There is an abundance of “welcoming” habitat at Goose Pond for the fall migration. Today, there are 660 monarchs still roosting in spruce trees and one white pine in the yard at the Kampen Road residence. The monarchs are nectaring on large patches of the colorful purple New England aster and showy goldenrod flowers.
Grassland birds can still be seen fliting around in the prairie or in the shrubs including silky dogwood. Sedge wrens, common yellowthroats, and a few eastern meadowlarks along with warblers are with us now.
Water levels are at a record high for this time of the year. Usually the shallow wetlands are dry with much of the area planted to corn or soybeans. However, this year instead of seven-foot high corn plants there is a diversity of emergent vegetation including water plantain, smartweeds, barnyard grass, bidens, softstem bulrush, cattails, and the first wild rice plant seen at Goose Pond. Many of the emergent plants, especially those in bold above are providing an abundance of high energy food for migrating ducks. Goose Pond is about seven-feet deep and most of the wetland birds are feeding in the 100 acres of shallow wetlands on Audubon property and adjacent landowners.
The southern shorebird migration began in July and there are still flocks of migrating shorebirds including yellowlegs. The shorebirds love the mud flats where they are busy searching for invertebrates.
Fish eating birds, including great egrets and double crested cormorants are feasting on abundance of fat head minnows. It has been reported that female fat head minnows can spawn every week when the water temperature is between 64 to 85 degrees. Goose Pond may contain hundreds of thousands of minnows. The downside to having minnows in the pond is that they also feed on invertebrates, frog, and salamander eggs. Ducklings need an abundance of invertebrates to feed on.
The record number of 95 great egrets has declined however over 20 egrets and great blue herons can still be photographed as they fish. Arlene Koziol photographed an osprey on the causeway. We assume the osprey would rather feed on large fish and quickly moved south.
Other raptors observed recently include northern harriers, American kestrels, a peregrine falcon and a record number of five bald eagles seen by Arlene Koziol. The peregrine is probably looking for shorebirds and ducks and was last seen in the tree on the Goose Pond Road causeway.
The pair of bald eagles whose nest is about three miles north of Goose Pond are frequent visitors. It is not hard to tell when eagles are present as they flush egrets and ducks. Sue was rewarded by seeing the flock of 95 great egrets overhead after they were flushed by the eagle. Recently Mark and Graham observed two flocks of 30 blue-winged teal in the open water and then spotted the bald eagle.
The last of the migrating bobolinks will be moving south shortly after feeding on smartweed seeds and seed in our sorghum and sunflower food plot. Red-wing blackbirds, mourning doves, and American goldfinch numbers are increasing in the food plot.
There are over 30 pied billed grebes present and they will remain for a couple of weeks. Canada geese, ducks, and American coot numbers will be increasing.
We welcome you to come out and enjoy the habitats and birds. You can visit the Wingspan viewing area on Prairie Lane or enjoy the views from the benches and newly landscaped area along Prairie Lane adjacent to the spotting scope, or hike the trails, especially the trails that begins at the Browne Prairie parking.
Written by Mark Martin and Susan Foote-Martin, Goose Pond Sanctuary resident managers