What do you know about coffee certification?

Some of us coffee-drinkers are pretty well steeped into knowing everything we can about the beverage and its effects on the world. Most of us are happy just to have some coffee. Where do you fall in this spectrum?

We’re up at the Feverish World Symposium this weekend, with a pop-up exhibit called How Do You Take Your Coffee? Come check it out—ask questions, take a pledge, and learn something about migratory birds and different types of coffee agriculture. Stimulate your curiosity! Continue reading “What do you know about coffee certification?”

Attracting Birds to Your Yard Naturally (re-post from VT FWD)

VERMONT FISH and WILDLIFE sent out this press release. It’s great advice and ideal for Vermonters, so we asked and got their permission to post it here. Thank you, Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department (especially Tom Rogers and John Buck).

For Immediate Release: October 2, 2018
Media Contacts:  John Buck, 802-476-0796

MONTPELIER, Vt – Vermonters love to see birds around their home, and putting out bird feeders is a popular way to attract our feathered friends to back yards. Vermont is among the top states in the country for people who report feeding and watching birds near their home.

However, birds aren’t the only wildlife attracted by birdseed. Continue reading “Attracting Birds to Your Yard Naturally (re-post from VT FWD)”

The Echoes of their Wings: a Talk by Joel Greenberg

This post appeared first in our late summer 2014 issue of Chip Notes.

Joel Greenberg, author and educator
Joel Greenberg

The passenger pigeon, abundant beyond current imagining, is gone. What can we, did we, and will we learn from our relationship to and with this remarkable species?

In recognition of the centenary observance of the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon, the Museum features the bird’s improbable story as our special art/science exhibit for 2014, using a variety of informative and conceptual displays.

Now you can listen for “the echoes of their wings” in a conversation with author Joel Greenberg, a naturalist and author affiliated with the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum at the University of Chicago. Through the generosity of the Lucille Greenough lecture series, the Museum is delighted to be able to host Joel for his talk The Echoes of Their Wings: The Life and Legacy of the Passenger Pigeon on Wednesday, October 8th, 2014 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. The talk will be presented on the University of Vermont campus, 207 Lafayette Hall.

Greenberg spoke at the Fairbanks Museum in March of this year, where he received high marks for his work and insights into the destruction of one species and the need to protect and promote diversity in nature. This October event, co-sponsored by the Birds of Vermont Museum and Green Mountain Audubon Society, promises to be informative and thought-provoking. We hope to hear some discussions break out well before you’ve left the venue. There is a suggested donation of $15 ($5 for students).

About Joel Greenberg

Joel Greenberg played a leading role in creating and launching Project Passenger Pigeon (http://www.passengerpigeon.org), which promotes a deeper awareness of the roles humans play in species’ extinction and in effective conservation. Serving as a research associate of the Field Museum and the Chicago Academy of Sciences Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Greenberg’s keen interest in natural history is evident through his authorship of both A Feathered River Across the Sky and A Natural History of the Chicago Region. As a natural history educator, Greenberg has taught at the Morton Arboretum, the Brookfield Zoo, and the Chicago Botanic Garden. Please enjoy a visit to his blog at http://www.birdzilla.com/blog/.

—Allison Gergely



SNOWY OWL: fierce, beautiful, and visiting a town near you

During the winter 2011 – 2012 Vermont experienced an irruption migration (a sudden upsurge in a specific population) of Snowy Owls (Nyctea scandiaca) which heightened interest in these hardy raptors from both casual and dedicated birders, and it looks like it is happening again! New data fill the Snowy Owl eBird page with details of recent sightings around Burlington, Addison, and towns to the west. Pictures and stories are being shared on bird listservs, Facebook postings, and over coffee with a friend.

Historically, Snowy Owls are known migrants to the southern portions of the Canadian Territories and northern half of the U. S. in winter. Summer’s breeding and nesting season, however, is spent in the circumpolar regions of Europe, Scandinavia, and Greenland where the arctic tundra offers only a barren grassland landscape. Snowy Owls primarily consume lemmings which depend on Arctic grasses and sedges for nesting sites. When vegetation is insufficient, Snowy Owl populations are significantly affected too. Therefore, Snowy Owls are essentially nomadic, breeding where and when prey is abundant.

During an October 4, 2013 talk by noted owl expert Denver Holt, of Montana’s Owl Research Institute, he vividly painted a picture of the Snowy Owl’s strength and determination in not only raising offspring in a demanding habitat but simply surviving its harsh austerity.

Specializing in owl research for the last twenty years, Mr. Holt has spent many summers in Barrow, Alaska trekking across miles of tundra in order to observe and document Snowy Owl breeding pairs and their behavior. Males in breeding plumage are brilliantly white. Their larger mates are easily recognizable with black barring on their breast feathers and primary flight feathers. Largely diurnal, the owls gaze with piercing golden eyes out across the flat lands, wary of two-legged interlopers and watchful for lemmings (Snowy Owls may individually consume as many as 1,600 in one year). Nesting sites are typically raised hummocks of arctic grasses that have been scooped out at the top to create depressions, often plucked of moss and lichens to reveal the peat layer beneath. The white, slightly elongated eggs are laid every two days over the course of ten days. Male Snowy Owls exhibit territorial hooting displays and can produce a variety of calls, such as barking, when agitated by perceived invaders near the nest. Females vocalize with a whistling sound or a mewing call before and after the male Snowy Owl feeds her, or as part of her distraction display. Both male and female Snowy Owls hiss at perceived threats soon after their chicks have hatched. Chicks produce chirping calls but cannot hiss until they are several weeks old.

