Not many things get a group of people to gather at 7:00 AM to go spend their time outside on a damp and cold November day, but for Vermont’s hardcore birders a chance to see late migrating raptors and waterfowl is all the motivation they need. On Saturday, November 5th The Mascoma Audubon Society Chapter hosted a field trip to the Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area in Addison, Vermont and visited a few other spots along the lower Lake Champlain. The trip was lead by Spencer Hardy, who attends Middlebury College, and several other longtime Vermont birders joined, including Jim Mead, George Clark, and Ed Hack.
I attended three of the locations that were visited that day: Dead Creek, Lake Champlain Bridge, and Turkey Lane on mid-Lake Champlain. Notable species at Dead Creek include over one thousand Snow Geese, a Rough-Legged Hawk, a Northern Harrier, and Horned Larks. Memorable species at Lake Champlain Bridge in West Addison include Red-necked Grebe, Red-throated Loon, Black Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Peregrine Falcon, and Bonaparte’s Gull. On the showline at the end of Turkey Lane we witnessed a White-Rumped Sandpiper, a Semipalmated Plover, a Black-Bellied Plover, Snow Buntings, a Horned Grebe, and a Surf Scoter.
As I was among the group of longtime birders, some of the lingo I heard in their conversations would have been unintelligible to a non-birder. I heard one say something like “How do you distinguish the length of wingtips from a Baird’s, and is the supercilium a distinguishing attribute?” When searching out across the lake for a specific bird, other comical dialogue was overheard. As the group searched for a Red-necked Grebe the one who found it was heard saying, “Behind the loon… oh it went under. Now it’s left of the Goldeneye…but it went under again.” This sub-culture of wildlife folk is unlike any other. Birding in Vermont is special for its varying weather patterns allowing nearly 400 sightings of different birds in the course of a year. Although I felt a little lost at times, and could not identify all the species that we saw, I will definitely remember this experience in that it allowed me to see into an entity of wildlife lovers that is not commonly publicized.