I visited the Four Brothers Islands in Lake Champlain on Friday, 15
July 2005, spending about 90 minutes birding the area from a boat (landing
on the islands is not permitted). The islands and surrounding waters were
very active, as one would expect from a vibrant, natural colonial waterbird
community. In addition to the abundant DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS and
RING-BILLED GULLS, I noted the following colonial waterbirds:
GREAT BLUE HERON--20+ individuals, mostly juveniles standing on or near
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON--6+ individuals; three juveniles on island "B"
and at least three adults on islands "A," "B," and "D"
GREAT EGRET--two birds seen on top of trees in the middle of "B"
CASPIAN TERN--three sightings of one individual, seen flying between the
Great Black-backed Gull
I also looked very intently, but without success, for both Cattle Egret and
Glossy Ibis, two other species that have nested on the Four Brothers in
recent years. My lack of success in seeing Cattle Egret did not surprise
me, as I knew of their habit in previous years of foraging at Shelburne
Farms during the daytime. Thanks to Noah Perlut's post, we now know that
once again this year, the Cattle Egrets are commuting back and forth
between the islands and Shelburne Farms. So, it appears that Cattle Egret
makes for a total of nine species of colonial waterbird nesting on the Four
Brothers this summer--a rather impressive number and diversity of
species! As for Glossy Ibis, it is certainly possible that they could be
nesting on the Four Brothers again this year and that I simply missed
them. With their dark plumage and relatively small size, they could very
easily be overlooked in the lush vegetation on islands "A" and "B."
Also observed in the area were:
Mallard--multiple individuals, including one female with a very small
Mergus sp.--there was a group of five or more young mergansers along the
edge of "C," but due to the distance and waves, I couldn't be certain of
the identification to species. I am used to seeing Common Mergansers
elsewhere along Lake Champlain (Willsboro Bay and Boquet River mouth), but
the Four Brothers are a traditional breeding spot (and one of the very few
breeding spots in New York State) for Red-breasted Merganser
Spotted Sandpipers--2+ individuals seen around "A" and "B"
Red-winged Blackbird--both this species and Song Sparrow were heard singing
from the islands
Willsboro, NY and Charlotte, VT