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Nature News

Discover what's happening outside around you. Our on-line nature journal is a bit like a blog of natural events. We'll update it often. If you've explored the North Branch Nature Center recently, send us your sightings and we’ll post them here. We’d love to hear from you

Alyssa with an Australian Magpie Tales From Texas
by Alyssa Borowske

Golden-cheeked Warbler"Howdy! My name is Alyssa Borowske; I am a 23 year old North Branch Nature Center alumnae whose  passion for birds led her from Central Vermont, to Iowa, Michigan, New Zealand and Texas, all en route to pursuing a career in avian ecology and conservation.  For the next three months, I’ll be sending updates from my current field season with Golden-cheeked Warblers in Kickapoo Cavern State Park, Texas."

To read more, visit our Youth Birding page.

New News Features!

Networking with NBNC

FB blogger


April 9, 2010

Our Nature News section continues to evolve and harness the power of Web 2.0 (harnessing the internet to embrace interactive, information sharing centered around you: the user). For instance, we have begun posting wildflower updates to our Facebook page every Wednesday. Thanks to Web 2.0, you can easily add comments about what you've been seeing in bloom around your backyard! Check out our facebook page by following the link below:

North Branch Nature Center on Facebook

April 3, 2010

Chip reported a White-throated Sparrow under the feeder today... the first sighting of the year.
Spotted Salamander 3_30

March 30, 2010

While people might despise a 40 degree, rainy day in March, volunteers of NBNC's Amphibian Monitoring Program are ecstatic. The warm, moist weather triggered the first substantial migrations of amphibians this season, several weeks earlier than is typical in this part of the state. Amphibians were moving in many locations around the state, and in Middlesex, 24 Wood Frogs and 3 Spotted Salamanders were safely crossed (sadly, the only Spring Peepers found had been run over). If you have to drive on any rainy nights in the next few weeks, use extreme caution to avoid accidentally flattening our four-legged friends, and to learn how to help, contact Larry.

March 26, 2010

Despite the lack of new updates to the Nature News section, there has been lots of new nature sightings this spring around NBNC. Today we had lingering winter birds such as Tree Sparrows at the feeder and a singing Northern Shrike near the bridge. At the same time, the new spring arrivals are pouring back, with today's site survey recording Blackbirds, Grackles, a Flicker, Song Sparrows, and others. A male Eastern Bluebird that has been hanging around the past two weeks was joined by a female today.

The Nature News section is undergoing big changes, and will eventually become an interactive blog, where you can share your sightings and comment on ours. In the interim, updates may be sparse, but we'll try to make a post every now and then. Please keep your sightings coming though, we'd love to hear them!

January 20, 2010

After receiving a few inches of snow over the past few days, NBNC staff discovered fresh tracks in the vacinity of the buildings. Those tracks, belonging to a Red Fox, made a small loop down the driveway and past the bird feeders through the front yard. Fox scat was also found near the tracks very close to the building.

January 15, 2010

Today's big surprise during the weekly Site Survey for birds was a small flock (3) Snow Buntings flying and calling over the fields! Although a common winter visitor to Vermont, Snow Bunting are seldom seen at the Nature Center, and this marks one of the only records we have for the species. A very fine looking deer bed was also discovered on the property with fresh tracks and droppings in the area.

January 7, 2010

Happy new year to all! With the holiday season, a few pending updates went unmade, but expect several posts about last month's Christmas Bird Counts to be posted retroactively. Today's noteworthy sighting occured during the eBird site survey. A lone Canada Goose was seen foraging in the river! Although Canada Geese are overwintering in Vermont in increased numbers, they are still uncommon here in Central Vermont.

December 4, 2009

Today marked the first day of our eBird site survey for the North Branch Nature Center property. The eBird site survey will be performed weekly and data will be entered into eBird for use by scientists (learn more about the eBird site survey). We did turn up a bird that we rarely see on the property: a lone Carolina Wren was seen skulking around in a wet, brushy area near the river. Other noteworthy birds include American Tree Sparrow.

