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Monday, December 22, 2014

Plainfield Christmas Bird Count Results

Long-eared Owl, a Plainfield CBC first!
The 54th annual Plainfield Christmas Bird Count took place under clear skies this past Saturday, December 20. It was the first sunny day in a long time, and despite single-digit temperatures at the start, the calm conditions made for a superb day to be outside, enjoying nature, and counting birds. A near-record 45 participants combed out across the count circle tallying 4,962 individuals of 43 species, exceeding our 10-year average of 38.7 species.

The highlight of this year’s count was a LONG-EARED OWL first discovered by Chip Darmstadt as it soaked in the late-afternoon sun. By incredible coincidence, what has been presumed to be the same bird was later independently discovered by Eric Cannizzaro as it was hunting over a field in near-darkness. This unexpected find was a first for the Plainfield count, and with reports from a nearby landowner that this rare and sensitive species has nested here in the past, its location will be kept secret. Another first for the Plainfield CBC was a lone SNOW GOOSE seen flying south.

The increase in ‘southern’ species continues to be a trend this year, with the count’s second ever sighting of a Red-bellied Woodpecker. Carolina Wren was observed for only the 4th time, with a record high of 3 individuals observed (all at feeders). Northern Cardinal and Tufted Titmouse, which have seen large increases in the past decade, were seen in decent numbers, with 41 and 17 respectively.

Pine Siskin in Calais
A new high count was set for Carolina Wren (3), Downy Woodpecker (73), and White-breasted Nuthatch (132), which nearly doubled its previous high count. Both White-throated and Song Sparrow were observed on the count his year. These species, while never common, are becoming a regular feature of the Plainfield count. Irruptive species have not been plentiful this year, but a few Common Redpolls and Pine Siskins were observed (the siskins being our first since 2011).

We would like to thank everyone who participated in this year’s count. Special thanks go out to Janet Steward, who has covered the Orange territory for as long as we can remember, and celebrated her 50th consecutive year of CBC participation this year! A complete species list can be found below and a summary of all species seen over the 54-year history of this count can be found here. The 55th Plainfield Christmas Bird Count is scheduled for Saturday, December 19, 2015. We hope you can join us!

Compiler Larry Clarfeld presents
Janet Steward with a cake in recognition
of her 50th consecutive year of CBC'ing

Snow Goose
Canada Goose
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Ruffed Grouse
Wild Turkey
Cooper's Hawk
Northern Goshawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Long-eared Owl
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Northern Shrike
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Carolina Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
American Tree Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Song Sparrow
Purple Finch
House Finch
Common Redpoll
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
Evening Grosbeak
House Sparrow

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Winter Whispers: A Weekly Drop-off Program for Young Children

After several stormy grey days, I looked out the window this weekend to see the sun illuminating a stunning winter wonderland. A sparkling white blanket laid out across the fields behind my home and, with every tree branch laced in white, the frosted mountains in the background seemed to glow. I set out on skis across the expanse of my neighbor's pasture while my eyes feasted on the landscape's offering of eye candy. I moved over the crusted blanket and felt like a child brimming with excitement. It seemed as though I was transported into a magical land. The cool air on my cheeks was invigorating. The sounds of my skis moving over the snow and light wind blowing through the crusted branches filled my ears.

My excitement grew as I encountered story after story written in the snow by local wildlife. A snowshoe hare left tracks darting across the expanse. A coyote had wandered the tree line along a brook and circled twice around mink tracks before sauntering on. My senses were fully awake as I made my way through the stories and the frozen landscape. Winter whispers many secrets.

I realized the frosty view from inside my cozy home was lovely, but it did not compare with the experience of becoming a part of the landscape - making discoveries and experiencing the inherent wonders of winter first hand. I could not possibly hear the whisper of winter until I was out in the snow, surrounded by frosty air and a world of white!

At that moment, because I work with young children in a classroom without walls, I thrilled to think of sharing many similar wonders of winter with wee ones this season! Every moment, young children are learning about their world and rapidly building strong neural connections. They do so largely through their senses with curiosity as the driver. The more senses that are engaged, the deeper the learning process. Natural spaces in winter provide an exciting, rich learning and play environment. I am pleased to share that for six weeks starting mid-January, the North Branch Nature Center will offer a drop-off program for children, age 3.5 to 5, to discover what winter is whispering about.

Winter offers not only myself but also young children a wonder-filled season to imagine, play, and learn. Winter Whispers is a program that supports children's innate curiosity and individual learning process through play, open- ended art, and exploration of the natural world in the frosty months of January and February. Children will spend a portion of every morning outdoors, having an opportunity to engage all their senses while encountering winter's many wonders. In addition, our program offers time to cozy up indoors for winter related stories, songs, and art as well as exploration of Vermont wildlife's winter habits.

Althea Brown, assistant teacher, and I look forward to looking, listening, and feeling with young children outdoors as we play and learn about ourselves and our connection to the natural world we are a part of in Vermont - all amidst the whispers of winter this season.