Two Days in Ryegate

By josh • 251 Birds, Architecture, Nature, Plants and Fungi, Wildlife • 23 May 2012

Ryegate (Caledonia County)
Multiple Sites
Town #33

Fair warning: this will be a long post.  I was in Ryegate for two full days about a week apart doing architectural survey work and decided that I would just count birds all day in the course of my business rather than just birding on my lunch break.  I made multiple checklists, each of which was the record of a 5-10 minute stop. What resulted was a nice selection of species (and a vast improvement in my paltry Caldedonia County count), a few decent photos, and the location of a few very birdy spots that I wouldn’t have found otherwise.  I’ll put all the checklists at the end of this post for posterity, but I’ll spare you lengthy descriptions of every crow or chickadee I came across.

Ryegate is a beautiful piedmont town that reaches down to the Connecticut River in the east yet is still wild and mountainous in the north and west.  There are extensive wetlands in the center that proved great habitat for ducks and warblers on these early May days.  While it was pretty gloomy both days I was there (check out the architecture shots below…), I did get a few fun nature images and finished some great and exciting survey work.

The town has three principle villages, each with its own history and character.  I’ll come to Ryegate Corner, home to the Town Clerk’s Office and Town House, a bit later.  East Ryegate is a timbering village along the Connecticut River, with company houses and a Union Hall.  South Ryegate, probably the largest of the three, is a late 19th century stonecutting settlement along the Wells River.  Several granite sheds remain on the north side of Vermont Route 302 and simple worker housing spreads north into the hills above the sheds and south along the other side of the river.

Pleasant Street, South Ryegate

Pleasant Street, South Ryegate, Tamron AF18–250mm f/3.5–6.3 AF Di II at 18mm, f/7.1, 1/160s, ISO 200

Just west of the village there are several sharp meanders in the Wells River and, along Brown Road, a small pond.  Here I found swamp sparrows and a variety of other expected species, including this male hairy woodpecker excavating a perfectly round nest hole. He’s more than a bit untidy, but he’s no dummy- that’s some nice punky, soft wood he’s digging out of that spot.

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker Excavating a Nest, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/7.1, 1/200s, ISO 400

Hairy Woodpecker Next

Hairy Woodpecker Excavating a Nest, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at at f/7.1, 1/200s, ISO 400

North of South Ryegate, and south of Ryegate Corner (got that?) is Ticklenaked Pond.  I came up with 8 or 10 jokes about the name but I don’t think I can really improve upon it.  There’s a Fish and Wildlife Access near the northeast corner of the pond, but the best birding was definitely to be found at the northwest corner near the entrance of the Pleasant Valley Campground.  It’s not a long walk between the two, and I suspect that parking at the F&W area and walking west along the road to the pond inlet area would be very fruitful.

Phoebe, Ryegate

Eastern Phoebe, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/8, 1/1250s, ISO 200

Ryegate Corner is a more typical piedmont village, a small civic center for the surrounding farmland. Ryegate’s Scottish heritage is evident in the dramatic and ornate Presbyterian Church and in the names on the gravestones behind.  The building stock, though, is largely from the first half of the 19th century; many of the Greek Revival buildings have an aggressive simplicity that has been little softened by age.

Covenenter Church, Ryegate

Covenenter Church (later converted to blacksmith's shop), Ryegate, Tokina 12-24mm f/4 PRO DX at 13mm, f/11, 1/25s, ISO 100

Ryegate Town House

Ryegate Town House, Tokina 12-24mm f/4 PRO DX at 19mm, 1/50s, f/19, ISO 100, +1EV

The severity of the place is relieved by well-worked farms and, in May, the vivid Kingdom spring.  Just west of the ‘corner’ of Ryegate Corner is the Blue Mountain Cemetery.  Here I found busy phoebes, a raucous flicker, and a fairly cooperative chestnut-sided warbler, who was kind enough to show me his cap and sing me his “pleased to meet you!” song.

Chestnut-sided Warbler, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/6.3, 1/800s, ISO 200

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Chestnut-sided Warbler, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/5.6, 1/800s, ISO 200

 

West again along Witherspoon Road I found a surprising little wetland that was filled with life.  Miller Drive has only one house on it, but at its east end provides access to a dammed marsh that I visited on both of my days in Ryegate.  Here were muskrats, wood ducks, swirling swallows, a drumming roughed grouse, Nashville warbler, northern parula, and other warblers.  There was also an inquisitive mallard who permitted some full frame shots.

