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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**

Sept 20: Bird Census Results 

Our first stop was by the maintenance buildings on our way to Raasch trail. We saw 4 Inca Doves by the equipment shed as well as several Eastern Bluebirds. On Raasch trail we found a large number of both Black and Turkey vultures awaiting the thermals. Then we went to Harris Creek Trail and found a Red-headed Woodpecker and some Chickadees, Indigo Buntings, a Hairy Woodpecker and some Downy Woodpeckers. Continuing on toward the Goode area we saw a couple of Tricolored Herons out from the north low water crossing as well as many Least Sandpipers and Killdeer.  The Goode area was pretty quiet, but we did see 6 Wild Turkeys there. When we ventured down Wildlife Drive and went down Plover Pad we were greeted by a large flock of Forster's Terns, more than 100 White-faced Ibis and many Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets and a few species of shorebirds including Long-billed Dowitchers, Stilt Sandpipers, Greater Yellowlegs and many Neotropic Cormorants. On Egret Pad across from where the observation platform used to be we saw a Virginia Rail standing in the open but it quickly retreated into the reeds. But we continued to watch and it ventured out into the edge of the reeds and allowed us a few fleeting looks. There was a Roseate Spoonbill in the back of Deaver along with some Wood Ducks. At Meadow Pond we found a Green Heron. We did an abbreviated census today due to the heat and tallied 57 species. Today's photo, a Wild Turkey. Thanks for looking.

   Wild Turkey 

Sept 13: Bird Census Results 

Activity has picked up a bit since last week. We were able to find 11 species of shorebirds including a Sanderling, 2 American Avocets, 2 Semipalmated Plovers, 1 Black-bellied Plover, 7 Pectoral Sandpipers and other shorebird species. More ducks are arriving and we saw 51 Blue-winged Teal,3 Northern Shovelers, 3 American Wigeons, and 10 Mallards. At Deaver Pond we saw 2 Belted Kingfishers, a Red-Headed Woodpecker and a Clay-colored Sparrow, a species we don't often see here in late summer. We saw a Green Heron at Meadow Pond. They will probably be leaving soon. We saw a total of 62 White-faced Ibis. We found 4 Loggerhead Shrikes out on the west side of the refuge near Short Road. We finished the day with 62 species. Today's photo, a Green Heron. Thanks for looking.

   Green Heron 

Sept 06: Bird Census Results 

We started the census today by taking a short walk down the Harris Creek trail near the photo blind. Just as we arrived there we heard a Great Horned Owl hooting. There we also saw a couple of Red-Headed Woodpeckers and heard a Pileated Woodpecker. As we ventured down Wildlife Drive we saw Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets the first of many seen today. At the end of Plover Pad we found 155 Forster's Terns but only one Least Tern. The only Roseate Spoonbill we saw today was in the back of Deaver Pond. There we saw Wood Ducks, a Red-shouldered Hawk and a couple more Red-headed Woodpeckers. Green Herons were still present at Meadow Pond. We found numerous Yellow Warblers and 1 male Wilson's Warbler in the Button Bushes along the pad roads. The first birds of the day were 4 Baltimore Orioles in a tree by the Friends building. White-eyed Vireos were still calling. Shorebirds were scarce but we did see a small flock of 7 Stilt Sandpipers. We got a brief glimpse of Wild Turkeys on the far west side of the refuge. We finished the day with 56 species, a low count but that sometimes occurs this time of the year. Today's photos, some of the stars from the past week, 2 Wood Storks, a Red-necked Phalarope and a Roseate Spoonbill. Thanks for looking.

Wood Storks

Red-necked Phalarope

Roseate Spoonbill
 Wood Stocks                  Red-necked Phalarope            Roseate Spoonbill  

Aug 30: Bird Census Results 

After an overnight rain, it was cloudy and humid for our bird census. We started the day by doing the short loop on Harris Creek Trail. There we found 2 Red-headed Woodpeckers, a flyby Green Heron, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, 2 Downy Woodpeckers, a couple of Tufted Titmice and some Carolina Chickadees. We then proceeded to Plover Pad and found 22 Upland Sandpipers in a field on the way. We also wound up with a high number of 25 Buff-breasted Sandpipers. On a sandbar out from the two pump jacks on Plover we found a very large flock of terns, including a Caspian Tern, 2 Black Terns, 56 Least Terns, and 307 Forster's Terns. At the end of Tern Pad we found 7 Roseate Spoonbills and an eighth one at the end of Egret Pad. Egret and heron counts continue being good with totals of 260 Great Egrets, 144 Snowy Egrets, 28 Little Blue Herons, 16 Green Herons, 1 Tricolored Heron and 111 Cattle Egrets. We saw a flock of 24 White-faced Ibis flying near Taylor Marsh. There were a couple of Belted Kingfishers at Deaver Pond as well as an additional Red-headed Woodpecker. We saw 7 American Avocets as well as the continuing Marbled Godwit and other species of shorebirds. We saw a Greater Roadrunner much to the delight of our visitor from Australia. We finished the day with 69 species. Today's photo, Roseate Spoonbill. Thanks for looking.

   Roseate Spoonbill 

Aug 23: Bird Census Results 

Today was very pleasant for our census, cloudy and cool. Shorebird numbers were down from the past week but we still managed to find 13 shorebird species. 2 Solitary Sandpipers were still present. We saw 2 Wilets, 16 Pectoral Sandpipers, 2 Upland Sandpipers, 1 Semi-palmated Plover 74 Least Sandpipers and several other species. There were still 35 Least Terns present. It has been an unusually good season for migrating Least Terns. There were 5 White Ibis in Taylor marsh. We found a Swainson's Hawk in the fields along Silliman Rd. We also saw a very distant Bald Eagle flying west of Sandy Point. The Red-headed Woodpeckers are still present on Harris Creek Trail. We finished the day with 61 species. Today's photo is a Solitary Sandpiper. Note the spotted back which differentiates it from the Spotted Sandpiper that has spots on the underside and subdued barring on the back. Thanks for looking.

