North Branch Nature Center, Montpelier

By josh • 251 Birds, Nature, Wildlife • 14 Sep 2012

Montpelier (Washington County)
North Branch Nature Center
Town #41

I’m not sure why I’d never recorded a checklist in Montpelier for my 251 Birds project- I work there, after all, and I’ve certainly entered plenty of checklists from town in eBird.  Capital City has several good places for birding despite its small geographic area and dense population.

The good people at the North Branch Nature Center (on Route 12 heading north out of town) seem to get out and bird every day, and they usually find some interesting migrants stopping by in the fall.  This year the unusual visitors have included orange-crowned warbler and Philadelphia vireo as well as decent numbers and diversity of other warblers.

On arrival, I immediately found a small group of vireos.  No Philadelphia among them, but I did get better-than-accustomed looks at the red-eyeds.

Red-eyed Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/5.6, 1/1250s, ISO 400

I wish I’d sacrificed some of that shutter speed for depth-of-field on several of my photos on the day.  Live and learn, I guess.

Along with the migrants, there were impressive numbers of chickadees, goldfinches, catbirds, white-throated sparrows, and corvids on site, many of them using the large community garden at the north end of the Center near the river.  My best shot of the day was certainly this gray catbird, who is showing off his/her oft-hidden fieldmarks of rufous undertail coverts and black cap.

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 400

Chip Darmstadt helpfully pointed me to some successional forest where he’d seen busy foraging activity that morning.  I found quite a few warblers (though no orange-crowned), including great views of black-and-white, common yellowthroat, yellow-rumped, chestnut-sided, and five black-throated greens.

Black-throated Green Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/5.6, 1/3200s, ISO 400

Not a great shot, but it is a useful reference for why they’re called black-throated GREEN warblers when they seem to be mostly yellow, black, and white.  These birds were constantly on the move, and the one that did pose for me for a few seconds never moved out of the half sunny, half shaded spot where he sat.

Black-throated Green Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/5.6, 1/1600s, ISO 400

Any warbler shot is a good warbler shot, as far as I’m concerned.

The big surprise on the day was not a warbler at all but the Wilson’s snipe I nearly stepped on as I returned to the Community Garden from the “ostrich fern jungle” to the east.  The snipe was a first in Washington County for me, and certainly the last thing I was looking for with my eyes on the treetops.

Here’s the full list (18 species):

Wilson’s Snipe (1)
Red-eyed Vireo (5)
Blue Jay (7)
American Crow (5)
Common Raven (2)
Black-capped Chickadee (18)
Tufted Titmouse (2)
White-breasted Nuthatch (3)
American Robin (1)
Gray Catbird (9)
Black-and-white Warbler (1)
Common Yellowthroat (1)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (1)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (1)
Black-throated Green Warbler (1)
Song Sparrow (1)
White-throated Sparrow (7)
American Goldfinch (9)

North Branch Nature Center

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