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Showing posts from February, 2014

Animals in Winter: Barred Owls

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Owls are everywhere in Vermont this winter! Snowy owls have migrated south from the arctic in search of prey, making this winter an irruption year. Snowy owls sightings have been reported statewide and across the northeast. But snowy owls aren’t the only raptors taking residence in Vermont this winter. The barred owl, Vermont’s most common, doesn’t migrate and populates the state’s forests all year long.
Barred owls are grayish-brown with white stripes on their wings, back, and vertically across their belly. Unlike other owls in Vermont, they have brown eyes. If you haven't seen a barred owl, there is a good chance that you’ve heard one. They have many vocalizations including hoots, grunts, squeaks, and gurgles. Their most recognizable call sounds like, “Who-cooks-for-you? Who-cooks-for-you-all?” Female and male owls communicate during mating season in late winter by calling and responding to each other or vocalizing in unison. Owl pairs mate for life and raise their young together…

Knight Island Great Ice Celebration

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By Ashley Brisson, Grand Isle State Park Ranger
On Sunday morning February 9th, over 70 people made the journey across frozen Lake Champlain to visit KnightIslandState Park. They came by foot, skates, skis, & sleds.  As they crested the snow covered shoreline near the ranger’s residence they were welcomed by a crackling campfire and VermontState Park volunteers serving hot cocoa. The hot beverages were graciously provided by the local business Hero’s Welcome. The nearly four mile round-trip trek was part of the town of North Hero, Vermont’s annual Great Ice celebration. Adventurers took advantage of the thickness of the ice this year (2-3 feet), the recent snow, lack of wind, and beautiful cloudless blue skies. They walked around the trails of the islands interior, while others cross-country skied on the lake around island’s perimeter.  Nature abounded—fresh deer, turkey, mouse and fox tracks in the snow, while woodpeckers tapped and red squirrels chattered in the distance.
Many f…

Animals in Winter: Eastern Coyote

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The Eastern coyote is an important and relatively new member of Vermont’s ecosystem. They are highly adaptable mammals with a divisive history in the state. Coyotes began to appear in Vermont in the 1940s. Development in the western United States led to the loss of their habitat and they began to move eastward through southern Quebec and Ontario. It is believed that along the way they bred with the small eastern wolf.
Coyotes have reddish fur on their heads, with a grey face and dark muzzle. They have long, bushy tails and light fur under their chins. Their large body helps them to survive winters with heavy snowfall. Perhaps the coyote’s best known feature is their howl, which is often heard during winter nights. Their vocalizations are a form of communication that can carry over long distances. These sounds are used to let members of their family know their location after separating for a hunt. Sometimes coyotes howl to indicate to neighboring coyote groups that the territory is al…