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New Vermont bird atlas released

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WILLISTON, Vt. -

"This thing is a masterpiece," naturalist Bryan Pfeiffer said.

Pfeiffer is talking about "The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds of Vermont." More than a field guide, it's a massive research project. The encyclopedia took flight at the governor's weekly news conference in Williston.

"It has not been updated in 25 years, so it's a big moment for bird lovers in Vermont," said Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont.

Bird lovers can look over photos, maps, tables, charts and graphs.

The Vermont Center for Ecostudies in Norwich took the lead on the 10-year project with the help of countless volunteers. There are success stories between the pages.

"This includes species like osprey, peregrine falcon, common loon," said Roz Renfrew of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies.

Birds that are now easier to see in Vermont thanks to management plans.

But the book contains pages of concern. Some birds were much more likely to be seen in the Green Mountains two decades ago-- birds that feast on insects, like the night hawk or whip-poor-will.

"Sort of this new group that scientists are starting to pay attention to. We are finding these aerial insectivores, which are birds that capture insects in the air, whether it be night or day, a lot of them are experiencing declines. This has been a red flag for scientists throughout North America," Renfrew said.

It's data that could end up setting state policy.

"So, there are some things to be concerned about. So, I think the atlas is the first step. First, you have to be aware of what the issues are and then you have to drill down and figure out the hard work you need to do to make things happen," said Steve Parren, a biologist with Vermont Fish and Wildlife.

The book does not detail the causes and reasons for a population increase or decline, but focuses on population patterns.

The cost of the 548-page book is $75, but one part of the arrangement is 150 libraries in the state will get a free copy, so everyone will have access to this bird atlas. An atlas that only comes around every quarter of a century. Atlas results are also online. Click here for more. The atlas details more than 200 species and should be in bookstores next week.

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