Saturday, November 9, 2019

A love letter to Missisquoi

Black/Maquam Creek Trail
Stephen J. Young Marsh Trail
Old Railroad Passage Trail

Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus
Rusty Blackbird Euphagus carolinus
Fox Sparrow Passerella iliaca
American Tree Sparrow Spizella arborea
House Finch Haemorhous mexicanus
Brown Creeper Certhia americana
Common Merganser Mergus merganser
Hooded Merganser Lophodytes cucullates
Hooded Merganser Lophodytes cucullates
Snow Goose Chen caerulescens
Canada Goose Branta canadensis
Eastern Comma Polygonia comma

Vermont and Upstate New York, November 4-8, 2019
  Missisquoi means “people of the flint place” in Abenaki. Just a short canoe ride across the water from the George Montgomery Bird Sanctuary is the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge in Vermont, a place I’ve fallen in love with. There are five trails to bimble down, each lovelier than the last. The black-watered creek paths have a moody Tim Burton-y character, especially after a fat skiff of snow. The trails always seem empty, save for some duck hunters, but I imagine there are a few more birders on the weekends and during migration season.
  As the only federal parkland in Vermont, like most national parks south of the border, Missisquoi has recently been bled white by a thousand (budget) cuts. Perhaps it’s best to see it now, before the place is broken up and sold to the greediest greed-head, and it ends up looking like mile on mile of sun-bleached Korean concrete wasteland (and humanity chokes to a slow death as folks feast on a last meal of their neighbour’s brains and gore while screeching at the full moon). But at least we had a modest bump in corporate profit margins for a few years there, eh? Eh? Anyhoo.
  A brief wedge of afternoon sun on the 6th duped a lot of frogs out of the water and onto the roads where they sat torpid, and many ended up getting wiped out by pickup trucks. A lone Eastern Comma was also drawn out by the wan sun. The weather turned on the 7th, with chillier temperatures and regular snow squalls coming in off Lake Champlain.
  My bird of the trip was a Vesper Sparrow at Louie’s Landing on November 6th, albeit not satisfying looks. Species like plentiful American Tree Sparrows and Rusty Blackbirds, as well as Red-bellied Woodpeckers felt like a treat.
  In Rouses Point, New York, a Great Horned Owl glimpsed, then heard calling all night was pretty badass. Also in the area was a decent meli-melo of waterfowl, as well as a Red-bellied Woodpecker and some rather confiding Fox Sparrows. The trip total was 52 species, with the best day being 38 species on the 6th, on three of the Missisquoi trails.
  I wrote a story called “The Ghosts of Missisquoi” a few years back, about a group of spectral birders that messes with poorly-behaved photogs by conjuring up Passenger Pigeons. Still hasn’t been published, so it’s probably time to rewrite or shelve it.

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