American Tree SparrowNovember 30, 2009

Although it wasn't the first time this season that American Tree Sparrows made an appearance, there were at least a half dozen hanging around the parking lot and bird feeders this morning. The photo of the individual to the right (taken at NBNC last year) shows some of the tell tale field marks for this winter visitor, including the rufous crown, gray face, bicolored bill, and white wing bar. If seen from the front, a dark spot would be visible in the center of the breast. Photo by Larry Clarfeld.


November 10, 2009

With the change of seasons, we come to expect a new set of birds and can sometimes anxiously await their arrival. Well the wait for the Northern Shrike ended today as Chip spotted one perched prominently atop a Cedar tree in the parking lot. It flew off across the fields before the rest of the NBNC staff got to see it, so we're back to waiting again for the next appearance!

November 2, 2009

With the sun shining this afternoon, NBNC staff salvaged one of the last opportunities to have lunch outside (without the aide of winter clothes). We were delighted to hear the winnie of an American Robin, which was hanging around the bird feeder. We were also privileged to hear one of our resident Blue Jays imitating the call of a Broad-winged Hawk. They do this fairly regularly here, and are quite convincing (we always look up when we hear it).

The true surprise of the day was a Red Admiral, sunning itself on a post in the field. It held its wings perpendicular to the sun in an effort to absorb the most possible heat. And so we pose the same question we did on October 19: Will this be the last butterfly of the season? Only time will tell.

October 27, 2009

During a school program today, there was a lot of wildlife activity in the beaver ponds. After the program, our staff took a short hike up to the pond to try to relocate a shorebird seen earlier. Although we were not able to relocate the shorebird, we did watch a Great Blue Heron catch and consume a small rodent which was scurrying along the dam!

October 19, 2009

Despite a very frosty morning, the bright sunshine made it bearable for NBNC staff to eat lunch outside! Apparently, it was warm enough for a Red Admiral butterfly to land near the butterfly garden and sun itself on some wood chips. Will this be the last butterfly of the season? A short hike also turned up some interesting birds, including Eastern Phoebe, Savannah Sparrow, and 13 Mallards in the beaver pond! Also, no less than seven Painted Turtles were seen basking.

October 13, 2009

Winter gave us a sneak preview today, with a fine coating of snow which continued falling into the morning. In recognition of the changing seasons, our bird feeder is back up. Perhaps this is what attracted a group of about a dozen Common Grackles, the first flock that we have seen here in a number of weeks. Other timely news includes the flowering of the Witch Hazel in the parking lot, which actually began to flower two weeks ago.

October 12, 2009

A cool start to the day transitioned into a comfortable afternoon. During a brief hike into Hubbard Park, it certainly felt like a transitional time of year. Dark-eyed Juncos are again present in the area after being absent most of the summer. A huge flock of Robins continues to take advantage of the abundance of fruiting trees and plants at NBNC. Active amphibians such as Northern Two-lined and Northern Dusky Salamanders were observed in a stream and a Clouded Sulphur was seen flying in the fields (will this be the year's last butterfly?) As the season continues to change, we'll continue to watch the changing wildlife here at the Nature Center.

October 2, 2009

Our final Friday bird walk of the season turned up some new discoveries. The highlight might have been a Solitary Sandpiper which was flying upstream along the North Branch and landed on the shore directly in front of six lucky participants, offering clear, close views. Other highlights include an American Woodcock which was flushed out near the community gardens alongside the river. The morning's complete list is shown below:

Mallard Blue Jay Cedar Waxwing
Hooded Merganser American Crow Yellow-rumped Warbler
Solitary Sandpiper Black-capped Chickadee Black-throated Green Warbler
American Woodcock White-breasted Nuthatch Common Yellowthoat
Downy Woodpecker Ruby-crowned Kinglet Song Sparrow
Hairy Woodpecker Hermit Thrush White-throated Sparrow
Northern Flicker American Robin American Goldfinch
Blue-headed Vireo Gray Catbird  

September 25, 2009

This morning's migration bird walk turned up a number of surprises. You never can know just what to expect! A Winter Wren heard singing from near the community gardens was a first find directly on our property despite the fact that they breed nearby in Hubbard and North Branch River Parks. Other notable sightings include an flyover accipiter (possibly Cooper's Hawk), an immature Bald Eagle, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and a White-crowned Sparrow. A complete list is shown below:

