Between the Vales

By josh • 251 Birds, Nature, Wildlife • 19 Feb 2014

Burlington (Chittenden County)
Town #8

Obviously I’ve been birding in Burlington quite a lot lately- about a third of my posts here in the last year have been in the city, and my most recent lifer (a Glaucous Gull) was found at the Navy Memorial on the waterfront.  I put in about three eBird checklists a week from my walk to and from the office, and I spent many of my lunchbreaks last summer looking for bugs in Centennial Woods and at University Heights.

It’s probably time to link a Burlington post to the progress map then, especially here in birding doldrums of February in the Champlain Valley when the lake is entirely frozen and the ducks are elsewhere.

One of the places that makes Burlington such a remarkable city is the Intervale, 700 acres of open space that divides the Old North End from the New North End.  Over the past 30 years it has been transformed from an inaccessible trash heap to a beloved community space.

I’ve only just begun to explore the birding possibilities here, but they seem quite diverse.  In the recent past there was a large compost operation just off the main road that attracted Glaucous and Iceland Gulls and Fish Crows in the winter, but the compost operation has moved on and so have the gulls.  One of the better spots I’ve found is a small pond that is visible from the road, where I located a Black-crowned Night-heron in August.

Another decent area is a trail that runs from the first trailhead parking area back to the Winooski River.  The map below shows the trailhead, and the trail runs east to the river.  I followed it north along the river bank for a short distance but ran out of time.


Back in August I wandered this trail at lunchtime, which wasn’t really optimal for birding but I did find a few Cedar Waxwings, a House Wren, and some Common Mergansers down by the river.

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing
Intervale, Burlington, Vermont
August, 2013
Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/5.6, 1/2500s, ISO640

I also found this cool hanging scorpionfly.  A new family for me!

Bittacus strigosus

Bittacus strigosus
Intervale, Burlington, Vermont
August, 2013
Tamron AF18–250mm f/3.5–6.3 AF Di II at 231mm, f/14, 1/80s, ISO400

A bit further up the road is another trailhead.  From here you can head north on the road between the farms, which I haven’t done much except to stop at the aforementioned night-heron pond.  Alternatively, there’s a farm road leading east that follows hedgerows and small wooded areas between the farm fields.


A few trips to this area in October weren’t rewarded with much more than the standard complement of birds, but I did find it a nice spot for butterflies and large numbers of goldfinches, woodpeckers, empids, and migrating Yellow-rumped Warblers.

Clouded Sulphur

Clouded Sulphur
Intervale, Burlington, Vermont
October, 2013
Canon 400mm f/5.6L at 5/5.6, 1/3200s, ISO320

I’m definitely hoping to spend some more time in the Intervale once it warms up a bit.  It seems like it might be a good spot for migration, and there are some really interesting wetland and floodplain habitats at the north end that I haven’t explored yet.  It also seems like it would be a great place to bring the kids, so hopefully we’ll get down there on some weekend mornings once mud season has abated.

Incidentally, Burlington is town #8 because I first recorded a checklist for this project at the mouth of the Winooski in March of 2011, which yielded the following list:

  • Canada Goose (7)
  • Black-capped Chickadee (3)
  • White-breasted Nuthatch (1)
  • Northern Cardinal (1)
  • Carolina Wren (1)
  • Mallard (2)
  • Common Goldeneye (14)
  • Hooded Merganser (4)
  • Common Merganser (4)
  • Great Black-backed Gull (1)
  • Ring-billed Gull (19)
  • Mourning Dove (2)
  • Blue Jay (2)
  • American Robin (2)
  • American Crow (3)
  • European Starling (6)

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