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Birding with Jack

Thank you, Jack Chiles,

for the photos below.

May 12, Special Update: 05-12-21, I observed a first for me, after more that thirty years of observing Bobolink flocks during spring migration. Bobolinks migrate through this area each year, usually starting the last week of April continuing into the first couple of weeks of May. Then they disappear from the area until once again they appear in late April the following year to repeat the cycle. Male Bobolinks are one of my favorite birds that I see at the refuge each year. I enjoy looking at their unique plumage and listening to there seemingly incessant bubbly song. Migration patterns of Bobolinks are not yet fully understood. They have some of the longest migration paths of any passerine in the western hemisphere. Some go as far north as Canada and then return to their wintering grounds in central and southern South American, covering a distance of as much as twelve thousand miles, often flying distances of up to 1100 miles in a single day. The odd thing is that in migration here you see almost exclusively male birds. The females migrate farther east of here. But after all these years of observing them in migration I finally saw a female and was fortunate enough to capture a photo of the bird. Some of the nicknames the birds have been called are "reed birds" or "ricebirds" for their consumption of large amounts of grain from rice fields and are considered pests by some farmers. During their stay at the refuge they feed in the vetch fields feeding on seed heads and on the ground for fallen seeds and insects. They are also quite fond of armyworm moths. During their stay here they draw crowds of spectators in awe of the seasonal spectacle. Thanks for looking.

           Female Bobolink 

May 11:  Bird Census Results

Today was an unseasonably chilly, rainy day but as I have often experienced, the days that are not favorable for the bird counters are oftentimes the very best days for seeing a lot of bird activity. That was the case on the pad roads today. There were large numbers of swallows feeding on the pads on insects that had hatched, along with Yellow-headed Blackbirds, lots of Spotted Sandpipers and other shorebirds. We parked in the road on the crossover from Tern to Egret Pad and witnessed much feeding activity up close. The Bobolinks are still present in good numbers in the vetch fields along Wildlife Drive as well as many Dickcissels and Eastern Kingbirds. We found a Peregrine Falcon in the trees just south of Mineral Marsh and also had a flyby Cooper's Hawk. We found a flock of 7 Hudsonian Godwits and 2 Upland Sandpipers in a field near Brook's Farm, west of the refuge. One nice find was a Warbling Vireo singing in the rain near the first bridge on the road to Meadow Pond. The White-rumped Sandpipers and Stilt Sandpipers have arrived but can be difficult to find because of the high water. We shortened our day because of the rain but finished with 81 species. Today's photos, Stilt Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Cliff Swallow and Hudsonian Godwits. Thanks for looking.

Click on thumbnails to display larger images.

Hudsonian Godwits

Stilt Sandpiper

Cliff Swallow



May 04:  Bird Census Results

Today was a partly cloudy day in the 60's with a strong northerly breeze blowing. Following recent rains the lake has risen and there are now no exposed sandbars, resulting in fewer shorebirds. The shorebirds that are present are difficult to see because of the vegetation. The most exciting thing at the refuge now is the large numbers of Bobolinks present. They are in evidence in all of the vetch covered fields. They will probably be here a few more days. Ducks are still present but their numbers are rapidly decreasing. We had 6 Pileated Woodpeckers but only found 1 Red-headed Woodpecker. On the road to Goode we heard a Philadelphia Vireo singing. Near the Harris Creek photo blind we found a Willow Flycatcher and it was calling. We finally got looks at first of  


season Common Yellowthroats. We only saw one Eastern Bluebird. We saw a flock of 21 Yellow-headed Blackbirds and Dickcissels are abundant as usual this time of year. We saw a total of 8 Clay-colored Sparrows making this an unusually good year for that species. Lark Sparrows were abundant with a count of 17. There was a pair of Green Herons at a small pond on Short Road. Black Terns are now at the refuge. We finished the day with 99 species. Photo is of one of the many male Bobolinks now present at the refuge. Best viewed full screen. Thanks for looking.

April 27:  Bird Census Results

Today was a cool cloudy day and there was lots of bird activity. The last week of April and the first week of May are probably the most exciting times to do the bird census at the refuge. Many migrants are arriving as well as a lot of the local breeding birds. Some of the birds that winter here have not left yet so it makes for great counts on the census. Of course most birders get excited when the Bobolinks arrive and that happened late yesterday afternoon. We found at least 30 singing males today in the vetch fields along Wildlife Drive and Silliman Road. Dickcissels have also arrived in large numbers and were very vocal as is the case every year when they arrive. Some will nest here but many will move on to other areas north of here. Due to the recent rain Steedman Marsh has filled with water and so the large numbers of shorebirds have moved to other parts of the refuge, especially the shallow areas west of J Pad. Many of the Hudsonian Godwits have moved on but we still counted 22 individuals today. We found at least 182 Wilson’s Phalaropes. Other shorebirds that were numerous included, 62 Baird’s Sandpipers, 65 Least Sandpipers, 93 Long-billed Dowitchers and 22 Lesser Yellowlegs. We had 4 warbler species, but only 1 of each, Prothonotary, Mourning, Yellow and Wilson’s Warbler. We saw 22 Swainson’s Hawks sitting in the fields on the west portion of the refuge near Short Road. There were 3 Red-headed Woodpeckers at Deaver Pond. We saw a Merlin a couple of times on Wildlife Drive. We saw 10 Yellow-headed Blackbirds near Mineral Marsh. We also saw first of season Orchard Orioles and Green Herons. We finished the day with 100 species and hope to best that number next week. Today's photos, Bobolinks and Hudsonian Godwit. Thanks for looking.



