Recent Goose Pond FWA bird count offers encouraging results
Those people who believe the statement, "Build it and they will come," should be encouraged by the numbers registered in the most recent bird count at the Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area.
Results recently released from the fourth annual Goose Pond Christmas Bird Count that took place on Dec. 16, 2009, show the highest species total among all similar counts that were conducted in the state of Indiana, according to veteran compiler, Lee Sterrenburg, with the Sassafras Audubon Society, based in Bloomington.
It was the Goose Pond's third year in a row to lead state count totals.
Goose Pond is Indiana's newest Fish and Wildlife Area, located just south of Linton. The 8,000 acres of wetland and wildlife habitat was purchased by the Department of Natural Resources in October 2005. Nature lovers and sportsmen are already reaping the benefits of this unique and vast property.
The recent CBC registered 107 species and 270,792 individual birds that were observed in the field by 43 observers.
"We knew we were doing well when we had already tallied 100 species at the lunchtime break. The varied habitats and a highly dedicated group of participants continue to make the Goose Pond CBC an exciting annual event," Sterrenburg said. "The varied habitat contributes to the high species total. The count circle is located mostly in Greene County with portions in Sullivan and extreme northern Knox counties. The circle includes all the restored wetlands and prairie grasslands Goose Pond FWA, all the forested parts of Greene-Sullivan SF, Hawthorn Mine on the Greene and Sullivan county sides, the city of Linton, and agricultural lands east and south of GPFWA."
Sterrenburg, a veteran birdwatcher, noted, "An unexpected highlight was a virtual clean sweep on the rarer wrens, with one House Wren, one Winter Wren, one Sedge Wren and one Marsh Wren all found on count day. One American Bittern kept intact our record of never missing this rare winter species on the CBC. The newly expanded wetlands at Goose Pond FWA produced one Great Egret1, a new species for the count, and four surprising Black-Crowned Night Herons, likewise new for the count. One Barn Owl was only the second ever on the count."
Sterrenburg reported 23 species of waterfowl included Greater White-Fronted Geese, Cackling Geese, Tundra Swans, and Blue Winged Teal.
Raptors once again did well with 11 Bald Eagles, as well as significant numbers of Cooper's Hawks, Red-Tailed Hawks, Rough-Legged Hawks, American Kestrels, Saw-Whet Owls and Short-Eared Owls.
Shorebirds made major contributions with three Least Sandpipers, six Dunlin and one Wilson's Snipe.
"Sparrow numbers were generally down from previous counts, partly due to extensive flooding in the GPFWA grasslands. We still managed to record observations of American Tree Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Swap Sparrows, Lincoln Sparrows, Rusty Blackbirds, Brewer's Blackbirds, Eastern Meadowlarks and Common Grackles.
"An evening Grackle flight estimated at a quarter of million (250,000) birds accounted for most of the numbers for that species," he added. "We observed two non-countable introduced species, Trumpeter Swan (5) and Whooping Crane (4) and a Snow Goose."
Sterrenburg called this year's count highly successful and he noted, "We are grateful to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for maintaining Goose Pond FWA as a prime wintering habitat for birds."
Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area Property manager Brad Feaster added, "These outstanding results go a long way toward increasing people's awareness of what Greene County has to offer."