BENNINGTON >> The Community College of Vermont's Wildlife Ecology course is conducting a species inventory at the Bradford-Putnam Wetlands on Burgess Road.
Instructor Jen Loyd-Pain said she approached the town of Bennington and asked if an inventory of the species living in the wetlands had ever been completed, and was told no. The site was restored by the town and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the Bennington Landfill Superfund Site settlement agreement, to replace similar wildlife habitat contaminated by toxic materials at the Bennington Landfill, between 1997 and 1999. The land was previously part of the town's water supply system, and pipes and cisterns had to be removed during the restoration.
The class visited the wetlands for the second time on Monday, and Loyd-Pain, who previously worked as the director of One World Conservation Center, said she hopes to take the class out one more time before the end of the school year.
The students split into groups of four, and began searching the wetlands for signs of animal life. As the search continued, a steady rain developed, which Loyd-Pain said would drive many songbirds to seek shelter, but could make it more likely for students to find reptiles and amphibians.
These predictions turned out to be accurate, as when students returned to the classroom to report their findings, no one reported seeing any songbirds, although they did spot two mallard ducks, a male and a female. Two groups found salamanders, which Loyd-Pain identified as the Eastern redback salamander, which she said was an exciting find. "You don't see them in the wild that often!" she told the students. Other students found various insects, as well as signs of deer and burrowing rodents, and even what they identified as frog eggs.
All of their observations are being recorded and submitted to a project on iNaturalist.org, a website where anyone who signs up can log their encounters with wildlife, so that naturalists can study the crowd-sourced data. Loyd-Pain says she hopes the project will continue over a number of school years.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.