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NOTICE: Weather permitting, the entire refuge will be CLOSED on Thursday, March 30, 2023, for an aerial feral hog control operation.

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**

Mar 14: Bird Census Results

Spring migrants should be arriving in good numbers soon. There are still a few white geese hanging around and a good number of ducks including 230 Blue-winged Teal, 208 Gadwall, 113 Northern Shovelers, 3 Cinnamon Teal, 2 Green-winged Teal, 18 Mallards, 2 Wood Ducks, 2 Northern Pintails, 4 Ring-necked Ducks, 3, Lesser Scaup, 7 Buffleheads, and 119 Ruddy Ducks. Blackbird species are coming through in good numbers, 66 Common Grackles, 129 Brown-headed Cowbirds, 4 Brewer's Blackbirds, and 250 Red-winged Blackbirds were counted. 12 Pied-billed Grebes were seen. Shorebird Species seen were, 71 Killdeer, 87 Least Sandpipers, 18 Long-billed Dowitchers, 8 Wilson's Snipe and 16 Greater Yellowlegs. 78 species were counted today. Today's photo, a drake Northern Shoveler in breeding plumage.

    Northern Shoveler in breeding plumage.

Mar 07: Bird Census Results

Before we departed headquarters we heard a Wild Turkey gobbling in the woods to the east. Later we saw another one crossing the big field at the south end of Wildlife Drive. At Dead Woman Pond we had a couple of Wood Duck drakes fly by. Other than that there was not much activity there, just a few Gadwalls, Mallards, Canada Geese and Eastern Phoebes. The Eastern Phoebes seem to be making a bit of a comeback with a total of 11 seen today. The male Cinnamon Teal is still present in Taylor Marsh. There was a pair of Canvasbacks in Mineral Marsh along with Buffleheads, Lesser Scaups, and a drake Common Goldeneye. There are still good numbers of Northern Shovelers and Gadwalls, present as well as lesser numbers of Northern Pintails, Blue-winged Teal, Green-winged Teal, American Wigeons, and Mallards. We also saw a total of 71 Ruddy Ducks in Steedman Marsh. It appears that most of the white geese have left with only 18 Snow Geese and 8 Ross's Geese present today. We only saw 3 species of shorebirds, 42 Killdeer, 32 Least Sandpipers and17 Greater Yellowlegs. We only saw 2 Red-tailed Hawks today, one of which was the Krider's sub-species. Tufted Titmouse were singing at many locations with a total of 22. There was a Tree Swallow sitting on a snag at Deaver Pond. We saw a male Spotted Towhee on the way to the Goode area and a female Eastern Towhee just past Meadow Pond. We finished the day with 69 species. Today's photo, the pair of Canvasbacks we saw in Mineral Marsh. It was a gray morning, not very good for photos. Thanks for looking.


Feb 28: Bird Census Results

The day was very pleasant temperature wise, and it was very calm early on. There was a controlled burn taking place today as a brush control measure. Some of the highlights of the day were a pair of Cinnamon Teal in Taylor Marsh and a mating pair of Belted Kingfishers at Meadow Pond. We observed some interesting Red-tailed Hawks, one an adult Harlan's hawk different from the overall dark one we have been seeing. This one had a mostly white tail. We also saw an adult partial albino one with a very striking pattern on the wings. A Canvasback is still present as well as numerous Buffleheads, Ruddy Ducks. Lesser Scaup and 4 Common Goldeneyes, There is still a good number of Gadwalls and Northern Shovelers as well as lesser numbers of Northern Pintails. There are still hundreds of white geese present. We saw six Lesser Yellowlegs, the first of the season. We saw a couple of Greater Roadrunners on Short Road. We had a flyby Pileated Woodpecker at the Big Mineral picnic area. We saw a Rusty Blackbird near the new houses being constructed on Brook's Lane. We finished the day with 71 species.

Photos are the unusual Red-tailed Hawks that we saw today. The Harlan's was kiting(hovering in place) over one of the areas of Smartweed that was burning probably looking for a rodent trying to escape the blaze.

