Windsor- Lake Runnemede

By josh • 251 Birds, Architecture, Landscapes, Wildlife • 27 Mar 2012

Windsor (Windsor County)
Lake Runnemede
Town #30

I was fortunate to visit Windsor on a brilliant blue spring day that was almost too bright for photography.  I was in town for work so I couldn’t spend much time birding without making a long day even longer.  The easy access to good habitat at Lake Runnemede made for a worthwhile outing, even if I was there close to midday and for only a short time.

There were song sparrows out in force, and I found two FOY¹ species in eastern phoebe and tree swallow.  This is fairly early for both species.  They are not harbingers of spring but signals of its true arrival.

Lake Runnemede is both man-made and located in the village of Windsor so it’s by no means wild.  It is, however, a beautiful spot, overlooked by Mt. Ascutney (a monadnock that towers 3000 feet over the Connecticut River Valley) and nestled behind the historic homes of the village.  The lake forms a “U”, with maintained trails running along the earthen dam (the east side of the U) and around the interior.

Lake Runnemede

Lake Runnemede (east side, dam) and Mt. Ascutney, Windsor- Tokina 12-24mm f/4 PRO DX at 16mm, f/8, 1/1000s, ISO 400


Lake Runnemede Dam Valve

Lake Runnemede Dam Valve, Canon 400mm f/5.6 L, f/7.1, 1/1000s, ISO 400

The west side of the lake is quieter and further from the village and Route 5, which is only a few hundred yards to the east.  There’s a marsh on the east side of the lake below the dam and mature forest on the west side.

As you might expect given the season and the habitat, familiar woodland, marsh, and shrub species dominated here.  There was a song sparrow in every lakeside shrub singing noisily. This was an excellent opportunity to hear the wide variety of individualized songs of this species, which I sometimes confuse for more exotic sparrows.

Song Sparrow

Song sparrow…in song, Canon 400mm f/5.6 L, f/10, 1/1000, ISO 400

Here’s the list:

  •  Ring-necked duck (6)
  •  Turkey vulture (1)
  •  Downy woodpecker (2)
  •  Pileated woodpecker (1)
  •  Eastern phoebe (3)
  •  Blue jay (3)
  •  American crow (6)
  •  Tree swallow (1)
  •  Black-capped chickadee (2)
  •  American robin (3)
  •  Song sparrow (22)
  •  Dark-eyed junco (slate-colored) (1)
  •  Northern cardinal (6)
  •  Red-winged blackbird (8)
  •  American goldfinch (10)

The ring-necked ducks were all puttering about on the western side of the lake.  There’s less access to the water on that side but I’m sure the ducks appreciate the greater cover and less frequent visitation.  One of the females had a very pale semi-circle behind the bill that made me first mistake it for a female scaup but I eventually settled on ring-necked duck aided by her bill, eye-ring, and the company she kept.  Ring-necked ducks are flooding through our area now and are present in much greater numbers than they will be throughout the summer.

As for Windsor, I spent a bit of time puttering around the village and its surrounds on a work-related photo assignment.  I hadn’t been in years, and certainly hadn’t ever spent much time there.  I was impressed with the downtown (though there are a few more vacant storefronts than I expected) and by the range of impressive residential architecture.   Among the highlights is the Old Constitution House, a tavern where delegates gathered to draft a constitution for the Republic of Vermont (1777-1791).  The Vermont Constitution was the first to prohibit slavery, guarantee universal male suffrage, and provide for public schooling.

Old Constitution House

Old Constitution House, Tokina 12-24mm f/4 ATX PRO at 20mm, f/13, 1/125s, ISO 100

Old South Church was designed in 1798 by Asher Benjamin, whose pattern books informed much of the architecture of the late 18th and early 19th centuries in America (and who, more importantly, shares a name with my son).

Old South Church, Windsor

Old South Church, Windsor, Tokina 12-24mm f/4 ATX PRO at 16mm, f/5.6, 1/3200s, ISO 100

The most popular attraction in town is actually mostly in New Hampshire, but I can’t really hold that against it.  The Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge (or Windsor-Cornish, maybe?) has the longest single covered span to carry automobile traffic in the United States.  It’s a Town lattice truss², and nearly 450′ long.

Cornish-Windsor Bridge

Cornish-Windsor Bridge, Tokina 12-24 f/4 ATX PRO at 17mm, f/4, 1/250s, ISO 100 with cokin polarizer

Finally, Windsor is home to the American Precision Museum.  This place is absolutely gobsmacking- it has a huge collection of historic machine tools- but is unfortunately closed for the season.

American Precision Museum

American Precision Museum, Tokina 12-24mm f/4 ATX PRO at 15mm, f/22, 3.2s, ISO 100 with cokin polarizer, 2-stop ND filter, and 2-stop graduated split ND filter

The APM is really tough to photograph in harsh light. the best composition is facing southwest (mostly into the sun, given the date and the time of day) and features a small cascade that begs for a long exposure.  It’s also under construction and there are unsightly powerlines everywhere.  I’ll have to go back in the spring when the leaves are on the trees, the light is more favorable, and perhaps the construction will be tidied up.  I think the split ND filter isn’t a great fit here either, but it’s all I had in my bag.

Looking back at these, I wish I’d broken out the polarizer earlier.  We have so few brilliant sunny days in Vermont…and I’m a bit out of practice.  There are many things I would have done differently on the day if I’d been more aware (what’s with the larger apertures on the architecture shots?), but the conditions were mostly forgiving and I’m generally ok with how things turned out.

¹First Of Year, or, the first time I’ve observed that species in a given year

²The Town lattice truss, invented by Ithiel Town in the early 19th century, is common in Vermont. It features horizontal top and bottom chords running the length of the bridge supported by a dense lattice (obviously!) of horizontal planks and held together by wooden pegs, or trenails.

Lake Runnemede, Windsor

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