Ah, winter birding in Vermont! Take away the leaves and the warblers, and there's quite a bit to see. And we're close enough to the Canadian boreal forest that we get some wonderful winter visitors. Snow Geese start the season off with their fall migration, making a stop-over in the town of Addison, which is dominated by wide open farm fields. Over the course of the season, one can expect to see Iceland, Glaucous, and Little Gulls, Bohemian Waxwings, Gray Jays and Crossbills, the occasional Boreal Chickadee, and a nice suite of raptors. Snowy Owls are relatively common and always attention-getters, with 8 ringing in the New Year in Addison. Last year there was a Great Gray Owl in Hanover NH. Rough-legged Hawks can frequently be seen around fields and marshes. And for the only the second time in my birding life, I had the privilege today of viewing a Northern Hawk-Owl.
I get a great deal of pleasure hiking up in the Northeast Kingdom, especially in winter. Wilderness still exists there, but it's a slightly tamed wilderness; you're never too far from a snowmobile trail or road, but you can be very much on your own with nature. Essex is Vermont's largest county, but also its least populated; many towns only host one village in 36 square miles. The Canadian boreal forest comes southward here, creating an intermingling of boreal woodlands and bogs amongst the low mountains.
The Kingdom comes alive in wintertime: logging, ice fishing, and of course snowmobiling. There's a VAST trail right into downtown Island Pond, ; cars often have to wait their turn behind Skidoo's and Arctic Cats at the Mobil station. The Vermont Association of Snow Travelers maintains an extensive network of groomed and well-signed trails throughout the region, and these make great trails for accessing the backwoods. What I love most of all -- the ghostly echoes of the snowmobile engines whining from across the valley. The sound from afar is very non-mechanical, and ebbs and flows just like a howling wind, but on a calm bright winter's day.
the only northern (boreal) birds observed this afternoon were a Northern Goshawk that flew right over my car, and a pair of Gray Jays. The region is also the place to find many of the other Canadian species in Vermont: Northern Hawk-Owls and Great Gray Owls, Rough-legged Hawks, Boreal Chickadees, White-winged Crossbills, Snow Buntings, Horned Larks. Unfortunately none were seen today. Fortunately, I like exploring this wilderness area!
CHECKLIST FOR BRUNSWICK & BLOOMFIELD:
Black-capped chickadee, Blue jay, Gray jay, Northern goshawk, White-breasted nuthatch, Red-breasted nuthatch, Golden-crowned kinglet, Barred owl.
I've been a life-long 'naturalist' -- interested in every aspect of the natural world. I began birding in the early 1990s, and have been a serious birder for over two decades.