October 07, 2021

September Photo-observation of the Month: Upland Sandpiper

Congratulations to iNaturalist user Coleen Lawlor for winning the September 2021 Photo-observation of the Month for the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist. Her photos of a handsome and uncommon Upland Sandpiper roaming the grassy plains of the William H. Morse State Airport in Bennington received the most faves of any iNaturalist observation in Vermont during the past month.

Upland Sandpipers are almost exclusively found in large, contiguous grassland habitats during the breeding season, and as such have been steadily declining in the state (and North America in general) due to habitat fragmentation as well as earlier and more frequent mowing and haying of suitable fields. The 2nd Vermont Breeding Bird Atlas reported an 85% decrease statewide. With this in mind, any Upland Sandpiper sighting in the state will surely draw the attention of birders. This individual was first spotted by a pilot taxiing on the runway of the airport, who snapped a distant photo and sent it to a bird-savvy friend. Several local birders were able to peer past the airport fencing in the coming weeks and see this grassland sandpiper strolling alongside runways and seemingly taking full advantage of the human-altered grassland surrounding the runway. While perhaps not as famous as Konza, this Upland Sandpiper was a truly exciting find well-documented by Coleen!

[caption id="attachment_11748" align="alignnone" width="1142"] With 18,334 observations submitted by 1,907 observers in September, it was very competitive. Click on the image above to see and explore all of the amazing observations.[/caption]

Visit the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist where you can vote for the winner this month by clicking the ‘fave’ star on your favorite photo-observation. Make sure you get outdoors and record the biodiversity around you, then submit your discoveries and you could be a winner!

Posted on October 07, 2021 14:09 by kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 24, 2021

Don't Forget to Fav Photos for the September Winner!

Cast your votes and be counted! You can 'fav' any observation that you like to vote for the Vermont Atlas of Life iNaturalist photo-observation of the month. Located to the right of the photographs and just below the location map is a star symbol. Click on this star and you've fav'ed an observation. At the end of each month, we'll see which photo-observation has the most favs and crown them the monthly winner. Check out awesome observations and click the star for those that shine for you. Vote early and often!

Check out who is in the lead and see a list of all of this month's photo-observations.

Posted on September 24, 2021 13:20 by kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 31, 2021

August 2021 Photo-observation of the Month

Callistosporium purpureomarginatum © iNaturalist user @myco_mama_vt.

Congratulations to iNaturalist user @myco_mama_vt for winning the August 2021 Photo-observation of the Month for the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist. Their photos of several fungi known as Callistosporium purpureomarginatum sprouting out of a decaying oak log received the most faves of any observation in the state during the past month.

Not only are these photos gorgeous, showcasing the stunning purplish-red gills of these fungi, but they also provide all of the necessary features for identification! Many photos of fungi that go unidentified on iNaturalist show only one or two features, leaving out others that may clinch an identification. Making sure your photos show the cap (top view), gills (bottom view), and stem (side view), as well as including any notes about what kind of substrate the fungus is growing on all can help lead to an ID. Thanks to @myco_mama_vt's superb photos and prior knowledge of fungi identification, this observation was confirmed as Vermont's first record of Callistosporium purpureomarginatum. Autumn is one of the best times of year in New England to go out looking for a variety of colorful and interesting fungi, so with these photographs as a guide, and this exciting discovery as inspiration, get out there and see what fungal friends you can find and photograph for the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist!

With 20,606 observations submitted by 1,861 observers in August, it was very competitive. Click on the image above to see and explore all of the amazing observations.

Visit the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist where you can vote for the winner this month by clicking the ‘fave’ star on your favorite photo-observation. Make sure you get outdoors and record the biodiversity around you, then submit your discoveries and you could be a winner!

Posted on August 31, 2021 20:43 by nsharp nsharp | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 02, 2021

July 2021 Photo-observation of the Month


A pair of Peregrine Falcons playing with their food. © Michael Sargent.