Canada Goose Eastern Phoebe American Robin
Mallard Blue-headed Vireo Gray Catbird
Accipiter sp. (Cooper's Hawk?) Blue Jay Yellow-rumped Warbler
Bald Eagle American Crow Common Yellowthroat
Rock Dove Common Raven Song Sparrow
Downy Woodpecker Black-capped Chickadee White-throated Sparrow
Hairy Woodpecker White-breasted Nuthatch White-crowned Sparrow
Northern Flicker Winter Wren American Goldfinch
Pileated Woodpecker Ruby-crowned Kinglet  

September 23, 2009

Anyone who has been paying attention to butterflies this fall has surely noticed the staggering absence of Monarchs this year. We had one "fly over" mid-day, but haven't managed to tag a Monarch the past three weeks during our Wednesday public tagging days. This has not, however, stopped Monarchs from getting their coverage in the press. You may have seen part 1 of WCAX's "Monarch Moments" (see news for September 10). You can now view part 2 and part 3 of this series which highlights NBNC's tagging efforts. We will hold our last public tagging session on 9/30.

September 11, 2009

Two participants took part in this mornings birds walk on a cool, misty morning. There was an amazing abundance of Cedar Waxwings, but the big surprise was an American Bittern! This sighting marks only the second time a bittern has been observed on the property. A complete list can be found below:

American Bittern Hairy Woodpecker American Crow Cedar Waxwing
Rock Pigeon Northern Flicker Black-capped Chickadee Common Yellowthroat
Belted Kingfisher Eastern Phoebe White-breasted Nuthatch White-throated Sparrow
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Red-eyed Vireo American Robin Song Sparrow
Downy Woodpecker Blue Jay Gray Catbird American Goldfinch


September 10, 2009

Yesterday's Monarch tagging session was, again, failing to turn up the Monarch butterflies which have been sparse this season. Only one Monarch was tagged. The absence of Monarchs hasn't kept them from getting attention from the news media: The tagging demonstration of 9/2 was featured on WCAX! We invite you to view the news story and join us at a future Monarch tagging session.

In some avian-related news, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird has still been seen regularly (including today) feeding at the butterfly garden. A pair of Common Mergansers was also seen flying overhead towards the North Branch.

September 4, 2009

Eight participants joined our first fall migration bird walk. A thick layer of fog sat in the valley of the North Branch River, but that didn't stop the group from observing a great number of birds. Robins and Waxwings were seen in huge numbers and a nice variety of species overall, including:

Mourning Dove Least Flycatcher Veery Song Sparrow
Ruby-throated Hummingbird Eastern Phoebe American Robin Swamp Sparrow
Belted Kingfisher Red-eyed Vireo Gray Catbird White-throated Sparrow
Red-bellied Woodpecker* Blue Jay Cedar Waxwing Northern Cardinal
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker American Crow Chestnut-sided Warbler Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Downy Woodpecker Black-capped Chickadee Yellow-rumped Warbler Indigo Bunting
Northern Flicker Tufted Titmouse Common Yellowthroat Bobolink
Pileated Woodpecker House Wren Savannah Sparrow American Goldfinch

*The Red-bellied Woodpecker was heard from a distance. Although uncommon at NBNC, they regularly visit some feeders further down Elm Street, so we are somewhat confident of this identification. Also seen, seperately from the AM bird walk, was an American Woodcock which was flushed from an area near the river.

ViceroySeptember 2, 2009

During our Monarch tagging demonstration, only one Monarch (caught earlier in the day) was tagged and none were seen during the 3:30 - 5:00 window of the program. We did, however, find other butterfly species during our seach for the ellusive Monarchs. Our list included Cabbage White, Clouded Sulphur, Atlantis Fritillary, Common Ringlet and Viceroy (the Monarch look-alike pictured on the right).

September 1, 2009

Today's bizarre sighting was that of four pheasants walking up the path from the parking lot. They walked down the path, within feet of NBNC staff, passed the main building, past the education barn, and down the path by the field towards the river. We presumed that these were escapees. Broad-winged Hawk was hear/seen again today, as well as the very vocal Pileated Woodpecker.

August 31, 2009

During an outdoor meeting, a Sharp-shinned Hawk was seen cruising over the fields. It began to circle as it crossed over the North Branch, presumably catching some thermals from the hill on the other side of the river, and proceeded towards East Montpelier. A Broad-winged Hawk was also observed flying and calling over the Nature Center. A very vocal Pileated Woodpecker was also heard throughout the day.

