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Birding with Jack

Master Naturalist Jack Chiles,

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!

**Point to bird images for full screen view**

Sept 21: Bird Census Results

The first day of fall was a great day for birding at the refuge. After the overnight arrival of a cool front there was a stiff northeasterly cool breeze blowing which was welcome after the heat yesterday. We started out by walking the Harris Creek Trail by the photo blind which was completely nonproductive. Then we proceeded down Wildlife Drive and found an Osprey sitting in the edge of the water on the peninsula to the right of Plover Pad. At the end of Plover Pad we were greeted by a large flock of American White Pelicans resting on a sandbar. We wound up with an estimated number of 2150 pelicans. Other species of ducks are arriving and we saw Green-winged Teal, Northern Pintails and Northern Shovelers along with the Blue-winged Teal that have been here for a while. There was a large number of White-faced Ibis in the marshes and we wound up with a count of 116. As we ventured down the road to Meadow Pond we saw our second Peregrine Falcon of the day perched in a dead tree in Deaver Pond. The bird had a full crop and had probably just caught its breakfast. The falcon was very tolerant of us as we photographed it. There are a large number of egrets spread out all over the refuge and we saw 2 Tricolored Herons. We finished the day with 54 species, a low number due to the absence of a lot of passerines and a much declined number of shorebirds. Today's photos, Peregrine Falcon, Osprey and American White Pelicans. Thanks for looking. Enjoy your week.

Peregrine Falcon


White Pelicans
  Peregrine Falcon                  Osprey                             White Pelicans             

Sept 14: Bird Census Results

It was a pleasant late summer day for our bird census with a cooling breeze blowing. As we headed down Wildlife Drive near the first pullout we found a flock of shorebirds including about 20 Buff-breasted Sandpipers and a Ruddy Turnstone which looked much like the one we saw a couple of weeks ago. The mudflats that the shorebirds were feeding in, in the Harris Creek marsh have mostly dried up and now the largest concentration of shorebirds is in the area where Myer's Branch empties into the lake. That area was covered with shorebirds including many Least Sandpipers and a few Western, Semipalmated and Bairds Sandpipers along with many Stilt Sandpipers. We saw 15 species of shorebirds. As we proceeded down Wildlife Drive we had an American Bittern flying up the lake toward Goose Point that reversed direction and flew into the marsh farther down Wildlife Drive. We were able to observe it there along with White Ibis and White-faced Ibis. There were also many shorebirds on the sandbars off the end of Plover and Tern Pads. At Deaver Pond we saw 4 Red-headed Woodpeckers and watched a Belted Kingfisher catch a fish and perch in a tree and proceed to eat it. At the marsh near the low water crossing on Bennett Lane we saw a mature Black-crowned Night-Heron and White Ibis and a Green Heron. By the big culvert on the crossover from C pad to Sandy we saw an Olive-sided Flycatcher. We saw a couple of Loggerhead Shrikes and an American Kestrel on the west side of the refuge. We finished the day with 63 species. Today's photos, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron and Olive-sided Flycatcher.

Wood Stork

Black-Crowned Night Heron

Olive sided Flycatcher
  Green Heron               Black-Crowned Night Heron   Olive-sided Flycatcher            

Sept 07: Bird Census Results

It was not quite as hot today as it has been the last several weeks. It was a great day with 18 species of shorebirds and some species were present in large numbers. The reason for this is probably that there are almost no locations in North Central Texas that have shorebird habitat at this time. Water levels at the refuge in the marshes are controlled and this makes for a great location to see shorebirds. One of our first good finds as we turned onto Wildlife Drive by the first turnout was a Ruddy Turnstone and a flock of Buff-breasted Sandpipers. We had a high count of 42 Buff-breasted Sandpipers today. Many of the shorebirds were on the far side of Harris Creek Marsh making them difficult to identify. But there were plenty in the other marshes that were close enough to identify easily. The two American Avocets and the Short-billed Dowitchers are still hanging around. We saw a total of 87 Pectoral Sandpipers, 47 Least Sandpipers and a good number of Western and Simi-palmated Sandpipers. Egrets and herons were present in large numbers as well as many Blue-winged Teal. We also saw several Northern Shovelers and Wood Ducks. We had three species of Warblers, Yellow, Orange-crowned and Common Yellowthroat. Migrating Scissor-tailed Flycatchers are moving thru with a total of 20. We found 4 Loggerhead Shrikes in the area of Short Road. We saw 69 White-faced Ibis and 4 White Ibis. We finished the day with 68 species. Today's photos, Ruddy Turnstone accompanied by Least Sandpiper, American Avocet, Buff-breasted Sandpipers, and a Green Heron.

