November 2016
The last rays of a November day by K.P. McFarland. (view full-sized image)
A Field Guide to November
"Stick Season," as we call it here in New England, when the woods are gray and cold and the leaves have mostly fallen, is anything but lifeless. Fall migration continues with passing shorebirds, waterfowl, and the final hawks drifting south. The year's last butterflies - sulphurs and brushfoots - remain on the wing on a stray warm day. And winter visitors, including Snow Buntings and Snowy Owls, are arriving from the north. Learn more about November life around us in this edition of our monthly Field Guide.
Measuring the Loss of a Thrush's Forest

In 2013, a team of scientists led by University of Maryland professor Matthew Hansen released a high-resolution, global database of forest cover change. This remarkable information, obtained from Landsat satellites, has offered an unprecedented look at the state of the world's forests. VCE biologists are currently using these data to document changes in Hispaniolan forests that provide winter habitat for Bicknell's Thrush. The news is not good: between 2000 and 2014, approximately 190 square miles of potential Bicknell's Thrush habitat were cleared in the Dominican Republic alone, including land within protected areas such as Parque Nacional Sierra de Bahoruco. During that same period, about 48 square miles of potential thrush habitat were lost to deforestation in Haiti. Although Haiti's forest loss was less extensive, the situation there is arguably more dire given the widespread deforestation which had occurred prior to 2000. VCE has joined other conservation biologists from across the hemisphere in the International Bicknell's Thrush Conservation Group to help reverse this alarming trend. Learn more and view a map of forest loss on our blog.
VCE Tracks Upland Sandpiper Across Ten Countries During Fall Migration

The results of our grassland bird research  partnership with the  Department of Defense Legacy Program have been eye-opening. This past summer we outfitted 15  Upland Sandpipers with satellite tags at military bases in Massachusetts at Joint Base Cape Cod and Westover Air Reserve Base, and in Kansas at Fort Riley and  Konza Prairie Biological Station. Four of those sandpipers received solar-powered tags that send us their daily location via email. Yes, you read that correctly - Upland Sandpipers can now send email (or at least their tags can). These birds  have provided the first direct observations of the species' fall flight paths. We have already learned that these birds use a multitude of private properties, especially agricultural fields, on their southward migration.  Read more about this wondrous journey and see an enlarged map of one bird's travels on the VCE Blog.

Volunteer Spotlight: Allon Wildgust - Above and Beyond the Call of Duty

Sometimes volunteers do more than asked or expected for a given project. Allon Wildgust is a case in point. Since 2010, Allon has surveyed our  Forest Bird Monitoring Program  (FBMP) route at The Nature Conservancy's Sugar Hollow Preserve in Pittsford.  Allon, a retired high school teacher, is agile and fit, having hiked all 46 high peaks in the Adirondacks. Clearly a keen observer and skilled naturalist, he's also an accomplished photographer and astronomer. Prior to his career teaching industrial arts, Allon was a skilled tool and die maker working in a variety of industrial settings. He decided to put those skills to work by creating new aluminum tags to replace the old, unreadable ones that permanently mark the location of FBMP survey points.  In addition to these bird surveys, Allon also volunteers with our Common Loon Conservation project  , monitoring nesting pairs on three lakes near Brandon. He also participates in Christmas Bird Counts and other conservation projects with  Rutland County Audubon . Thanks Allon, VCE is lucky to have dedicated volunteers like you that go above and beyond the call of duty! 
Volunteers Help Loons to Another Record Breeding Season in 2016

It was a banner year for Common Loons breeding in Vermont. Volunteers helped us monitor 93 nesting pairs around the state, a record number since monitoring began four decades ago. Sixty-five pairs successfully hatched 98 chicks, and 80 of these young survived through August. Only one failed nest resulted from human disturbance, a tribute to the education and on-the-ground management that we do. The Canaday Family Charitable Trust and many individual donors provided funding support for over 160 new nest warning signs that were distributed throughout the state in 2015 and 2016. We couldn't do this work without the help of over 280 volunteers and our longtime partner, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. Thank you so much to everyone who has helped VCE conserve loons! Learn more about our loon conservation work and how you can join us on the VCE web site.

You Can Help Us Discover Biodiversity

For centuries naturalists have labored to document and describe the diversity of life here in Vermont and beyond. You may be surprised that we're still making discoveries right here in our own backyards with the help of people like you. Just a few months ago naturalist Joshua Lincoln was wandering along the Waterbury Reservoir shoreline when he snapped an image of a tiny Damselfly. Reviewing the image at home, he realized he had chanced upon Vermont's first state record of Double-striped Bluet! He added it to our iNaturalist Vermont project for the Vermont Atlas of Life, where others quickly confirmed his identification (read more about Joshua's find on our blog). Or how about the Canada Lynx that was  photographed in a southern Vermont backyard, providing the first confirmed evidence of lynx outside the Northeast Kingdom in decades (read more on our blog). From rare to common, we have so much to discover about Vermont's biodiversity. Check out VCE's projects that you can easily join at the Vermont Atlas of Life. 
Outdoor Radio Crawls Inside a Beaver Lodge
Over the past two years, VCE biologists Sara Zahendra and Kent McFarland have gone to extremes to bring listeners into the field. This time, they do the unthinkable. They actually crawl inside a beaver lodge. The idea was hatched when Ken Benton, North Branch Nature Center naturalist and educator, told them about an old lodge that was no longer surrounded by water. Immediately, Kent and Sara knew they had to see the inside of that lodge.  Join them as they talk with Ken about beaver adaptations and how beaver are an important  keystone species . And then, virtually inch through the mud with them as they crawl inside the old lodge and imagine what it might be like to spend a winter in darkness.  Listen to this episode, and any past stories, of Outdoor Radio on the web or via our iTunes podcast from the dry and warm comfort of your home. And tune in to VPR this month when Kent and Sara learn how biologists collect data from hunters to help monitor and manage another north woods keystone species, White-tailed Deer.

Image of the Month: Red Fox Hunting by Daron Tansley

Congratulations to  Daron Tansley  for winning the  October 2016 iNaturalist Vermont photo-observation of the month  contest. His image of a Red Fox hunting small mammals was the most popular photo-observation as measured by clicked 'favs'.

Red Fox are found all over the world - in North America, Europe, Asia and North Africa - and call a wide range of habitats their home. They are omnivorous, feeding on small mammals, birds, woodchucks, insects, eggs, carrion (dead animals), as well as fruits and berries. But their diet primarily consists of rodents. Red Fox can often be seen standing still in a field, listening for any movement. When they detect a small mammal, they leap high in the air and pounce on top of unsuspecting victim. They also cache food surpluses that they can relocate later with their excellent memory.  

Visit iNaturalist Vermont , a project of the  Vermont Atlas of Life , and 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 this month!
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: www.vtecostudies.org