In spring and summer, hikers and paddlers might encounter some fascinating nesting birds.
These handsome birds of prey have made an exciting comeback in Vermont. They nest on high cliffs that they think are inaccessible but several of their nesting sites are close to hiking trails. Peregrine falcons are apt to abandon their young if they’re disturbed, especially if hikers are above their nests. If you come across a trail that’s closed because of nesting peregrines, it’s your responsibility to go elsewhere.
In recent years, peregrine falcons have nested on Arrowhead Mountain in Milton, Bolton Notch, Bristol Cliffs, Mount Horrid, Mount Pisgah, Nebraska Notch, Snake Mountain in Addison, Hazen's Notch and Smuggler’s Notch and at over a dozen other high, rocky sites.
Loons are another great comeback story. Their numbers declined for several decades because of human disturbance, habitat destruction, and lead poisoning from ingesting fishing weights. Now loons can be found on many Vermont lakes. Loons nest on the edges of shallow water or on man-made islands. You might not immediately notice an adult loon sitting on a nest because they often have their heads down so that their bodies continue the general shape of the nest itself. On some lakes, nesting areas are roped off with signs and buoys. Other nesting areas aren’t marked, but paddlers should always watch from a good distance away. The fluffy little dark babies start appearing in late July. If you’re boating and see an adult loon, slow down. Adult loons can dive under-water to avoid your boat, but loon chicks cannot dive deeply enough nor swim quickly enough to get away and might get hit or pushed under.
There’s lots of information about loons and The Loon Recovery Project at www.anr.state.vt.us. (If you see any discarded fishing line, please pick it up and take it home with you to be thrown out. Floating fishing line and lead account for more than half of all known loon mortality.)
This year, paddlers at Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area might notice a new wooden structure high above the water. These are the “hack boxes” in which some transplanted bald eagle chicks are maturing. The hope is that they’ll learn to like Vermont and will return to nest here in a few years. Check out www.cvps.com/eagles/ for live pictures of what’s going on inside the boxes. (Click on eaglecam.)