Through the Window: November Feeder Birds – and Others

What a lovely month! We started this winter’s Feeder Watch, and had a few notable visitors. Here’s the month’s list, more or less in the order spotted.

Black-capped Chickadee Carving
Black-capped Chickadee
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Blue Jay
  • Fox Sparrow
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Ruffed Grouse
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Mourning Dove
  • Evening Grosbeak
  • American Goldfinch
  • Red-breasted nuthatch
  • Wild Turkey
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Rusty Blackbird
  • American Tree Sparrow

And of course, both the Gray and Red squirrels “assisted” with the corn and seed on the ground…

Identify the bird: Rusty Blackbird? Common Grackle?

possible a Rusty Blackbird (but not in fall plumage?) or Common Grackle (but that tail is too short)
Possibly a Rusty Blackbird (but not in fall plumage?) or Common Grackle (but that tail is too short?)

Can you help with this bird? It has features of a Rusty Blackbird and of a Common Grackle according to our research in Sibley’s and the National Geographic field guides, and our experienced birders Bob Spear and Gale Lawrence.

The photos were taken on a rainy day (October 29) through our viewing window, so they are a bit low-light and there are occasional water drops.

You can click on the images in the slideshow below to see five different pictures (including a bigger version of the one to the left).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

the Big Sit! 2010 Results

On Sunday,  October 10, the Museum hosted the Loonatics and their Big Sit! circle.  Thanks to Jim O. for coordinating the event and to all the volunteers who joined in. It was a beautiful day, and several people contributed excellent food to keep us warm.

We identified 27 species. The time sheet:

Time Common Name
0626 White-throated Sparrow
0633 Mourning Dove
0633 Northern Cardinal
0634 Dark-eyed Junco
0646 American Crow
0648 Blue Jay
0648 American Goldfinch
0650 Black-capped Chickadee
0656 White-breasted Nuthatch
0659 Red-breated Nuthatch
0703 Hairy Woodpecker
0709 Downy Woodpecker
0712 Common Raven
0721 Evening Grosbeak
0740 Tufted Titmouse
0759 American Robin
0832 Yellow-rumped Warbler
0836 Canada Goose
0920 Blue-headed Vireo
1104 Turkey Vulture
1154 Purple Finch
1307 Sharp-shinned Hawk (Female)
1348 Golden-crowned Kinglet
1359 Northern Harrier
1413 Red-tailed Hawk
1416 Cooper’s Hawk
1748 Barred Owl

Feeding hummingbirds in fall

I received a call today from a woman wondering what to do about hummingbirds. Two juvenile birds still come to her feeder, but she hasn’t seen the parents in some time. Should she take in the feeder? Is the food she provides keeping those young birds from migrating? Will they migrate without the parents? Are the parents still around, just not coming to her feeder?

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Female (woodcarving)
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Female (carved by Bob Spear)

I asked Bob Spear, since he’s got considerably more experience as a naturalist than I do–decades more.

“Leave it up,” he says. In fact, our hummingbird feeders are still up at the Museum and we saw a female ruby-throated hummingbird on Tuesday the 14th of September.  He tells us the males head south earlier than females and young ones, and he suspects that the female parent of the two juveniles is still nearby. Furthermore, migrating individuals from further north may stop at feeders on their way south (and in this week’s chilly rain, every bit helps). “It’s a myth,” he says, “that our feeders will keep them from migrating when it’s time for them to go.”

So enjoy your last glimpses of these little birds, glinting against the autumn leaves.

Sunday morning walk

[As posted to VTBIRD mailing list by Erin Talmage]
We started with a soggy morning walk and ended at the Museum’s viewing
window drinking bird-friendly coffee and eating local baked goods.

Our species list for the entire morning:

Great crested Flycatcher
Cedar Waxwing
American Goldfinch
Song Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
American Robin
Wood Duck
Black and White Warbler
Blue Jay
Yellow bellied Sapsucker
Evening Grosbeak
Brown-headed Cowbird
Mourning Dove
Hairy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Wild Turkey
Dark-eyed Junco
Indigo Bunting

Join us on June 13th, June 20th, and/or June 27th  for another bird walk.
(We always end our walks with coffee and goodies!)

For more details and a complete schedule of events see

Louisiana Waterthrush sighted

Louisiana Waterthrush, carved by Robert Spear, Jr.
Louisiana Waterthrush, carved by Robert Spear, Jr.

Guest post from Shirley Johnson, Board President, Birds of Vermont Museum, and today’s Guide on the Early Morning Bird Walk

We had good views of a Louisiana Waterthrush this morning during the weekly Sunday morning bird walk at the Birds of Vermont Museum.  The bird was seen in the woods on the south side of Sherman Hollow Road, on the nature trails open to guests of the museum, on the hillside in the watershed area above the duckpond.

