Goose Pond Christmas Bird Count

Goose Pond Bird Count- 20 species and 733 individuals. 

Six people participated in the Goose Pond unit of the Poynette Christmas Bird Count (CBC) held on the last day of the year.  Beginning in 2000, two to four people have spent most of the day counting birds at Goose Pond Sanctuary.  This year we were pleased to have Maia Persche, her father Todd, and Jim Otto, join Mark, Jim Hess and Bill Walters on the CBC.  Jim and Bill have participated on the count for many years.  Our 2,000-acre count area includes MAS’s 660 acres, Judi Benadi’s 80 acres, Manthe’s 66 acres, and surrounding lands. 

  A first-year female Cooper's hawk at the Kampen Road residence, photo credits to Maddie Dumas

A first-year female Cooper's hawk at the Kampen Road residence, photo credits to Maddie Dumas

The count highlight was Maia, Todd, and Jim Otto’s search of the seven acre food plot where Maia has been conducting weekly counts since late August with the assistance of Jim Otto. In the food plot they found a flock of 35 pheasants, 1 Cooper’s hawk, 1 rough-legged hawk, 217 mourning doves, 1 downy woodpecker, 4 black-capped chickadees, 126 American tree sparrows, 8 dark-eyed Juncos, 3 cardinals, and 24 goldfinches.  The Cooper’s hawk was seen flushing the mourning doves.  The downy woodpecker may have been feeding on insects in the sorghum stems and the other birds were likely feeding on sunflowers, sorghum seeds, or weed seeds.

Ten species were found, at the fully stocked feeders that include suet, at the Kampen Road and the Prairie Lane residences.  Totals were 4 rock pigeons, 3 mourning doves, 3 downy woodpeckers, 8 chickadees, 19 American tree sparrows, 3 dark-eyed Juncos, 1 house finch, 60 American goldfinches, and 26 house sparrows.  The doves and goldfinches move back and forth from the feeders to the food plot.

New to the Goose Pond count was a swamp sparrow that was found on the Manthe farm, bringing the total species found in the unit to 38 species.

The six of us also searched part of Judi’s property that includes shrub and tree plantings and 45 acres of restored prairie.  Highlights at her parcel included five pheasants, five blue jays, and 17 chickadees.

Other interesting species included 15 Canada geese that silently flew over, and one American kestrel, not far from the nest box on the Lapinski – Kitze Prairie. We ended with 50 pheasants, the highest number since 2009 when 126 were found.

  A northern harrier hunting over the food plot in mid December, photo credits to Maddie Dumas

A northern harrier hunting over the food plot in mid December, photo credits to Maddie Dumas

Mark found the top bird of the count and the last bird he saw in 2016 when a short-eared owl with a moth-like flight was seen in the headlights as it flew down Kampen Road adjacent to the food plot at 5:13 p.m.   The grassland and food plot provide ideal small mammal habitat and that is why we had a red-tail hawk, rough-legged hawk, American kestrel, and the short-eared owl in those areas. 

Wild turkeys have never been seen in this count area, however they came close to being added when Sue and Diane Tomlinson saw a flock of 34 about 300 yards from our count area.  Missing from the count were snow buntings and Lapland longspurs.

The bird species and numbers help show the importance of habitat and feeders for our winter birds. 

Written by Mark and Sue Foote-Martin, Goose Pond Sanctuary Managers, goosep@madisonaudubon.org