As the northern hemisphere dips into its winter angle, we wave many of our small songbird neighbors bon voyage on their migratory journeys. But there is one tiny passerine that stays here waving with us, and chooses not to migrate away from our frigid temperatures: the black-capped chickadee. Chickadees, in fact, hardly shrink from view as the winter encroaches; instead they are bold, brazen, and positively belligerent.
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.
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.
Bird feeding is a popular and enjoyable winter pastime for many people, bringing birds in close for easy viewing. While it is widely practiced and can even help biologists monitor populations through programs such as Project FeederWatch, there are some potential negative side effects of feeding birds.
You may have noticed that this year was a big year for monarchs. At VINS, we were right in the middle of what is being called a “banner year” for these butterflies. Now that fall is in full swing, many of them are on their way south for the winter.
I am often floored by how quickly the seasons go by, from our brief spring in Vermont, to the flurry of autumn colors. But what I find even more impressive is the speed of the full nesting cycle of our native songbirds.
Once the sun is set, a whole new world awakens. While owls are hooting, thousands of insects start buzzing. Needing only a light and a sheet, “mothing” is the amazing experience of observing the hundreds of moths and other insects you can attract right in your backyard.