eNews | April 2020
Spotted Salamander / © K.P. McFarland
A Field Guide to April
In April, the northern forest is laid bare with cold desire. Our long-dormant senses awaken. As the soil warms, Streptomyces bacteria spew chemical weapons against other bacteria, which to us have a distinct earthy smell. Spring Peepers burst forth in the evening with up to 4,000 peeps an hour. Blades of wild leeks slice through the soggy, brown remains of autumn to release sweet-onion perfume. Bright white Hepatica opens for wild bees and provides a feast for our eyes. For a short time before the forest turns green, fires can quickly run through the understory, filling the air with the smell of smoke. April leaves none of our senses void. Here’s our guide to some of the joys of April .
Updated for 2020:
State of the Mountain Birds Report
The 2020 State of the Mountains Bird Report has landed… on the web. In this evolving report, we try to answer one seemingly simple question: What is the state of mountain bird species in the northeastern United States?

Using long-term data collected by citizen scientists working on VCE's Mountain Birdwatch project, we've created species-specific  population health indicators that reveal which species are thriving and which need attention. We seek to understand where our conservation efforts have succeeded and where they have not. And, where we have fallen short in our efforts to protect the birds of our mountains, we offer insights and suggest solutions. Jason Hill, coordinator of VCE's Mountain Birdwatch project, explains and summarizes the report findings in his blog . It's eye-opening and full of interesting links - check it out!
An April Update on
VCE's COVID-19 Response
2020 Staff Outing Old City Syrup
VCE's 2020 pre-stay-at-home-order staff outing in early March found us lending a helping hand at Pat Kelly's (back row, 1st on left) Old City Syrup sugarhouse in Strafford, VT. / © Aaron Dotter
April in the Northeast is an unsettled, if exhilarating, month. Snow showers transition to rain showers (often on the same day), spring ephemerals poke through the leaf litter, and our long-awaited migratory birds appear - slowly at first, then in exciting pulses - to renew our landscapes with their sounds and colors.

This particular April, however, finds we humans stuck in our own unsettling transition, in a kind of surreal limbo as our usual spring routines are upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here at VCE, we are optimistically seeking creative approaches to our wildlife conservation work, while simultaneously taking care of ourselves, our families, and our communities. In his recent blog, VCE Executive Director Chris Rimmer shares an update on how we are faring, and how we expect VCE's work to unfold during the weeks ahead.

~ Special Note to VCE Volunteers ~

In an effort to comply with Vermont Governor Scott's recent directive to limit nonessential travel, VCE has decided to suspend all field work that involves:   
  1. travel by car, or
  2. interaction with another person that would not comply with the social distancing standards of remaining 6-feet apart.
This policy will remain in effect until further notice. We remain hopeful that the situation will improve and restrictions will be lifted, allowing field work to resume. We are monitoring the situation daily and will update this policy as circumstances allow.
Vermont Atlas of Life
Citizen Science Wear is Here
The Vermont Atlas of Life team has rolled out its first line of citizen scientist attire! These conversation-starting T-shirts and sweatshirts feature the amazing artwork of Katama Murray . Katama drew each species using an archival pen, and then transformed them digitally to make the entire composition fit into the shape of the state of Vermont.

Look snazzy, support citizen science, and help spread the word for biodiversity conservation with these unique shirts. Check out our nice selection of styles, colors, and sizes at https://www.bonfire.com/vermont-atlas-of-life.

We know that you'll want to take a swing at identifying all of the species on your T-shirt, so to help you out we've posted the answer key at http://val.vtecostudies.org/about/purchase-swag . (No cheating!)
Ready and Waiting for Grassland Birds
Through this public health crisis, VCE's Grassland Bird Outreach team remains committed to helping landowners meet their grassland management goals. This year we are excited to roll out our first-ever recognition sign to acknowledge the efforts of landowners managing their properties for grassland birds. Read more about this program on our blog.

If you are interested in learning more about grassland bird habitat management or would like to schedule a socially-distanced site visit, please visit New England Grassland Ambassadors website or contact us at grasslands@vtecostudies.org .
Join Our Spring Wildflower Phenology Annotation Blitz!
Long-term flowering records initiated by Henry David Thoreau in 1852 have been used in Massachusetts to monitor phenological changes. Phenology—the study of the timing of natural events such as migration, flowering, leaf-out, or breeding—is key to examine and unravel the effects of climate change on ecosystems. Did you know that you can emulate Thoreau right from home? There are thousands of images of plants that observers like you have added to the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist. But, they have not yet been annotated so that we can easily track phenology.

You can help us add this valuable information. It’s easy and fun! All you have to do is look at beautiful images of plants and note whether they have flower buds, flowers, or fruits. Learn about the project and how to participate on the VCE blog .
Virtual Events in April
April 5: A Socially-distant Bioblitz
Sponsored by Antioch University New England, you can participate from the comfort of your own yard and make a real contribution to science. Sign up here!

iNaturalist Webinars
iNaturalist is a crowd-sourced identification tool powered by artificial intelligence to help you identify the plants, animals, and fungi all around you. Our new Vermont Atlas of Life webinar series will provide tips and tricks for using iNaturalist so you can become a citizen science superstar! Details and video conferencing links will be made available on the Vermont Atlas of Life events page . Questions? Please contact Emily .
Dutchman's Breeches / © Nathaniel sharp
Some Good (Tax) News

Since standard deduction amounts were increased under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, fewer people have been able to itemize deductions, including for charitable donations. (That's the bad news.)

Now here's the good news: the CARES Act that Congress passed last week allows for an "above-the-line" deduction of up to $300 for charitable donations. That means you can claim that deduction from your income even if you don't itemize, and instead claim the standard deduction. 

We are truly thankful to all our donors whose gifts fuel our work for wildlife, and we hope this news arrives in time to be useful.
Outdoor Radio
Listen to Over 50 Episodes Online
Blue Jay - the engineer of the forest / © K.P. McFarland
Feed your inner naturalist and take your mind on a trip to the great outdoors with Outdoor Radio. Choose from over 50 episodes online, with topics ranging from birds to bats and beavers to peepers. Outdoor Radio is entertaining and educational - perfect for the whole family! You can find the episodes on our web page  accompanied by photos and interesting links for more information, or you can  listen to our podcast on iTunes

VCE and  Vermont Public Radio  unite the sounds and science of nature in our monthly feature aired on the 3rd Wednesday of every month at 6:20 PM, and again on Thursday at 7:50 AM. Frogs and ferns, finches and fish - anything is fair game for co-hosts Kent McFarland and Sara Zahendra. Join us to explore and uncover some of the mysteries of our natural world.
Photo-observation of the Month
Crested Caracara
by coleen61
Crested Caracara excited birders in Woodstock, VT / © colleen61
Congratulations to coleen61 for winning the March 2020 Vermont Atlas of Life iNaturalist photo-observation of the month. The image of the extremely rare Crested Caracara that made a multi-day visit to Woodstock, Vermont won the adoration of naturalists last month. Incredibly, this was the second occurrence of this far-southern species in Vermont! You can read all about this sighting and the first one in a great blog post by VCE’s Nathaniel Sharp . Learn more about our surprise avian visitor and see the runners-up in last month's photo competition on our blog .

Visit the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist,  where you can vote for the winner this month by clicking 'fav' on your favorite photo-observation. Make sure you get outdoors and record the biodiversity around you, then submit your discoveries - and you could be a winner!
The Vermont Center for Ecostudies promotes wildlife conservation across the Americas using the combined strength of scientific research and citizen engagement. Find us online at:  vtecostudies.org