Birding With Jack: The Weekly Bird Census
Left to Right: Mike Petrick, Nancy Riggs, Jack Chiles and Terry Goode
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.
For historical records, visit the Birding with Jack Archives
Thank you, Bird Census Team!
Click to Enlarge Photos
It was a beautiful day for today's bird census. We still have about 2000 white geese feeding on the wheat which is starting to grow again. Duck numbers are still very good with a large number of Northern Pintails, many of which are still in the Harris Creek marsh. The Cinnamon Teal is still present. We had 15 species of ducks today. There was one raft of 150 Redheads. The American Woodcocks were still present today displaying before sunrise in the field at the southeast corner of the refuge near the information pullout. We saw Winter Wrens, House Wrens, Caroling Wrens and Bewick's Wrens today. Eastern and Western Meadowlarks were singing in the field near Short Road. We found 12 species of sparrows. We had a good count of 4 Brown Creepers today, a species that has been hard to locate on the refuge this winter. We finished the day with 87 species. Today's photo from last year near Picnic Pond.
February 13, 2024 Complete Bird Census List
72 Species observed +3 other taxa, 2,857 individuals
Observers: Jack Chiles, Mike Petrick, Laurie Sheppard and Terry Goode
It was a nice mostly calm day, starting out on the cold side but warming up nicely as the day progressed. Bird species count was down over 20 species from last week. Duck numbers are good with over a thousand Northern Pintails present. Other duck species seen were, 2 Blue-winged Teal, 65 Northern Shovelers, 132 Gadwalls, 7 American Wigeons, 24 Mallards, 178 Green-winged Teal, 36 Canvasbacks, 1 Redhead, 13 Ring-necked Ducks, 6 Lesser Scaups, 5 Buffleheads, 2 Common Goldeneyes, and 40 Ruddy Ducks. We saw 3 Wild Turkeys on our way to Meadow Pond.There were a total of 19 Wilson's Snipes, most of which were in the marsh just before the road to Plover Pad. We saw a total of 46 Greater Yellowlegs and 7 Least Sandpipers. We had a great count of 13 Red-shouldered Hawks and 6 Loggerhead Shrikes. It is a good year for White-crowned Sparrows with 37 for the day, many of which were near the butterfly garden. A female Spotted Towhee came out on the path in front of us as we were returning from a short walk on Harris Creek Trail. We had a good count of 49 Northern Cardinals. We finished the day with 72 species. Today's photo, an Eastern Bluebird.
February 6, 2024 Complete Bird Census List
93 Species observed +2 other taxa, 2,361 individuals
Observers: Jack Chiles, Mike Petrick, Terry Goode, Mike Sanders, Carlos Haller, Nancy and Janet Heath.
The Red-headed Woodpecker near the bridge at the Big Mineral picnic area, the Winter Wren and the House Wren
It was a beautiful, calm, early February day for our census. Birds were very active. Snow and Ross's geese numbers were low today but the large flocks have been coming and going. Usually the best time to see the most geese is in the afternoon. It is getting near the time that most of the white geese will depart the refuge. Duck numbers are very good with nearly 700 Northern Pintails, many of which are in the marsh near the Harris Creek bridge. Other species of ducks seen today included, 2 Cinnamon Teal, 68 Northern Shovelers, 92 Gadwalls, 6 American Wigeons, 21 Mallards, 108 Green-winged Teals, 35 Canvasbacks, 30 Redheads, 10 Ring-necked Ducks, 1 Greater Scaup, several Lesser Scaups, 24 Buffleheads, 2 Common Goldeneyes, and 44 Ruddy Ducks. An American Woodcock was seen by one member of our team early on in the field at the southeast corner of the refuge on Bennett Lane. The Woodcocks will probably be leaving soon and the best time to see them is around dawn or dusk. We saw 4 species of Wrens today, a Winter Wren, near the low water crossing on Bennett, a House Wren on B pad, a Bewick's wren on the road to Goode and Carolina Wrens in several locations. The large culvert area on the crossover from C pad to Sandy Point road was good today, with a couple of Barred Owls hooting at each other, an Orange-crowned Warbler, an Eastern Towhee and several other species. We saw 5 species of Woodpeckers including several Red-headed Woodpeckers and a couple of Pileated Woodpeckers. We finished a great day with 93 species. Today's photos, The Red-headed Woodpecker near the bridge at the Big Mineral picnic area, the Winter Wren and the House Wren.
January 30, 2024 Complete Bird Census List
85 Species observed
Observers: Jack Chiles, Mike Petrick, Terry Goode, Laurie Sheppard, Mike Sanders and
American Pipit, Ring-billed Gulls and American White Pelicans of the end of J pad and a Northern Pintail
The weather was fantastic today for our census. The Long-tailed Duck is still present. It was a good day for ducks. The Long-tailed Duck has been using Silliman and Muleshoe marshes. Also still present are Canvasbacks with a total of 98 today. We saw 726 Northern Pintails, , 506 Green-winged Teals, 7 Ruddy Ducks, 2 Common Goldeneyes, 115 Gadwalls, 11 American Wigeons, 14 Mallards, all seen in the marshes. We also saw 40 Redheads and 24 Ring-necked Ducks in the large pond by the railroad tracks east of the refuge. We saw over 1200 Ring-billed Gulls as well as a mature Lesser Black-backed Gull and a couple of Herring Gulls. A large number of 7200 Snow and Ross's Geese were present arriving from south of the refuge as the day progressed. We saw 7 woodpecker species today. We had a good count of 7 Loggerhead Shrikes. A good number of 85 Savannah Sparrows were seen. We had a good count of raptors today with 11 Red-tailed Hawks and 8 Red-shouldered Hawks. We finished the day with 83 species. Today's photos, American Pipit, Ring-billed Gulls and American White Pelicans of the end of J pad and a Northern Pintail.