    Solitary Sandpiper

Aug 16: Bird Census Results 

Today was hot and very dry. The only positive thing that I can see in that is that more and more mudflats are appearing and there was an abundance of shorebirds, terns, egrets and herons present. Early on we walked Harris Creek Trail and found 5 Red-headed Woodpeckers flying around. We also heard a late season Bell's Vireo singing there. As we ventured down Wildlife Drive we found a Willet near Goose Point. At the mudflats out from the oil jacks on Plover we saw many shorebirds including, Dowitchers, Stilt Sandpipers, Pectoral Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, Wilson's Phalaropes, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Killdeer, 2 American Avocets. a Baird's Sandpiper, 15 Western Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, a Semipalmated Plover and a couple of Piping Plovers. We saw 8 Yellow Warblers in the Button Bushes along the pad roads. We saw a total of 22 Wood Ducks in the marshes along Wildlife Drive. Our egret and heron count was 351 Great Egrets, 229 Snowy Egrets, 11 Cattle Egrets, 50 Great Blue Herons, 50 Little Blue Herons, 1 Tricolored Heron, 1 Yellow-crowned Night-Heron and 3 Green Herons. We happened upon a White-tailed doe with her fawn drinking water near the bridge over Big Mineral Creek. We finished the day with 69 species. Today's photos, White-tailed Deer, Yellow Warbler in Button Bush and Willet in flight displaying unique wing pattern.

White-Tailed Deer

Yellow Warbler

 White-tailed Deer                 Yellow Warbler           Willet in flight 

Aug 09: Bird Census Results 

Today was calm and mostly cloudy as we started out on our census. We walked Harris Creek Trail to the first pond and found 3 Red-headed Woodpeckers. We then proceeded on to the pads along Wildlife Drive and found 10 Upland Sandpipers in the large field on the left across from the entrance to Plover Pad. That was the first of 17 shorebird species for the day. There is now more mud visible and it made for some excellent shorebird viewing. As we turned onto Plover we found a lone Willet on the dike along with Least Sandpipers, a Semi-palmated Sandpiper and Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs and 2 Buff-breasted Sandpipers. There were also 7 White-faced Ibis in Muleshoe Marsh. Farther down on Plover pad out from the pump jacks we saw 85 Forster's Terns and 28 American Avocets. We then proceeded to Egret Pad and saw 3 White-Ibis near the entrance to the pad. There is a very large number of Egrets and Herons present with counts of 366 Snowy Egrets, 265 Great Egrets, 46 Great Blue Herons, 42 Little Blue Herons, 52 Cattle Egrets, 6 Green Herons, and 1 Tricolored Heron. We also saw a mature Yellow-crowned Night-Heron at Meadow Pond. We found one Snowy Plover off the end of Tern Pad. Near the pad where Lucy is so fond of perching we saw 22 Stilt Sandpipers, 3 Short-billed Dowitchers and other shorebirds. There we also saw probably the best sighting of the day, a Roseate Spoonbill setting on a snag. At the end of Tern Pad we found 139 Least Terns a very large number for this species. The highest number of Least Terns we had recorded at the refuge in the last 33 years was in the sixties. We found 16 Wood Ducks most of which were in Mineral Marsh. 6 Blue-winged Teal flew in while we were at Mineral Marsh. We found a Swainson's Hawk in Taylor Marsh that had just caught a rodent. We finished the day with 72 species the same as last week. Most of the marshes have now been mowed and flooded which should make for some good birding in the coming weeks. Kudos to the refuge staff for that. Today's photos, Roseate Spoonbill accompanied by Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons, the Snowy Plover and a Little Blue Heron accompanied by a Green Heron. Thanks for looking.

Roseate Spoonbill

Snowy Plover

Little Blue Heron
 Roseate  Spoonbill with                Snowy Plover          Little Blue Heron with 
Great Egrets & Great Blue Herons                                a Green Heron

Aug 02: Bird Census Results  

It was another hot summer day with a stiff dry southwest wind blowing. But there was some good news, that being, we now have some mudflats since the lake level has started to recede. There are now some good exposed areas off the end of Tern Pad. That said, we had a good shorebird day, with 15 species of shorebirds. Some of the highlights were 5 Western Sandpipers, 3 Wilson's Phalaropes, 5 Solitary Sandpipers(4 of which were at Dead Woman Pond), 10 Semipalmated Sandpipers, 10 Stilt Sandpipers, 11 Pectoral Sandpipers, an American Avocet, 14 Spotted Sandpipers and a Semipalmated Plover. We found 4 Tricolored Herons at Dead Woman Pond. We saw an early season Sharp-shinned Hawk on Raasch Trail. We had a high count of 72 Least Terns but there were no juveniles with them. There was also 36 Forster's Terns and two black Terns all off the end of Tern Pad. We counted 46 Mallards, probably all birds that were raised here this year. Once again a large number of Canada Geese, 182 in total. On another positive note they are going to cut the vegetation in the front part of Moist Soil Unit #7, the first large marsh on the right before you get to the entrance to Plover Pad. They are then going to flood it providing more much needed habitat for shorebirds. We finished the day with 70 species which is quite good for this time of year. Today's photo is a juvenile White Ibis. Thanks for looking.

      juvenile White Ibis

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