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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!

**Turn Phone sideways prior to image enlargment!  Point to bird images for full screen view**

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     

Dec 27: Bird Census Results

The morning started out very chilly with temperatures below normal but much better than a few days ago. Most of the marshes had a covering of ice with some patches of open water. Duck species and duck numbers were high. We counted 417 Green-winged Teal, 360 Northern Pintails, 55 Northern Shovelers, 40 Gadwall, 8 Canvasback, 3 Ring-necked Duck, 2 Lesser Scaup, 6 Bufflehead, 11 Ruddy Duck, 18 Hooded Merganser and 200 more ducks that were too far away to identify. Early on there were 16 Wild Turkeys on Wright Road. We saw 1 Greater Yellowlegs, 8 Wilson's Snipe in a field on the west side of the refuge and 2 Dunlin on a sandbar off the end of Tern Pad. We found a total of 166 Canada Geese and 6 Cackling Geese. The Cackling Geese were in with a large flock of Canada Geese in the field by the large pond near the Cemetery. We finished the day with a total of 13 Red-tailed Hawks, 6 Northern Harriers, 4 Red-shouldered Hawks and a Cooper's Hawk. We saw 8 Loggerhead Shrikes today. Our Eastern Bluebird count for the day was 49. We saw 3 Pileated Woodpeckers, 2 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, 6 Red-bellied Woodpeckers, 7 Northern Flickers and 7 Downy Woodpeckers, There were over 2000 Ring-billed Gulls and 9 Herring Gulls. More than 6000 white geese were present. We finished the day with 77 species. We had a couple of ladies from New York today and one added 5 species to her life list, one of which was a Greater Roadrunner which she was very excited to see. Today's photo a Greater Roadrunner exhibiting the sunning behavior sometimes observed, where the bird exposes the feathers on the back to the sun to warm up.

Dec 20: Bird Census Results

It was a clear and relatively calm day starting out for our census, with a north wind picking up as the day progressed. We went to the Goode area after making a short walk on Harris Creek Trail. We saw a couple of Pileated Woodpecker flyovers near headquarters. On the way to the Goode area we saw American Robbins, Bluejays, Cedar Waxwings as well as several sparrow species. Viewing the lake from the Goode picnic area we saw many Double-crested Cormorants and American White Pelicans feeding on schooling fish. We also had a flyby Bald Eagle there. We thought that we heard a Common Loon call there but were never able to locate it. On the way to Meadow Pond past the third bridge we found a lone male Rusty Blackbird that had just finished bathing in the ditch by the road. It sat up in a tree and preened as we observed it. There were many ducks on the marshes including a large number of Northern Pintails. We saw a pair of Common Goldeneyes in Muleshoe Marsh and the Long-tailed Duck, Buffleheads and Ruddy Ducks continue in Steedman Marsh. White geese numbers were way down today but they might have been feeding off the refuge. There was a lone Greater White-fronted Goose in with the 250 or so white geese.We saw one group of 12 Long-billed Dowitchers. Red-tailed Hawks were plentiful with a count of 15 for the day. We saw a couple of thousand Ring-billed Gulls sitting on the sandbar near Tern Pad. We finished the day with 74 species. Today's photos, male Common Goldeneye and male Rusty Blackbird. Thanks for looking.

Common Goldeneye

Rusty Blackbird
 Common Goldeneye                  Rusty Blackbird     

Dec 14: Bird Census Results

We did not conduct our bird census on Tuesday as usual, due to severe weather in the area, and opted to put it off until today. The area was very wet after heavy rain yesterday and it was quite a bit cooler. We saw Cedar Waxwings in many locations and finished the day with over 200. Another bird we saw in large numbers today were European Starlings with a count of 472. We found 52 Harris's Sparrows as well as smaller numbers of Field Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows, Song Sparrows and only 1 Savannah Sparrow. There were hundreds of ducks in the marshes but many were too far away to identify. We did identify 230 Gadwall, 114 Northern Pintails, 135 Green-winged Teal, 4 Redheads, 11 Ring-necked Ducks, 69 Northern Shovelers, 26 Ruddy Ducks, 12 Canvasbacks, 6 Buffleheads, 2 American Wigeons, 22 Mallards and the continuing Long-tailed Duck. There are almost no mudflats and the Ring-billed Gulls that we did see were sitting on snags in the lake. We saw a Belted Kingfisher at Deaver Pond. Lucy was perched on her favorite pole in the morning. We saw a total of 7 Loggerhead Shrikes. We finished the day with 69 species. Today's photo is a Brown Thrasher that we saw at the bottom of the long hill at the Goode area. This bird species is a skulker and is often overlooked due to its secretive ways. This species is here year round and has a repertoire of over 1000 songs. Some of its songs are similar in sound to the Northern Mockingbird. Thanks for looking.

        Brown Thrasher


Dec 06: Bird Census Results

It was a beautiful December morning for today's census. Early on, we walked the first part of the Harris Creek Trail and saw Song Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows, a Spotted Towhee, and a Common Yellowthroat as well as other birds. Near Goose Point there were thousands of white geese bunched closely together on the lake. There are more than 6000 white geese on the refuge at present. In Silliman Marsh the Long-tailed Duck is still present as well as quite a few Ruddy Ducks, Buffleheads and some Lesser Scaups. Lucy was present on her favorite pole. We only saw two Canvasbacks today and they were in Mineral Marsh. There are still many Gadwalls at Meadow Pond. On our way back from Meadow Pond we stopped at the second bridge and found a Winter Wren. There were Cedar Waxwings there as well as in several other locations. We did an abbreviated census today and did not go out to the west part of the refuge. We finished the day with 71 species Today's photos, Northern Harrier, Lucy the resident Bald Eagle, Song Sparrow, Long-tailed Duck and Downy Woodpecker. Thanks for looking.

Northern Harrier


Song Sparrow
 Norther Harrier                        Lucy                         Song Sparrow    

Long-tailed Duck

Downy Woodpecker
 Long-tailed Duck                   Downy Woodpecker     

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