Kent McFarland, John Loyd and I spent yesterday on the Mt. Mansfield
ridgeline, prepping for our upcoming field season. With the toll road not
yet open and a pile of gear to transport up there, we were whisked up the
ski trails on a monster Snowcat, courtesy of the Stowe Mountain Resort.
Snow conditions on the ridgeline are at what might be an historic low for
the date, with only 24" at the fabled snow stake
<http://www.uvm.edu/skivt-l/?Page=depths.php> and patches of bare ground in
more exposed areas.
Our goal was to place 10 automated recording devices (ARDs) and 3
time-lapse cameras (phenocams) at 200-250 yard intervals across the
ridgeline, in advance of the main arrival of migrants, of which there were
precious few yesterday. Despite relatively mild temperatures that
approached 40F degrees and light NW winds, we encountered only 3 recent
arrivals - 2 Winter Wrens that sang briefly along the Amherst Trail and a
single junco in the uppermost parking lot. Pine Siskins were the most
common species, with several groups of 2-5 individuals. Two individual
flyover Bohemian Waxwings were a surprise - our first in 25 years studying
Mansfield's birds (though we're typically only there May-September...). We
had more evidence of mammalian than avian life on the ridgeline, with
tracks of snowshoe hare, bobcat, moose, red squirrel, and red-backed vole.
The ARDs and phenocams are a new element of VCE's long-term studies on
Mansfield, as we seek to investigate the impacts of climate change on the
mountain's breeding bird populations. The ARDs will document the arrival of
each species and the build-up of numbers, while phenocams will document
snowmelt and leaf-out of heartleaf paper birch and mountain ash. We'll also
sample the emergence of insects and spiders, and correlate all of this with
nesting phenology, which we'll measure via the breeding condition of birds
we capture in our mist nets. Our overall goal is to determine whether
'phenological mismatches' occur, in 2016 and/or in years to come, as the
timing of avian breeding and arthropod prey abundance become (as
preliminary evidence indicates elsewhere) increasingly misaligned.
We hope to get an early start on our annual mist netting in two weeks. If
Bicknell's Thrush are back by then, it will be an all-time early record.
I'm putting the chances at < 50:50.
Vermont Center for Ecostudies
PO Box 420 | Norwich, Vermont 05055