The day started overcast, but in the distance, the first blooms of color were sprouting on random trees at the Charlotte Park and Wildlife Refuge.
Only about 20 people showed up on what turned out to be a beautiful day for the second annual Discovery Day Saturday, Sept. 28. Organizers surmise the low attendance was due to the Soccer Jamfest in Starksboro that day.
The festivities went on as planned until the forecasted rains condensed the event by mere minutes even though the rainfall was minimal.
The most popular attraction was the horse-drawn carriage rides, but there were also bird watching, a scavenger hunt and tours of the historic Thorpe Barn.
On a walk to the carriage ride across the ridge of the Refuge’s hay fields, Julian Kulski said that it’s been a phenomenal hay crop in quantity but not so phenomenal in nutrition. The same is true of most of the hay harvested in the area.
“Because of the rain, the hay was planted late in the summer and the first cut of the hay was put off a month, so we’ve got a bumper crop, but once it gets to a certain height the hay goes to seed and then it starts loosing protein,” said Kulski. That means the hay is not good for horses, although it can be used with cows because cows have so many compartments in their stomachs, they can process the less nutritious hay.
The Charlotte Park and Wildlife Refuge leases the fields so the quantity versus quality of the harvest won’t affect its budget. However, the hay is grown in accord with the goals of the refuge.
That means the first cut of the hay at the Refuge was delayed until Aug. 1 to allow as much time as possible for nesting birds such as bobolinks, eastern meadowlarks, savannah sparrows and field sparrows, said Steven Lamonde of Stoddard, N.H., and Ali Wagner of Huntington, who are both with Audubon Vermont.
They had binoculars and a bird-watching scope and periodically scanned the fields and sky as they discussed the area’s birds.
Lamonde said that one of the research projects conducted at the Refuge was on golden-wing warblers.
Researchers played bird songs that attracted the golden-wing warblers and they used netting to catch the birds. After they had banded and attached a tiny radio transmitter, the golden-wing warblers were released, and researchers could use radio telemetry to track the birds’ movements.
He said because landowners have such a negative reaction to government interference, their organization is working to keep the golden-winged warbler off the Endangered Species list. “We’re trying to work with landowners to suggest small tweaks so there won’t be federal controls on their land.”