THE 2009 GOOSE POND CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT: New Species Diversity High for INGP, Highest in Indiana for Third Straight Year by Lee Sterrenburg

The fourth annual Goose Pond Christmas Bird Count took place on December 16, 2009. We enjoyed another highly successful count. The temperature ranged between 13 and 30 degrees F with clear skies all day. Most of the shallow water was frozen and some of the deeper strip mine pits remained open. We had 43 observers in the field in 10 parities and 2 feeder watchers. We recorded 107 species and 270,792 individuals. We observed two non-countable introduced species, Trumpeter Swan (5) and Whooping Crane (4). Snow Goose was a Count Week bird only. For the third year in a row the Goose Pond count had the highest species total among all CBCs in Indiana. 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 of 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. An unexpected highlight was a virtual clean sweep on the rarer wrens, with 1 HOUSE WREN, 1 WINTER WREN, 1 SEDGE WREN, and 1 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 1 GREAT EGRET, a new species for the count, and 4 surprising BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS, likewise new for the count. One BARN OWL was only the second ever on the count. The 23 species of waterfowl included 65 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE, 9 CACKLING GEESE, 11 TUNDRA SWANS, and 7 BLUE-WINGED TEAL. Blue-winged Teal are scarce on Indiana CBCs. The 56 NORTHERN PINTAILS were a nice total for a frozen winter in Indiana. Numbers for the common species of waterfowl included 1223 CANADA GEESE and 4141 MALLARDS. Raptors once again did well with 11 BALD EAGLES, 68 NORTHERN HARRIERS, 11 COOPER’S HAWKS, 89 RED-TAILED HAWKS, 45 ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS, 35 AMERICAN KESTRELS, 1 NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL, and 68 SHORT-EARED OWLS. One would not want to be vole in this count circle! Shorebirds made major contributions with 3 LEAST SANDPIPERS, 6 DUNLINS, and 1 WILSON’S SNIPE. Other birds of note included 1 NORTHERN SHRIKE and 1 BROWN THRASHER. Sparrow numbers were generally down from previous counts, partly due to extensive flooding in the GPFWA grasslands. We still managed to record 1993 AMERICAN TREE SPARROWS, 116 SAVANNAH SPARROWS, 591 SONG SPARROWS, and 219 SWAMP SPARROWS. One LINCOLN’S SPARROW was new to the count. Icterids turned up 5 RUSTY BLACKBIRDS, 1 BREWER’S BLACKBIRD, 285 EASTERN MEADOWLARKS, and a whopping reported 250,474 COMMON GRACKLES. An evening Grackle flight estimated at a quarter of million birds accounted for most of the numbers for that species. 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. Sincere thanks to all participants. We are grateful to the Indiana DNR for maintaining Goose Pond FWA as a prime wintering habitat for birds. Please come join us on the Goose Pond CBC next year.