August 28, 2009

NBNC staff tagged our second Monarch butterfly of the season today. The first was tagged on 8/25, and unfortunately, no Monarchs were found during our first public tagging day on Wednesday despite a search for adults and caterpillars on Milkweed. Public tagging days will take place every Wednesday afternoon in September.

July 31, 2009

It has been apparent to both NBNC staff as well as other members of the community that Monarchs have been strangely absent this summer; That is, up until today. While our summer campers were discovering insects as they hid from raindrops under the broad leaves of milkweed plants, we discovered the first Monarch caterpillar of the season. From its small size, it seemed to be a very young instar. In a few short weeks, when Monarchs begin their southern migration, we will be tagging them to track their progress towards Mexico. A wetter-than-average summer may have hindered butterflies, but this discovery is promising that we may yet have a productive tagging season.

Paddle CaterpillarJuly 30, 2009

Our summer campers were focused on insects this week, and one of the more interesting discoveries of the week occurred right next to the building! A bizarre-looking caterpillar was discovered walking on one of the paths between the education barn and offices. It was identified as a Paddle Caterpillar, a species considered to be widespread but scarce throughout its range.

July 17, 2009

During our "Avian Wonders" summer camp, a group of 4-7th graders spent the week learning all about birds. Today, we celebrated the week's end with a 'big day' of birding around Montpelier. The group spotted and (with help) identified an impressive 42 species of birds, including an adult Peregrine Falcon, and immature Bald Eagle and an Osprey being mobbed by blackbirds all at Berlin Pond! Our complete checklist can be seen below:

Fragile ForktailJuly 9, 2009

Until today, this summer could be described as cold and wet, but the sun was shining this afternoon as summer camp groups explored the outdoors. A short walk to the beaver ponds produced seven species of damselflies including Ebony Jewelwing, Hagen's Bluet, Marsh Bluet, Sedge Sprite, Aurora Damsel, Eastern Forktail and Fragile Forktail (pictured on the right)

June 22, 2009

This morning, a bull moose was sighted trotting across the property! All of our summer camp staff were treated to views of the moose with its budding antlers but it was gone by the time campers arrived.

June 19, 2009

Late last week, a female Snapping Turtle was seen laying eggs in a large pile of wood chips outside the community gardens. As might be guessed, this would have caused problems. In addition to the risk of human disturbance, the eggs may have been more susceptible to drying out. We decided that the best course of action would be to relocate the nest. Today, we set out and transferred 29 eggs to a safer place. Snapping Turtles lay there eggs in the spring, and young emerge from nests in the fall. In the meantime, we will be keeping an eye on them.

luecistic Red-tailed HawkJune 15, 2009

The ninth and final installment of "Tales of Texas", a chronicle of a field-tech studying the Golden-cheeked Warbler in Texas, is now posted. This special series has been produced through NBNC's Youth Birding Program.

luecistic Red-tailed HawkJune 11, 2009

For several weeks, a large, white raptor has been seen along Rt. 12 between the Nature Center and Morrisville. The mystery has finally been solved and the bird has been identified as a luecistic (partial albino) Red-tailed Hawk. Although rare, mutations like this do occur and should be considered in determining an identification. For example, a Snowy Owl in Vermont in June may be an even less likely sighting than an albino Red-tailed Hawk. If you travel Route 12, keep an eye out for this spectacular bird.

June 10, 2009

For the past few weeks the Savannah Sparrows have been very quiet, but they've started singing again from the fields. In the evenings last week, the songs of American Woodcock and Wilson's Snipe were both heard.

June 2, 2009

A pair of Broad-winged Hawks were seen over the Nature Center this afternoon. About 15 minutes after the initial sighting, one of the hawks was spotted flying in the air with the long, slender body of a snake dangling from its talons.


