By Elizabeth Bassett
Are there bunnies in your garden this summer? In our neighborhood at least one family of foxes seems to be keeping the bunny population in check. Several recent evenings we have spotted as many as three kits scampering about. Morning walks to the strawberry patch have revealed heaps of feathers, fur and bones, as well as ropes of intestines strewn across the yard. But the lettuce crop remains robust!
If you picked up The Charlotte News and paged immediately to the Out-Doors column, you will be able to attend the Bat Monitoring Workshop at Rokeby on Wednesday, June 27, at 7:30 p.m. (Rain date: June 28) Citizen scientists are instrumental in counting and monitoring these important insect-devouring mammals. In recent years brown bats have succumbed in large numbers to the fungal disease, white-nose syndrome. Bats may be recovering in our area, and monitoring will help to confirm their increasing numbers.
Eagles, loons and peregrines
Bald eagles are making a healthy comeback in Vermont, and we live in a sweet spot for viewing them. The use of DDT and other predations eliminated eagles from the state by the 1940s. Between 2004 and 2006 Vermont re-introduced eagles, releasing 29 into Addison County. Ten years ago there were no breeding pairs in the state, but by the end of the 2017 season, 21 territorial pairs had successfully fledged 35 young. Bald eagles nest along the Connecticut, Lamoille and Winooski Rivers, but the largest population nests between the Champlain Bridge and Shelburne Point on Lake Champlain.
After years of population decline the common loon and the peregrine falcon have recovered in Vermont enough to be removed from the state endangered species list. The 2017 season saw 93 newly fledged loons and 63 peregrines. Many popular hiking trails have detours or closures until August 1 to allow peregrine young to leave the nest, which are usually built on rock ledges.
Turtles are out and about in the spring and early summer. They sun on logs and rocky outcroppings and slip into the water as boaters approach. An annual visitor to our home, a large snapping turtle from a pond across busy Mt. Philo Road has left telltale marks in recent days: crushed foliage and holes in the driveway and perennial garden. Most years she lays her eggs in the warmth of our gravel drive. Snapping turtles lay an average of between 20 and 50 eggs, sometimes as many as 80. Once she has deposited and buried them the female strolls back across Mt. Philo Road, leaving her potential progeny to bake in the summer sun until late August. Temperature of incubation influences the sex of the survivors. (Predators will consume an estimated 75 to 90 percent of eggs.) With any luck, late August will bring a parade of snapping babies taking their chances as they cross the road to return to their mother’s pond.
Deep grass is a-flicker these evenings with the courtship of fireflies. While frogs and birds fill our nights and early mornings with song, fireflies flash their lights to attract mates. Males and females of the same species identify each other with a series of flashes that signal availability. Signals include color of light, length and number of flashes, interval between flashes and time of night during which they go a courtin’. Enjoy the show!
Founded in 1977, the Vermont Land Trust recently published an atlas of conserved land in the state. Two thousand VLT projects protect about 10 percent of Vermont, more than 578,000 acres of forestland and farmland. Some of these properties were conserved with the intention of providing recreational opportunities, and 25 of them are in Chittenden County. A sampling includes Centennial Woods adjacent to UVM; Bolton Quarry, cliffs, and Nordic and backcountry ski terrain in Bolton; in Charlotte segments of the Town Link Trail, Little League Ballfield, the Burns property, Charlotte Park and Wildlife Refuge (Demeter) and Raven Ridge; and in Hinesburg the Russell Family Farm and the LaPlatte Headwaters Town Forest. The list goes on to include resources in Jericho, Underhill, Burlington, South Burlington, Milton, Richmond and Williston.
Happy summer in the outdoors!