Back in the cars, we drove to the first muddy field, which also had areas of deeper water. The water was full of dabbling ducks. Throughout the morning, we found the same mix of ducks in each flooded area of the Refuge. Northern Shovelers were the most abundant. Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal, and Gadwalls were next with very high numbers. Throw in a few Ruddy Ducks, Pied-billed Grebes, and a couple of Northern Pintails and they accounted for the other ducks seen at each stop. American Coots were everywhere; in the water, sleeping on the levees, and sitting in the road.
Shorebirds were scattered around the Refuge in fairly decent numbers. Low numbers are not surprising since this is the beginning of their migration. Everyone was very excited to see the American Golden-Plovers. The eight Plovers were either First of the Season (FOS) or life birds for most. Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs were seen and heard. Long-billed Dowitchers, Pectoral Sandpipers, and Wilson’s Snipe rounded out the Sandpiper list. No trip would be complete without a plethora of Killdeer and we found plenty of them.
Everyone gets excited about raptors and our group was no exception. We watched a juvenile Bald Eagle (BAEA) methodically hunt one of the flooded fields, flushing both ducks and shorebirds. It missed them all. The second juvenile BAEA also failed to catch anything edible. A third BAEA was seen by a small group of birders who spotted it further south into the Refuge. They also heard and saw a dueling pair of Barred Owls who vocalized back and forth. Northern Harriers and a Red-tailed Hawk rounded out the raptor list. A nice treat was a flyover of 45 American White Pelicans. Several Tree Swallows and a Purple Martin put in an appearance. No trip is complete unless we see Great Blue Herons, our lucky mascot bird. We saw a total of nine GBHE, plus four Great Egrets. Our next field trip to Bald Knob is in August. Can’t wait to see what fabulous birds this treasure of a National Refuge will produce for that trip. Come join us!
ASCA Field Trip Coordinator