Red-Tailed Hawk

 Red-Tailed Hawk                       Harlan's     

Feb 21: Bird Census Results

The morning started out calm with winds increasing later in the day. It was a good day for Red-tailed Hawks with a total of 11 for the day. Both subspecies, Harlan's and Krider's were present in the area just past the Big Mineral picnic area. We saw a Belted Kingfisher at Meadow Pond and a large number of Gadwalls are still present there. We finished the day with 8 Red-bellied, 3 Pileated and 1 Downy Woodpeckers. We also saw 5 Northern Flickers. Lucy was on her favorite pole early in the day. There are still over 3000 white geese present. They are feeding off refuge and come in later in the day to rest and bathe. We saw a pair of Greater Roadrunners on the road to Sandy Point and a couple from Houston and myself saw 5 Sunday morning. So it appears to be a good time to see roadrunners. 3 Common Goldeneyes are still present as well as continuing Buffleheads, Ruddy Ducks, Lesser Scaups, Ring-necked Ducks, Redheads and a couple of Canvasbacks as well as lots of the more common duck species. We saw a total of 24 Wilson's Snipes near the pool on the side of the road going down Wildlife Drive. The best birds of the day were a couple of Rusty Blackbirds on Brooke's Lane near Bennett Lane in the vicinity of all the new home construction. We finished the day with 74 species. My apologies for the late post but I had some technical issues with the post. Today's photo is a Wilson's Snipe. Thanks for looking.

   Wilson's Snipe

Feb 14: Bird Census Results

The morning started out with light rain, soon ending, following a night of heavy rain. Early on the birds were very active as the clouds started giving way to clearing skies. Later in the day the winds from the south became strong. After several recent rains the ground was saturated and water was standing in many places around the refuge. Recently the area around the butterfly garden near headquarters has been good for sparrows. There we saw a large number of Harris's Sparrows as well as Fox Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows and White-throated Sparrows. North of headquarters we saw many meadowlarks on the way to the Goode Area. At the Goode Area we saw a lot of Harris's Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, White-throated Sparrows and American Goldfinches. On the way back from Goode we encountered large numbers of American Robins in the field near Hagerman Road. Gadwall numbers are still good with a count of 390 for the day, many of which were on Meadow Pond. The Common Goldeneyes are still present, as well as Buffleheads, Lesser Scaups, Rudy Ducks, Ring-necked ducks, American Wigeons, Northern Shovelers, Mallards, Northern Pintails, Green-winged Teals and a Blue-winged Teal. Near the end of the census we saw several thousand white geese in the large field on the left going down Wildlife Drive. We finished the day with 72 species, It was good to be back after missing a couple of weeks due to medical reasons., Today's photo, American Kestrel. Thanks for looking.

      American Kestrel

Feb 07: Bird Census Results

Today was a good day for ducks, as the old adage says. Rain that was predicted to start after noon began in earnest at 7:59 AM. We avoided most of the locations where we might encounter mud and concentrated on packed gravel or paved roads as much as possible. Ducks remained the predominant birds, with Gadwalls topping the list with 236 individuals. Northern Pintails also had a significant representation with 147 individuals and we found 91 Northern Shovelers, mostly seen from the Auto Tour Route. Buffleheads, Lesser Scaup, and Common Goldeneye are also easily found in the same area, and Ruddy Ducks are common, with 52 individuals in Steedman Marsh. One of the observers heard an American Woodcock calling from the field at the eastern Bennett Road entrance. We saw two Belted Kingfishers – one at Deaver Pond and one at L Pad. Loggerhead Shrikes were found in fields on the east and on the west. There were 11 Northern Flickers topping the list of woodpeckers, and Dark-eyed Juncos were the most common of the eleven Sparrow species seen today. Today’s list included 79 species. Due to the weather, the photos are of a Lesser Black-backed Gull and a Loggerhead Shrike taken this past weekend. Thank you for looking.

Black-backed Gull

Loggerhead Shrike
 Black-backed Gull             Loggerhead Shrike     

Jan 24: Bird Census Results

It was a very dreary morning for our census, with continuous rain with a bit of sleet mixed in. We started the day out going down Wildlife Drive. There were good numbers of ducks in the marshes. Green-winged Teal numbers are still high with a count of 570. Other duck species seen were, 94 Northern Shovelers, 296 Gadwall, 83 Mallards, 154 Northern Pintails, 1 Canvasback, 1 Redhead, 2 Ring-necked Ducks, 16 Lesser Scaup, 10 Bufflehead, 17 Rudy Ducks, and 2 Common Goldeneye. We were unable to locate the Long-tailed Duck today. We saw 33 Wilson's Snipe. There were over 300 gulls off the end of Tern pad, most of which were Ring-billed Gulls, and 3 Herring Gulls, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull and 1 Bonaparte's Gull. We saw one mature Bald Eagle in the tree at Big Mineral picnic area and a three year old at Deaver Pond. Great Blue Herons were abundant with a count of 40. We saw an unusually high count of White-throated Sparrows and ended up with 133. We also saw 37 Harris's Sparrows and small numbers of White-crowned, Savannah, Song and Swamp Sparrows. We finished the count with 69 Species. Today was to inclement for photos so this is a photo of Lucy on a day when the weather was much nicer. Thanks for looking.

