This Important Bird Area is a breeding ground for bitterns, rails, and other marsh birds.
By Susan Elliott | Published: 8/22/2008
West Rutland Marsh is a favorite stop for Vermont birders, including me. I will always remember a family of Virginia Rails crossing the road ahead of our birding group and a Least Bittern flying the length of the marsh. Hearing the oong-ka-choonk of the American Bittern or the rattle of a Marsh Wren for the first time each spring is a thrill.
A large cattail marsh along with a wide variety of other habitats makes this the perfect spot to spend a rewarding morning or evening of birding. Ten stops on the Bridge-to-Bridge Interpretive Trail show off the habitats. The site is a breeding ground for bitterns, rails, and other marsh birds – plenty of reasons why it was designated an Important Bird Area.
In 2001, Rutland County Audubon began monthly, year-round monitoring walks around a 3.7-mile section of the marsh. To date, we’ve tallied 136 species. We haven’t missed a month and are still adding species. The marsh is a great spot to distinguish Willow and Alder Flycatchers by voice. Or watch Marsh Wrens, Swamp Sparrows, and Yellow Warblers ferry food to their young during nesting season. There is always something to see. — Susan Elliott
Susan Elliott is a member and secretary of the Rutland County Audubon Society board of directors and a big fan of citizen science.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Cattail marsh, wetland shrub, forested swamp, sedge meadow, old fields, and mixed deciduous-coniferous forest.
Level gravel roads and one busier paved road (Whipple Hollow) provide access along four-mile loop. Boardwalk is wheelchair accessible.
Along Water, Marble, and Pleasant Streets: Least and American Bitterns, Great Blue Heron, Virginia Rail, Sora, Wilson’s Snipe, American Woodcock (at dusk), Belted Kingfisher, Alder and Willow Flycatcher, Marsh Wren, Swamp Sparrow, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Common Raven, Yellow- and Black-billed Cuckoos, Warbling and Red-eyed Vireos, Yellow and Chestnut-sided Warblers, American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, and Baltimore Oriole. Along Whipple Hollow Road: Eastern Wood-Pewee, Great Crested Flycatcher, Winter Wren, Magnolia and Blackburnian Warblers, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Canada Warbler, and White-throated Sparrow.
When to go
May through early June and late August through September for migrants. June and July for nesting species. Optimal viewing times in early morning and early evening.
Kiosk next to boardwalk includes an up-to-date bird list and information about Rutland County Audubon outings. Gas stations, convenience stores, and restaurants in West Rutland. Additional amenities in nearby Rutland.
Mostly private land. Viewing is from public roads and boardwalk. No fees. Open daily.
Sturdy shoes and binoculars recommended. Spotting scope handy but not necessary.