Ruddy Turnstone w/Least Sandpiper

American Avocet
  Ruddy Turnstone       American Avocet        

Buff Breasted Sandpiper

Green Heron
  Buff Breasted Sandpiper          Green Heron 


Aug 31: Bird Census Results

It felt very much like midsummer today but the marshes were very active with lots of egrets and herons feeding and a good mixture of shorebirds. Some Purple Martins are still hanging around at the end of the pad between Tern and Egret. There have been large numbers of Purple Martins gathering up here in preparation of their migration south. We saw an early season male American Kestrel on the west end of Short Road. We found a couple of Yellow Warblers on Plover Pad. There are lots of Blue-winged Teal hanging out in Mineral Marsh. In the wooded areas on the road to Meadow Pond we saw several Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and quite a few Indigo Buntings and 1 Painted Bunting. We finished the day with 57 species. Today's photo is a White-faced Ibis showing off its Iridescent plumage.

Aug 24: Bird Census Results

Passerines were hard to find today but it was a great day for herons and egrets. We had a total of 220 Great Egrets, most of which were in Mineral Marsh early in the morning. Totals of others included, 163 Snowy Egrets, 14 Great Blue Herons, 37 Little Blue Herons, 2 Tricolored Herons, 2 Green Herons, 14 Great Blue Herons, 43 Cattle Egrets and a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron which we watched finish off a large Crayfish. There was a Wood Stork hanging around most of the morning in the pool by the Martin Branch bridge. It was feeding on small fish. We got a brief look at an Anhinga on our way back from Meadow Pond which flew out of a tree at Deaver Pond. The Short-billed Dowitchers are still hanging around near the mudflats in Silliman Marsh. We had 15 species of shorebirds but none in large numbers. Nothing like Sunday when we were honored by the visit of a very rare Curlew Sandpiper which was first observed around 10 a.m. and stayed all day feeding on the mudflat in Silliman Marsh. This is only the 13th verified sighting of this Eurasian Species in Texas, which is rarely sighted on the both coasts of the USA. Visitors came from near and far to see the bird which was a life species for most, but unfortunately it did not hang around for the crowd that showed up Monday to see it. There was still a large number of Purple Martins at the end of Tern. They are grouping up for migration. We finished the day with 56 species. Photos, Wood Stork, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron and Curlew Sandpiper accompanied by Western Sandpiper.

Wood Stork

Yellow-Crowned Night Heron

Curlew/Western Sandpipers
  Wood Stork                   Yellow-Crowned Night Heron    Curlew/Western Sandpiper            

Aug 10: Bird Census Results

It was a good day for shorebirds with a total of 16 shorebird species, including a rare Piping Plover, 4 Short-billed Dowitchers,6 Semi-palmated Plovers and a Buff=breasted Sandpiper. Egrets and herons were numerous with a total of 95 Snowy Egrets, 49 Great Egrets, 24 Little Blue Herons,6 Green Herons, 8 Great Blue Herons, 2 Yellow-crowned Night-Herons and 65 Cattle Egrets. We saw 1 immature White Ibis and 24 White-faced Ibis. There was one group of 20 Blue-winged Teal. We only saw one warbler, a Yellow Warbler. 3 Barn Owls are still in the box in the maintenance shed. We finished the day with 68 species. Photo is a preening White-faced Ibis showing off its iridescent plumage.

Aug 03: Bird Census Results

The really good news of the day is that Wildlife Drive is now open. Bennett Lane, west of the Big Mineral Picnic area is still closed but hopefully will be open soon. Being able to go down Wildlife Drive was great and resulted in finding 13 species of shorebirds, including Western Sandpipers, Solitary Sandpipers, a Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpipers, a Stilt Sandpiper, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Semi-palmated Sandpipers, a Semi-palmated Plover, Least Sandpipers, Spotted Sandpipers and Killdeer. We also had a couple of fly over Upland Sandpipers. In a wet area near Silliman Road we saw a mature White Ibis. There is an abundance of egrets and herons. We came upon 3 Greater Roadrunners standing in the road which is a bit unusual. There were still 4 Barn Owls in the nest box in the maintenance shed. There was a late season singing Bell's Vireo on Wright Road. We finished the day with 63 species. Photo is of the 3 Greater Roadrunners we saw in the road today.

Birding with Jack Archives

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