The usual leaders of this weekend trip were in Africa, but ten intrepid members headed north to Dead Creek in Addison Vermont. Day 1 was a cool but windless morning that made the 2-3 thousand Snow Geese at the refuge a real treat as they rose with a clamor many times, especially when a Bald Eagle perched nearby turned its head. Dozens of Green-winged Teal were in the nearby marsh and we got spectacular views of raptors. Three Rough-legged Hawks hunted the meadows, a male Harrier joined them, and a Peregrine Falcon perched close by for several minutes before steaming its way across the meadows and spooking up a flock of Snow Buntings. Even a Cooper’s Hawk appeared, then dove inside an abandoned barn. We made our way over to Lake Champlain, where the water birds were scarce on the lake shore, but we managed close looks at Common Loons and Horned Grebes. The coves sheltered a few Bufflehead, a Black Scoter, and some Hooded and Common Mergansers.
The weather turned nasty the morning of Day 2, with strong, cold winds following a night of rain. We still found flocks of ducks on the inland side of Sandbar Park and some Black-bellied Plovers on the lake side. South Hero Island had only a few loons, a Black Scoter and a White-winged Scoter. At Isle La Motte, we found a few more loons on the water, but then lifted our eyes and looked west toward northern New York. The sky was full of thousands of Snow Geese rising from the lowlands. They first looked dark, but then glowed fiercely white as they rose higher into the sunlight against the distant backdrop of dark clouds. Some descended after circling for several minutes, but many skeins headed south. We returned to the eastern shore of the lake to find a flock of Dunlins and Plovers on the mudflats exposed by the low water level. There were more flocks of Buffleheads and Black Scoters here as well as farther south at St. Albans Bay. Also in the bay were hundreds of Ring-billed and Bonaparte’s Gulls loafing on the mudflats. Then we noticed the water farther out was covered with Common Loons, at least 120 of these regal birds.