Friday Feeder Feature: The Great Backyard Bird Count 2016

At Goose Pond, we've been practicing for the for the 2016 Great Backyard Count that begins TODAY and goes through Monday February 15! We enjoy feeding our feathered friends and look forward to the annual Count! 

Goldfinches feeding at Goose Pond Sanctuary feeders

Goldfinches feeding at Goose Pond Sanctuary feeders

Want to give the Great Backyard Bird Count a try? It only requires 15 minutes (or longer, if you wish) and it helps scientists better understand our local bird populations. Click here to find out how you can participate!

Looking back at past data shows how bird numbers change. In 2015, bird watchers from over 100 countries submitted 147,265 checklists and observed 5,090 species for the count.

We will be counting at both Kampen Road residence and at our Wildland cabin near Wyocena. Black oil sunflowers, sunflower fines, white millet, suet, and cracked corn are found at both count sites. At Wildland we are also feeding shelled corn that attracts wild turkeys, fox squirrels, and cottontail rabbits. We want to thank the customers at Mounds Pet Food Warehouse that purchase bags of bird seed exclusively for our Goose Pond feeders. The birds go through a lot of "Madison mix" in one season!

Tree sparrows near millet piles. Mark and Sue suggest moving your millet pile locations frequently to avoid pest and disease problems.

Tree sparrows near millet piles. Mark and Sue suggest moving your millet pile locations frequently to avoid pest and disease problems.

Our Goose Pond Sanctuary habitat includes restored prairie, spruce and cedar shelter belt/cover unit, two corn food plots and shrub plantings. The Wildland habitat in Wyocena includes restored prairie, oak savanna with brush piles, and a large red pine plantation on our neighbor’s land.

We have observed the following species in the past two weeks at the two sites: ring-necked pheasant, Cooper’s hawk, red-tailed hawk, rock pigeons, mourning doves, red-bellied woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, blue jays, American crows, black-capped chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, American tree sparrows, dark-eyed junco, northern cardinals, house finches, common redpolls, pine siskins, American goldfinches, and house sparrows. It is interesting to note the different feeding times of species. At Wildland, turkeys arrive around 8:00 a.m. and have fed and moved on in 30 minutes while cardinals feed heavily just before dark.  Some people ask how we count large numbers of doves.  At Goose Pond, the doves line up on the power line making for easy counting.

In the local area there are hundreds of horned larks and Lapland longspurs along roadsides that are easy to count. We will also try and find Eurasian collared doves west of Arlington.

If you want to get involved, know that bird counts for the GBBC can be conducted anywhere, and are not restricted to back yards like the name might suggest. 

Click here to see how you can help on this citizen science project!

The data for the GBBC is available for review as quickly as it is entered.  Stay tuned for our results, which we will post on the MAS website soon!

By Mark and Sue Foote-Martin, Resident Managers, Goose Pond Sanctuary.

Poynette Christmas Bird Count: Goose Pond Highlights

The December 26, 2015 Goose Pond count area of the Poynette Christmas Bird Count was the best ever in the past 16 counts.

Photo by Mark Martin

Photo by Mark Martin

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.

Photo by S.Wong, Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by S.Wong, Flickr Creative Commons

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.

Photo by Arlene Koziol

Photo by Arlene Koziol

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