Ripton: Mountain Bird Watch

By josh • 251 Birds, Nature, Wildlife • 9 Jul 2014

Ripton (Addison County)
Emily Proctor Trail/Long Trail at Breadloaf Mountain
Town #48

For the first time this year I volunteered for Mountain Bird Watch, an effort to monitor montane songbirds in the northeast with a special focus on Bicknell’s Thrush.  The MBW enlists volunteers in the Adirondacks, Catskills, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine to survey ten target species along high-altitude routes following a well-defined protocol.  My route included three points along the Emily Proctor Trail and the Long Trail near the summit of Breadloaf Mountain.

Sam Hooker and I climbed up to Emily Proctor Shelter after dark on Tuesday, June 24th.  The weather was extremely dodgy- we couldn’t conduct our count if it was raining or too windy.  We had dry weather all the way up, a nice snack and mini-campfire, and tried to go to sleep around 11:00 just as the heavens opened.

We were supposed to begin our first point count Wednesday morning 45 minutes before sunrise, which would have been about 4:25.  We got up a little after 4:00 after sleeping little and the fog was so thick we couldn’t even move around outside the shelter.  There was also a steady enough rain that I was afraid we’d have to abandon the count.  Fortunately the rain let up at just the right moment and we scooted down to the first point.

The fog was so thick I wouldn’t have much for photos anyway, but I forgot my camera battery!  That’s a first.  Anyway, we ended up with a pretty successful count.  Here are the target species:

  • Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Boreal Chickadee
  • Winter Wren
  • Bicknell’s Thrush
  • Swainson’s Thrush
  • Hermit Thrush
  • Blackpoll Warbler
  • White-Throated Sparrow
  • Fox Sparrow
  • Red Squirrel

We knew we were unlikely to find Fox Sparrow and Boreal Chickadee, which are unlikely to be present at these latitudes this time of year (if ever).  We would have been thrilled to find Bicknell’s Thrush, but no luck this time.  We did, however, find Black-capped Chickadee, Winter Wren (2), Swainson’s Thrush, Hermit Thrush, Blackpoll Warbler (4), and White-throated Sparrow (2) during our point counts.  We also ran into American Robin, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Dark-eyed Junco, and Purple Finch while walking between the points.  We didn’t actually see a single bird all morning because of the fog, but it was great to hear Blackpolls and Swainson’s Thrush in abundance both on our way up Tuesday night and back down again on Wednesday morning.

MBW is a such a great program.  I’d really like to do this again next year, and I enjoyed this route a lot (even if I failed to find Bicknell’s).  There’s something to be said for having a shelter right in the middle of the survey points when you have to be up and counting at 4:00 am.  June is a tough month though.  In Vermont we try to cram so many things into the summer because the winter is so, so long.  We’ll see!

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *