Trapp Family Lodge Four Seasons of Bird Watching in Vermont
The Trapp Family Lodge is home to a variety of natural, and maintained, habitats ranging from Spruce and Fir dominated forests on Round Top above the famous Cabin to Kim Earley’s beautifully designed and manicured gardens. It is because of this great diversity and mix of manicured and wild vegetation that the Lodge and the surrounding property host an amazing diversity of bird life throughout the year.
Join us for early morning Bird Watching Tours with Jan Axtell, Staff Naturalist.
Jan D. Axtell, Staff Naturalist
Jan D. Axtell, Trapp Family Lodge Staff Naturalist, has studied and guided tours throughout the North American continents Northern Forests for over 20 years. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point in Biology – Plant and Wildlife Ecology - where he worked as a research associate in the College of Natural Resources.
Jan lives in Stowe Vermont were he his tolerated by his wife Vicki, daughter Zoe, and 2 dogs.
Four Seasons of Bird Watching
To say our bird watching season starts in April is a misnomer as there is much to see year round, but it does give us a place to start as it when migratory birds begin arriving - and passing through to points north - at their summer breeding grounds here in the Green Mountains. The vanguard of the spring migration starts to show before the snow has completely melted, and it is not uncommon to see large groups of robins, sparrows, and red winged black birds crowded on bare patches of ground that dot the landscape searching for food. In addition, many hawks can be seen hunting the field edges as the retreating snow banks expose the winter dens of many rodent as well as riding thermals over head. As the days progress into May the migration peaks with the arrival of colorful warblers, melodic vireos, striking tanagers, nimble flycatchers, and a host of other migrants. They set up breeding territories and begin a new cycle of life on the planet earth.
The bird song can be so loud and pervasive at times that it can be difficult to separate out individuals as they attract mates and defend territories. For those of us here at the Lodge it is sweet music that begins the day. In addition, the forest trees have not completely leafed out yet which makes viewing easy.
As spring blends into summer our feathered neighbors begin the earnest business of raising and fledging young from the nest sites. Adult Kildeer perform their drop wing defense to distract you away from the ping pong ball sized precocial young and Eastern Phoebes intercept insects in mid air to feed growing chicks at the nest. While the early morning bird song drops off from spring’s intensity nest activity reaches its own fevered pitch as males and females come and go bringing food to their hungry broods.
As summer transitions to Vermont’s idyllic fall we see a great spike in the number of birds flying about. The young of the year fledge the nest and begin life outside the comforts of their parents wing (no pun intended…really). It can make for some of the most delightfully challenging, and exciting, bird watching of the year with the drab and undistinguishable markings of immature birds making each sighting new.
This season is also the beginning of the fall migration and a great many birds begin one of the greatest spectacles of the natural world. Some leave the Lodges property and fly as far away as Central and South America. Others, like the Snow Bunting and White Crowned Sparrow, leave the Arctic tundra and Boreal forests of the far north and fly to Vermont for the winter. Still more pass through on their way to their wintering grounds. It is a time to see a great diversity of rare and uncommon birds here on the property; from our year round residents to the irregular migrants passing through. Coupled with our famous landscape and foliage it makes for quite heady days in the fields and forests.
Moreover, as winter sets in, and the snow starts to fall, many birds come out of the spruce/fir and krumholtz forest that crown our mountain tops to the valleys to take up residents in the lower elevations to ride out winter. Dark Eyed juncos and Purple finches set up house in the spaces left empty by those birds that have left the area for the warmer climes of the south. Along with our resident ravens, crows, nuthatches, finches, and wood peckers they make for wonderful ornamentation during a winter’s schuss or snow shoe excursion around the property adding a new dimension to our world famous skiing.
One of the greatest things about bird watching here at the Trapp Family Lodge is its accessibility. At any time of day you can step outside any one of the Guest Houses, Villas, or Lodge properties and see a number of birds. A short walk around either the Lodge grounds or on the trail exposes one to a great diversity of bird life. Whether you have a passing interest in birds or are a dedicated ornithologist there is something for you here.
Trapp Family Lodge offers regularly scheduled bird watching tours throughout the year. They are designed to be inclusive tours for all ages and levels of physical ability. You will need to dress of the elements du jour and a pair of binoculars are handy to have but not necessary. You can either sign up for a group tour or book a private excursion at the Outdoor Center.