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).


Through the Window: October Birds at the Feeders

If you’ve been to see us, you know that we record these birds on a whiteboard by the viewing window. The handwriting on the board is varied, as staff, volunteers, and even visitors will jot down the common name of birds they see. This month, against the final changes in foliage, we noted:

Brown Creeper, carved by Robert N. Spear, Jr.
Brown Creeper, wood carving by Robert N. Spear, Jr.
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Blue Jay
  • Evening Grosbeak
  • Black-capped chickadee
  • American Goldfinch
  • White-crowned sparrow
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Purple Finch (male)
  • American Crow
  • Mourning Dove
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Brown Creeper
  • Fox Sparrow
  • Ruffed Grouse
  • Song Sparrow
  • Rusty Blackbirds (unless they were Common Grackles?)

Birding the Basin: Results from October 24

The weather on October 24th was rain, rain, and then some more rain. And chilly! But 9 intrepid birders traveled the Champlain Valley Basin, checking the skies, fields, and puddles for birds (migrating and otherwise). It was lots of fun and there was a lot of laughter. Thank you, Shirley, for providing us this list! Birds are listed in the order seen.

  • American Crow
  • European Starling
  • House Sparrow
  • Canada Goose
  • American Kestrel
  • Mourning Dove
  • Rock Pigeons
  • Northern Harrier
  • Song Sparrow
  • Blue Jay
  • American Robin
  • Snow Goose
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Northern Cardinal
  • White-breasted nuthatch
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Black-crowned night heron
  • Wood Duck
  • American Goldfinch
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Mallard
  • American Black Duck
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Northern Pintail
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Blue-winged Teal
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Surf Scoter
  • Horned Grevbe
  • Common Loon
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Great Black-backed Gull (not a Black Duck as I’d earlier mis-read the note –Kir)
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Wild Turkey
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Northern Flicker

If you are on FaceBook, and you have photos, feel free to post them on the event Wall (Facebook event page: ). We’re also happy to link any online photos to this post if you send us the link.

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

Come to the Fall Festival, Saturday October 9

Come to our Fall Festival Saturday, October 9, 2010Enjoy our Fall Festival with Woodcarvers — Live birds — Used Books/Garage Sale — Nature Journal Workshop — Insect Info — Birds!

Woodcarvers will be demonstrating their art in the workshop.
Carol Winfield returns with live birds at 11:00.
Find something wonderful at our Used Books/Garage Sale.
Heather Fitzgerald offers a Nature Journal Workshop.
Rhonda Mace from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture will answer questions about Invasive Insects.
Kids activities and games, nature walks.

Celebrate a great year!
Fun for Everyone!

Through the Window: September Feeder Birds

Against the shifting foliage, we’ve seen many birds (some the last of the year, as they migrate southwards).  Nearby, we also observed a mammal of some note!


  • Blue Jay
  • Grackle
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird (last male on 9/7/2010; last female on 9/14/2010)
  • Purple Finch
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • American Goldfinch
  • Mourning Dove
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak (still here 9/11/2010)
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Black-capped chickadee
  • White-throated Sparrow (9/17/2010, 9/29/2010)
  • Easter Phoebe
  • Pileated Woodpecker — swooping over and museum
  • Song Sparrow
  • Bluebird (9/28, 11:30 a.m.)


  • Bobcat sighted by a cyclist on 9/20/2010 at 1:33 p.m., just north of museum parking lot on Sherman Hollow Road

And something you can’t actually see from the window, but must get up and walk to:

Autumn Flowers at the Birds of Vermont Museum
Autumn Flowers at the Birds of Vermont Museum. Photo taken in September 2005 in the field between the road and the pond.

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.