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Richmond: For the Birds & More
by Brad Elliott
Times Ink of Richmond & Huntington
June 2001

After covering the impact of geological, glacial and human forces on the Richmond landscape, the highly popular Richmond Geographic series ended with two looks at Richmond's natural world today.

On May 23 at the Town Center, Walter Poleman, the UVM natural history professor who put the series together, showed slides of many of the birds that call Richmond home at various times of the year. Poleman demonstrated the value of learning to identify birds by their songs, as many species stick to the treetops or underbrush, well out of sight.

Poleman also led local teachers and representatives of town boards on an outing to local birding hot-spots, where in less than four hours 51 species were either spotted or heard.

Closing the series on May 13, Poleman covered the broad mix of natural communities that can be found in Richmond because, as he noted, "the town sits astride two physiographic regions of the state - the Champlain Valley and the Green Mountains."

Using slides and vivid descriptions, he described the widely diverse combinations of plants and animals found in different places in town - about 25 distinct natural communities in all.

Poleman explained how the Winooski River's annual flooding has produced the forest of silver maples, poplars and ostrich ferns that graces its banks - one of the largest such forests left in Vermont. He showed Bob Low's slides of a 200-year-old hemlock stand overlooking Gillett Pond's alder swamp and cattail marsh - three entirely different types of communities. And he described why the soils found at the base of the Snipe Island Cliffs are so rich, and why botanists find the plants making up that community to be so fascinating.

Interested in exploring the natural communities of Richmond on your own? Poleman recommends Wetland, Woodland, Wildland, a new book by Elizabeth H. Thompson and Eric R. Sorenson.

Though the lectures are over, several teachers in the Chittenden East school district will continue learning about "what makes Richmond Richmond" at a UVM/Shelburne Farms summer workshop organized by Poleman. Following its success in Richmond, the program will be rolled out to other towns in the fall.

# # #

Species Identified

The 51 birds seen or heard on a four-hour, four-site tour of Richmond*:

Alder flycatcher, American crow, American goldfinch, American redstart, American robin, Baltimore oriole, bank swallow.

Also, barn swallow, barred owl, black-and-white warbler, blackburnian warbler, black-capped chickadee, black-throated blue warbler.

Also, black-throated green warbler, blue jay, bobolink, brown-headed cowbird, chestnut-sided warbler, chimney swift.

Also, chipping sparrow, common grackle, common merganser, common yellowthroat, eastern bluebird, English sparrow, European starling, gray catbird.

Also, hairy woodpecker, least flycatcher, mallard, mourning dove, northern waterthrush, ovenbird, pine siskin, purple finch.

Also, red-eyed vireo, red-winged blackbird, ring-billed gull, rock dove, rose-breasted grosbeak, ruby-throated hummingbird, savannah sparrow.

Also, scarlet tanager, song sparrow, spotted sandpiper, tree swallow, turkey vulture, veery, warbling vireo, wood thrush, yellow warbler.

*Last month, a team from the Audubon Nature Center team identified 86 species in a 24-hour expedition through Huntington and Richmond.

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