If you've seen a five-lined skink in Vermont, consider yourself lucky. Though much more common in warmer climates, in New England, these elusive reptiles are only found in small, specialized habitats of Vermont and Connecticut. Though they come out during the daytime hours, they are one of nature's most seldom seen reptiles here in the north. The five-lined skink is a smooth shiny lizard about five to eight inches long, with rows of tiny scales around the center of their body. Their name comes from the five yellow-toned stripes running from their nose down through their tail. Another interesting marking found on juvenile skinks is their bright blue tails. And they're fast — hence the nickname "blue-tailed swift." Over time those tails turn gray and their pattern becomes less conspicuous. Being conspicuous is not in the lizard's nature. Five-Lined SkinkThey prefer steep rocky areas with patchy tree and shrub cover, rotten logs and leaf litter. They're very fast and are quick to run for cover when a predator is near. They also have an interesting defense mechanism: If caught, they can shed their tail which has the unique ability to squirm on it's own, diverting the attention of the predator and allowing the lizard to beat a hasty retreat. Vermont is the extent of the skink's northern range and so far their populations have only been recorded in the town of West Haven. Thanks to the Nature Conservancy, the land that supports Vermont's only skink population is protected from development. In this segment we head out with a Nature Conservancy volunteer to attempt to find and videotape the elusive five-lined skink in its Vermont habitat.
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
Host Marianne Eaton joins kayak guide, Jamie Mittendorf, for a paddling adventure down the Otter Creek and a trip out into Lake Champlain. Then, we visited the "Champlain Discovery" program that teaches teenagers with almost no woodworking experience how to build their own kayaks. Also, we look at a unique project that uses water control structures to properly manage beaver dam water levels. Lastly, Host Lawrence Pyne, and angler Michael Hahn, tackle the Willoughby in search of two feet of steelhead.
When it comes to trout fishing, the upper Connecticut River is a cut above. Then, as more and more land is lost to development, the importance of managing habitat for wildlife is increasing. Lastly, with only a personal computer, anyone can retrieve clues and the global positioning coordinates to millions of "treasure" sites all over the world.