Congratulations to Michael Sargent for winning the July 2021 Photo-observation of the Month for the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist. Mike’s photo of a Peregrine Falcon pair engaged in an acrobatic aerial food transfer narrowly beat some tough competition this month to end up with the most faves of any observation in the state for July.

You might recognize Mike’s name from his many photographic contributions over the years to our blog posts from the VCE Mount Mansfield Banding Station. While a longtime photographer and friend of VCE, Mike’s only recently joined the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist, where his photo received quite the warm welcome! Peregrine Falcons are one of the most charismatic and exciting bird species in the state, and their acrobatic behaviors are thrilling to watch. This pair seems to have slightly miscalculated their aerial food transfer, with the prey item (a European Starling) tumbling below their grip. Rather than come straight in to the nest, a Peregrine Falcon returning with food will often wait for its partner to fly out, where the prey item is handed off or even dropped in midair. The quick reflexes and staggering speed and agility of Peregrine Falcons allows these transfers to go smoothly most of the time, and this behavior results in some spectacular displays of ‘passing the baton’ with any mishaps corrected by a steep dive to catch the plummeting prey before it hits the ground.


With 34,237 observations submitted by 2,201 observers in July, it was very competitive. Click on the image above to see and explore all of the amazing observations.

Visit the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist where you can vote for the winner this month by clicking the ‘fave’ star on your favorite photo-observation. Make sure you get outdoors and record the biodiversity around you, then submit your discoveries and you could be a winner!

Posted on August 02, 2021 16:37 by nsharp nsharp | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Join the Vermont Mission Monarch Blitz (July 23-August 8)

We have extended the Vermont Mission Monarch Blitz until August 8th due to so so so much rain. It is super easy to do a survey and can take as little as 15 min. for a small patch. Help us get a snapshot of Monarch populations in Vermont! Check it out at https://val.vtecostudies.org/missions/vermont-mission-monarch-blitz and add your surveys!

Posted on August 02, 2021 15:56 by kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 2 comments | Leave a comment

July 22, 2021

Join the Vermont Mission Monarch Blitz (July 23-August 1)

Join the Vermont Mission Monarch Blitz starting tomorrow! Our aim is to contribute a snapshot of the status of Monarch populations across Vermont each year during this critical time in their life cycle. We need your help to gather this data!

For one week, the Blitz invites people across North America to look for milkweed plants and survey them for monarch eggs, caterpillars, chrysalises and butterflies. This information helps us understand changes in breeding populations and productivity in different regions each year and to identify priority areas for Monarch conservation actions.

Mission Monarch is a community science program to gather data on Monarch and Milkweed distribution and abundance each year during the breeding season. Participants find milkweedlook for Monarchs and share their observations with us on the Mission Monarch website.

Participation is simple! Just complete one or more missions during the Blitz between July 23 through August 1 and add your observations to Mission Monarch. Conducting a mission is easy and fun! From backyards to mountain meadows, all you need is a place where milkweed is growing. Learn more at https://val.vtecostudies.org/missions/vermont-mission-monarch-blitz/

Posted on July 22, 2021 18:36 by kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 1 comment | Leave a comment

July 12, 2021

Join the Vermont Moth Blitz 2021 (July 17th to 25th)

Explore Vermont's astounding moth diversity! By participating in our annual Vermont Moth Blitz, you will help the Vermont Moth Atlas develop a better understanding of the moths that call the Green Mountain State home. Join our project at https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/vermont-moth-blitz-2021. Over 2,200 moth species have been documented in Vermont with new species being found all the time. Who knows, maybe you will find one! We encourage everyone, from experts to amateur enthusiasts, to find, photograph, and share their moth discoveries with the Vermont Moth Blitz during National Moth Week (July 17th-25th). Can we beat last years' tally? Check it out at https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/vermont-moth-blitz-2020. The Vermont Moth Atlas is a project of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies' Vermont Atlas of Life.

