At Home on the Ferrisburgh Tundra

By josh • 251 Birds, Nature, Wildlife • 27 Feb 2014

Ferrisburgh (Addison County)
Monkton Road
Town #15

While I’m finally creating blog posts about towns I visited for this project before I started the blog, I may as well do a short post about another of the towns I bird most frequently.  My parents live in Ferrisburgh and have a very nice feeder station, so I’ve had nice long looks at typical woodland species there in the last few years.

Ferrisburgh is also one of the birdiest, most thoroughly birded towns in the state, right up there with Addison, Shelburne, Swanton, and Rockingham.  It has a great diversity of habitats, with significant lakeshore, wetland, riparian, forest, oldfield, and open farmland areas.  For the 251 birds project, my first checklist was one of the most interesting that I’ve ever entered:

  • Canada Goose (2)
  • American Bittern (1)
  • Great Blue Heron (1)
  • Osprey (1)
  • Spotted Sandpiper (2)
  • Red Knot (1)
  • Semipalmated Sandpiper (13)
  • White-rumped Sandpiper (1)
  • Dunlin (14)
  • Short-billed Dowitcher (4)
  • Ring-billed Gull (13)
  • American Crow (1)
  • Tree Swallow (6)
  • Barn Swallow (20)
  • Yellow Warbler (1)
  • Blackburnian Warbler (1)
  • Savanannah Sparrow (3)
  • Song Sparrow (1)
  • Red-winged Blackbird (4)
  • Common Grackle (6)
  • Baltimore Oriole (1)

There are three lifers on there!  Red Knot, Dunlin, and White-rumped Sandpiper were all new to me at that point, and it’s still the only time I’ve seen a Red Knot.  This checklist was from Hawkins Road, an actively farmed finger of land that is framed by South Slang to the west and the broad mouth of Little Otter Creek to the east.

On this day, Jim Mead had found a nice collection of shorebirds in a flooded field west of Hawkins Road.  In fact, Hawkins Road itself was under water!  It remained that way for a week or two, but when I arrived on May 27th (2011) it was passable enough to reach the birds.  I think nearly every Vermont birder owes a lifer or two to Jim, and I owe him three from this list alone!

I have few pictures from that day and it was long before I acquired a decent bird photography lens, but I did find this juvenile male Baltimore Oriole.  As sub-adults, they’re not nearly so natty!

Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole
Ferrisburgh, Vermont
May, 2011
Tamron AF18–250mm f/3.5–6.3 AF Di II at f/6.3, 1/400s, ISO 800

President’s Day in Vermont is very different than Memorial Day.  Instead of leafy trees and icterids and shorebirds we have vast icy wastes and tundra loving ground nesters.  On my most recent visit I was on my way to Little Chicago Road to find the snow bunting flock that has been regular there for several years.  On my way down into the valley from Monkton, though, I found a medium-sized flock of arctic birds.  This is the first time I’ve encountered these birds at this location, but it’s a perfect site- wide open, windswept cornfields, bitterly cold and without shelter for ambushing raptors.  A place only a longspur could love!

In fact, all three of the anticipated songbird species were present in this flock- forty-five horned larks, ten snow buntings, and a single lapland longspur.  I didn’t get great shots, but I certainly had great views of the longspur in particular.  The snow buntings, as usual, were skittish and uncooperative.

Horned Lark

Horned Lark
Ferrisburgh, Vermont
February, 2014
Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/22, 1/640s, ISO 400

Lapland Longspur

Lapland Longspur
Ferrisburgh, Vermont
February, 2014
Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/20, 1/640s, ISO 400


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