Monday, October 26, 2015

Paradise Park/Lake Runnemede

My previous post of October 18, 2015 announced the recent sighting of a Nelson's Sparrow at Lake Runnemede which is the first record for the species at this popular birding location.  Since then I thought this is as good a time as any to do a post on this site for birders not familiar with it.

Lake Runnemede/Paradise Park and Mount Ascutney (elev. 3,130 ft)

Paradise Park situated within easy walking distance from downtown Windsor is comprised of Windsor Town Forest (115 acres) and the Lake Runnemede/McLane parcel (109 acres) of which 62 acres is the lake itself.  At present according to the eBird's database Paradise Park/Lake Runnemede is currently the Top Birding Hotspot in Windsor County with a total of 194 bird species having been reported.  The park has an extensive trail system providing access to a variety of habitat types. Perhaps the focal point for birders is horseshoe-shaped Lake Runnemede, also known as Evarts Pond, and its associated riparian habitats, wetlands, woodland edges and center field.  The latter is actively farmed (pumpkins and squashes) and surrounded by tall grasses and forbs: great for sparrows in late summer and fall.

In spring and fall seasons the lake is a magnet for waterfowl (ducks, geese, grebes, cormorants); and neotropical migrants (warblers, flycatchers, orioles, etc.) frequent shrub lands and the woodland edges. In season, a variety of raptors, including Osprey, Northern Harrier, Cooper's and Sharp-shinned hawks, Merlin, and the year round resident nesting Bald Eagle pair, can be expected to be seen.   Besides birds, the lake is home to River Otters, Beaver and other locally common mammals.

While not obvious to most visitors, the lake is particularly noteworthy for having one of only two populations of Ogden's Pondweed (Potamogeton ogdenii) currently known in Vermont and one of 10 populations known globally (distribution confined to Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, Ontario).  The Lake Runnemede property was purchased by the town of Windsor from the Evart family in 1997 with a provision that the town use and manage the property in a manner that is protective of this rare plant and consistent with conservation easements which are co-held with Upper Valley Land Trust and Vermont Housing and Conservation Board.

Directions to Paradise Park/Lake Runnemede: From the center of downtown Windsor (traffic light at intersection of U. S. Route 5/Main Street and State Street) travel north on Route 5 about one-half mile.  Price Chopper supermarket is on left (east side of road).  Parking is limited to road shoulder on west side and access (foot travel only) to lake is via a lane called Eddie's Place.  Please do not drive down this road.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Nelson's Sparrow!

This morning I had the good fortune to encounter Upper Valley Birders (George Clark, Chris Rimmer, Scott Johnson, Ed Hack, Peter LaBelle, Tii McLane and others) as they were close to finishing another Windsor County Birding Quest walk for 2015, this time in Windsor at Paradise Park/Lake Runnemede.  No doubt the find of the morning was a Nelson's Sparrow first spotted and identified by Ed and with perseverance observed several times albeit briefly by others in the group.  The bird spent most of the time skulking under the cover of tall grasses, goldenrod and joe-pye weed in a patch of old field habitat adjacent to the northeast corner of the "pumpkin patch."  From time to time the sparrow revealed its location either when foraging by twitching grass stems or taking a brief flight before dropping back into thick cover.  Luckily I was able to click off several photos (a couple posted here) of this handsome sparrow and uncommon migrant passing through the Connecticut River Valley for more southern climes.