19 and counting: Goose Pond Christmas Bird Count

Alert eyes of a rough-legged hawk watch Goose Pond Christmas Bird Counters. Photo by Monica Hall

Alert eyes of a rough-legged hawk watch Goose Pond Christmas Bird Counters. Photo by Monica Hall

Six people participated in the Goose Pond unit of the Poynette Christmas Bird Count (CBC) held on December 30, spending most of the day counting birds at Goose Pond Sanctuary. This year Mark Martin, Maddie Dumas, Jim Hess, Bill Walters, Emily Jorgenson, and JD Arnston participated, making up the biggest group in the history of the Goose Pond CBC! Jim and Bill have participated on the count for many years. 

It was not a pleasant day to be out counting birds, especially on foot, with the temperature of 1 – 4 degrees with 10 mile per hour winds. Snow totals ranged from 1 to 2 inches and due to the cold we only walked 0.2 miles and were glad to have a truck to drive on management trails.

Our 2,000-acre count area includes MAS’s 660 acres, Judi Benadi’s 80 acres, Roland and Lynn Manthe’s 66 acres, and surrounding lands that are mostly cropland. We found 19 species and 438 individuals compared to 20 species and 733 individuals in 2016.

Ten species were found at our fully stocked feeders at the Kampen Road and the Prairie Lane residences.  Feeder birds found included: 1 male ring-necked pheasant, 1 Cooper’s hawk, 70 mourning doves, 2 American crows, 53 American tree sparrows, 14 dark-eyed juncos, 1 purple finch, a record number of 80 house finches, 22 American goldfinches, and 2 house sparrows. Some of the doves and goldfinches moved back and forth from the feeders to the food plot.

Goldfinches love to feed on sunflower fines . Photo by Mark Martin

Goldfinches love to feed on sunflower fines . Photo by Mark Martin

New to the Goose Pond count were 2 common redpolls found in the food plot bringing the total species found in the on in the Goose Pond unit since the year 2000 to 39. Our food plot contained fewer sunflowers and a lot less sorghum last year due to competition from annual foxtails. The result was fewer birds feeding in the food plot. However, the day before when scouting, 12 common redpolls were found feeding with  many goldfinches in the sunflowers.

Other interesting species counted that day included 26 Canada geese (that probably wished they were wintering in southern Illinois), a pair of red-tailed hawks, 1 great horned owl, 20 Lapland longspurs flying over Sue Ames Prairie, 2 other Cooper’s hawks at two feeders at the neighbors, and one American kestrel. Rough-legged hawks were around other days but not on the count day.

Just another Lapland longspur. Photo by Dave Inman

Just another Lapland longspur. Photo by Dave Inman

Due to the cold we only found one European starling compared to much higher numbers in other years. This year, the starlings were most likely resting inside area barns and cattle sheds. Five European collared doves were found just outside the unit.

We wonder if any of the 85 mourning doves banded at Goose Pond are spending the winter with us.  Photo by Mark Martin

We wonder if any of the 85 mourning doves banded at Goose Pond are spending the winter with us.  Photo by Mark Martin

Maddie and JD had a glimpse of a snowy owl at the UW dairy farm on Badger Road. This was probably Arlington who was later caught just south of the dairy farm on January 4.

The Poynette CBC had 63 species and 10,564 individuals. If the count had been conducted on a warmer and calmer day we may have found at least five more species. The Portage Power Plant’s warm water discharge to Lake Columbia is usually an excellent place to bird but not when there is a large temperature difference between the air and water. Observers at the plant could not see more than 20 yards into the large cooling pond due to rising steam.

In January we have been seeing more common redpolls and snowy owls in the local area.

The bird species and numbers help show the importance of habitat and feeders for our winter friends. Thanks to Mounds Pet Food Warehouse for donating black oil sunflower seeds and sunflower fines for our feeders.

Written by Mark Martin and Susan Foote-Martin, Goose Pond Sanctuary resident managers, and Maddie Dumas, land steward