Alburg Dunes State Park

By josh • 251 Birds, Nature, Plants and Fungi, Wildlife • 14 Aug 2012

Alburg ( Grand Isle County)
Alburg Dunes State Park
Town #39

Alburg is a great place for birding, and there are a number of publicly accessible sites that provide excellent access to and viewing of wetland and lake shore habitats.  Mud Creek WMA is probably the premier destination, with an elevated rail bed that allows views down into an extensive managed wetland that is frequented by vast numbers of waders, ducks, geese, and marsh-loving songbirds.

For something a bit different, I visited Alburg Dunes State Park on the south shore of the peninsula that forms the town.  I’d been to the park before to use the beach, and I thought that I might find some early shorebird migrants making use of the mudflats exposed by the low lake level.

This place is pretty unique in Vermont- it’s one of the longest natural sand beaches on Lake Champlain and, due to a series of geological and climactic coincidences, has formed a miniature barrier island separating the beach and a huge wetland to the north.

Alburg Dunes Beach

Beach at Alburg Dunes State Park, Tamron AF18–250mm f/3.5–6.3 AF Di II at 65mm, f/7.1, 1/400s, ISO 200

I walked the “beach road”, a .5 mile flat path that runs between the dunes (and a small deep broadleaf marsh) to the south and an extensive deep marsh to the north.  The vast majority of the state park is to the north of the road and is inaccessible without getting pretty muddy.

Beach Road

Beach Road, Alburg Dunes State Park, Tamron AF18–250mm f/3.5–6.3 AF Di II at 18mm, f/11, 1/80s, ISO 400

Not a perfect day (or time of day, at least) for landscape photography, obviously.  Walking in, however, I saw fledgling eastern phoebes, a couple of irritable house wrens, many busy eastern kingbirds, and green and great blue herons (full list below).  There was also an osprey nest (no birds on it) and plenty of evidence of pileated woodpeckers.

Pileated Woodpecker Holes

Pileated Woodpecker Holes, Tamron AF18–250mm f/3.5–6.3 AF Di II at 100mm, f/7.1, 1/125s, ISO 200

The only birds on the beach, unfortunately, were a large group of ring-billed gulls  attending the beach-goers.  Traveling back along the beach road I stopped to inspect some of the numerous buttonbushes…

Buttonbush

Buttonbush, Alburg Dunes State Park, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/5.6, 1/640s, ISO 400

…when I noticed this critter trying the “if I can’t see you, you can’t see me” gambit:

Green Heron

Green Heron, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/5.6, 1/400s, ISO 800

Pretty sure he spotted me.

Green Heron

Green Heron, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/5.6, 1/320s, ISO 400

Eventually this juvenile green heron returned to normal heron activities and I got some decent images despite the gloom of the marsh.

Green Heron

Green Heron, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/5.6, 1/400s, ISO 800

Green Heron

Green Heron, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/5.6, 1/400s, ISO 800

Green Heron

Green Heron, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/5.6, 1/400s, ISO 800

The beach road provides access to the beach at its east end, crossing the dune before the shore sweeps south toward the “point of the tongue” and the bridge to North Hero.  Here I found plenty of milkweed and the species that depends on it.

Monarch

Monarch, Tamron AF18–250mm f/3.5–6.3 AF Di II at 155mm, f/5.6, 1/160s, ISO 400

If you go to Alburg Dunes (and you should), be sure to heed the signs.

Poison Ivy Sign

Alburg Dunes State Park, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/5.6, 1/400s, ISO 200

Full List (21 species)

  • Canada goose (22)
  • great blue heron (1)
  • green heron (3)
  • turkey vulture (2)
  • ring-billed gull (41)
  • belted kingfisher (1)
  • eastern wood-pewee (1)
  • eastern phoebe (4)
  • eastern kingbird (8)
  • blue jay (1)
  • American crow (2)
  • barn swallow (2)
  • black-capped chickadee (5)
  • house wren (2)
  • American robin (5)
  • gray catbird (2)
  • European starling (1)
  • cedar waxwing (1)
  • common yellowthroat (2)
  • song sparrow (3)
  • American goldfinch (6)

Alburg Dunes State Park

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