eNews | May 2020
Flowering Serviceberry / © K.P. McFarland
A Field Guide to May
The month of May is a show-off. Grass glows green under blue skies. Woodland wildflowers break out of the ground and demand attention. Trees flower and leaves burst from long-dormant buds. Songbirds arrive on southern night winds and liven the dawn with a chorus of song. May shouts of life and rejuvenation. Here are a few bits of natural history for your May days .
A New eButterfly Takes Flight
An international team of biologists and software engineers, including staff from VCE’s Vermont Atlas of Life , has collaborated on an ambitious expansion of the eButterfly platform found at e-Butterfly.org . The upgrade offers scientists and naturalists powerful new tools to track and help conserve butterflies from Central America to the far reaches of the Arctic.

Covering more than 3,000 species—including many rarely studied—the e-Butterfly.org site offers free access for everyone to report, store, organize, and view vast amounts of data on butterfly distribution and diversity. Ev ery time butterfly watchers raise binoculars and cameras to record a butterfly sighting, they collect important data. Recording the number, date, and location of each and every butterfly, no matter how common or rare, may seem trivial, even repetitive—but this detailed information can be invaluable to science and conservation. Find out how you can participate at e-butterfly.org .
Backyard Bird Quest 2020
Count Every Bird on May 23rd
Have a BBQ while you look for birds during BBQ2020! Can you find an Eastern Phoebe?
© K.P. McFarland
Spring is here, the time when we eagerly await the flood of songbirds and waterfowl to our woods and waterways. The advent of spring also heralds VCE’s annual Birdathon, which is both a joyful event and our most important fundraiser of the year. This spring we’re adapting Birdathon to accommodate COVID-mandated travel restrictions and social distancing guidelines. VCE’s staff team (the Green Mountain Goatsuckers) and a legion of citizen birders—including you, we hope—will spend Saturday, May 23 birding on the Backyard Bird Quest 2020 .

We’ll include a “real-time” element into our Backyard Bird Quest 2020 through the Vermont eBird platform, such that everyone can watch the day’s discoveries online, sharing in each other’s discoveries as they unfold. We hope we can count on you to join us, either as a fellow birder, by collecting pledges, or by sponsoring the Green Mountain Goatsuckers. Visit our BBQ2020 website to find out more about the event and how you can get involved!
A May Update on
VCE's COVID-19 Response
Healthy, happy VCE staff hard at work from their home offices.
"Though the VCE staff thrives on in-person interaction and camaraderie (as anyone who has ever joined us around the lunch table can attest), we are now in week #8 of our COVID-mandated "virtual" existence. While we truly miss our daily collaborations—and banter—in the office, weekly video meetings and frequent Slack conversations have maintained a strong sense of cohesion." Continue reading VCE Executive Director Chris Rimmer's operational update and reflections on what's in store for May on our blog .

~ Special Note to VCE Volunteers ~

With the recent slight loosening of COVID-related restrictions on travel and physical distancing, many of our core field projects will proceed during the weeks ahead. One required step that we must take in advance of any field work and we ask all of our volunteers to comply as well is to complete a required online training by the Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration (VOSHA). After completing the training, participants receive an online certificate. We urge all VCE citizen scientists to complete this survey as soon as possible. Thank you!
Vermont Atlas of Life
Observation Contest for K-6 Graders
VCE's Vermont Atlas of Life is excited to announce our first Observation Contest for students!

While our kids may be stuck at home, their imaginations know no boundaries and nature is still open for exploration and discovery. To encourage a sense of wonder about the natural world, VCE launched the “VAL Observation Contest,” based on our Vermont Atlas of Life project, for our young naturalists. Instead of submitting observations of real-life species, we are asking young scientists from kindergarten through 6th grade to submit a “new” species from their own imaginations. Students should use their knowledge and research of real Vermont habitats and species to create a new life form that could believably fit into Vermont’s natural communities.

Submissions will be reviewed every two weeks through June 19, and we will share the top submissions on VCE's social media channels. Students, parents, and teachers can find the submission materials and details at https://val.vtecostudies.org/events/vermont-atlas-of-life-observation-contest/ .
Backyard Lady Beetle Blitz, May 15-18
Help VCE Search for Vermont's Lost Lady Beetles
Spotted Lady Beetle / © Susan Elliott
Lady beetles are adored by many, and who can blame them their bright patterns captivate the eye and their reputation as pest predators make them a friend to farmers and gardeners. Many of us are familiar with the nonnative Asian Lady Beetle, but did you know that 33 native lady beetle species have been historically documented in Vermont? Unfortunately, 13 of these species have not been seen since the 1970s. It's a mystery we're eager to solve! So in true VCE fashion, we've launched a new citizen science project called the Vermont Lady Beetle Atlas .

You can help in this conservation quest by participating in the Backyard Lady Beetle Blitz on May 15th - 18th . Search for lady beetles in your gardens and potted plants, among weeds and shrubs, and even along the edges of your house. You never know where they might be hiding! The goal is to find as many lady beetles as possible and add your sightings to the Vermont Lady Beetle Atlas project on iNaturalist . Together, we may unravel the case of Vermont's lost lady beetles!
May Webinars and Events
May 6: Webinars
  • Vernal Pools: Wicked Big Puddles or Critical Wildlife Habitat | 9:00-10:00 AM Join VCE's Steve Faccio to discuss all things vernal pool-related. This webinar will focus on the ecology of vernal pools with an emphasis on the wildlife (both amphibians and invertebrates) that depend upon them to complete their life cycles. The webinar will also feature a demonstration of VCE's new Vermont Vernal Pool Atlas, an online database and interactive mapping tool for vernal pools in Vermont.

