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Hooded Merganser (male) / © Bryan Pfeiffer

Hooded Merganser (male) / © Bryan Pfeiffer

By Bryan on April 7, 2014

Spring migration is picking in the Capital City. On our rivers, through the woods and in our backyards, I’m encountering new arrivals nearly every day. Along our five-mile walking loop through the city on Sunday, Ruth and I noticed two pairs of Hooded Mergansers loitering by the bridge over the North Branch of the Winooski at the recreation field.

Song Sparrow / © Bryan Pfeiffer

Song Sparrow / © Bryan Pfeiffer

Meanwhile, my first Montpelier Song Sparrow of the year began singing last Friday in the big hedgerow (as he has for the past couple of years) behind Trinity United Methodist Church on Main Street. Although they’ve been around, American Robins burst into bigtime dawn chorus over the weekend. I’m also finding more Dark-eyed Juncos among them. And Northern Cardinal numbers seem to be up this spring; the city is lousy with them.

Our most unusual bird came this morning, a Red-bellied Woodpecker calling from the pocket park on Summer Street just after dawn. Two decades ago, this southerner would have been a fairly rare bird in Vermont. But red-bellies have been trickling in over the years, and now breed in scattered locations across the state. Remember, it’s tough to see the red belly on a Red-bellied Woodpecker, but easy to see its red crown and nape. And, finally (but really just part of the beginning), my first Eastern Phoebe was calling from the Spring Street bridge over the North Branch this morning. (Below this Red-bellied Woodpecker you’ll find a female Hooded Merganser).

Next edition of Montpelier Wild: April Fireworks.

P.S. The roads in Hubbard Park are muddy; so please walk rather than drive in. Thanks! And don’t forget your spikes for the icy trails.

Red-bellied Woodpecker /  © Bryan Pfeiffer

Red-bellied Woodpecker / © Bryan Pfeiffer

Hooded Merganser (female) / © Bryan Pfeiffer

Hooded Merganser (female) / © Bryan Pfeiffer



  1. Susan Weber says:

    Heartening to hear of these spring sightings. Where in Montpelier are the bluebirds? And redwings? I live in a suburban
    development now and miss these early visitors whom I welcomed for years when in Calais. Used to have a bluebird trail of a dozen nesting boxes.

    • Bryan says:

      Hi Susan,

      Nice to hear from you. Those bluebirds were along Town Hill Road just up from Rte. 2 in East Montpelier. And Red-winged Blackbirds are showing up everywhere. You’ll bump into them soon, especially with the warmth this weekend. Enjoy!

  2. Kim says:

    I miss Red-bellied woodpeckers from my time in Michigan, so I’m glad to know they can be found here at home. I too was excited at seeing Dark-eyed juncos last week. I wish I had gone out earlier tonight to see if “my” woodcock is back this spring.

  3. anne sarcka says:

    thanks, Bryan, what a treat to see these beautiful birds through your eyes and camera.

  4. Great pictures and commentary Bryan!

  5. Louise Giovanella says:

    I saw tree swallows flying around here last Thursday, Bryan! That was the same day that the bluebirds arrived en masse (well, no quite), and the resident phoebe was sounding off outside the barn. Ah, spring!

  6. Judy Brook says:

    Lovely to see your pictures, as usual. Great mergansers! I saw and heard a White-throated Sparrow this morning. Shelburne Bay is still iced in.

  7. michele clark says:

    So it turns out that all these years I’ve probably been seeing male hooded mergansers and calling them buffleheads. Well, learn something new every day. I love and am amazed by your photographs, Bryan.

    • Bryan says:

      Yep, look for that black border to the head, Michele. And the chestnut sides. Buffleheads are much less common on small ponds around Vermont. We tend to see them more often on Lake Champlain during migration.

  8. As always, beautiful shots! Thanks for sharing…

  9. Nice Bryan! Leadership through education! John

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