South Hero Marsh- Still Frozen

By josh • 251 Birds, Nature, Wildlife • 1 Apr 2014

South Hero (Grand Isle County)
South Hero Marsh Trail
Town #47

This will be a brief post, as my time in South Hero was also brief.  I grew up across the lake from Grand Isle but I’ve never birded much in the town of South Hero.  Continuing on the theme of ‘places that will provide immensely better birding in a few weeks’, the South Hero Marsh Trail will be spectacular in the spring and summer.  Bruce MacPherson has a nice piece on the warm-weather experience over at the Green Mountain Audubon Society.

As it was, I embarked at the Tracy Road trailhead at the northern terminus of the trail.  The trail follows a former railbed straight south until it reaches the lake, where it becomes the causeway connecting the islands to Colchester Point.  At its northern end the trail runs between agricultural fields to the west and a major cattail marsh to the east.  The trail itself passes through a narrow band of hardwood swamp, which creates a lot of standing snags and good feeding and breeding opportunities for woodpeckers, Wood Ducks, Great-crested Flycatchers, and other cavity nesters.

Sure enough, when I reached a powerline cut after a short walk I found five Hairy Woodpeckers, three males and two females.  The males were behaving aggressively, calling raucously and chasing each other about.  This powerline cut has a lot of promise- there are Osprey nests in good condition atop the two nearest poles, and it seems like an ideal spot for scrub-favoring species.  There was also a single Downy Woodpecker near the trailhead, somehow the first I’ve ever recorded in Grand Isle County.

Also new for the county was Brown Creeper, another species that is commonly found in hardwood swamps.  Another theme of this blog is ‘bad pictures of Brown Creepers‘, so here’s another one:

Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper
South Hero, Vermont
March, 2014
Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/7.1, 1/800s, ISO320

Walking back across the cut, there was a single American Robin foraging in the sumac.  Sumac seems to be a food of last resort for robins, so it may be that the continued snow cover has made normal spring food sources scarce this year.  Even these sumac are pretty picked over, though the robin has found enough to leave a messy smear on its bill.

American Robin

American Robin
South Hero, Vermont
March, 2014
Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/7.1, 1/1250s, ISO320

There wasn’t much species diversity evident on an early afternoon in mud season, but I’m sure by Mother’s Day (assuming the marsh and swamp have thawed by then!) this place will be vital.

  • Downy Woodpecker (1)
  • Hairy Woodpecker (1)
  • American Crow (8)
  • Common Raven (1)
  • Black-capped Chickadee (9)
  • Brown Creeper (1)
  • American Robin (1)

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