Ospreys were all but eliminated in Vermont due to the use of the pesticide DDT. The pesticide, which caused the birds to produce brittle eggs that were prone to breakage, was banned in 1972. Since then, the osprey has staged a dramatic comeback but is still losing valuable nesting habitat due to lakefront development. One of the ways ospreys have been helped is with the construction and placement of nesting platforms on the utility poles they tend to nest on. We join members of Green Mountain Power as they re-locate an osprey nest built on a house chimney to a new home in a tree platform. And we look at the osprey recovery efforts of Central Vermont Public Service and a concerned citizen on Lake Arrowhead in Milton who was instrumental in the development of nesting platforms there.
Woodcock are beloved by bird hunters and bird watchers alike, but these fascinating little migrants are nonetheless faring poorly. Human development and maturing forests are steadily eating away the thick, brushy habitat that woodcock require, and their numbers are likewise declining. In the last three decades, there has been a two to three percent decline each year in the number of American Woodcock in the East. One area where woodcock are doing surprisingly well is the Ethan Allen Firing Range in Vermont, where biologists are capturing and banding woodcock in order to better understand their habitat needs. Host Lawrence Pyne joins Scott Williamson from the Wildlife Management Institute on a nighttime woodcock banding operation at the firing range in Jericho.
Grassland birds and dairy farmers in Vermont have a unique historical relationship. By clearing forests to create pasture for cows, farmers also have provided ideal habitat for birds such as Bobolinks and Savannah Sparrows. Fifty or one hundred years ago, the birds thrived. But as dairy farms and their fields have disappeared, so has the habitat. These birds rely on open grasslands to feed. And instead of building nests in trees, they construct them in the grass on the ground. This practice can leave them open to predators as well as farm machinery. When a field is hayed, essentially all the nests fail. They're either destroyed by equipment, or crows and gulls follow the farmer to clean up. Farmers must hay. And they have to get the cut in while the hay still has some value. The ideal solution would be to delay cuts to give the birds time to hatch and raise their young. But that's a tricky timing issue for a farmer who needs quality hay. On the other hand, there are farmers who have wet fields and fields that are not productive. If these fields were properly managed, it would be helpful for the birds. And it might end up being financially beneficial for the farmers. Programs such as the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) could help. It's run by the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and provides landowners with financial help for managing their property using wildlife management strategies. In this segment we join field researchers at the University of Vermont who are part of a study to determine the long-term effects of agricultural management on populations of grassland birds through banding operations.
- Wildlife Habitat Incentives
Program (WHIP): Vermont page
- WHIP VT Contact — Toby Alexander
Visit an active eagle nesting site, one of the first in Vermont since 2008 when the birds were reintroduced. Although the bald eagle population has soared to nearly 10,000 nesting pairs nationwide, Vermont had no resident population until these efforts.