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Birding with Jack

Master Naturalist Jack Chiles,

Master Naturalist Mike Petrick and

Dr. Wayne Meyer

Each Tuesday a team of experienced birders, including Master Naturalist Jack Chiles, traverse 35 miles of refuge roads and hiking trails, documenting every bird they encounter. This Bird Census is reported to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology for use in research, and each week we will bring you a link to their actual bird count, and a summary of their adventures.

Thank you, Bird Census Team!

**Turn Phone sideways prior to image enlargment!  Point to bird images for full screen view**

Aug 16: Bird Census Results 

Today was hot and very dry. The only positive thing that I can see in that is that more and more mudflats are appearing and there was an abundance of shorebirds, terns, egrets and herons present. Early on we walked Harris Creek Trail and found 5 Red-headed Woodpeckers flying around. We also heard a late season Bell's Vireo singing there. As we ventured down Wildlife Drive we found a Willet near Goose Point. At the mudflats out from the oil jacks on Plover we saw many shorebirds including, Dowitchers, Stilt Sandpipers, Pectoral Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, Wilson's Phalaropes, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Killdeer, 2 American Avocets. a Baird's Sandpiper, 15 Western Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, a Semipalmated Plover and a couple of Piping Plovers. We saw 8 Yellow Warblers in the Button Bushes along the pad roads. We saw a total of 22 Wood Ducks in the marshes along Wildlife Drive. Our egret and heron count was 351 Great Egrets, 229 Snowy Egrets, 11 Cattle Egrets, 50 Great Blue Herons, 50 Little Blue Herons, 1 Tricolored Heron, 1 Yellow-crowned Night-Heron and 3 Green Herons. We happened upon a White-tailed doe with her fawn drinking water near the bridge over Big Mineral Creek. We finished the day with 69 species. Today's photos, White-tailed Deer, Yellow Warbler in Button Bush and Willet in flight displaying unique wing pattern.

White-Tailed Deer

Yellow Warbler

 White-tailed Deer                 Yellow Warbler           Willet in flight 

Aug 09: Bird Census Results 

Today was calm and mostly cloudy as we started out on our census. We walked Harris Creek Trail to the first pond and found 3 Red-headed Woodpeckers. We then proceeded on to the pads along Wildlife Drive and found 10 Upland Sandpipers in the large field on the left across from the entrance to Plover Pad. That was the first of 17 shorebird species for the day. There is now more mud visible and it made for some excellent shorebird viewing. As we turned onto Plover we found a lone Willet on the dike along with Least Sandpipers, a Semi-palmated Sandpiper and Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs and 2 Buff-breasted Sandpipers. There were also 7 White-faced Ibis in Muleshoe Marsh. Farther down on Plover pad out from the pump jacks we saw 85 Forster's Terns and 28 American Avocets. We then proceeded to Egret Pad and saw 3 White-Ibis near the entrance to the pad. There is a very large number of Egrets and Herons present with counts of 366 Snowy Egrets, 265 Great Egrets, 46 Great Blue Herons, 42 Little Blue Herons, 52 Cattle Egrets, 6 Green Herons, and 1 Tricolored Heron. We also saw a mature Yellow-crowned Night-Heron at Meadow Pond. We found one Snowy Plover off the end of Tern Pad. Near the pad where Lucy is so fond of perching we saw 22 Stilt Sandpipers, 3 Short-billed Dowitchers and other shorebirds. There we also saw probably the best sighting of the day, a Roseate Spoonbill setting on a snag. At the end of Tern Pad we found 139 Least Terns a very large number for this species. The highest number of Least Terns we had recorded at the refuge in the last 33 years was in the sixties. We found 16 Wood Ducks most of which were in Mineral Marsh. 6 Blue-winged Teal flew in while we were at Mineral Marsh. We found a Swainson's Hawk in Taylor Marsh that had just caught a rodent. We finished the day with 72 species the same as last week. Most of the marshes have now been mowed and flooded which should make for some good birding in the coming weeks. Kudos to the refuge staff for that. Today's photos, Roseate Spoonbill accompanied by Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons, the Snowy Plover and a Little Blue Heron accompanied by a Green Heron. Thanks for looking.

Roseate Spoonbill

Snowy Plover

Little Blue Heron
 Roseate  Spoonbill with                Snowy Plover          Little Blue Heron with 
Great Egrets & Great Blue Herons                                a Green Heron

Aug 02: Bird Census Results  

It was another hot summer day with a stiff dry southwest wind blowing. But there was some good news, that being, we now have some mudflats since the lake level has started to recede. There are now some good exposed areas off the end of Tern Pad. That said, we had a good shorebird day, with 15 species of shorebirds. Some of the highlights were 5 Western Sandpipers, 3 Wilson's Phalaropes, 5 Solitary Sandpipers(4 of which were at Dead Woman Pond), 10 Semipalmated Sandpipers, 10 Stilt Sandpipers, 11 Pectoral Sandpipers, an American Avocet, 14 Spotted Sandpipers and a Semipalmated Plover. We found 4 Tricolored Herons at Dead Woman Pond. We saw an early season Sharp-shinned Hawk on Raasch Trail. We had a high count of 72 Least Terns but there were no juveniles with them. There was also 36 Forster's Terns and two black Terns all off the end of Tern Pad. We counted 46 Mallards, probably all birds that were raised here this year. Once again a large number of Canada Geese, 182 in total. On another positive note they are going to cut the vegetation in the front part of Moist Soil Unit #7, the first large marsh on the right before you get to the entrance to Plover Pad. They are then going to flood it providing more much needed habitat for shorebirds. We finished the day with 70 species which is quite good for this time of year. Today's photo is a juvenile White Ibis. Thanks for looking.