Hudsonian Godwit

April 20:  Bird Census Results 

Shortly after we arrived at the refuge to do the census the cold front arrived with very strong frigid winds, at least frigid for this late in the spring. with a freeze forecast for tomorrow morning. So birds were hunting sheltered areas. It was a very good day especially for shorebirds, with 16 species tallied. The shorebirds were spread out and challenging to count. The lake is still down and there is an abundance of mudflats. We saw a first of season American Avocet, 18 Hudsonian Godwits, 149 Baird's Sandpipers, 26 Semipalmated Sandpipers, 58 Long-billed Dowitchers, 2 Western Sandpipers and 10 other shorebird species. We saw a Black-and-White Warbler on the road to Sandy Point and at Sandy Point we saw the newest pair of Bald Eagles sitting on the shore along with an immature Bald Eagle. On Tern Pad we drove up on a large flock of 50 Mature male Yellow-headed Blackbirds feeding on recently hatched out insects. Probably the best sighting of the day was a couple of Clay-colored Sparrows on Short Road. At least 2 Cinnamon Teals are still present as well as a good assortment of other duck species. We finished the day with 93 species which is amazing considering the windy conditions. The next three weeks, birding should be exceptionally good and it is a good time to plan a trip to the refuge. Photos from today include female American Avocet, identified as a female due to shorter more strongly recurved bill than a male. A Clay-colored Sparrow and a group of Great Blue Herons fishing accompanied by an American White Pelican feeding off the end of Goose Point giving you an idea of the conditions on the lake today.

May be an image of wading bird and nature

Female American Avocet

May be an image of bird and nature

Clay-colored Sparrow

May be an image of wading bird, body of water and nature

Great Blue Herons and a Pelican

April 13th: Bird Census Results  

The morning started out cool, light jacket weather, with a stiff northeastern breeze. We started by going down Raasch Trail not seeing much activity, just the usual vultures, titmice, chickadees etc. We then went north to the Goode area and Dead Woman Pond. About the only activity there was a flyby Wood Duck and an assortment of shorebirds on the shore of the lake. Later as we ventured down Wildlife Drive we found a group of six mature Yellow-headed Blackbirds on the shore. Then we continued out to the end of Plover Pad and found some American White Pelicans, and Forster's Terns sitting on a sandbar. We also saw both Neotropic and Double-crested Cormorants there. As we continued on to the other pads we saw a good number of shorebirds, mostly Baird's Sandpipers, Pectoral Sandpipers and Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs. As we continued on to Silliman Marsh we saw the large group of Long-billed Dowitchers that have been around for some time. We also saw some arriving first of season Franklin Gulls. Later in Mineral Marsh we saw a lot of ducks including 7 male Cinnamon Teals and American Wigeons. On our way to Meadow Pond we saw a first of season Swainson's Thrush and 4 first of season Summer Tanagers. In a field on the west side of the refuge we saw a flock of Upland Sandpipers. We had a flyover immature Bald Eagle at Goode and Lucy was present early on. We finished the day with 86 species. Photos from today, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Franklin Gulls, Swainson's Thrush, Summer Tanager. The next several weeks should be very good as migration picks up.

Swainson's Thrush

Yellow Headed Blackbird

Franklin Gulls

Summer Tanager

April 6: Bird Census Results

Today was a cloudy, windy morning, starting out cool but warming up later in the day. Early on in the day we had a close flyby Peregrine Falcon while we were driving down Wildlife Drive. There were good numbers of shorebirds in Muleshoe and Steedman Marsh. A standout was an early season Marbled Godwit in Steedman Marsh. Pectoral Sandpipers were abundant with a total of 135 for the day. Baird's Sandpiper count was 113. Long-billed Dowitchers were also abundant.. In a field near the far side of Short Road we saw 24 Upland Sandpipers our first of the season. Near Brooke's Farm we saw a Swainson's Hawk sitting in a tree near the road and another one near the end of the road to Meadow Pond. Lucy was sitting on her favorite pole. We found a couple of Wood Ducks on a small pool on the far west side of the refuge. Two of the Cinnamon Teal were still present in Mineral Marsh along with a good variety of ducks including, 14 Redhead. 13 American Wigeon, a Northern Pintail and many Blue-winged Teal. We saw a Broad-winged Hawk at Meadow Pond. We finished the day with 83 species. Today's photos, Swainson's Hawk, Lucy, the Bald Eagle, Marbled Godwit and Marbled Godwit.

Marbled Godwit

Swainson's Hawk

Lucy the Bald Eagle

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Sherman, TX 75092

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Date of Incorporation: 8/19/2005

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