The Holt research team’s most recent results in studying the breeding ecology of Snowy Owls indicated that Snowy Owl nests have increased in number as has the tally of non-breeding adults. Care is taken to record the numbers of lemmings in a given year and study as well. A correlation between lemming numbers and Snowy Owl population fluctuations has been suggested from analysis of the data over the two decades of collection. This information is significant enough to encourage Mr. Holt to advocate for monitoring the effects of Arctic climate change, through its effect on the Arctic grasses, sedges, and forbs that lemmings consequently consume, and based on the population numbers of the predatory Snowy Owl and its prey, the lemming.
As stated, Mr. Holt has a long tradition of working with student researchers and others in revisiting Snowy Owl breeding grounds to update information on the behavior and population statistics of this magnificent species.

While the task may be considered both personally and scientifically rewarding, the journey is demanding for each individual. The daily trek to a nesting site may involve a 15-20 mile hike with equipment in hand. In order to complete its objectives, the research crew must approach the nest and chicks cautiously yet deliberately. Mr. Holt described the fearsome power and speed employed by male Snowy Owls in striking at interlopers too close to their nests and chicks. Apparently, his Patagonia expedition-wear was fully tested as a protective covering: duct tape marks the spots where the owls’ well-aimed talons met their marks on his parka.

Denver Holt spoke about Snowy Owls as a fundraiser for the Birds of Vermont Museum, who suffered extensive damage this summer due to a flash flood. In addition to wowing the audience with his knowledge, his enthusiasm, and his dedication, he wowed the staff and the Museum’s Board with an amazing offer. Anyone who donates a significant amount to assist in the building of the Museum’s bridge will be able to join Denver Holt in the field. The lucky participant can either join the research team in Barrows Alaska to assist with the snowy owl study, or with one of his many other projects in Montana. Please contact the Museum for more details!

This article also appeared in the December 2013 issue of the Vermont Great Outdoors Magazine
Allison Gergely, Museum Educator, Birds of Vermont Museum

The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds of Vermont

Guest post by Kir Talmage, Outreach and IT Coordinator for the Birds of Vermont Museum. This article also appeared in the Vermont Great Outdoor Magazine.

atlas-cover-1800The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds of Vermont is out! As you likely know, an Atlas is

a : a bound collection of maps often including 
illustrations, informative tables, or textual 
b : a bound collection of tables, charts, or plates

This meager definition masks the huge intention and effort that goes into the creation and revision of an Atlas. This particular Atlas is the product of a state-wide breeding birds research project that has spanned ten years, brought together some 57,000 observations, and drew on 350 volunteers. It epitomizes a successful citizen science project. The data (observations) were pulled together by Vermont Center for Ecostudies into one beautiful reference book, which was published in April of this year. The completed Atlas—with maps, individual species accounts, discussions of Vermont’s habitat and land use changes, and analyses of the data—has already helped scientists and policy makers decide how best to work and plan for avian conservation. Continue reading “The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds of Vermont”

Bird and Birding apps for kids and adults

A nice young couple visited yesterday with their two year old son who is really into birds (and bears).  The dad, asked about bird Apps. Here’s a combined reply from our Museum Educator and Executive Director!

Lots of bird ID apps for adults. They vary on ID tips, recordings, ability to keep lists, etc.  I like the Audubon Guides, but know others who like iBirdPro, Sibley Guide, and Peterson guides. For example, a short list of bird Apps recommended to us by two of our favorite, fervent birders:

To find bird related apps for my son (age 3), I just typed into the search fields variations of  “bird”, “quiz”, “toddler”, etc.  I like (and so does my son ) the Toddler Teaser apps. They have apps to help kids recognize letters, numbers, and animals (including birds).

The choices are extensive!

Added later: BirdDiva also recommends  the Audubon Guides (from Green Mountain Digital)

What happens when you take some binoculars apart?

Our Exploring Binoculars program today was a blast! Investigators ranged from about 7 to about 65 years old. It was a technical sort of program, more about how they work than about how to use them. We did a little demo/inquiry first,  with light and lenses and prisms, asking “What might happen if …” questions and then doing that to see what really does happen. Fun seeing upside-down light bulb images on tissue paper become reversed on sweatshirts! (See that “how they work” link for what we did.)

Then we laid out some defective binoculars donated for the express purpose of disassembly (cleaning and reassembly optional). Continue reading “What happens when you take some binoculars apart?”

Check out birds between tastes of syrup

Sugaring Time?

In honor of Vermont’s annual Maple Open House Weekend and Audubon Vermont’s Maple Sugar on Snow Parties, the Birds of Vermont Museum will be open on March 25, 25 and the 31st (Saturday, Sunday, and Saturday).

Take a break between sampling one of Vermont’s best sweet treats and come learn about the birds that nest on maple trees and use the sugarbush to raise their young.

We will be open from 10 – 4 each day. Continue reading “Check out birds between tastes of syrup”