Yesterday, John Lloyd and I spent the afternoon on the Mount Mansfield
ridgeline doing some work on our long-term research study areas. Much of
the snow is now gone on the ridgeline with only patches left in shady areas
or in snow bank communities. It was a warm, well warm for 3,800 ft elev.,
day with abundant sun and only light winds. It was in a word, sublime.

The earliest record of Bicknell's Thrush back on the breeding grounds is
May 15, discovered by one of our long time field biologists, Brendan
Collins, some years ago on Stratton Mountain, when he bested my date of May
16 from Belvidere Mountain. But, John and I held out hope that we could get
one even earlier.

We did not find Bicknell's Thrush, or much of any bird diversity on the
ridgeline. Despite the snowpack leaving early, there is still not much for
birds to eat. We did some extensive prey surveys and found quite little for
birds to forage on. Which might explain why we only found 5 species in over
3 hours:

Myrtle Warbler - 3
Winter Wren - 3
American Robin - 2
White-throated Sparrow - 7
Dark-eyed Junco - 1
Pine Siskin - 1

We did find many more birds at the lower elevation of montane fir and into
the transition zone. Many more Myrtle Warblers, Pine Siskins, and
White-throats in small flocks. Are they migrants headed north? Are they
waiting to move up in elevation? We asked, but they didn't tell.

We did have a lone Raven wandering about the entire mountain all day. How
did we know it was the same one? This bird appears to have a bunch of very
white tail feathers making it very distinctive in flight. We saw it at the
top and as far down as the beginning of the hardwood forest. Covering
ground is easy with wings! Not so easy with these legs. They are a bit sore
today from hiking up the toll road and back down!


Kent McFarland
Vermont Center for Ecostudies
PO Box 420 | Norwich, Vermont 05055
802.649.1431 x2