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VINS (Vermont Institute of Natural Science) Review & Species List

Discussion in 'United States' started by PaintedDog, 6 Jul 2022.

  1. PaintedDog

    PaintedDog Member

    22 Mar 2020
    Maine, USA
    Hi all! Today I took a trip to a lesser-known facility but one that I'm a huge fan of and have visited a handful of times. This facility is a beautiful campus full of maintained forest and fields that provide a home for native species of reptiles, insects, birds, mammals, and everything else. They also feature a pollinator garden, a canopy-walk, tons of walking trails, and a large group of some of the best raptor mews I've ever seen.

    Due to some of Vermont's laws involving exhibiting animals, which doesn't allow for the exhibiting of native mammals (except for opossums at the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum), this facility is exclusively birds with just a handful of reptiles to round out a nice ambassador collection. The majority of species here are raptors with a few owls, corvids, and songbirds as well. Their ambassador collection has large overlap with their exhibit collection but also features a few other species that aren't exhibited in the mews.

    The mews are all side-by-side and organized in a horseshoe shape with a nice covered walkway for you to view (which was great because it was a very rainy day today). There are sixteen mews each exhibiting a different species of raptor, owl, or corvid. They were all very tall, deep, and long. I didn't get exact dimensions (despite having taken a BTS tour of the facility before) but they are definitely the largest I've personally seen.

    Mew I- This mew is well foliated with two mature trees as well as ground perching as neither bird living in it is fully capable of flight. The mew is split in two (though both sides are quite large) and the second mew is more well flighted for their female owl, Snowy. The other, housing their male named La Guardia, is perched heavily on the ground due to him having fractured his wings before being taken in.
    • Snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus) [La Guardia and Snowy]
    Mew II- This mew also is well foliated as this individual is fully flighted. It also has tons of dynamic perching so that animal can fly around, perch, and get away from keepers.
    • Rough-legged hawk (Buteo lagopus) [Bridgeport]
    From here on out, all of the mews are pretty similar. The perching and foliage is unique enough but isn't easy to articulate and would seem pretty repetitive. Unless it's a particularly interesting mew I won't be describing them, just naming the individuals and species.
    • Mew III
      • Black vulture (Coragyps atratus) [Name unknown]
    • Mew IV
      • Turkey vulture (Coragyps aura) [Poultney and Randolph]
    • Mew V
      • Northern harrier (Circus hudsonius) [Erie]
    • Mew VI
      • Common raven (Corvus corax) [Sedona and Woodstock]
    • Mew VII
      • Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) [Neddick]
    • Mew VIII
      • Ferruginous hawk (Buteo regalis) [Wyoming]
    • Mew IX
      • Cooper's hawk (Accipiter cooperii) [Fallston]
    • Mew X
      • Eastern screech owl (Megascops asio) [Fairchance and West Virginia]
    • Mew XI
      • American kestrel (Falco sparverius) [Montgomery and Bridgewater]
    • Mew XII
      • Barred owl (Strix varia) [Richmond and Hyde Park]
    • Mew XIII
      • Great horned owl (Bubo virginianus) [Sullivan and Nassau]

    Mew XIV-
    This exhibit was somewhat different as it was full of rocks for the animals to scale and nest on, which was especially interesting as I'd never seen this done for this species in my personal experience. It mimicked the cliffs they'd be nesting on while also allowing for plenty of live trees and perching within it.
    • Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) [Fairlee and Chittenden]
    Mew XV- The second to last exhibit, this was the largest of the mews and featured a huge platform screwed into the side wall. However, there wasn't much else going on here as all the perching was lying on the ground. A keeper confirmed they had to redo the perching and planned on doing it today but due to the rain had to push it off. I can't wait to see it fully perched.
    • Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) [Cody and Arizona]
    Mew XVI- The final mew, this one was honestly the worst of the bunch with not enough perching high up in my personal opinion. Up until this point (other than the aforementioned golden eagle issue) every exhibit was perched and planted incredibly nicely. This wasn't the worst exhibit I've seen for the species, but it also definitely wasn't the best.
    • Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) [Elmwood]

    Reptile House- This is a really small room, about the size of a standard classroom, and only features three enclosures housing three different reptiles. The exhibits are fine but pretty standard and it's definitely clear that the facility's main focus is birds, though I'd love to see the collection of herps grow, especially to increase the number of native species. Each species is kept in a separate enclosure.
    • Eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina)
    • Corn snake (Pantherophis guttatus)
    • Wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta)
    Songbird Aviary- The final exhibit, this one actually just opened a few days ago (July 1) and I was very happy to be able to explore it. It's a huge exhibit taking up 2,160 square feet and is home to a handful of native non-releasable songbirds. The exhibit is pretty lacking in individuals (which I suppose is a good thing, being that means not many are non-releasable) but I did feel like it was a bit empty with what was in there. It is a walk-through exhibit so the birds share the space with you.
    • Northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
    • Cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)
    • Bohemian waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus)
    • American robin (Turdus migratorius)
    • Mourning dove (Zenaida macroura)

    Ambassadors- We sat down for a couple shows throughout the day, one in the AM and one in the PM and saw six different ambassador birds. I also checked the website and gathered the others, though the website is slightly outdated as Bridgeport the rough-legged hawk is now an exhibit animal rather than an ambassador, so I'm not sure how up-to-date the site is.
    • American kestrel (Falco sparverius) [Ferrisburgh and Westford]
    • Red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) [Ithaca]
    • Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) [Bloomfield]
    • Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) [Hawaii]
    • Harris' hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus) [Paige and Chesterland]
    • Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus) [Northfield]
    • Barred owl (Strix varia) [Hartland]
    • Barn owl (Tyto alba) [Aurora]
    • Eastern screech owl (Megascops asio) [Miami]
    That's all there is for animals, but for other things to do, this facility is great. They have a small walk-through dinosaur exhibit which features some interactive activities, real and mock fossils, a dinosaur dig table, and other things kids would be interested in. The main focus of the display is the relationship and evolution from birds to dinosaurs.

    The facility also does a few shows a day, they have three main ones, with Predators of the Sky being their main show with two showings, Raptors Up Close and Reptile Rendezvous both have one showing per day, at least on weekdays. We saw both Predators of the Sky presentations which were fun and educational and the educators did a great job.

    The canopy walk is also really cool and offers some amazing views of the property which includes the nearby Quechee River. I'm personally terrified of heights so the walk was petrifying for me, especially climbing all the way above the treeline on the tower, but it still offered something super unique and interesting to do.

    There is also a ton of art around the facility including sculptures outdoors and paintings indoors. Some of it is permanent but I did notice some was for sale, which I found interesting.

    Overall, this facility is definitely well-known to anyone in the area, especially since its two minutes from the Quechee Gorge which is a huge natural gorge that people in New England love to visit (myself included, once the rain subsided we hiked down and spent a few hours in the gorge) but most people have probably never heard of this facility. It is only birds, so I can understand it being underwhelming and maybe not worth the drive for some, but if you're ever in the area doing zoos in New England, it's definitely one I'd hesitate to miss!
  2. TinoPup

    TinoPup Well-Known Member 5+ year member

    17 Jul 2016
    Thanks for the review! I was considering going there on my recent new england visit, but they didn't get back to me on whether the songbird aviary was open and ultimately, it wasn't worth driving several extra hours to see species I've seen before + the possibility of part of the place still being closed. Maybe on a future trip.
    PaintedDog likes this.