   Lucy - Female bald eagle 

Jan 17: Bird Census Results

It was another beautiful January day for our census. It was very calm most of the day. We walked the short loop of Harris Creek Trail early on and did not find many species there. The Harlan's Red-tailed Hawk is still hanging out in the trees across the creek there but there were few sparrow species in that area. We then continued on to Raasch Trail and saw a large number of Black and Turkey Vultures near the bridge. On down the road near the edge of the woods we saw 15 Wild Turkeys and farther down the road near the last open field we found a Brown Creeper, lots of Dark-eyed Juncos, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Fox Sparrows, Cedar Waxwings and several other species. Later on we found a Belted Kingfisher at Dead Woman Pond. At least 2500 white geese are still present. There were a couple of thousand or so gulls on the sandbar off the end of Tern pad, mostly Ring-billed Gulls with a few Herring Gulls and a Lesser Black-backed Gull. There are still a lot of Buffleheads in Silliman Marsh, as well as Common Goldeneyes, Ruddy Ducks, the Long-tailed Duck and an assortment of other duck species. Gadwalls, Northern Pintails and Green-winged Teals are present in large numbers. We saw 43 Wilson's Snipe, 1 Dunlin, 6 Greater Yellowlegs and 32 Least Sandpipers. We finished the day with 79 species. Today's photo, the rare Long-tailed Duck that was discovered on 11-12-22 that has now been here for over two months and has been viewed and photographed by many. It has been interesting to watch the change in plumage that has occurred in the last 9 weeks. Hopefully it will stay around for another month or so. It has been very cooperative allowing close approach for fotos. Thanks for looking.

 Long-tailed Duck 

Jan 10: Bird Census Results

The morning started out cool and calm with the winds picking up later in the morning. It was a beautiful January day for the census. Early on we went to the field on the left, just after you enter the gate to the Goode Area to take advantage of the calm start to the morning to try to walk up some LeConte's Sparrow. As we approached the midway point of the field we were able to find 4 LeConte's Sparrows. This field is an excellent place to find this sparrow species. If you venture into the area, I would once again advise to proceed with caution because it is very difficult walking with lots of holes and dips. We then proceeded to Dead Woman Pond and watched a Pileated Woodpecker fly across in front of us and land in a tree giving us a good view. We proceeded on the trail past Dead Woman Pond and did not see much bird activity in that area, but we did find one Fox Sparrow, a species that has been scarce this year as are a lot of other species. As we proceeded on to the pads we saw Snow and Ross's Geese. There are still at least 2000 white geese present but there is very little on the refuge for them to eat In Steedman Marsh we found the continuing Long-tailed Duck, several Common Goldeneyes, at least 30 buffleheads, and some Lesser Scaups, Ruddy Ducks, Northern Shovelers, Northern Pintails and Green-winged Teal. We saw a total of 1177 Green-winged Teal scattered out around the refuge. We saw 56 Least Sandpipers in the shallow pond on the left going down Wildlife Drive. There were at least 900 Ring-billed Gulls present today. We found low numbers of birds of each of the common wintering species. I am not sure why there are such low numbers this year. We finished the day with 75 species. Photo, flock of Buffleheads in Steedman Marsh. Thanks for looking.

  flock of Buffleheads

Jan 03: Bird Census Results

It was a fairly nice January day for our first weekly bird census of the new year. Duck numbers are good with nearly a thousand Green-winged Teal counted and nearly 300 Northern Pintails. Other ducks seen were Buffleheads, Mallards, Ring-necked Ducks, Lesser Scaup, Ruddy Ducks, Hooded Mergansers, an American Wigeon and a Common Goldeneye. There were also over 4000 white geese present. The road to Meadow Pond was productive with 3 Winter Wrens, a Brown Creeper, several White-breasted Nuthatches, Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. On the crossover between C pad and Sandy Road by the big culverts we saw a Brown Thrasher and a couple of Spotted Towhees. On the west side of the refuge we found a large flock of over 40 Yellow-rumped Warblers. We found Wilson's Snipes at Meadow Pond as well as near Wildlife Drive in the shallow pond that borders the large field. We saw 11 sparrow species. We finished the day with a total of 42 Wild Turkeys. There was an Inca Dove calling near headquarters. We finished the day with 81 species. Today's photos, Wilson's Snipe, Red-tailed Hawk, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Savannah Sparrow and Brown Creeper. Thanks for looking.

Wilson's Snipe

Red-Tailed Hawk

Yellow-Rumped Warbler
 Wilson's Snipe                         Red-Tailed Hawk             Yellow-Rumped Warbler     

Savannah Sparrow

Brown Creeper
 Savannah Sparrow                    Brown Creeper     

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