February 2021

Vol. 49, No. 1

Birding Burlington, Vermont, along the Island Line Trail

Nathaniel Sharp

The city of Burlington, Vermont, is bordered by Lake Champlain to the west and Vermont’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield, to the east. To the north lie the Champlain Islands and the Canadian border, and to the south, the rich agricultural lands of the Champlain Valley. The Burlington area and all birding locations described in this article are located on the traditional and unceded territory of the Abenaki Nation and People. As visitors on the land of the Abenaki People, all are encouraged to pay their respects to them, to the wisdom of their elders, and to their culture.

A confluence of birds, wildlife, lands, and people, Burlington has a robust ornithological history spurred on by an active community of longtime local birders and an ever-present group of budding ornithologists and nature-minded students at the University of Vermont. Professors at the Rubenstein School of the Environment and Natural Resources, including but not limited to Allan Strong, Trish O’Kane, and Michael McDonald, are the driving force behind the birding energy that radiates from this campus; they often can be found with binoculars slung over their shoulders and a group of students in tow. As one of those students, I spent several years getting to know the best birding locations within walking, biking, and driving distance of the campus.

Many of the best birding spots in the Burlington area can be accessed along a biking and walking path along the shore of Lake Champlain called the Island Line Trail, so bring your bike or sturdy hiking shoes. Most of this article focuses on birding this trail by bike or on foot. I include several parking areas where drivers can access the bike trail and walk to the hotspots from there. Before exploring the Island Line Trail, I include two locations where you will drive: Centennial Woods Natural Area near the University of Vermont’s campus, then Red Rocks Park, along the shore of Lake Champlain.

Map of Burlington, Vermont.

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