Three billion is the number of birds lost to North American populations in the last 50 years. It’s also a low-end estimate of the number of Passenger Pigeons that once lived on the North American continent. These birds were said to number so many that flights of them overhead could darken the sky. The fact that humans alone as a species were responsible for this devastating extinction is terrifying but, viewed from a certain angle, hopeful.
Summers in the Center for Wild Bird Rehabilitation (CWBR) can best be described as chaotically busy.
CWBR staff receive upwards of 30 phone calls a day regarding injured wildlife across New England, all while caring for countless critical care patients in the ICU, receiving and examining between 5-15 new patients a day, and feeding baby birds every half hour from 6am to 8pm. Summer 2020 could also be described as such, but on a much greater scale.
Game cameras have long been used by researchers in the study of wildlife. These remote cameras allow for an exciting look into how wildlife behaves in the absence of human disturbance. Cameras can be used to detect the presence of different species in an area, monitor animal passage in certain corridors, or estimate how a population of a target species is fairing. They are also used in many different projects throughout the world.
This fall marked the first season of an official hawk watch site on the top of Mt. Ascutney. Prior to that Vermont had three official sites throughout the state. With the help of VINS staff and volunteers we were able to staff the site for a total of about 46 hours. A total of 108 birds were observed in that period.
And just like that summer is almost over. While we are still running several research projects through the fall and winter, the end of warmer temperatures means an end to nesting birds. Even in the rehab department, they are almost through baby bird season with only a few straggling fledgling chimney swifts in care. This brief period of down time allows us to look back at the results from nesting season here on our campus.
Each week starts off with walking the trails and checking on the camera traps around campus. There are currently four game cameras at VINS positioned strategically along wildlife trails in the hopes of inventorying the diverse species on the property. They are off the main hiking trails in areas of quality animal habitat. There are also two cameras at Old Pepper Place that are checked monthly. So far the cameras have revealed several interesting species including some that are not routinely seen on campus. So far the highlights have included, three deer fawns, bobcat, fisher, bear, coyotes, gray foxes, mink, raccoons, skunk, and a flying squirrel.
As monarchs slowly return to Vermont, reports of observations are starting to come in throughout the state. With sightings all around it was only a matter of time before they returned to our campus meadow.
Old Pepper Place is a unique homestead located in Chelsea Vermont near the end of a class four road. Its remote location makes it a great place for VINS camp in the summer and more importantly a perfect home for wildlife. With that in mind I ventured out on a citizen science mission. My goal was to start an index of wildlife and document as many species as I could. Armed with binoculars, a couple of wildlife cameras, and iNaturalist on my phone I set off.
As we spring into a new season, most people are not sorry to seeing the slush and ice give way to new things – wildflowers, warm weather, and most of all, singing birds. But it is also time to say farewell, for another year at least, to one of my favorite citizen science projects: Project FeederWatch.