Mt. Philo is famous for being along the migratory path of a wide variety of raptors, who use updrafts from the ridges on either side of the lake to gain altitude and the summit of Mt. Philo provides a sweeping view over the valley .A large group of bird enthusiasts spend time on Mt. Philo in the spring and fall to observe these graceful creatures. Mt. Philo holds the state record for the largest number of migrating raptors seen in a single day, 3,688. The peak of the hawk watching season is the second and third week of September. Other highlights include:
915 raptors seen: 9/11/2105
30 bald eagles seen on 9/11/2010,
88 osprey on 9/16/1996,
3,522 broad wing hawks on 9/16/1993,
3,140 raptors seen on 9/10/2007.
Mt. Philo state park is an excellent birding destination for beginner and expert birders alike. Highlights include a variety of colorful songbirds, an ethereal serenade of resident thrushes, and a fall spectacle of migrating raptors. The following 101 species have been encountered at Mt. Philo since 2004. Some, such as geese and loons, are only seen flying by. About half nest in the park each year. All look forward to making your acquaintance. Happy birding!
Alice Outwater reported in 2006: "Hank Kaestner has identified 187 species of birds on nearby Thompson's Point. Most were identified during the months of May-September, but 68 were migrants passing by during the months of October and November. The Split Rock Channel is renowned among birders because the migrants who travel through it can be easily seen. During several mid-October to mid-December weekends in 2005 for example, 46,150 ring-billed gulls, 17,554 snow geese, 6,311 Canada geese, and 1,356 common loons were counted migrating (personal communication, Dick Lavelle and Ted Murin, Lake Watch, 2005). “They wait for the wind. During one day in the autumn of 2007, when the winds were about 20 miles an hour, north by northwest, about 15,000 terns flew by “(personal communication, January 22, 2008). Loons, bald eagles, and ospreys—all species that were extirpated are now making a comeback. Pileated woodpeckers, which were not seen on the Point for many years are now nesting regularly. Mallard ducks have also been nesting for the past ten years after a hiatus of many decades. Far fewer songbirds nesting on the porches may be a sign of better nesting places as the old growth trees mature, or fewer songbirds.
The pamphlet titled "Grassland Birds in Charlotte" by Perlut, Hamilton and Hanley, describes their role in the future of Charlotte. Grassland birds are specialists, dependent on grassland habitats (hay fields, pastures, fallow fields, beaver meadows, and native prairies) to successfully feed, roost, and raise young. In Vermont, common grassland birds include the bobolink, meadowlark, savannah sparrow, and northern harrier(marsh hawk). Less common species include the upland sandpiper, grasshopper sparrow, sedge wren, horned lark, vesper sparrow, and short-eared owl.
First evolved in North American midwestern prairies, grassland birds have lost most of their original breeding habitat to row crops and urban development. Although the Northeast was historically forested, 19th century settlement and forest clearing created vast grasslands, and this allowed grassland birds to expand their breeding range into our area. This rich bird group now helps define the character of Vermont’s agricultural landscape. Unlike many other Vermont towns, much of Charlotte’s landscape remains unforested and undeveloped. This gives us a special opportunity to provide safe haven for grassland birds through bird-friendly management practices in our pastures, hayfields, and grassy residential areas.