Posted on July 12, 2021 17:40 by kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 01, 2021

June 2021 Photo-observations of the Month


On left, Enchrysa dissectella, a new moth for the state of Vermont! © Sarina. On right, a Walking Fern spreads across a mossy boulder. © Tom Norton.

Congratulations to Tom Norton and Sarina for winning the June 2021 Photo-observations of the Month for Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist. Sarina’s photo of Vermont’s first record of a moth called Enchrysa dissectella and Tom’s photo of a large patch of Walking Fern tied for the two most-faved observations in Vermont this month.

The moth known as Enchrysa dissectella has no common name and is known to range from southern Canada to North Carolina. Little else is known about this species besides its identifying markings, which most noticeably include two curved orangey stripes on the outer half of the wings. This is the first time this moth species has ever been documented in Vermont, contributing to the vast and ever-expanding Vermont Moth Atlas which includes more than 2,200 different species. Interestingly, Sarina returned a few days later to the site where the moth was first spotted and encountered the same moth species, perhaps even the same individual!

Tom Norton, better known to many iNaturalist users as simply ‘tsn’, is an identifying machine. He has provided more iNaturalist identifications than any other Vermonter, and his nearly 65,000 iNaturalist identifications in Vermont alone have helped out just about anyone who has submitted an observation to the Vermont Atlas of Life. No slouch, Tom also submits many iNaturalist observations himself, including his winning photograph of a Walking Fern spreading across a glacial erratic boulder covered in lush moss. Walking Fern is often found on mossy boulders or rocky hillsides and has a fascinating way of spreading across a patch of suitable substrate, as seen in Tom’s photo. By rooting anywhere the tip of a frond touches moist soil, new ‘children’ can begin to grow in an expanding circle around the original ‘parent’ plant. These tufts of ferns “walk” across boulders and hillsides slowly but steadily, and this unique style of growing gives them their name.


With 29,048 observations submitted by 1,900 observers in June, it was very competitive. Click on the image above to see and explore all of the amazing observations.

Visit the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist where you can vote for the winner this month by clicking the ‘fave’ star on your favorite photo-observation. Make sure you get outdoors and record the biodiversity around you, then submit your discoveries and you could be a winner!

Posted on July 01, 2021 21:36 by nsharp nsharp | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 18, 2021

The Vermont Lady Beetle BioBlitz was a Success!

Last week over 60 volunteers searched from backyards to mountaintops as part of the weeklong Vermont Lady Beetle BioBlitz to help find and photograph as many of these charming beetles as possible. The event kicked off the summer survey season for the Vermont Lady Beetle Atlas, a project that aims to find and map the distribution of more than 35 species, including 12 native species that have not been seen for decades. During the one-week event, volunteers visited all 14 of Vermont’s counties and reported 138 lady beetle observations representing a dozen different species.

“This was a great way to kick off the lady beetle season,” said Julia Pupko, VCE ECO AmeriCorps member and Vermont Lady Beetle Atlas Project Coordinator. “Whether it was the drought or extremely hot weather at the beginning of the season, I have been having trouble finding beetles this year. Locating over 12 species in one week was awesome!”

Nearly a third of the species reported were introduced, non-native lady beetles, including a species many of us are familiar with when they invade buildings each fall, the Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis). Nearly 50% of the observations reported were Asian Lady Beetles, which are likely more prevalent near homes. The decline of native lady beetles may be linked to the introduction of these non-native species.

Volunteers documented 9 native species during the event. The bright red colored Spotted Lady Beetle and the shiny Ursine Spurleg Lady Beetle were the most observed species. The relatively uncommon Bigeminate Sigil Lady Beetle (Hyperaspis bigeminata) was photographed on the ridgelines of Mt. Mansfield and Camel’s Hump, adding 3 more observations to the mere 5 observations of this species previously reported on iNaturalist in Vermont.

“A big thank you to all the participants of the Vermont Lady Beetle BioBlitz,” said Pupko. “We hope many of you will continue to record lady beetles that you find this summer and help us with the Vermont Lady Beetle Atlas.”