May 29, 2009

Four participants braved the rain for our spring migration bird walk, at Hubbard Park this week. The rain, which varied from light to mderately heavy, hampered our efforts to find birds, but dispite the weather we managed to tally 16 species, with the highlight being two male Scarlet Tanagers on one tree! We also explored the many ferns of Hubbard Park, including New York, Christmas, Interrupted, Cinnimon, and Wood Ferns. Our complete bird list can be seen below:

Hairy Woodpecker American Crow Hermit Thrush Blackburnian Warbler
Eastern Phoebe Black-capped Chickadee American Robin Pine Warbler
Great-crested Flycatcher Winter Wren Northern Parula Ovenbird
Red-eyed Vireo Veery Black-throated Green Warbler Scarlet Tanager

May 27, 2009

Bobolink have persisted on the property and males can be heard and seen singing as they circle over the fields. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have been seen more frequently too, as a pair regularly visits the now-opened lilacs near the main building of the Nature Center. Canadian Tiger Swallowtails are also becoming a more common sight.

May 22, 2009

Our second spring migration bird walk at NBNC turned up a wide variety of birds and some new migrants returning to the area such as Alder Flycatcher and Veery. Ten participants tallied 46 species including Bobolink, which last year only briefly passed through the Nature Center's fields. A full list is shown below:

Hooded Merganser Warbling Vireo American Robin Savannah Sparrow
Rock Pigeon Red-eyed Vireo Gray Catbird Song Sparrow
Mourning Dove Blue Jay European Starling White-throated Sparrow
Ruby-throated Hummingbird American Crow Cedar Waxwing Northern Cardinal
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Common Raven Northern Parula Indigo Bunting
Downy Woodpecker Tree Swallow Yellow Warbler Bobolink
Hairy Woodpecker Black-capped Chickadee Chestnut-sided Warbler Red-winged Blackbird
Alder Flycatcher Tufted Titmouse Black-throated Green Warbler Common Grackle
Eastern Phoebe White-breasted Nuthatch Pine Warbler Baltimore Oriole
Great Crested Flycatcher House Wren American Redstart American Goldfinch
Eastern Kingbird Winter Wren Ovenbird  
Blue-headed Vireo Veery Common Yellowthroat  


May 15, 2009

Participants of our spring migration bird walk, held this morning at Sodom Pond, were treated to a variety or resident birds with highlights including very active Warbling Vireos, very cooperative Wood Ducks and a female Baltimore Oriole constructing a nest. A full bird list form the morning is below:

American Bittern Eastern Phoebe Gray Catbird Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Canada Goose Eastern Kingbird Northern Parula Song Sparrow
Wood Duck Warbling Vireo Chestnut-sided Warbler Swamp Sparrow
Mallard Blue Jay Yellow-rumped Warbler White-throated Sparrow
Ring-necked Duck American Crow Ovenbird Red-winged Blackbird
Broad-winged Hawk Common Raven Northern Waterthrush Common Grackle
Belted Kingfisher Tree Swallow Common Yellowthroat Baltimore Oriole
Northern Flicker Black-capped Chickadee Yellow Warbler American Goldfinch

Rose-breasted GrosbeakMay 14, 2009

We had a Rose-breasted Grosbeak visit the Red Maple outside the office windows this afternoon. It was joined in the tree by several Yellow-rumped Warbkers, a Yellow Warbler, a Blackburnian Warbler and a Pine Siskin. The year's first Indigo Bunting(male) was also seen around the building in its brilliant, blue breeding plumage. Installment 7 of "Tales of Texas" is now posted for more insight into the life of a field tech studying the Golden-cheeked Warbler.

May 12, 2009

This morning and afternoon, several Bobolinks(2 male, 1 female) were seen in the fields, perching and singing from bushes and fence posts. Eastern Kingbirds have been returning to Central Vermont and were seen and heard flying overhead at the Nature Center this morning. A Great Crested Flycatcher was also heard from around the building.

May 11, 2009

An Osprey was seen today flying north along Route 12, parallel to the North Branch of the Winooski River.

Black-necked StiltMay 9, 2009

As a new twist to this annual competition, in which NBNC has participated since 1999, our team was comprised of 'alumni' youth birders, who have participated in past programs and are now pursuing higher education. For 24-hours, we birded non-stop across Cape May County. Fueled by caffeine and adrenaline, the “North Branch Noddies” managed to see and hear 156 different species of birds during the competition (173 total for the trip), topping their previous year’s total and found more rare and unusual birds than ever before including Black-necked Stilt (pictured right), Mississippi AND Swallow-tailed Kites, White-faced Ibis, two dozen warblers and much more. See our Youth Birding News for a full species list and trip report.

May 8, 2009

Our second spring migration bird walk took place this morning at Berlin Pond. Some highlights are listed below

Canada Goose Warbling Vireo Song Sparrow
Mallard Tree Swallow Swamp Sparrow
Common Loon Black-capped Chickadee Red-winged Blackbird
Spotted Sandpiper Yellow Warbler Common Grackle
Pileated Woodpecker Yellow-rumped Warbler American Goldfinch
Eastern Kingbird Common Yellowthroat  

May 6, 2009

A White-crowned Sparrow showed up around the feeder yesterday in the late afternoon, and it was present again this morning. A Brown Thrasher has also been present most of the day, singing loudly from the treetops. Staff and volunteers were also treated to extended views of a Northern Flicker singing from a fence post in the middle of the fields.

May 1, 2009

Nine participants joined NBNC staff this morning for our first spring bird walk of the season here at NBNC. We had an excellent morning of birding tallying 36 species; our list can be found below:

Great Blue Heron American Crow European Starling
Canada Goose Common Raven Yellow Warbler
Merlin Black-capped Chickadee Yellow-rumped Warbler
Spotted Sandpiper Tufted Titmouse Common Yellowthroat
Rock Dove Brown Creeper Savannah Sparrow
Mourning Dove House Wren Song Sparrow
Belted Kingfisher Ruby-crowned Kinglet White-throated Sparrow
Downy Woodpecker Eastern Bluebird Northern Cardinal
Hairy Woodpecker Hermit Thrush Red-winged Blackbird
Northern Flicker American Robin Common Grackle
Eastern Phoebe Gray Catbird Purple Finch
Blue Jay Brown Thrasher American Goldfinch

Also seen today after the bird walk were copulating American Robins, White- and Red-breasted Nuthatches and Pine Siskins.

Red-winged Blackbird (female)April 30, 2009

A very short "scouting" walk around the property yielded the songs of Yellow, Yellow-rumped Warblers and Common Yellowthroat. At lunch, staff were treated to a Broad-winged Hawk calling and circling overhead. Another new arrival is that of female Red-winged Blackbirds (pictured right)! Also, a new installment of "Tales from Texas" is now posted.

April 28, 2009

A school group went on a trip to monitor Peregrine Falcons in Marshfield today with our Youth Birding Program and managed to see one of the Falcons perched on the cliffs where they nest. Wood Frog egg masses were plentiful on our hike, and other birds such as Yellow-rumped Warbler, Winter Wren and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker were seen and heard.

In other news here at NBNC, we had our first Savannah Sparrow of the season visit the feeder today, and although we have heard Chipping Sparrow for the past week, we saw one perch in a Crab Apple tree near the Center and sing its "chipping" song.

April 22, 2009

A new installment of Tales from Texas has been posted. We also had a visit from a Pine Warbler today, which briefly perched and sung from the Red Maple outside the office windows. It was our first Warbler of the season!

April 21, 2009

Our camp group focused on birds today and managed to see 22 species despite the rain! Highlights included a very active Belted Kingfisher, Eastern Phoebes gleaning insects off the water at the beaver pond and a fly by from a Cooper's Hawk.

April 20, 2009

The first White-throated Sparrow of the season paid a visit to the bird feeder this morning. Wood Frog eggs were observed by our camp group, which was studying amphibians today. They also saw a Spring Peeper and Eastern Newts in the beaver pond!
Milbert's Tortoiseshell

April 15, 2009

On another very beautiful, sunny day we've had more signs that winter is gone. A Milbert's Tortoiseshell was seen flying near the Nature Center. Bloodroot and Colt's Foot are in bloom and many green plants are sprouting new growth. Also, a Merlin was heard calling alongside the North Branch of the Winooski River!

April 14, 2009

Tree Swallows have returned to the fields today, and have been seen coming and going from the nest boxes. Eastern Phoebes have also been heard calling from surrounding houses. The male American Goldfinch who continues to visit the feeder has almost fully obtained his breeding plumage and Wood Frog egg masses have been discovered in our small Cattail vernal pool. Purple Finch


April 13, 2009

A male Purple Finch was seen visiting the feeder today, along with our regulars, which now include Red-winged Blackbirds. Farther down the North Branch River, closer to downtown Montpelier, a beaver has been seen over the past few weeks, including this morning!

