Tinmouth- Tinmouth Channel WMA

By josh • 251 Birds, Nature, Plants and Fungi, Wildlife • 24 Apr 2012

Tinmouth (Rutland County)
Tinmouth Channel Wildlife Management Area
Town #32

A few months ago I was entering data from paper records from the spring of 1980 into a spreadsheet so that it could be uploaded to eBird (get in touch with Kent McFarland at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies if you’d like more info on that project…).  These records mostly comprised seasonal checklists compiled by birders around the state that recorded first/last records and high counts for the season.  Among them was a list (with accompanying letter) from George T. LeBoutillier, author of A Natural History of Tinmouth, Vermont.  Mr. LeBoutillier had remarkable, calligraphic penmanship (which you can see on the cover of the book in the link above), and a florid, gentlemanly writing style that made me take special note of his observations.

He frequently mentioned the Tinmouth Channel, including more than one reference to birds disappearing in that direction.  Last week (April 19th) I decided to visit the Tinmouth Channel Wildlife Management Area on my way to Pawlet where I was to give a lecture on barn history to the Pawlet Historical Society.  The 45 minutes that I gave myself to explore certainly wasn’t enough time to really understand this massive (1200 acre) WMA.

Tinmouth lies in a small valley between the foothills of the Green Mountains to the east and the north end of the Taconic range to the west.  Here the Taconics peter out, creating a series of north-south ridges and valleys filled with farms.  I’m sure the geology is quite interesting in Tinmouth but I’m not clever enough to interpret it. The town is bisected by the Tinmouth Channel, a low wetland that becomes the Clarendon River and flows north into Otter Creek.

According to Vermont Fish & Wildlife, Tinmouth Channel is the state’s largest open intermediate fen and one of three Class I wetlands in the state.  Unfortunately, I saw nothing like that.  As far as I can tell, the only parking area to access the WMA is on North End Road.  There’s a trail there that leads into the forest but never reaches the fen.  I suspect that the best access to the wetland is at the north end (at the crossing of North End Road), but I didn’t have time to investigate.  I also suspect that it might be best explored by canoe.  Maybe Mr. LeBoutillier found the place as impenetrable or overwhelming as I did, but I doubt it.

So, not really knowing where I was going or where the trail would lead, I headed into the woods from North End Road.  The walk began auspiciously enough, with a broad-winged hawk darting off into the forest at my approach.  Beside a small stream at the trailhead I heard a phoebe and a few robins and chickadees.

Tinmouth Channel WMA

Tinmouth Channel WMA, Tamron AF18–250mm f/3.5–6.3 AF Di II at 32mm, f/18, 2.5s, ISO 100, Cokin 2-stop ND filter and linear polarizer

Shortly thereafter, though, the forest became quiet.  There were plenty of reminders that this place is both former farmland and current popular hunting grounds.

Target Practice

Farm Dump/Target Practice, Tamron AF18–250mm f/3.5–6.3 AF Di II at 77mm, f/6.3, 1/30s, ISO 200


Stone Wall

Stone Wall, Tamron AF18–250mm f/3.5–6.3 AF Di II at 35mm, f/4, 1/200s, ISO 200

Eventually though, the trail led into a glade of mature hardwoods filled with woodland bird species, including brown creepers and a red-breasted nuthatch.  Here, I’m sorry to say, is another backlit brown creeper:

Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/18, 1/200s, ISO 400

Since brown creepers dine primarily on insects (though they do sometimes show up at feeders for seeds), I suspect that the bill fuzz is a remnant of nesting material.

A bit further down the trail I found a yellow-rumped warbler.  The sun and shadows and the bird’s unwillingness to come down out of the canopy made this a tough shot, but it will have to do for a first warbler photo of the season:

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/11, 1/320s, ISO 400

Before long, the forest became dominated by white cedar.  There was an extremely uncooperative (are there any other kind?) ruby-crowned kinglet here, which was a first-of-year for me.

White Cedar

White Cedar, Tamron AF18–250mm f/3.5–6.3 AF Di II at 18mm, f/7.1, 1/100s, ISO 400

And finally, where the trail disappeared, I found myself in a stand of 75′ white pines in the company of an FOY pine warbler.  Here’s the list for the day:

  • Broad-winged hawk (1)
  • Eastern phoebe (1)
  • Blue jay (2)
  • Black-capped chickadee (5)
  • Tufted titmouse (1)
  • Red-breasted nuthatch (1)
  • Brown creeper (3)
  • Winter wren (2)
  • Ruby-crowned kinglet (1)
  • American robin (2)
  • Pine warbler (1)
  • Yellow-rumped warbler (1)

So all was not lost- I heard or saw a number of interesting birds and tried the make the best of some difficult conditions for photography.  But I’d really like to go back to Tinmouth Channel with better planning to experience the fen and the superlatives that go along with it.

As an aside, I have no idea what this fungus is.  It seems awfully far from the sea to be finding barnacles!

Weird Fungus

Indeterminate Fungus, Tamron AF18–250mm f/3.5–6.3 AF Di II at 65mm, f/10, 1/100s, ISO 400


Tinmouth Channel WMA

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2 Responses

  1. Peter Manship

    I have wondered in and around the Fen in Tinmouth it is very unique when you get inside it
    and it can be walked. You will get wet. A boat trip up ” The Channel” is fun way to spend a day. Here is a link to my blog where I posted images of inside the Tinmouth Fen from last fall.
    Enjoy :


    Peter Manship

    • Thanks so much Peter! I love your tamarack photos- I’d been thinking about a similar trip to Victory Bog last fall but never made it. Maybe I’ll try Tinmouth this year instead. Definitely need to get back with boots or boat.

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