White-tailed Deer: The white-tailed deer can be found in many different habitat types from forests to fields to housing developments. Because of this, the white-tailed deer are an easy animal for nature lovers to find and observe. Deer are herbivores, which means they eat plants. Specifically they enjoy eating twigs, buds, bark and leaves. They are ruminants, which means they have four stomachs like cows do. Being a ruminant has benefits for deer because it allows them to eat all kinds of plant material all at once, then go hide somewhere and lay down while their stomachs go to work digesting the plant material. Deer are active mostly in the morning and the evening. Look for them where forest and field meet at Fort Dummer, Branbury, North Hero and Seyon Lodge State Parks.
Loons: Have you heard the eerie tremulous yodel of the Common Loon at night from your snuggly sleeping bag? You can hear the nighttime territorial call of the male loon from many lakeside parks, including Green River Reservoir, Ricker Pond and Brighton State Parks. The loon is built for swimming and diving in the water, but not built for walking on land. Loon feet are so far back on their body (which is great for swimming and diving for fish) that they move clumsily on land. Loon nests are built near the edge of the water, or on floating rafts provided by people because loons cannot easily move inland to build a nest. As a result, the nests are very prone to destruction by rising water, wakes from boats washing ashore, or even people and pets exploring the shore. Look for baby loons in July and August riding on the back of the adults or swimming close by. Adult loons are large and streamlined with a black head, checkerboard black and white plumage and red eyes. They dive to eat fish, and during your next trip to a pond with loons, watch them stick their heads under water to look around for fish to eat.
Moose: Moose is the Algonquin term for “twig eater.” The largest mammal in Vermont is also the most interesting to see. Moose are found most frequently at high elevations in the winter months and in swamps and ponds in the summer. Look for their teeth mark scrapings on the trunks of striped maple trees, the hobblebush buds nipped off completely, or piles of large, round scat and you know that moose are in the area. Moose are active mainly at dusk and dawn; look for them in out of the way places on dirt roads and in ponds near Half Moon, Branbury, and Kettle Pond State Parks.
Beavers: The largest and busiest rodent in Vermont is the beaver. Beavers are very industrious and well known as the loggers of the animal world. Left unattended, beavers will build dams to block running water and often cause problems for farmers and people who like to drive on roads. Beavers can be destructive but are interesting—they build huts and dams out of sticks and mud and then cut trees and drag limbs underwater for the winter food supply. Beavers have orange teeth with a layer of iron in the front enamel so that they can chew through the trunks of trees that any person would grab an axe or saw to cut through. Beavers are interesting to watch as they swim around with their noses poking out of the water, if you alarm one, it will slap its tail loudly at you. Look for beavers at Silver Lake, Lake Carmi, Camp Plymouth and Emerald Lake State Parks.
Hermit Thrush: If you have ever been walking through the woods in the evening and heard the most beautiful and amazing bird song imaginable, you probably heard the Hermit Thrush. In 1941 this bird was chosen as the state bird of Vermont because of this great song. Some legislators argued for the Blue Jay and Crow as the state bird, but Hermit Thrush fans persisted and the thrush was voted in. The song that propelled the Hermit Thrush into state stardom is a result of a complicated song box that allows the bird to sing two notes at once. The song is a sweet strain of melodic notes that always begins with one long note (the similar Wood Thrush song does not have this long beginning note). The ground nesting bird is brown on the back with a reddish tail, black spots on the chest, and has a thin white eye ring. Listen for this bird as you walk through any mixed hardwood forest in the evening; they have been heard at Molly Stark, Woodford, Underhill and Maidstone State Parks.