  • Grassland Birds in Vermont | 5:00-6:00 PM (Live Online at North Branch Nature Center) Join Liza Morse and Kevin Tolan, VCE's Grassland Bird Outreach team, for an evening program about Vermont's grassland birds. Liza and Kevin will focus on the ecology and natural history of the predominant grassland breeding bird species in Vermont: Bobolinks, Savannah Sparrows, and Eastern Meadowlarks. Whether you are a landowner, a bird enthusiast, or even if you have never heard of a Bobolink, come learn about these amazing birds.

May 7: Webinar
  • INaturalist and Northeast Alpine Flower Watch Citizen Science | 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM (Co-presented by VCE and the Green Mountain Club) Join VCE's Emily Anderson and GMC’s Education Program staff as they explain the value of citizen science projects in conserving Vermont’s biodiversity and collecting data on alpine plant phenology. While all workshops will contain a slideshow presentation to guide new users, VCE and GMC are also big believers in the power of hands-on learning and will incorporate outdoor exploration and learning into this training.

May 9: World Migratory Bird Day and eBird Big Day
  • See the "Celebrate World Migratory Bird Day" block below for details.

May 13: Webinar
  • All About Spring Migration | 9:00-10:00 AM Spring is an exhilarating time for naturalists, and especially for birders as our forests, fields, and waterways fill with the sounds and colors of migrants. Join VCE Executive Director Chris Rimmer for an overview of spring migration, focusing on the songbirds (thrushes, warblers, orioles, tanagers, and sparrows) that grace us in May. Emphasis will be on the dazzling diversity of different species, their migration strategies, and how to learn their identification.

May 15-18: Backyard Lady Beetle Blitz
  • See the "Backyard Lady Beetle Blitz" block above for details.

May 18: Webinar
  • Managing Grasslands for Bird Habitat | 6:30-8:00 PM Are you a Vermont landowner with open fields, pastures, or grasslands? Join VCE and Vermont Land Trust for an interactive program about grassland bird ecology and habitat management. This virtual workshop is intended to be highly interactive, so please bring any and all questions you have about grassland birds and habitat management (specific to your own property) for discussion. Space is limited for this free program, so please register today for access. Contact Liza Morse with questions.

May 20: Webinar
  • Loon Behavior and Rescues - A glimpse into a loon's life and conservation | 9:00-10:00 AM Eric Hanson will present a webinar focused on loon behavior and the results of 25 years of banding research in Wisconsin by Dr. Walter Piper. You'll learn about loon territorial interactions, breeding, migration, and stories from the field. In addition, Eric will share several rescue storiessome successful, some notbut always interesting.

May 23: Backyard Bird Quest 2020 | Midnight-11:59 PM
  • Join VCE's crackerjack birding team, the Green Mountain Goatsuckers, for Backyard Bird Quest 2020 from your own neck of the woods! See details in the block above, or visit the BBQ2020 website to learn more.
Visit VCE's New Multimedia Library

Even though this era of social distancing has put a damper on VCE's previously scheduled in-person workshops and citizen science events, it hasn't dampened our enthusiasm for making conservation science available to everyone! Browse our collection of VCE biologist-produced videos, webinars, and other multimedia offerings designed to help learners of all ages engage with the natural world on our new Multimedia web page !
Celebrate World Migratory Bird Day on May 9
World Migratory Bird Day brings attention to one of the most important and spectacular events on the planet: bird migration. In light of the recent report on the staggering decline of North America's birds – one in four breeding adult birds have disappeared since 1970 – migratory birds need our attention more than ever before.

You can help the millions of birds that travel through your region – and those that choose your yards to call home for the summer – by making simple, powerful choices at home and in the grocery store. In honor of World Migratory Bird Day:

  • Purchase Smithsonian Bird Friendly© certified coffee. (In VCE's office, we drink Birds & Beans). Certified Bird Friendly© coffee is grown under a canopy of native shade trees that support higher numbers of birds, insects, and mammals than conventional coffee. Twenty years of Smithsonian research show that this approach maintains habitat for songbirds while helping fight the effects of climate change.
  • Take 7 Simple Actions to help bring birds back. Learn easy ways you can make your yard and home environment more bird-friendly.
  • Count birds. May 9 is also eBird Global Big Day. Last year, 35,209 eBirders from 174 countries collected an astounding 92,284 checklists in a single day. Participating is easy! Grab your binoculars, eBird app, and a hot cup of Bird Friendly© coffee and join the global community of birders submitting checklists of birds throughout the day.
  • Spread the word. Share infographics, links, and videos to inform and inspire your family and friends. Use the hashtag #BringBirdsBack to let people know you’re part of this groundswell of support for birds.

Every action you take makes a real difference for birds!
Outdoor Radio
Red-winged Blackbirds Signal
the Arrival of Spring
A male Red-winged Blackbird sings while showing off its red epaulet. / © K.P. McFarland
In this episode of Outdoor Radio, join Kent McFarland and Sara Zahendra on a spring day in Quechee, Vermont at Dewey’s Mill Pond, a popular birding area , watching for and listening to Red-winged Blackbirds. They are still relatively abundant and easy to find, but since the 1970s Red-winged Blackbird populations have declined by about 30 percent. Also, these harbingers of spring have been arriving earlier and earlier as the climate has been changing. Learn a lot more about this species and listen to the show on our blog!

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
American Woodcock
by Roy Pilcher
American Woodcock / © Roy Pilcher
Congratulations to Roy Pilcher for winning the April 2020 Vermont Atlas of Life iNaturalist photo-observation of the month. The arrival of the American Woodcock (a.k.a. timberdoodle or bog sucker) is one of the exciting signs of spring in Vermont celebrated beautifully by Roy’s image of this one strutting his (or her) stuff. Learn more about this species' complicated aerial courtship "sky dance" 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