January 23, 2024 Complete Bird Census List
66 Species observed, +1 other taxa; 2,781 individuals
Observers: Jack Chiles, Mike Petrick and Laurie Sheppard.
The Bald Eagle at Meadow Pond, Wilson's Snipes and the Long-tailed Duck
It was a dismal day with rain most of the time for our bird census but bird activity was good. The ice on the lake and in the marshes at the refuge is starting to melt and there are more patches of open water each passing day. First of all, the rare Long-tailed Duck is still present in the west end of Silliman Marsh. The Long-tailed Duck we had last year stayed around for several weeks and hopefully this one will do the same. Duck numbers and species numbers of ducks are also good. We estimated a total of 894 Northern Pintails, and also counted 4 Wood Ducks, 41 Northern Shovelers, 145 Gadwalls, 18 American Wigeons, 70 Mallards, 93 Green-winged Teals, 18 Canvasbacks, 12 Ring-necked Ducks, 13 Lesser Scaups, 28 Buffleheads, 2 Common Goldeneyes, and 1 Hooded Merganser. An immature Bald Eagle that was harassing American Coots and Pied-billed Grebes last week at Meadow Pond was still present there today. We found a nice flock of 17 Wilson's Snipes near the entrance to Wildlife Drive. We counted 54 Dark-eyed Juncos most of which were in a large flock picking up grit on the road to Sandy Point. We found one flock of Brewer's Blackbirds on Judge Elliot Road. We counted almost 800 Red-winged Blackbirds. We finished the day with 65 species. Today's photos, Long-tailed Duck, the Bald Eagle at Meadow Pond and Wilson's Snipes.
January 21, 2024
Once again this year we have a rare visitor, a Long-tailed Duck. This is a male in winter plumage. It is present today in the western portion of Silliman Marsh. 01-21-24. There is still a lot of ice at the refuge but the areas of open water in the marshes is good for lots of Buffleheads, Lesser Scaups and Canvasbacks, as well as the usual wintering duck species that visit the refuge each year.
There was a stiff breeze and a chill in the air today but it was not near as bad as we had anticipated. There was a good rain yesterday and there is a lot of water standing in some places on the refuge. It was too muddy to go to some of the areas. The Tropical Kingbird is still present and this week might be your last chance to see it if you have not already, with severe cold forecast for the first part of next week. Our best sighting of the day was near the end of our census, an American Bittern in the marsh on the left just before you get to the Harris Creek bridge. It was in the dead vegetation and we were fortunate that Mike Petrick happened to spot it. There were over 2000 Gulls present today, mostly Ring-billed Gulls and 11 Herring Gulls. A little over 2000 white geese were present in the lake off the end of Plover pad. Shorebird numbers are down due to the lack of habitat due to the higher lake levels but we did see Greater Yellowlegs, Killdeer, Least Sandpipers, Wilson's Snipes and one Western Sandpiper. Duck numbers are still good and a lot of them are close to the roads making for great viewing. There were 9 Pied-billed Grebes at Meadow Pond. We finished the day with 75 species. Today's photos, the American Bittern and the continuing Tropical Kingbird, a rarity for this area.
The morning started out cold and cloudy and there was very little bird activity at the beginning but things picked up soon. We went to Raasch Trail just past the bridge to begin with and there we saw a Golden-crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper, Yellow-rumped Warblers and a Pileated Woodpecker but there was not the usual sparrow activity in that area. We then walked the entrance to Harris Creek trail and got Spotted Towhees, a Lincoln's Sparrow and White-crowned Sparrows and a few other species. We then went to the Goode Area via the north low-water crossing and found a lot of bird activity just past Myer's Branch. It was very still this morning so when we got to the Goode Area we decided to walk the field on the left side past the entrance gate to look for the much sought after LeConte's Sparrows. It is a tough area to walk but we were successful and found at least three LeConte's Sparrows and heard a Sedge Wren. After our walk in the field as we progressed down the road to Goode we found a Brown Thrasher and some Field Sparrows. There are still about 8000 white geese on the refuge but they have eaten most of the wheat on the refuge so pretty soon they will go out most days and feed on the farm fields in the area and come in from time to time to bathe and rest. We saw a couple of Greater Road Runners. There are lots of ducks on the refuge, especially Green-winged Teal with a total of 559 for today and 474 Northern Pintails, 12 Canvasbacks, 12 Buffleheads, 161 Gadwalls, 118 Northern Shovelers, 31 Mallards, 13 Ring-necked Ducks, 2 Lesser Scaups and 3 American Wigeons. We did not see the Tropical Kingbird today but it was still on Terry Lane yesterday afternoon. We finished the day with 77 species. Today's photos, LeConte's Sparrow and Savannah Sparrow.
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