Winooski: Winooski Natural Area

By josh • 251 Birds, Nature, Plants and Fungi, Wildlife • 13 May 2015

Winooski (Chittenden County)
Winooski Natural Area (Casavant Natural Area)
Town #50

It seems a bit silly that I hadn’t birded in Winooski for this project before now- it’s only a couple of miles from my office, and I’ve birded the south (Burlington) side of the river numerous times since I started working in Burlington again.  Still, Winooski is both urban and a very small place in terms of land area, and bird-friendly open space is tough to come by.

That said, I’d driven past this sign hundreds of times without ever really making note of it.

Turns out this is a pretty decent spot!  There’s mix of habitats, including a large cattail marsh, a short powerline cut, mature hardwood forest, a few stands of white pine, and an extensive silver maple-ostrich fern river floodplain.  The trails are well maintained and I was surprised by how clean everything was given the urban location (maybe because we’re just a few weeks post-Green Up Day).  I assume the nice condition of this place is the work of the Winooski Valley Parks District.  Thanks, folks!  There’s even a really neat trail stabilization technique that I’ve never seen before:

It being spring ephemeral season, I was watching for wildflowers as much as I was for birds.  Trout lily was abundant, and wood anemone and large white trillium were also in bloom.

Trout Lily

Trout Lily
Winooski Natural Area
May, 2015

Wood Anemone

Wood Anemone
Winooski Natural Area
May, 2015

Pin Cherry

Pin Cherry
Winooski Natural Area
May, 2015

I also encountered a solitary sessile bellwort, probably my favorite wildflower this time of year.

Sessile Bellwort

Sessile Bellwort
Winooski Natural Area
May, 2015

There were plenty of birds to be found as well.  Just off the parking area there was a blackburnian warbler, and at the margins of the cattail marsh yellow warblers, common yellowthroats, red-winged blackbirds, and common grackles competed for attention.  Bird-sized insects were a further distraction, such as this Carolina grasshopper (I think- the notch in the pronotum is very shallow compared to any images I’ve found of these).

Carolina Grasshopper

Carolina Grasshopper
Winooski Natural Area
May, 2015

Down in the floodplain there were American redstarts singing their cryptic song, a solitary Baltimore oriole, and warbling vireos.  A great egret angled at the west end of the trail where it crosses a substantial footbridge to return to downtown Winooski.  From this vantage I could also see a pair of double-crested cormorants taking advantage of the low water on the rocks in the middle of the Winooski River, which is mighty here even in a dry spring.  Here’s a lousy photo, but the best I’ve ever had of the crests that give these cormorants their name!

Double-Crested Cormorants

Double-Crested Cormorants
Winooski River
May, 2015

Now that I know that this place deserves more birding I hope I’ll have a chance to return often this summer.  Despite the fact that it was a sunny day in mid-May over the lunch hour, I encountered few other humans and dogs beyond a group foraging for ramps and fiddleheads down by the river.  It’s not the most peaceful spot (being hard up against the Interstate and Route 2 and also in the flight path of the airport), but it’s much larger and more diverse than I expected to find in Winooski.

The list:

  • Canada Goose (4)
  • Double-Crested Cormorant (2)
  • Great Egret (1)
  • Ring-Billed Gull (3)
  • Hairy Woodpecker (1)
  • Warbling Vireo (2)
  • American Crow (2)
  • Black-Capped Chickadee (1)
  • Tufted Titmouse (2)
  • White-Breasted Nuthatch (1)
  • American Robin (3)
  • Gray Catbird (4)
  • Common Yellowthroat (3)
  • American Redstart (2)
  • Blackburnian Warbler (1)
  • Yellow Warbler (6)
  • Song Sparrow (10)
  • Swamp Sparrow (2)
  • White-Throated Sparrow (4)
  • Northern Cardinal (1)
  • Red-Winged Blackbird (25)
  • Common Grackle (5)
  • Baltimore Oriole (1)
  • American Goldfinch (8)

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