More info:

Early Morning Bird Walks
Lousiana Waterthrush:

Signs of Spring

People have been noting on Twitter and on the radio various signs of spring. We like to look for changing bird plumage, ourselves.

The bright yellow shoulder feathers on the goldfinch are a sign of spring
Gold Signs of Spring

Sometimes there are just hints to start…


In our exhibits, the nesting birds are carved and painted in their breeding plumage; the wetland diorama birds are not. Come by and compare what you’ve seen to the carvings, and learn what to look for! We’re open by appointment until April 30th, then open for regular hours.

The 2010 Great Backyard Bird Count, February 12-15

Camel's Hump: view from the Birds of Vermont Museum's backyard
Camel's Hump: view from the Birds of Vermont Museum's backyard

Interested in yet another good reason to go birding? How about the Great Backyard Bird Count? It’s another Citizen Science project we do here, and it’s always open to more participants.

We’ll be open on February 13, Saturday, from 9-4. Come by to learn more about it, to count birds, or just visit.

Here’s a brief introduction from the Cornell Lab or Ornithology’s e-newsletter:

The next Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) takes place Friday, February 12 through Monday, February 15, 2010. The National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology are calling on everyone to “Count for Fun, Count for the Future!” During last year’s count, participants turned in more than 93,600 checklists online, creating the continent’s largest instantaneous snapshot of bird populations ever recorded. …[T]he success of the count depends on people tallying birds from as many locations as possible across the continent.

Spread the word …through our volunteer ambassador program. Volunteer ambassadors do a variety of things, including hanging up GBBC fliers, giving presentations in their community, and even talking to their local media. For more ideas on how to promote the GBBC, fill out the online ambassador sign-up form and specify the kinds of activities you’d like to do.

More info from the National Audubon Society:
or from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

Birds of Vermont Museum and Green Mountain Audubon celebrate International Migratory Bird Day on May 16, 2009

IMBD kids flying smallThe Birds of Vermont Museum is again partnering with Green Mountain Audubon Center to celebrate International Migratory Bird Day on May 16, 2009. The celebration is suitable for all ages and will include bird walks, live bird shows, and programs and activities for children.
The activities will begin at 10:00 at the Birds of Vermont Museum (900 Sherman Hollow Road) with a Morning Bird Walk. Other events include a Children’s Bird Program (10:30), Live Bird Show (11:30 and 12:30), and a Carving Demonstration (1:00). On-going events include indoor and outdoor scavenger hunts and arts and crafts for kids. Events at the Green Mountain Nature Center include a Bird Banding Demonstration (10:00), Decorate and Eat a Bird Cookie (12:00-4:00), Children’s Games (1:30), and Children’s Bird Program (2:30). All day activities include scavenger hunts, arts and crafts for kids, and live music by the Swing Peepers.

This event has been generously sponsored by Northfield Savings Bank.

International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) has been celebrated around the world since 1993. It is an annual event to celebrate and support migratory bird conservation. The theme for IMBD 2009 is Celebrating Birds in Culture, by exploring the role birds lay in the lives of native people throughout the Americas.

International Migratory Bird Day was initially created by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service oversaw the program from 1995 to 2006. The program continues to spread in popularity and scope. Since 2007, it has been coordinated by Environment of Americas (EFTA). Throughout its history IMBD continues to celebrate the amazing feats of migratory birds. Festivals and other events occur from Canada to Central America. For information about other festivals see Originally, IMBD was celebrated on the second Saturday in May. Not all birds are in the peak of migration at this point, and recently EOA has been promoting the idea that “every day is bird day.” They recommend organizations pick days more suitable to migration patterns in their area. In Vermont our migratory birds return from late February through May. We time our celebration when many of Vermont’s colorful warblers have just returned. The Birds of Vermont Museum was recently recognized for hosting IMBD events for more than 10 years.

Snacks and drinks will be for sale at the Birds of Vermont Museum. Picnic tables are available at both venues. For more information, directions, or detailed schedules please see or

Winter Birds of the Lake Champlian Basin

Watching a Red-tailed HawkWe had a great trip on Saturday February 7th on our winter birding trip led by Jim Andrews. We met in Vergennes and drove south making a big loop. We saw red-tailed hawk, rough-legged hawk, rock pigeon, mourning dove, downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, blue jay. American crow, common raven, horned lark, black-capped chickadee, tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, astern bluebird, American robin, European starling, American tree sparrow, white-throated sparrow, dark-eyed junco, snow bunting, red-winged blackbird, purple finch, house finch, common redpoll, pine siskin, American goldfinch, house sparrow. This is the second winter birding trip that Jim had led. We have decided his next trip will be during migration when we can look for open water AND not need to be wearing 400 layers!

We’ll keep you posted.