The Amazing Bird Response the First Year the Goose Pond Birds of 2009 at Goose Pond FWA: Wetland Restoration Was Finished

Back when the Goose Pond wetland and grassland restoration project work began in 2001, could anyone ever have predicted the birds using the property in the year 2009?

2009 was a year to remember at Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area in Greene County Indiana. The restoration adage “build it and they will come” was on display in full force. The entire WRP/NRCS restoration easement at GFWFA is 7139 acres. Of that total about 4000 acres are wetlands. The entire restoration project is now complete. The last 1993 acres of wetlands were finished in fall of 2008. Main Pool West, Main Pool East, and Units GP7 and GP16 filled with water during spring and summer of 2009. Birds of many species rapidly found and colonized the newly expanded wetlands.

A bird bonanza ensued. A stunning seven different species produced all time Indiana state record high counts. They were Northern Pintail, Great Egret, Green Heron, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, White Ibis, and the first confirmed state record of Roseate Spoonbill. Several species had confirmed breeding on the property for the first time, including Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, American Coot, Wilson’s Snipe, and Swamp Sparrow.

The main highlight event was the remarkable incursion of southern species during summer and early fall. In addition to the first state record Roseate Spoonbill, the property hosted all three species of Ibis for the second straight year, both species of Whistling-Ducks at the same time, a large contingent of Cattle Egrets, the property’s first 3 Least Terns, and up to 5 or 6 suspected but not confirmed Mottled Ducks. Prolonged drought in southern Texas and Florida may have helped to drive some of these southern birds northward.

Greene County, Indiana BH5S

Here is an inventory of some significant one-day high counts arranged by taxonomic group. High waterfowl tallies included 3 Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, 5 Fulvous Whistling-Ducks, 600 Gadwalls, 1281 Blue-winged Teal (state record high for spring), 9120 Northern Pintails (all time state record high), 780 Northern Shovelers, 811 Green-winged Teal (highest Indiana fall season count in 20 years), and 1821 Ring-necked Ducks. Other counts included 266 Double-crested Cormorants and 22 long staying American White Pelicans.

Wading birds were spectacular. High counts included 14 American Bitterns (second highest state record), 397 Great Blue Herons, 1324 Great Egrets (all time state record high), 11 Little Blue Herons, 55 Cattle Egrets (third highest state record) 56 Green Herons (all time state high), 42 Black-crowned Night-Herons, 5 Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, 16 White Ibises (all time state high), 2 Glossy Ibises, and 1 White-faced Ibis. Indiana’s first confirmed Roseate Spoonbill showed up in early June and stayed for an amazing 97 days. In early December the property hosted the first ever winter season Plegadis Ibis in Indiana history. Raptor highlights were many and included a new property high count of 17 Bald Eagles.

All five species of Indiana rails once again visited the Goose Pond FWA wetlands. Single Yellow Rails were found on two occasions and single Black Rails on four occasions. King Rails probably had 7 known breeding pairs or territories on the property, with downy young or feathered juveniles observed for either 3 or 4 of the KIRA pairs. Virginia Rails were recorded in four different Units during the summer season. Soras were found at several places during summer. Sandhill Cranes recorded a high tally of 5500 in March. The high count of 9 Whooping Cranes in March represented more than 10% of the entire Eastern free flying population of this Federally Endangered species.

The property recorded 27 species of shorebirds this year. The newly graded mudflat areas in Main Pool West helped to produce new all time Indiana state record high counts of 497 Greater Yellowlegs and 1300 Lesser Yellowlegs during April. Other shorebird high tallies of note included 33 Black-necked Stilts, 357 American Golden-Plovers, 6 Willets, 2 Marbled Godwits, 1 Ruddy Turnstone, 2 Western Sandpipers, Baird’s Sandpipers in both spring and fall, a new property high of 48 Stilt Sandpipers, 369 Wilson’s Snipe, and 1 Red-necked Phalarope.

The wetland restoration project includes a nesting island for Federally Endangered interior Least Terns. The 3 Least Terns that showed up during mid June and stayed for a week were thus a noteworthy development. Black Tern registered a new property high of 42 in May; up to 5 adult Black Terns were present in June and July but no evidence of breeding activity was found. Migrating Common Terns produced a new property high of 107 in May.

Land birds had some gratifying results. The property’s first Loggerhead Shrike made an appearance in March. Sassafras Audubon Society conducted a grassland rapid survey on June 13th. Multiple parties walking transects tallied a very impressive 192 Henslow’s Sparrows. Fire managed grasslands like those at GPFWA may offer some of the best hope for this rapidly declining sparrow species. Bobolinks fared well with a one day high of 138 in fall.

The fourth annual Goose Pond Christmas Bird Count took place on December 16, 2009 and recorded our all time high count of 107 species. We had the highest species count among all Indiana CBCs for the third year in a row.

The restoration project has been a resounding success. 2009 was the best year so far for bird numbers and diversity on the Goose Pond FWA property.

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