      juvenile White Ibis

July 26: Bird Census Results 

It was another very warm day and we started the day off by walking Harris Creek trail to the first pond by the photo blind. There we found 3 of the Red-headed Woodpeckers that nested in the area. Then we proceeded on to Dead Woman Pond and located 2 of the Tricolored Herons that have been using that area for several weeks now. We also saw a couple of Blue Grosbeaks there and were surprised to find a late season singing Bell's Vireo there in the willows by the lake. Early on there were a large number of Canada Geese feeding in the field north of headquarters. We finished the day with a count of 195 Canada Geese. The lake level is receding very slowly but there was a thin sandbar to the left of the end of Tern Pad and it produced a nice variety of shorebird species including 4 Snowy Plovers, 2 Short-billed Dowitchers, 3 Stilt Sandpipers, 2 Baird's Sandpipers, some Least Sandpipers, 2 Western Sandpipers, 4 Semipalmated Sandpipers and a Spotted Sandpiper. There were also Forster's Terns and Black Terns there. Other sandpipers we saw were, a couple of Solitary Sandpipers in Silliman Marsh, and 8 Pectoral Sandpipers in Mineral Marsh. We finished the day with 12 shorebird species. We also saw a Caspian Tern flying over Muleshoe Marsh, disappearing to the south. Near Short Road we saw an early season American Kestrel and a Loggerhead Shrike. Purple Martins are flocking and we saw 74 sitting on the power lines at the end of the middle pad between Tern and Egret Pads. There was a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron in the marshy area to the west of Deaver Pond. We finished the day with 66 species, a good count for a hot day in late July. Photo is the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron that we almost overlooked at Deaver Pond. Thanks for looking.

     juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

July 19: Bird Census Results 

It was another sweltering day so we finished up about noon. There are not many birds singing in this heat. At Dead Woman Pond we found three Tricolored Herons and a couple of Wood Ducks along with some Little Blue Herons. At the entrance to Tern Pad we found a Solitary Sandpiper and a Spotted Sandpiper. On the crossover between Tern and Plover pads we saw several Least Sandpipers and a couple more Spotted Sandpipers as well as 22 Neotropic Cormorants. We saw a total of 145 Canada Geese. At Deaver Pond we found a Belted Kingfisher and a Red-headed Woodpecker both in the same dead tree close to the dike. There was not much activity out west of the refuge, just a few Meadowlarks and a few other species. Lake levels have dropped a bit and we should soon have some mudflats for returning shorebirds. We finished the day with 52 species. Today's photo, Wood Ducks in eclipse plumage in Mineral Marsh. Thanks for looking.

   Wood Ducks in eclipse plumage in Mineral Marsh

July 12: Bird Census Results 

The day heated up quickly but we did see good numbers of several hard to find species. Some of the better sightings were, 4 Tricolored Herons two of which were at Dead Woman Pond, 8 green Herons, 7 Red-headed Woodpeckers and 6 Blue Grosbeaks. We finished the day with 13 Painted Buntings. 4 of the Red-headed Woodpeckers were the ones that have been seen a lot lately near the photo blind on Harris Creek Trail. We also heard a Common Yellowthroat singing there. There were 2 Wood Ducks near the first bridge on Wildlife Drive. We saw a Swainson's Hawk on Raasch trail just past the bridge. The Inca Doves are still calling near headquarters. Still no mudflats but we did see a couple of Spotted Sandpipers and Least Sandpipers. We saw a Belted Kingfisher and a Pileated Woodpecker at Dead Woman Pond. We finished the day with 67 species, a good total for summertime. Photo is Tricolored Heron. Thanks for looking.

  Tricolored Heron 

July 05: Bird Census Results 

The heat is turning up so we did an abbreviated census this morning. In the heat of the afternoon many species become inactive and find a place in the shade. Lake level has gone down a little but there are still no mudflats. So we did not see a single species of shorebirds today. It is getting late in the breeding season and a lot of the species are not singing much. However the Painted Buntings were still singing in many places. We only saw 1 American White Pelican today but small flocks are starting to move thru the area. We found 4 Least Terns flying around in the vicinity of Tern Pad. We had Inca Doves calling at Headquarters. Inca Doves are a species that did not fare well in the freeze of 2021. I had about seven regular Inca Doves at my home before the big freeze last year and have not seen one here since. We finished the day with 50 species. Hopefully the lake will go down a little so we will have some mudflats before the returning shorebirds come thru. Today's photos, an Inca Dove, the smallest dove in our immediate area. Notice the scaly appearance of the feathers on the back. This bird's call is a repeated two notes interpreted by some as "no hope". The other photo is a Cottontail Rabbit. Thanks for looking.

Inca Dove

Cottontail Rabbit
   Inca Dove                      Cottontail Rabbit 

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