archives: Birds

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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Now is the Time to Spot Shorebirds in Vermont


Now is the Time to Spot Shorebirds in Vermont

The final weeks of August and beginning of September mark a unique birding opportunity in Vermont. Shorebirds such as plovers and sandpipers are migrating through the state on their southern journey from northern Canada to the Caribbean and beyond.

One of the best places to spot shorebirds this time of year is at Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area in Addison, Vt. The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department lowers water levels on Dead Creek in late summer to provide habitat for migrating shorebirds and other species. Bird-watchers have also reported spotting shorebirds around Sandbar Wildlife Management Area in Milton, Vt this year.

“The lack of rainfall has led to low water levels this year providing ample habitat for shorebirds, particularly along Lake Champlain,” said John Buck, migratory bird biologist for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. “I’d encourage people to grab your binoculars and camera and take advantage of this brief and exciting birding opportunity.”

Anyone interested in donating to habitat conservation for shorebirds and all species can buy a Vermont Habitat Stamp, available at www.vtfishandwildlife.com.


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Judge’s Decision on cormorant control has Biologists feeling helpless

Judge’s Decision on Cormorants Leaves Biologists Feeling Helpless

Judge's Decision on cormorant control has Biologists feeling helpless

Biologists have been working to reduce the populations of the birds in the nesting grounds on the islands in the lake. But a federal judge’s decision suspended efforts to control the bird on Lake Champlain and in 24 eastern states.

Biologists are worried that a federal judge’s decidion to block programs that control double-crested cormorants in 24 states could set back their efforts on the birds, blamed for despoiling islands in Lake Champlain where they nest.

In other areas of the country, cormorants — sea birds with long necks and hooked bills — are blamed for eating thousands of sport fish favored by anglers and preying on fish in farms.

Vermont officials, who this time of year are usually overseeing control programs that include oiling eggs to prevent them from hatching, and shooting the birds or scaring them away, worry that even one year without the control program could see the number of cormorants on the lake increase by 21 percent.

“It will not take very long for that number to double without some active management,” said Mark Scott, wildlife director for the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, which manages about 20 islands and some sections of shoreline that have been known to host cormorants.

Judge's Decision on cormorant control has Biologists feeling helpless


The March decision by a judge in Washington determined that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service didn’t do its homework before issuing a pair of orders that let people kill thousands of cormorants each year to preserve vegetation in some areas and protect sport fish in 24 states and farmed fish in 13 of those states.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Laury Parramore said the agency is studying its next step.

Cormorants, which winter in the South and spend summers on the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain, have nested on Champlain for at least a century. They were brought to near-extinction by the pesticide DDT, and no one is sure why the numbers have increased dramatically over the last quarter-century.

Dave Capan, a retired University of Vermont biologist who is managing a cormorant program on the Four Brothers Islands, estimates there are about 1,600 breeding pairs of cormorants on the lake, down from a peak of about 4,000 about 15 years ago. The islands lie in the middle of the narrow, 120-mile long lake, are owned by the Nature Conservancy and are off limits to the public.

“They nest in very large numbers, and they kill trees on islands in the lake,” Capan said. “There are at least five or six islands in this lake that have lost most of their trees and vegetation.”

Capan disagrees with Scott’s assertion that the birds would increase by 21 percent in one year without control. He said he feels that as long as the control programs resume by next spring, there shouldn’t be any long-term setback to the control efforts.


Biologists Working to Save Lake Champlain's Young Island from cormorants

Cormorants have a long history of being hated by humans, said Ken Stromberg, a retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist from Denmark, Wisconsin, who was among those who filed the lawsuit against the service that led to the March decision blocking the control programs.

“A cormorant is a scapegoat for everything that consumers are unhappy about,” said Stromberg, who isn’t opposed to cormorant control programs but feels the Fish and Wildlife Service must do the required studies before issuing orders.


Biologists Working to Save Lake Champlain’s Young Island

Biologists Working to Save Lake Champlain’s Young Island

Biologists Working to Save Lake Champlain's Young Island from cormorants

Biologists from Vermont’s Department of Fish & Wildlife have been working to rescue a state-owned island from the brink of destruction by birds.

“It’s quiet compared to the way it used to be here,” said biologist John Gobeille as he stepped from a boat onto Young Island in Lake Champlain. “You used to need earplugs.”

Now grassy and green, Young Island was barren and rocky because its surfaces had been denuded. The island was infested with shrieking ring-billed gulls and cormorants, whose toxic droppings killed vegetation.

Biologists Working to Save Lake Champlain's Young Island from cormorants

“It’s coming back,” Gobeille said, observing plant life on the island.

By applying cooking oil to the gulls’ eggs so they can’t hatch, over the past 15 years the population of ring-billed gulls is less than a tenth of the 15,000 that once dominated the island. They would bully other birds, keeping species away, Gobeille explained.

The species diversity here had declined to only, like, two [bird] species,” Gobeille said.

For cormorants, the oil work, combined with shooting the birds in a prescribed process more than ten years ago, dramatically minimized numbers on Young Island, accorfing to fish and wildlife officials. Visitors to the lake will see cormorants at many other locations on and around the water.

Now, with the gull numbers down on Young Island, Mark Scott, the wildlife director of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, said birds including the black duck and the common tern have been able to nest on the island again. The common tern, despite its name, is listed as a state-endangered species in Vermont.

Scott and Gobeille noted the department has planted trees and ground-covering plants to replace what the invaders killed. Not only would the birds’ acidic waste prevent plants from growing, but the birds would also defoliate trees and shrubs to build nests, Gobeille explained, turning the island into something resembling the surface of the moon.

Despite the turnaround in Young Island’s appearance, there is a lot more habitat restoration work that needs to be done on Lake Champlain. The department said it is currently watching five other state-owned islands, one private island through financial backing of the landowner, and another private island where the state deters birds that may interfere with nesting of the common tern.

Biologists Working to Save Lake Champlain's Young Island from cormorants

Thousands of cormorants are still damaging other land, boaters and fishermen have reported in recent years. Many sportsmen also believe the cormorants are robbing the lake of fish by gobbling up perch and smelt.

Fishermen have long complained about the cormorants, insisting that more needs to be done to control cormorants.

“The challenge comes down to money; you know, economics,” Scott told necn. “People say, ‘Well, why don’t you just let people go out and hunt [cormorants] on their own? Well, they’re not classified as a game species under federal law.”

Even with more challenges ahead, the transformation of Young Island has left the department optimistic that habitat management can work.

Scott said the department does its gull and cormorant work with just over $40,000 in state funding, but to be more effective, the team would need $100,000 in additional monies from federal grants, state appropriations, non-profit support, or other sources.

Other Articles About Lake Champlain Islands:   List of Lake Champlain's Islands