A new installment of Tales from Texas is now posted in which Alyssa explores sometimes shaky interactions with the public and poses some interesting issues and misconceptions that can occur when dealing with Golden-cheeked Warblers and their preferred ashe juniper habitat.

Spotted SalamanderApril 3, 2009

This evening marked one of the first amphibian movements of the year in central Vermont and a continuation of movements throughout the state. Spotted Salamanders (pictured right), Wood Frogs, and Spring Peepers were found crossing the roads on their annual migration to breeding pools. More can be learned about this phenomenon by visiting NBNC's Amphibian Monitoring Program.

We've also had a barrage of media coverage this spring. Over 100 news outlets from Alaska to Florida, and beyond, have picked up an Associated Press story about the crossing site in New Haven, VT.

April 2, 2009

A new month, and a new first-of-year bird. Two Brown-headed Cowbirds visited the Red Maple outside the office windows this afternoon. Other sightings included that of a male American Goldfinch, whose plumage is transitioning to the brilliant yellow of his summer attire. NBNC staff and volunteers watched as he shared a drink with two Pine Siskins from a puddle on the front step.

Also, the third installment of "Tales from Texas" is now posted. Ever wonder how you tell two Golden-cheeked Warblers apart? Well, I don't want to spoil it, you'll just have to check out Installment 3 to find out.

March 30, 2009

A lone, male Purple Finch visited a small puddle on the Nature Center's front step today, and proceeded to drink from it, no more than 5 feet from onlooking NBNC staff (where was the camera?). The bird had an injured right leg, which could clearly be seen dangling as it hopped on it's left foot. The injury didn't seem to be interfering with this fearless finch's routine, as it was able to fly, hop, and perch normally. After drinking and offering extended views, the small bird flew across the street and didn't return.

March 28, 2009

Another warm day, bringing with it, new signs of spring. The first Dark-eyed Junco in many months was seen visiting the bird feeder today and a pair of Starlings has begun scouting nesting sites on the roofing of the Nature Center.

March 26, 2009

An American Crow was seen today, gathering nesting material (branches) from the Red Maple outside our office window, which always seems to be bustling with wildlife. The second installment of "Tales From Texas" is now posted and is a great read for anyone interested in learning what field work in central Texas can be like.

March 25, 2009

Despite a recent cold spell, signs of spring continue. We now have several Song Sparrows on our property, one of which was singing this morning.

male Mourning Dove preening femaleMarch 19, 2009

It has been another eventful day. Snowdrops are blossoming in front of residences on Elm Street and more bird activity is being seen here on our property. Our first American Robin of the year was seen hopping in one of the few bare, grassy patches in front of the Center. There is also some love in the air. Two Mourning Doves have spent the day together in the Red Maple outside the building. The male has stayed very close to the female, following her where she goes, and preening her when she allows (pictured on the right). At around 2:35pm, they were seen copulating in the tree.


Song SparrowMarch 18, 2009

More signs of spring, with the solstice just days away! We had our first Song Sparrow of the year visit the Nature Center. As we observed the sparrow hopping in some brush, a flock of 18 Canada Geese passed over us, heading north in their classic "V". Male Red-winged Blackbirds were seen in a squabble, fighting to claim the best territory before the females arrive. Each new day seems to bring the excitement of new discoveries.

March 17, 2009

What a beautiful day! Common Grackles are being seen on Route 14 in Montpelier. The carpet of snow shrinks ever thinner and more active insects have appeared, including beetles and spiders. And, Pussy Willows are beginning to blossom. Our group of Pine Siskins have still remained around the bird feeder. More signs of spring to come!

March 16, 2009

We've finally heard the sound that we've all been waiting for. Staff were greeted to the "conk-a-reeeee" of Red-winged Blackbirds at the Nature Center this morning. There is also a growing amount of insect activity outside the Center, namely, our Cluster Fly colony sunning itself on the building. Stay tuned for more signs of spring to come!

