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**
Oct 19: Bird Census Results
The morning started out cool and it was very calm. We went down on Raasch Trail to begin the count and was greeted by a Pileated Woodpecker sitting on the top of a dead tree. Other than that it was pretty quiet there with a few vultures and blackbirds. We then proceeded to the pads and found the first two Snow Geese of the season along with 31 Greater White-fronted Geese grazing on the wheat that is doing quite well after the recent rains. The lake has risen some but there are still some sandbars but very few shorebird remain. Lucy was siting on her favorite perch at the end of the crossover pad. A good numbers of ducks have come in and most of them were in the back side of Mineral Marsh. We saw at least 60 American Wigeons, 83 Gadwalls, 36 Northern Shovelers, a Redhead, 3 Ring-necked Ducks and Mallard, Teal and Northern Pintails. There were almost no passerines on the road to Meadow Pond as was the case everywhere else we went on the refuge. We did see 7 American Kestrels and Western Meadowlarks are starting to arrive. We finished the day with 54 species. Today's photo, Lucy our resident female Bald Eagle. As I guess you have figured out by now, I never tire of taking photos of her. Best viewed full screen. Thanks for looking.
Female Bald Eagle (Lucy)
Oct 12: Bird Census ResultsWe were greeted today by some much cooler fall weather as we ventured out on the census. As we proceeded down Wildlife drive we observed a large flock of American Coots that had just arrived numbering more than 300 birds all huddled closed together. We later saw another 150 or so near the pads. We were interested to see if the rare Red-necked Phalarope that arrived yesterday morning was still present so we went directly to Silliman Marsh and found the bird near the road to Tern Pad. This is a bird that frequents both coasts and we only see here on an average of 1 time every three years. Both of the Bald Eagles were present today and one was sitting on the double power pole near J pad. We saw some recently arrived Rubly-Crowned Kinglets just past Meadow Pond. We saw many migrating Turkey Vultures with a total count of 165 individuals for the day. We also saw a large kettle of migrating Swainson's Hawks containing more that a hundred individuals. Shorebirds numbers were good but had dropped off quite a bit from yesterday. American White Pelicans are still coming thru but in smaller numbers. We finished the day with 56 species. Today's photo is the juvenile Red-necked Phalarope. Thanks for looking.
Oct 5: Bird Census Results
It was a beautiful fall day for our weekly census. Some of the fall migrants that will winter here are beginning to arrive. We saw 5 Northern Flickers and a first of season Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Noticeably absent today were the large number of egrets that we have been seeing as of late. Shorebirds numbers were decent for this late into migration While on Egret Pad we had a flyby Peregrine Falcon. One has been hanging around for a couple of weeks .We saw a first of season Franklin's Gull hanging out with the pelicans off the end of Plover Pad. We saw a distant Bald Eagle soaring off the end of Sandy Point. We saw no warblers today even though we walked the short loop on Harris Creek trail by the photo blind. Passerines were few and far between. The wheat that was recently sewn in the fields for the migrating geese has mostly germinated. Hopefully we will get a rain on it so that it does not die. We finished the day with 55 species. Today's photo is Long-billed Dowitchers a common migrant shorebird at the refuge. A key to identifying this species is its sewing machine motion of the bill while feeding. It is a medium sized bird(11 1/2 inches). Often makes a keek call while feeding. Watch for the large white upper rump seen in flight.
Long Billed Dowitcher
Sept 28: Bird Census ResultsWe started the day by going down behind the maintenance buildings and proceeding on to Raasch Trail. There, just past the bridge we saw a couple of Cooper's Hawks and a Red-shouldered hawk along with a Hairy Woodpecker, a bird that can be difficult to locate on the refuge. Then we proceeded to Wildlife Drive and near the first pullout we saw a flock of shorebirds on the edge of the lake and just as we were about to try to identify them they took flight and we soon discovered why as a Peregrine Falcon zoomed by. Today was very good for shorebirds and we were surprised to see so many this late in the season. The conditions are really good for them at present with the lake elevation near 615.5 feet above sea level exposing a lot of mudflats. We wound up with 15 species of shorebirds. Some of the better sightings were, 5 Sanderlings, a Black-bellied Plover and an American Golden Plover, a Buff-breasted Sandpiper, a Wilson's Phalarope,113 Stilt Sandpipers, and 112 Least Sandpipers. We observed the Peregrine Falcon for a second time sitting in a tree near the dike on Mineral Marsh. Ducks are starting to arrive in larger numbers. We heard and had a flyby Pileated Woodpecker on Harris Creek trail by the photo blind. Passerines were once again very difficult to come by but as we made a second trip around the pads on Wildlife Drive we were fortunate to find a Palm Warbler. It was feeding near the ground under Button Bushes and was catching a lot of caterpillars. This is a rare species for the refuge. We finished the day with 68 species. Today's photo is the Palm Warbler. The plumages on this species are highly variable and this is a very dull individual. Thanks for looking.
Sept 21: Bird Census ResultsThe 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.
Sept 14: Bird Census ResultsIt 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.
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.
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