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Dane and Columbia County Ponds Field Trip Report – 4/2/23 

After having our field trip postponed by one day due to forecasted bad weather, our group met at 7:00 AM on Sunday, April 2nd at Goose Pond.  The temperature as we gathered was 27 degrees, with partly cloudy skies and brisk south winds (about 10-25 mph).

Lots of waterfowl were present on the pond as we arrived, although some groups of swans and other birds were departing.  In view were lots of TUNDRA SWANS, CANADA and CACKLING GEESE, and a nice variety of ducks, including BLUE-WINGED and GREEN-WINGED TEAL, GADWALL, AMERICAN WIGEON, CANVASBACK, REDHEAD, RING-NECKED, LESSER SCAUP, and RUDDY DUCK.

Goose Pond trip 2023 4 2 3303 Goose Pond Sanctuary Mark Martin speaking to group 3303 T Schultz

Mark Martin speaking to the crowd at Goose Pond - Photo by Tom Schultz

As we usually do, we had a guest visit from Mark Martin, the longtime manager of Goose Pond Sanctuary.  Mark spoke to the group, and shared general information about the sanctuary and its many prairie restorations, recent bird sightings, and talked about their webcam live-stream.

We checked out the east pond where we found a couple hundred GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE, three SNOW GEESE, and a bunch more CACKLING GEESE – along with lots more TUNDRA SWANS.

Other birds present at Goose Pond were SANDHILL CRANES, NORTHERN HARRIER, NORTHERN FLICKER, a pair of AMERICAN KESTRELS, and several SONG SPARROWS and RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS that were singing loudly.

From there we headed toward Schoeneberg Marsh, initially along Priem Road where we had lots more waterfowl swimming on the pond, and several interesting songbirds, including EASTERN PHOEBE, GOLDEN-CROWNED and RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS, and a nice group of RUSTY BLACKBIRDS.

We continued on to the north end of Harvey Road, and parked near the pond on Erstad Prairie and Schoeneberg Marsh.  An EASTERN BLUEBIRD and a TUFTED TITMOUSE were singing as we arrived, and there were a few TREE SWALLOWS, flitting about as they checked the nest boxes.  KILLDEER were also flying around and calling, and a couple of EASTERN MEADOWLARKS were observed.  The pond held a nice variety of ducks, including BLUE-WINGED and GREEN-WINGED TEAL, AMERICAN WIGEON, HOODED MERGANSERS and others.  A GREAT BLUE HERON flew over in the distance.

Hiking north to the edge of Schoeneberg Marsh, we observed many more waterfowl, as well as a nice group of AMERICAN COOTS.  A small flock of NORTHERN PINTAILS passed us overhead, as did a few GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE, and two GREAT EGRETS were spotted flying in on the north side.

We headed south on Harvey Road, and paused at the wetland near Wangsness Road, but very little water was present there this year.  Only a handful of CANADA GEESE were present, along a couple of KILLDEER and HORNED LARKS.  Turning west, we checked the ponds along Highway DM, and more waterfowl were present there.  Highlights included a pair WOOD DUCKS and REDHEADS, and a few WILSON’S SNIPE were spotted among the cut cornstalks.

A little further south we checked the ponds along Highway V.  A variety of ducks present, but the most prominent birds were a couple nice flocks of RING-BILLED GULLS.  Our group had a pleasant surprise when four ROSS’S GEESE were spotted among the gulls!

Rosss Geese 2023 4 2 Hwy V ponds Dane County Myles Hurlburt

Ross's Geese - Photo by Myles Hurlburt

Following a welcome bathroom break we drove north to Lake Wisconsin, where we finished our day at the causeway along Highway V.  Lots of birds were in view there, on both sides of the road.  The large body of water to the west was mostly ice-free, and there were quite a few diving ducks present – including all THREE SPECIES of MERGANSERS and COMMON GOLDENEYE, and at least a half dozen COMMON LOONSBALD EAGLES, TURKEY VULTURES and an OSPREY flew overhead, and the flocks of RING-BILLED GULLS were joined by a few HERRING and BONAPARTE’S GULLS.

AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS were present on the east side, along with nice numbers of ducks – including AMERICAN BLACK DUCK, NORTHERN SHOVELER, GADWALL, NORTHERN PINTAIL, GREEN-WINGED TEAL, and many others.  SANDHILL CRANES, AMERICAN COOTS and PIED-BILLED GREBES could also be seen, as well as many RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS.  At one point, a BELTED KINGFISHER made an appearance.

Pied billed Grebe w No Shovelers 2023 4 2 Lake Wisconsin Hwy V causeway 3380 T Schultz

Pied-billed Grebe and Northern Shoveler - Photo by Tom Schultz

Thanks to everyone who attended, and to Jeff Baughman for co-leading this fun field trip – during which we found 25 species of waterfowl! Here’s our eBird trip report:

Tom Schultz, WSO Field Trips Committee