March 10, 2009

A long-time NBNC volunteer called today to report an Otter swimming in the river near Shaw's in downtown Montpelier. And as spring rapidly approaches, we'll be posting the events that mark its arrival here in the "Nature News".

White-winged Crossbill

February 17, 2009

A lone White-winged Crossbill spent the better part of the morning near a group of tall White Pine Trees next to the NBNC building today. It was foragingamongst the cones and various other debris recently exposed by melting snow, occasionally venturing into the trees to explore the few remaining cones which hung from the branches. A homeschool group, visiting to discuss winter birds as part of our Youth Birding Program, was privileged to extended views of the Crossbill, which approached us within 10 feet as it hopped about in the snow. At the same time, a Pileated Woodpecker (also seen yesterday) was working the trees across the street from the Nature Center.

February 12, 2009

Barred Owl with CrowA Barred Owl was present today for several hours in downtown Montpelier. The owl was seen by many pedestrians passing by as it perched in a Cedar across the street from the post office, clenching an American Crow in its talons. The dark shape at the bottom of the frame is the crow.

February 5, 2009

A Pileated Woodpecker was seen this morning on Elm Street near the intersection of Winter St. and Elm St.

February 1, 2009

A Red Tailed Hawk was reported off North Street, above the pool/rec field today and two Common Mergansers on the Winnooski River just east of Montpelier. Also an unidentified raptor (possibly a Rough-legged Hawk or a Northern Harrier) was spotted by LePage Farm.

January 26, 2009

An adult Bald Eagle was reported today on the Winooski River today, in the vicinity of Montpelier High School.

Snowy OwlJanuary 24, 2009

The North Branch Nature Center's youth birding team, "The Noddies", competed this weekend in the Superbowl of Birding. We started the day with Eastern Screech-Owl and ended it with Snowy Owl, and saw tons of great birds in between. For more details, and for a complete list of birds seen, visit the News section of your Youth Birding Page.

January 22, 2009

Chip spotted a flock of 50+ Bohemian Waxwings at the Hunger Mountain Coop this morning. Also, Pine Siskins have continued at the NBNC birdfeeders.

January 21, 2009

An American Robin was seen foraging on the ice on a frozen portion of the Winooski River in Montpelier.

January 19, 2009

Four Bohemian Waxwings put in a quick visit today, perching high in the Sugar Maple in front of the building, and periodically diving towards the Crab Apple trees to feed on the remaining fruit. After 15 minutes they dispersed and weren't seen again. Staff also took a short hike in search of White-winged Crossbills, which have been numerous around the state this winter. One was heard, but not seen, in a Hemlock-rich section of North Branch River Park.

Northern ShrikeJanuary 14, 2009

Nature Center staff were treated to views of a Northern Shrike, which briefly landed in the Red Maple outside our windows and went after a Black-capped Chickadee. The two birds disappeared around the corner of the building, and we could not confirm or deny that the Chickadee escaped. After the encounter, the remaining Chickadees around the feeder sat motionless for several minutes, and then left for the rest of the day. Other birds seen around the feeder today include Blue Jay, White-breasted Nuthatch, Northern Cardinal, Pine Siskin and American Goldfinch.

January 10, 2009

Members of our Youth Birding Program set out today for the Mid-winter Bald Eagle Survey; a project started in the late-70's to monitor the recovery of this species. Although our group didn't see any Bald Eagles along our transect, which covered the Lower Winooski River, we had an abundance of winter finch sightings. Pine Siskin, Common Redpoll, White-winged Crossbill, and Pine Grosbeaks were all seen. Several Canada Geese, Common Mergansers, and a Northern Pintail were also spotted amongst a group of several hundred Mallards and Black Ducks at Muddy Brook Park in South Burlington.

January 8, 2009

A neighbor of the Nature Center reported a Red-bellied Woodpecker today at their feeder on Elm Street.

January 6, 2009

Happy New Year! Our year is off to a nice start here at the Nature Center. Yesterday, our feeder was visited by a small group of Pine Siskins and our regular Brown Creeper made an appearance on the Red Maple outside the Center. Today, a male Northern Cardinal visited the feeder briefly, and a small flock of American Goldfinches has been hanging around.

Previous Nature News


North Branch Nature Center
713 Elm Street, Montpelier VT 05602
(802) 229-6206

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