You can find out more about the Vermont Lady Beetle Atlas at the Vermont Atlas of Life website - https://val.vtecostudies.org/projects/lady-beetle-atlas/

Posted on June 18, 2021 14:15 by jpupko jpupko | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 02, 2021

Join the Vermont Lady Beetle BioBlitz (June 5-12, 2021)

With their multitude of colors and patterns, lady beetles catch the eye of even the most insect-averse. Lady beetles have also captured the attention of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies’ Vermont Atlas of Life team, after they discovered that many Vermont native lady beetle species have not been seen for decades. In response, the team has launched the Vermont Lady Beetle BioBlitz that will run June 5 to June 12, 2021, and they are looking for volunteers from all over the state to help rediscover these beautiful beetles.

A BioBlitz is a community science effort to record all the species within a designated area over a short time period. Anyone with a willingness to explore nearby habitats to find and photograph lady beetles is encouraged to join. No experience is necessary! The week-long survey will use iNaturalist.org to collect data. To participate, volunteers simply need to download the free iNaturalist smartphone app and join the project at https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/vermont-lady-beetle-bioblitz. Data collected from the Vermont Lady Beetle BioBlitz will be included in the Vermont Lady Beetle Atlas, a statewide survey focused on rediscovering Vermont’s long lost lady beetle species.

“We had an old document which provided a snapshot of lady beetle life prior to 1976 and we quickly realized that many of the beetles reported hadn’t been seen in decades,” said VCE biologist Kent McFarland.

Alarm bells started ringing and the team went to work, sifting through historic lady beetle collections from the University of Vermont Zadock Thompson Natural History Collection, Middlebury College, Fairbanks Museum, and the Vermont Forest, Parks, and Recreation collection, as well as modern records from the Vermont Atlas of Life iNaturalist project and the Lost Ladybug Project at Cornell University. As the pieces fell into place, they realized that 12 of Vermont’s 35 native lady beetle species have been missing for decades.

This may come as a surprise to anyone who has watched armies of bright red and orange beetles invade their windowsills once the autumn wind catches a chill. However, most of these winter roommates are in fact an invasive species—the Asian Lady Beetle—thought to be partly responsible for the decline of native species.

Although it may appear that Asian Lady Beetles are all there is to see, a closer look will reveal other lady beetle species that often blend in. A friend to farmers and gardeners alike, these tiny insects feed primarily on aphids and other pests who can destroy crops. Healthy, diverse lady beetle populations keep these pests in check, making the decline and disappearance of some native species quite concerning.

The Vermont Lady Beetle Atlas was created to find answers to the questions regarding these missing species’ whereabouts. The Atlas’s main objective is to collect information about Vermont’s lady beetle species by conducting field surveys and revisiting older records in order to develop a deeper understanding of how they are faring. However, VCE cannot undertake this endeavor alone.

Lady beetles are tiny needles in the vast haystack of Vermont’s woods, fields, and gardens, making it difficult for a handful of biologists to successfully search alone. Following the lead of the Lost Ladybug Project, VCE is asking community scientists for help in searching for the missing species. Volunteers can search for lady beetles in gardens and potted plants, among weeds and shrubs, on tree trunks, and even on the outside of homes and outbuildings. The goal of the seven-day Bioblitz is to add as many photo-observations of lady beetles as possible to the Vermont Lady Beetle Atlas.

While volunteers can start looking for lady beetles anytime, the official kick-off event is the bioblitz from June 5 - 12, 2021. Every lady beetle counts!

Anyone interested in learning more about the atlas should visit the Vermont Lady Beetle Atlas website at http://val.vtecostudies.org/projects/lady-beetle-atlas/. For questions related to the Vermont Lady Beetle Atlas, please contact Julia Pupko at jpupko@vtecostudies.org.

Posted on June 02, 2021 19:26 by kpmcfarland kpmcfarland | 0 comments | Leave a comment

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