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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!

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

Jan 11: Bird Census Results 

Today was a, you couldn't ask for much better, January day. There was a lot of bird activity on the refuge today. Sparrows were active on Raasch Trail but they were popping up and down so fast that many of them were difficult to identify. Large numbers of white geese were still present with more than 5000 estimated today. Near the entrance to Meadow Pond trail we saw a couple of Hermit Thrushes and a couple of White-breasted Nuthatches but were unable to locate the American Woodcock that has been seen in that area. On the way back from Meadow Ponds we saw some soaring vultures and raptors. One of the raptors turned out to be a Rough-legged Hawk. Duck numbers on the refuge are increasing and are to be found in many locations. We saw 6 male and 1 female Common Goldeneye in Steedman Marsh along with 19 Buffleheads. There was a Lesser Black-backed Gull in a large flock of Ring-billed and Herring Gulls on a sandbar off the end of Plover. We saw a Pileated Woodpecker on the crossover from C pad to Sandy Point Rd. past the large culverts. The most exciting sighting of the day was a feeding flock of more that 3000 Double-crested Cormorants off the end of Sandy Point. This is the largest flock of cormorants that I have ever seen at the refuge. We finished the day with 74 species. Today's photos, Northern Harrier, White-breasted Nuthatch and an American Kestrel. Thanks for looking. Enjoy your week.

Northern Harrier in Flight

Northern Harrier
  Northern Harrier             Northern Harrier    

White-breasted Nuthatch

American Kestrel
 White-breasted              American Kestrel  


Jan 04: Bird Census Results

White geese(Snow and Ross's) numbers are still good with at least 4000 present today. The Cackling Goose is still present and was seen in front of a large group of white geese on the lake by Wildlife Drive. Duck numbers are still relatively low with small groups spread out in the marshy areas around the refuge. There are 8 Buffleheads that have been hanging out in Steedman Marsh. We also saw a lone Ruddy Duck in Mineral Marsh. We found a group of 5 Wilson's Snipes near the road at the end of Egret Pad. There are good numbers of Ring-billed Gulls with a few Herring Gulls mixed in. We found a couple of Dunlin sitting with the gulls off the end of Tern Pad. There is also a good number of Bonaparte's Gulls, a smaller gull with a black beauty mark on the head in winter plumage. The lone Red-headed Woodpecker we saw was just before the low water crossing on Bennett Lane. We found a lone Western Sandpiper mixed in with a flock of Least Sandpipers near the Harris Creek bridge. There was a large flock of American Pipits at the end of Egret Pad. There were five American White Pelicans in the cove to the west of Sandy Point. We also saw a mixed feeding flock of Golden-crowned, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets as well as Yellow-rumped Warblers in the cedars close to the end of Sandy Point road. We finished the day with 67 species. Today's Photos, Wilson's Snipes, Red-headed Woodpecker and Ruddy Duck. Thanks for looking.

Wilson's Snipes

Red-Headed Woodpecker

Ruddy Duck
  Wilson's Snipes        Red-Headed Woodpecker          Ruddy Duck            

Dec 28: Bird Census Results

The day started out calm and warm with steadily increasing winds as the morning progressed. We wound up with a fair number of passerine species but low numbers of many of the species. Of note we did not see a Dark-eyed Junco today which is most unusual for this time of year. There are still several thousand white geese but the food supply has just about disappeared. Duck numbers continue low. There were very few shorebirds but we did see 1 Wilson's Snipe, 4 Least Sandpipers, 9 Greater Yellowlegs and 4 Killdeer. There was a large number of Ring-billed Gulls resting on the sandbars, near the end of our count and several Herring Gulls. We also saw one Bonaparte's Gull. We saw one Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, another hard to find bird this season. We finished the day with 72 species. Possibly bird numbers will increase after the next cold front. Happy New Year to all. Today's photos, a male American Kestrel, North America's smallest falcon and a female Northern Pintail.

Male American Kestrel

Male American Kestrel

Northern Pintail
  Male American Kestrel    Male American Kestrel          Northern Pintail              

Dec 21: Bird Census Results

The morning started out cold and very foggy but conditions improved rapidly and it was a very nice day for the census. As we started out there were thousands of white geese just north of headquarters. We also found the Cackling Goose in the group. We proceeded on to the Goode Area and Dead Woman Pond. We found 8 Wilson's Snipe at Dead Woman. We found numerous birds at the Goode Picnic area including American Goldfinches, Harris and White-throated Sparrows, a Brown Creeper and other species. We saw a large flock of blackbirds just after we turned onto Keefer Rd, including 250 Brewer's Blackbirds and 50 Brown-headed Cowbirds. When we proceeded down Wildlife Drive we found our first of the year Marsh Wren which was a difficult bird to locate this year. We saw a Crested Caracara feeding on a fish near Mineral Marsh. There we also saw an immature Bald Eagle flying high over Steedman Marsh. We later saw a mature Bald Eagle. We found a Spotted Towhee on Oilfield Road. We also saw a Greater Roadrunner on Short Road, a species we were not able to find on the Christmas Bird Count, Saturday. We finished the day with 81 species. Today's photo, Crested Caracara a species we don't see more than several times a year. Thanks for looking and hope that you have a Merry Christmas.

 Crested Caracara

Dec 14: Bird Census Results

The day started out foggy but cleared up some when the wind picked up. The big story of the day was the large number of white geese, approximately 7000. The wheat is disappearing fast and the dry weather has not helped matters. There were a lot of gulls flying around and a good-sized group were sitting off of Plover pad including Ring-billed, Bonaparte’s and Herring Gulls. We saw a total of 3 mature Bald Eagles. Cormorants were present in large numbers. We saw both Spotted and Eastern Towhees. There was a Merlin on Raasch trail. Shorebirds seen included Least Sandpipers, Long-billed Dowitchers, Greater Yellowlegs, Wilson’s Snipes, Killdeer and a lone Dunlin. We finished the day with 77 species.

Dec 07: Bird Census Results

It was a chilly morning following the cold front that blew in yesterday. We started the census on Raasch Trail and the area before the bridge was quite productive. Sparrows were popping up and down everywhere. Species seen there included Fox, Swamp, Lincoln's, White-Crowned, Song, White-thorated Sparrows along with lots of Northern Cardinals and Dark-eyed Juncos. We then proceeded to the Goode Area and walked the field to the left after you enter the gate, in search of LeConte's Sparrows. We had no success there and if you venture into this field be very careful because the Feral Hogs have done a number on it and there are lots of mounds and holes. We found Brown Creepers Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Golden-crowned Kinglets and a Brown Thrasher at the Goode area. As we proceeded down Wildlife Drive we encountered a large flock of approximately 7000 Snow and Ross's Geese grazing in the fields to the left. There were many Double-crested Cormorants today and a few Neotropic Cormorants. On Plover Pad we found Lucy the Bald Eagle trying to catch something near the crossover. She gave up and went and sat on her favorite pole. We saw her mate sitting in a large Sycamore tree while we were traveling down the road to Meadow Pond. It is a good year for Fox Sparrows and we saw a total of 14 today. We also saw 3 Eastern Towhees. There was a nice mixed flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers, Ruby-crowned and Golden Crowned Kinglets as well as an Orange-Crowned Warbler at the Sandy Point rest area. We finished the day with 80 species. Photo is a pair of Northern Pintail ducks. Thanks for looking.

 Northern Pintailed Ducks

Birding with Jack Archives

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