Mallard, Ryegate

Mallard, Miller Drive Wetland, Ryegate, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/5.6, 1/320s, ISO 200

Mallard, Ryegate

Mallard, Miller Drive, Ryegate, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/5.6, 1/320s, ISO 200

Other highlights from elsewhere in town were some very unexpected savannah sparrows and bobolinks in a high, remote pasture, a very noisy broad-winged hawk, and solitary female hooded mergansers in a pair of odd locations.  And lastly, the timeless battle between wagon and tree:

Wagon vs. Tree

Wagon vs. Tree, Tamron AF18–250mm f/3.5–6.3 AF Di II at 23mm, f/4.0, 1/160s, ISO 200

Brown Drive (5/3)

  • wood duck (2)
  • American kestrel (1)
  • belted kingfisher (1)
  • hairy woodpecker (1)
  • eastern phoebe (1)
  • American crow (1)
  • black-capped chickadee (1)
  • American robin (4)
  • song sparrow (1)
  • swamp sparrow (2)
  • red-winged blackbird (1)
  • common grackle (1)

 

Ticklenaked Pond (5/3)

  • Canada goose (5)
  • turkey vulture (1)
  • northern flicker (1)
  • eastern phoebe (2)
  • American crow (2)
  • tree swallow (10)
  • barn swallow (20)
  • black-capped chickadee (1)
  • ruby-crowned kinglet (1)
  • European starling (2)
  • white-throated sparrow (1)
  • red-winged blackbird (2)
  • common grackle (2)
  • American goldfinch (2)

 

Wayside Meadow Farm (5/3)

  • Canada goose (1)
  • killdeer (1)
  • rock pigeon (6)
  • song sparrow (1)
  • white-throated sparrow (1)
  • American goldfinch (1)

 

Coburn Pond Wetlands (5/3)

  • Canada goose (3)
  • mallard (1)
  • hooded merganser (1)
  • broad-winged hawk (1)
  • swamp sparrow (2)
  • red-winged blackbird (4)
  • common grackle (1)

 

Witherspoon & Hall Roads (5/3)

  • yellow-bellied sapsucker (1)
  • tree swallow (2)
  • black-capped chickadee (1)
  • winter wren (1)
  • eastern bluebird (2)
  • American robin (1)
  • chipping sparrow (1)
  • white-throated sparrow (2)

 

Miller Drive Wetland (5/3)

  • wood duck (3)
  • mallard (1)
  • hooded merganser (1)
  • yellow-bellied sapsucker (1)
  • blue jay (1)
  • tree swallow (6)
  • barn swallow (1)
  • red-breasted nuthatch (1)
  • American robin (2)
  • yellow-rumped warbler (2)
  • red-winged blackbird (3)
  • common grackle (1)

 

Blue Mountain Cemetery (5/9)

  • Canada goose (2)
  • northern flicker (1)
  • eastern phoebe (2)
  • American crow (2)
  • eastern bluebird (1)
  • American robin (8)
  • gray catbird (1)
  • chestnut-sided warbler (1)
  • red-winged blackbird (2)
  • common grackle (2)
  • Baltimore oriole (1)
  • American goldfinch (2)

 

Miller Drive Wetland (5/9)

  • wood duck (4)
  • mallard (2)
  • ruffed grouse (1)
  • mourning dove (1)
  • yellow-bellied sapsucker (1)
  • eastern kingbird (1)
  • blue jay (2)
  • American crow (1)
  • tree swallow (3)
  • barn swallow (2)
  • black-capped chickadee (1)
  • hermit thrush (1)
  • American robin (3)
  • ovenbird (1)
  • Nashville warbler (1)
  • common yellowthroat (1)
  • northern parula (1)
  • yellow-rumped warbler (1)
  • black-throated green warbler (1)
  • red-winged blackbird (6)
  • common grackle (1)

 

Renfrew Drive

  • barn swallow (6)
  • hermit thrush (1)
  • savannah sparrow (1)
  • song sparrow (1)
  • bobolink (3)
  • red-winged blackbird (6)

 

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