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White River Marsh - May 6th, 2023

White River Marsh 2023 Field Trip Report   by Tom Schultz

It was a relatively mild morning on May 6, with the early morning temperature around 50 degrees.  The skies were cloudy, and there were periodic sprinkles.  Our planned start for this field trip was 5:00 AM, but we invited attendees to arrive at 4:30 if they were interested in trying for YELLOW RAIL, which had been present here two days ago.  The rail proved to be uncooperative at the time, but we did hear one a little later.

White River Marsh 2023 5 6 20230506 061841 White River Rd


As we stood and listened in the dim light of pre-dawn, we began hearing many birds around us.  BARRED and GREAT HORNED OWLS were heard calling in the distance, and an AMERICAN BITTERN began giving its series of pumping calls.  A WILSON’S SNIPE was heard winnowing overhead, and SWAMP SPARROWS were singing in every direction.

SORA and VIRGINIA RAILS were heard (and one VIRGINIA was later seen), and SEDGE WRENS began delivering their staccato songs from the wet meadows.  A BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON flew over, giving its distinctive “quok” calls, and both BLUE-WINGED TEAL and MALLARD quacked as they flew past us.

As we hiked along White River Road we could hear lots of SANDHILL CRANES and CANADA GEESE calling in the distance, and flew observed fly-bys of a NORTHERN HARRIER, a GREAT BLUE HERON, several BALD EAGLES and a pair of TRUMPETER SWANS.  We also heard the calls of a GREATER YELLOWLEGS that was passing overhead.  Quite a few YELLOW WARBLERS were heard singing as we walked along, as were a couple of NORTHERN WATERTHRUSHES, and also a single COMMON YELLOWTHROAT.

Reaching an oak island, we spotted a trio of YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS and began to hear the musical piping of a BALTIMORE ORIOLE, and a ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK was calling nearby.  Several WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS were moving about, a HOUSE WREN was singing, soon followed by a GRAY CATBIRD.  In the vicinity of the White River bridge, we spotted a BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER moving around in a nearby tree, and a TUFTED TITMOUSE was heard singing.  Then, on the hike back we found three YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKERS.

From White River Road we drove northeast to Big Island Road, where we added EASTERN MEADOWLARK and BOBOLINK to our list, and heard a distant VESPER SPARROW and a FIELD SPARROW.  A few PURPLE MARTINS were observed at a nest box, and a COMMON RAVEN was heard giving its distinctive croaks.  

White River Marsh 2023 5 6 20230506 084847 Big Island Rd


Further along the road, we walked into a grassy meadow to look for HENSLOW’S SPARROW, and we heard of couple.  One was perched, giving us decent scope views.  A wide ditch down below us had a nice group of GREAT EGRETS, and a BALD EAGLE with its chicks was atop a huge stick nest.  We also saw an EASTERN KINGBIRD as it perched and moved about nearby.

Our next stop was along County Road D, at the White River bridge.  The highlight there was spotting a SOLITARY SANDPIPER, as well as an EASTERN TOWHEE, a couple of YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS, and two VEERY – along with a few WOOD DUCKS.  Continuing down Hwy. D we came across a couple of WHOOPING CRANES that were feeding in a field.

<b>Whooping Crane</b>s 2023 5 6 White R Marsh Hwy D 5720


Following a restroom break in Princeton, the group continued south and west to Lake Puckaway, at the village of Marquette.  From the boat ramp (which was under construction) we were able to spot a bunch of new birds for the day: AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN, DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT, FORSTER’S and COMMON TERNS, and a large flock of AMERICAN COOTS.  Flying about were PURPLE MARTIN, TREE SWALLOW, and BARN SWALLOW, along with at least 100 more distant swallows that were left unidentified. Along the shore were LEAST, SOLITARY and SPOTTED SANDPIPERS, and a BELTED KINGFISHER flew over.

<b>Least Sandpiper</b> 2023 5 6 Marquette Lake Puckaway 5724


Our final stop of the day was at a flooded field near the junction of Hwy. A and Miller Road, where we could see lots of shorebirds present as we arrived.  The highlight was a big flock of AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVERS (around 80!), but we also spotted nice numbers of GREATER and LESSER YELLOWLEGS, PECTORAL SANDPIPER and DUNLIN.  KILLDEER and SEMIPALMATED PLOVER were also spotted, along with a couple of WILSON’S PHALAROPE.  Good numbers of BONAPARTE’S GULLS were also present, as well as a variety of ducks – including GADWALL, BLUE-WINGED and GREEN-WINGED TEAL.

White River Marsh 2023 5 6 <b>Pectoral Sandpiper</b> Miller Rd at Hwy A taken by Kanayo Rolle


Toward the end of our visit, a PEREGRINE FALCON suddenly flashed in, and the gulls and shorebird took flight.  They wheeled around in flocks for the  next minute or so, and many appeared to leave.  We were glad that the falcon hadn’t arrived sooner or the number of birds present may have been much smaller!

Thanks to everyone who attended this field trip – about 22 in total.  It was a pretty good morning, with about 95 species having been found!

The eBird Trip Report from the day can be found at: