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!
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May 10: Bird Census Results
Here we are, not even having reached mid May and it seemed like summer time. The day started off fairly calm but the winds increased as the morning progressed. We started the day by driving down behind the maintenance buildings to Raasch Trail. There we found a couple of Bobolinks in the nearby field. Bobolink numbers are nothing like they were last year. We are not sure why that is. Possibly all the high winds we have been having lately caused them to pass us by. We found some nice birds in the area including Common Yellowthroats, Painted Buntings, an Orchard Oriole, Lincoln Sparrows, Yellow Warblers, Eastern Bluebirds and an Alder/Willow Flycatcher. This is a pair of small flycatchers that can only be reliably identified by their call which you don't often hear in migration. We then walked a portion of Harris Creek Trail hoping to find some warblers there but we were not successful. We did see a Red-headed Woodpecker and several Yellow-billed Cuckoos and Painted and Indigo Buntings. We then proceeded to the Goode Area and Dead Woman Pond. There we found a Yellow-breasted Chat and Blue Grosbeak. Then we went on to Wildlife Drive. Finding shorebirds there is difficult because the lake is still high and there are still almost no sandbars. There was not much activity at Meadow Pond but we did see a Swainson's Thrush on our return. Of note were a few female Yellow-headed Blackbirds on Tern Pad. The male Yellow-headed Blackbird is another species that did not come thru in large numbers this year. We finished the day with 81 species. Today's photo, a female Yellow-headed Blackbird. The females usually come thru after most of the males have left. Thanks for looking.
May 03: Bird Census Results
The first week of May is historically the best week of the year for the years highest census species count and today did not disappoint. It was a very chilly day for early May and was breezy starting out but the winds died down later on. Bobolinks a bird of special interest for many birders were a little slow arriving this year but were here in decent numbers today along Wildlife Drive and Silliman Road with a count of 55. The lake was up even more from the Big Mineral Creek inflow from recent rain so areas for shorebirds were hard to find but we wound up with 12 species. Wilson's Phalaropes have been here in good numbers for the last week. There were 6 Hudsonian Godwits. There are still a good number of Blue-winged Teals present but all the other duck species are low. There was a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron near the low water crossing on Bennett. We saw many buntings including our first of season Blue Grosbeaks and 28 Painted Buntings. Indigo Buntings were singing in many locations. Dickcissels are here in large numbers. We found a Broad-winged Hawk near Meadow Pond and another one on the way to Sandy. We saw 6 species of warblers which is good for the refuge. We only found 6 Yellow-headed Blackbirds and their numbers seem to be down this year. We ended up with a count of 23 Clay-colored Sparrows today and I don't think I remember a year when they were present in such numbers and so wide spread. We finished the day with 115 species, a tie for our all time day's record. Today's photos, Indigo Bunting, Broad-winged Hawk and Clay-colored Sparrow. Thanks for looking.
Apr 26: Bird Census ResultsIt was a nice clear day for the census with a light northerly breeze. We started the day by walking the short loop on Harris Creek Trail. Right away we found 5 Red-headed Woodpeckers having a territorial dispute. They were flying back and forth chasing each other. In the large willow by the photo blind we could only find two warbler species, a Yellow Warbler and a Yellow-rumped Warbler. We did find a Swamp Sparrow and some Lincoln Sparrows there as well as a stunning Indigo Bunting. We then continued on to the Goode Area and walked to Dead Woman Pond. There was not much activity there but we did see 14 Great Blue Herons feeding there. Then we continued on to Wildlife Drive and along the edges of the lake there was lots of flotsam resulting from the more than 4 inches of rain this past weekend. A lot of water was still flowing in the creeks. Shorebirds were feeding on the flotsam in many locations. But we did not see any of the large concentrations of shorebirds that were here last week because there are almost no mudflats. We knew that we might see Bobolinks since they had been seen yesterday so we proceeded up Silliman Road which is always good when the Bobolinks are here. They like to feed in the vetch fields. We found a couple of dozen Bobolinks soon after we turned on to Silliman Road but they were staying down low so they did not afford very good looks. The numbers should increase a lot in the next week and you should be able to get better looks then. Dickcissels are now here in large numbers and were singing in all the fields. Eastern Kingbirds are arriving. On the crossover from C pad to Sandy Point Road we had a flyover Osprey. There were a lot of Franklin's Gulls present today. We finished the day with 92 species. Today's photos, Spotted Sandpiper, Bobolink and Baltimore Oriole. Thanks for looking.
Apr 19: Bird Census Results
It was an extremely windy day which made it difficult to locate song birds. But the number of shorebirds present was impressive. Many of the shorebirds were distant making identifying them difficult and many of the species were probably undercounted. Some of the higher counts were 58 Least Sandpipers, 114 Pectoral Sandpipers, 267 Long-billed Dowitchers, 55 Greater Yellowlegs, and 57 Lesser Yellowlegs. There were more than a thousand Franklin's Gulls sitting on a sandbar off the end of Plover. Lucy the Bald Eagle did a flyover and got all of the shorebirds excited and they were flying around everywhere seeking safety. Some of the first of season birds included Indigo Buntings, Dickcissels Swainson's Thrushes and a Louisiana Waterthrush. We saw 273 Blue-winged Teals, 130 Northern Shovelers, 70 Gadwalls along with other duck species. We found some Brewer's Blackbirds and Upland Sandpipers in the fields west of the refuge. We finished the day with 85 species. Today's photo is a Wild Turkey tom showing off for the females. Thanks for looking.
Wild Turkey Tom
Apr 12: Bird Census Results
It was a very windy day and the wind started blowing early and got stronger as the morning progressed. Lots of shorebirds were present on the mudflats but many were too far away to easily id and the wind made it difficult to use a spotting scope. Off the end of Plover there was a large flock of shorebirds including a large number of Long-billed Dowitchers, a couple of Sanderlings, some Least, Baird's and Pectoral Sandpipers as well as a Caspian Tern, some Franklin's Gulls and Forster's Terns. There are still a large number of Blue-winged Teals present with a count of 212 for the day. We saw one Lesser Scaup and a Bufflehead in Mineral Marsh. In the fields west of the refuge on beyond Short Road and including Short Road we found at least 79 Upland Sandpipers. On Short Road we found a Vesper Sparrow and 3 Clay-colored Sparrows in with a mixed flock of sparrows including Harris's Sparrows. On the way to Sandy Point we saw a single hen Wild Turkey and saw our first of season Summer Tanager singing near the large oil pad near the end of Sandy Point. At Sandy Point we had our first of season Spotted Sandpipers, a count of 5 and later 4 more on Tern Pad. We saw the Red-headed Woodpecker that hangs out in the trees just south of Mineral Marsh. We heard 2 Pileated Woodpeckers. We saw a Black-and-white Warbler near Oil Field Road. There is still about half a dozen white geese, both Ross's and Snows. We finished the day with 86 species. Today's photos, Black-and-white Warbler, Spotted Sandpiper, Upland Sandpiper and Vesper Sparrow. Thanks for looking.
Apr 05: Bird Census Results
It was a nice day for the census, starting out cool and ending up in the upper 80´s. Early on we saw a Fulvous Whistling-Duck in the back side of the Harris Creek marsh. It was very wary but stayed around long enough for us to tell that it was a different bird from the one here several days ago. There are still a few Ross´s and Snow Geese hanging around. Duck numbers were good with 166 Blue-winged Teal, 74 Northern Shovelers, 89 Gadwall, 2 American Wigeons, 12 Mallards, 5 Northern Pintails, 18 Green-winged Teal and 1 Bufflehead. We saw 12 sparrow species including a first of season Grasshopper Sparrow and a couple of Lark Sparrows. We saw a Pine Warbler on the road to Meadow Pond, a couple of Northern Parulas on the far west side of the refuge and several Yellow-Rumped Warblers on the road to G pad. We also saw a first of season Broad-winged Hawk. We finished the day with 90 species a very good count for early April. Today’s photo, female Northern Harrier on the hunt.
Female Northern Harrier on hunt
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