Field Identification #4 April 8th, 2019


The adventure of the day was to Island Line Trail on Lake Champlain. The date is April7th, 2019; a Sunday. I went at dusk around 6:30pm. I heard about this spot from my ornithology professor because it was such a popular birding site. Going so late in the day allowed me to observe ample species preparing for the night. The aim was to follow the trail on the water to see some Mallards, Gulls, and other waterfowl. I accidently went the wrong way on the trail leading me to the Burlington and Colchester Bridge which I then continued to follow until reaching Delta Park. This lead through swampy, mini forests. There was a high abundance of oak, paired with small ponds and medium grasses. This birding trip brought me calls and songs from all over throughout my entire trip.
Migration is such a fascinating concept to me. The fact that they have learned seasons and resource distribution is amazing; some fly across the entire country to obtain resources they wouldn’t get in Vermont’s winters. Canadian geese for instance, the majority are now permanent residents but with a few exceptions, they migrate to a variety of places. Since there is variety in the way they choose to migrate, this species is facultative. With this, the geese that have chosen to settle here for the winter have less competition for food resource and habitats, allowing them to survive during our harsh winters. Whereas the others that migrate south increase their flock size which is also beneficial due to increased flock size which has an abundance of advantages like protection, more food supply coming in and even guidance for juvenile geese. Snow covers the majority of vegetation for a variety of species. Lots of mammals increase their body fat to survive through another hibernation period whereas avian species do not (except the common poorwill). They collect before the coverage takes over which allows them to survive in blizzards and other winter storms where it’s too dangerous of conditions to forage. With that being said, supplies eventually run short and those who rely on grasses and insects are forced to move somewhere in order to find a food resource. With spring, open lands are defrosted and sprinkled with an abundance of new seeds carried by other species, winds and flooding from the rainy spring months. This makes migrants come back, resources are high again and breeding’s start. As an obligate migrator, there are advantages and disadvantages to migrating to places like Burlington in April. Advantages are migration clocks which carry a variety of protective males which keeps the flock safe when migrating to a new spot where there might be new predators. Competition is one of the largest disadvantages to obligate migrators, with species returning home, they all seem to come around the same time. Establishing territories, resting from the migration, the start of stocking up, and even breeding spots are high for competition. Island Line Trail is one of the best places to examine these changes in species movement, the amount of songs I heard coming from the trees and small flock of Canadian geese was everything you want while on a birding trip.
As I was walking down the trail, I could hear red-winged blackbirds, song sparrows, and chickadees. There were so many more that I heard but could not identify. I do believe I found one red-winged blackbird perched in a tree right outside the bridge letting out a single note call. Adjacent to the red-winged blackbird, there were about five or six Canadian geese that seemed like they were almost playing. Skimming the water with their wings stretched was an amazing sight, unfortunately I was unable to capture a video of it because I just watched them for a moment to see what they were actually doing. They were “honking” so loud and consistently, it was such a site. Upon reaching Delta Park, I noticed an information board off to the right. It informed the public of certain plant species they could plant to allow protection from the harsh environment of Vermont’s winters. It also held the names of regular habitants of that area. This included green heron, bald eagle, black-bellied plover and then arctic migrators like snowy owl, northern shrike and tundra swan. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any of these species but it’s great to know that they are the regulars of this area. The main species I planned to map their migration routes were the Canadian geese since they were the star of my birding trip. From researching them on All About Birds, I found that they migrate in the summer to a common area called James Bay in between Ontario and Quebec. To migrators that chose to move south usually end up in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana. While on Canadian geographic I saw a map of which they called the southern migration the Mississippi flyway for Canadian geese. As it didn’t say much about where in Mississippi, I just used the state as a whole for a landmark when trying to map out the migration pattern of Canadian geese. They would have traveled 1,427 miles from my site to Mississippi. Traveling by car, that takes almost 22 hours, such a small amount of time when comparing the flight of the geese. Avian species go through a variety of obstacles throughout the year and it is completely astonishing the amount of evolution and adaptations that have made our modern species today.

Posted by chey_conn chey_conn, April 09, 2019 02:33


Photos / Sounds



Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus




April 7, 2019 07:02 PM EDT


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