The Hermit Thrush

The Newsletter of the Green Mountain Audubon Society

Hermit ThrushWelcome to the newsletter of the Green Mountain Audubon Society. In this newsletter we hope to provide you with timely, informative articles about birds and birding in Vermont as well as current news about the activities of the GMAS. We welcome your comments and suggestions for improving this publication. Contact Us

The Snowy Owl Blitz in Addison County February 16th in the Year of the Irruption

by Ian Worley

The amazing irruption of Snowy Owls in North America in this winter of 2013-2014 has brought these charismatic Arctic wonders to a number of locations in Vermont. Little did we know when a single owl arrived at Perkins Pier on the Burlington waterfront on November 23rd, that we would have a flood of owls and the chance to see several in a day here in Vermont.

Perhaps because the sprawling, flat, clayplain agricultural lands of western Addison County resemble the owls' summer Arctic breeding grounds, an aggregation of snowies soon built and has remained resident into the second half of February.

On February 16th, 2014, a fabulous winter Sunday, over 40 volunteer observers in teams and as individuals spent a few hours or from sunrise to sunset  attempting to chronicle all the owls that could be found in Addison County. While the renowned Snowy Owl at the Dead Creek WMA goose viewing area attended to passersby and owlers alike throughout the day, the owlers spread out and canvassed parts or all of 15 towns. Snowy Owls are characteristically quiet during the day and often in easy view, aiding the survey count.

Many of the birds located were at sites where they were known for many days and weeks, perhaps since December. A few new locations were found, as well. In order to help assure that the number of birds counted did not include the same bird twice, observers were sent to the known owl locations throughout the day. For the most part, this technique appears to have worked well. In the densest owl population of western Bridport, it was challenging to know in a few places exactly how many birds there were.

A total of 123 observations of Snowy Owls were made by the observers. These were carefully mapped along with the time of day seen. From that information we concluded that at least 24 individual birds were tallied. There was speculation that more owls would be discovered due to the concentration of birders, but such was not the case. In fact the area of birds was quite constrained, even though through this winter birds have been seen far beyond this area. However the total number is similar to counts of previous weeks. A map of the blitz-found birds can be found at:

https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=zIeM49kV5yLs.kVOVmUBkO3Yw