The December 26, 2015 Goose Pond count area of the Poynette Christmas Bird Count was the best ever in the past 16 counts.
The 2,200 acre Goose Pond count area includes Madison Audubon’s 660 acres at Goose Pond Sanctuary, and surrounding lands. Jim Hess and Bill Walters assisted with the count, as they have for many years. We all enjoy the comraderie of our day together hiking around the sanctuary and counting our feathered friends.
Thanks to the record setting El Niño, Goose Pond had open water for the first time in the 44-year history of the Poynette Count! Thirty four species have been recorded on 15 previous counts. This year, cackling geese (3), trumpeter swans (8), tundra swans (191), and American black duck were added to the Goose Pond list that now stands at 38 species.
The eight trumpeter swans were a highlight. The family unit of a pair and six young was a joy to watch on the water. One adult was collared with a yellow collar and was banded/collared by the DNR on August 27, 2008 as a young bird, sex unknown, adjacent to the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Juneau County. It is encouraging to see these birds at the sanctuary.
Last year, Goose Pond was frozen hard and we were lucky to count 600 Canada geese flying around. This year, however, 3,300 Canada geese were counted! Sixty one mallards and 42 ring-billed gulls also enjoyed the open water.
The large number of geese helped to bring our total bird numbers to 3,878 for the day, setting a record for Christmas Bird Counts at Goose Pond. The second highest count year was in 2000 with 2,727 birds. That year, the total included a flock of 2,000 Lapland longspurs.
Usually, the most numerous feeder birds at our Goose Pond count are the mourning dove, American tree sparrow and dark-eyed junco. In 2014, only one mourning dove was counted, compared to 116 this year! We also counted 63 tree sparrows (compared to 54 in 2014) and 22 juncos (compared to 27 in 2014).
Our high count of ring-necked pheasants was in 2007 before the hard winter of 2008 when we found 226 pheasants. This year we were pleased to find 22 pheasants in our corn food plots.
Other birds of interest included a great horned owl, one American kestrel, and two adult bald eagles. The eagles were probably hunting waterfowl and have been present most of the fall and early winter, largely thanks to the late open water on the pond.
Jim, Bill and I are already looking forward to the 2016 Christmas Bird Count on December 31, 2016! Our guess is that the 2016 count will be more like past counts with a frozen Goose Pond.
Mark Martin, Goose Pond Sanctuary co-manager