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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Nov 29: Bird Census Results
It was a very nice late November day after many days of dreary weather. White geese numbers have reached near 5000 and the wheat is disappearing fast. We hiked to the pond near the photo blind on Harris Creek trail and found an Eastern Towhee, a Song Sparrow, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet and a couple of Red-tailed Hawks but other than that there was not much activity there. As we traveled down Wildlife Drive we saw an American Avocet, a large flock of Least Sandpipers, and a flock of American Pipits along the shoreline. American White Pelicans were scattered around in several flocks. Gull numbers were down today but we found Ring-billed, Franklin's and one Bonaparte's Gull. 9 Canvasbacks were still present in Mineral Marsh. The Long-tailed Duck is still present in Steedman Marsh. On the way to Meadow Pond we saw a Pileated Woodpecker in the back part of Deaver Pond. We also saw a lone Vesper Sparrow just past Deaver Pond. There are still a large number of Gadwalls in Meadow Pond. At the end of the day we went to the Goode area and saw a Brown Creeper, Bewick's Wren, Carolina Wrens, Dark-eyed Juncos, a Golden-crowned Kinglet, White-throated Sparrows and a few of numerous American Goldfinches seen today. We finished the day with 71 species. Of special note, the fall foliage is the most spectacular that I can remember at the refuge. Today's photos, a Great Blue Heron, a Snow Goose with the grin patch showing, one of the features that separates it from the similar looking Ross's Goose and a Vesper Sparrow. Thanks for looking.
Great Blue Heron Snow Goose Vesper Sparrow
Nov 22: Bird Census Results
The weather for today's bird census was much improved and it was very calm. So the first order of business was to proceed to the Goode area in search of LeConte's Sparrows, a bird that none of the group had seen this year. We walked the field to the left just after you enter the gate to the Goode area. It can be difficult walking because it is used by the wild hogs a lot, so be careful if you walk in that area. I would suggest you use boots. We walked quite a distance into the field with little success until we reached the back side of the field and then we finally flushed a couple of LeConte's Sparrows. On our return out of the field we hit the jackpot near some bushes and brush near the center of the field. As we approached that area several birds flushed and flew into the bushes and sat up nicely and let us approach quite close to them affording excellent views. We had seen at least 8 LeConte's Sparrows before we exited the field. There are still a good number of ducks in the marshes including Northern Pintails, Green-winged Teal, Northern Shovelers, Mallards, Buffleheads, Ruddy Ducks, Canvasbacks and a Lesser Scaup. The Long-tailed Duck is still present and eluded us until near the end of the census when we discovered it in the far west part of the larger portion of Silliman Marsh, near the crossover between Tern and Egret pads. Large numbers of white geese have arrived and we saw at least 4500 Ross's and Snow Geese. Some Greater White-fronted Geese are still hanging around. We saw 2 juvenile Bald Eagles and one adult today. The eagles have been chasing the white geese a lot. Just past Meadow Pond by the bench that has been placed there, we saw a Barred Owl sitting in a tree near the road and it allowed us to photograph it for quite a while and never did take flight and was still there when we returned by the spot. There are still a lot of Gadwalls and American Coots at Meadow Pond. We saw a flock of Cedar Waxwings on the road to Goode as well as a lot of American Robins. We were surprised to not see a single kinglet or warbler today. We finished the day with 76 species. Today's photos, LeConte's Sparrow and a male and a female Gadwall duck. Thanks for looking.
LeConte's Sparrow Male Gadwell Duck Female Gadwell Duck
Nov 15: Bird Census ResultsIt was very cloudy and chilly for our census today. There were at least 2500 white geese present with Ross's Geese outnumbering Snow Geese. We also saw a flock of 93 Greater White-fronted Geese along with all the other geese. There was a good assortment of duck species and the Long-tailed Duck that showed up last Saturday is still present in Steedman Marsh. We counted 37 Canvasbacks most of which were in the shallow part of Mineral Marsh. It is very unusual to have so many Canvasbacks feeding in the shallow water of the marshes. On the road to Meadow Pond we stopped just past the first bridge to observe a flock of American Goldfinches bathing in a puddle in the road and to our surprise a beautiful male Purple Finch joined them. There were lots of Mallards in Deaver Pond as well as in Meadow Pond. Meadow Pond had over 200 Gadwalls and many American Coots. We heard a Pileated Woodpecker in the woods near Meadow Pond, one of three that we heard today. Sparrows were not present in large numbers but we did see 7 Harris's Sparrows, 11 White-throated Sparrows and 3 Field sparrows as well as Savannah, Song and Lincoln's Sparrows. Lucy, the Bald Eagle was present. We saw a large number of Killdeer in a field on the west side of the refuge and finished the day with a count of 66 Killdeer. We also saw 5 Wilson's Snipe, 32 Least Sandpipers and 2 Greater Yellowlegs. We saw a total of 390 Red-winged Blackbirds. We also saw 7 Yellow-rumped Warblers. There are still a few American White Pelicans present and many Franklin's Gulls. We finished the day with 71 species. Today's photos, Canvasback, Ring-necked Ducks and a pair of Redheads. Thanks for looking.
Canvasback Red-necked ducks Redheads
Nov 8: Bird Census Results
It was a cloudy mild day for today's census and there was a lot of bird activity. There were large rafts of ducks out on the lake but they were too distant to identify other than quite a few Canvasbacks. We did have fairly close looks at Canvasbacks feeding in Mineral Marsh. We estimated at least 2000 ducks in the rafts on the lake. There were a large number of Gadwalls at Meadow pond. We finished the day with 12 duck species. There were Buffleheads and Ruddy Ducks in the north part of Mineral Marsh and a large mixed flock of ducks in the south part of Mineral marsh. There was an estimated number of 4000 Franklin's Gull sitting on sandbars and flying around the marshes and over the lake. Shorebird numbers were low but we did see 6 species. Lucy, the resident Bald Eagle, sat on her favorite pole all morning. Near the end of Sandy Point Road we got into a nice flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers that included Carolina Chickadees and a Blue-headed Vireo. There was a Marsh Wren calling in Silliman Marsh. We saw a total of 8 Kinglets, 4 Ruby-crowned and 4 Golden-Crowned. We saw 2 Hairy Woodpeckers, one of which was on a power pole by the residences on the way to Goode. We finished the day with 77 species. Today's photo is a small flock of Greater White-fronted Geese that were resting near Wildlife Drive. They are usually the first migrating geese to arrive in the fall and sometimes they don't stay very long before they continue there journey south. They are seldom here in large flocks. The goose that doesn't have a white face pattern is a juvenile Greater White-fronted Goose. Thanks for looking.
Greater White-fronted Geese
Nov 1: Bird Census Results
The first day of November was calm and beautiful for today's census. Bird activity has picked up a lot since last week. Migrating American Robins are arriving with a count of 79 today. We saw 4 Harris's Sparrows, the first of the season. We also saw a Lincoln's Sparrow, 14 White-throated Sparrows, 2 Savannah Sparrows, 1 Song Sparrow, 3 Field Sparrows, 3 Chipping Sparrows and 13 dark-eyed Juncos. We saw 2 Hermit Thrushes on the way to Meadow Pond. We had a total of 37 Yellow-rumped Warblers. There was a large number of Franklin's Gulls sitting at the end of Plover and flying around over the pads and the lake. Shorebird species numbers are down but we did see many Least Sandpipers and 36 American Avocets, as well as 7 Wilson's Snipes, 7 Greater Yellowlegs, and 28 Killdeer. We saw a Blue-headed Vireo just inside the gate to the Goode Area. The best bird of the day was a Surf Scoter. The last one prior to today's sighting was December 4, 2007. We did see a couple that year and the only other sighting was in February of 1999. The Surf Scoter was sitting near the end of Tern pad and later moved to Silliman Marsh but could not be located again at the end of the census. Snow and Ross's Geese are beginning to arrive and more will probably be arriving each day. The wheat is really looking good after the recent rains. We finished the day with 76 Species. Today's photo is the Surf Scoter. Thanks for looking.
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