It was a gorgeous sunny morning on the marsh as folks began gathering along Highway 49, just east of the pumphouse. Temperatures were initially in the 60’s, and there was virtually no wind – and about 30 birders were in attendance. The water level in this pool was low, so there were extensive areas of mudflats, and waterbirds were scattered all over. Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers were probing the shallow muddy areas, while good numbers of Lesser Yellowlegs were working through the shallow waters.
We picked carefully through the many yellowlegs, and were able to spot several juvenile Stilt Sandpipers, with their somewhat longer and more drooping bills. A few Wilson’s Phalaropes were swimming about not far away. A few Pectoral Sandpipers were also present, with their streaked bibs and yellow legs.
Further out were a couple of flocks of dowitchers (totaling about 70), most or all of which appeared to be Short-billed – although the distance made it difficult to confirm whether any Long-billeds might be present. Many coots and ducks were present, including Wood, Mallard, Blue-winged Teal, and at least one family of Gadwalls.
Moving across the road to the north (Fond du Lac Co.) side, there was a showy display of large birds in the pond, comprised largely of swimming American White Pelicans and standing Great Egrets. A family group of Black-necked Stilts flew in, providing nice views – and an immature Virginia Rail was out away from the cattails on the mud for a while.
The group moved to the auto tour, and gathered in the parking lot for a restroom break and to carpool, but we also had a pleasant surprise there, as Daryl Tessen produced a beautifully decorated cake from the back of his car. It had photos of two birds on the frosting, with wording that celebrated the fact that this is the 30th year since Jeff Baughman and I have been chairing the Field Trips committee for WSO! The cake was cut and handed out to all of the field trip participants – and it was delicious.
Following that, we drove out to the entrance to the Old Marsh Road, and walked out for a ways. Unfortunately there has been a drawdown there this summer, and what was normally a broad pool of water was grown over into a mass of weeds. We had a few egrets and a few other birds there (including Northern Harrier), but we decided to drive around to the other end of this same road (off Ledge Road), and walk in from the east.
The east end of the Old Marsh Road contained some nice pools of water once we hiked out a little ways, and a number of shorebirds were present, including several Greater Yellowlegs. A Common Gallinule provided nice looks, but the real surprise was the sighting of a female Bufflehead! We had both Sora and Virginia Rails in the cattails.
The group made a final check along Hwy. 49 to see if anything new had arrived (added Trumpeter Swan), then wrapped up the field trip around 11:30. Thanks to Jeff Baughman for co-leading this trip, and to Daryl T. for the wonderful cake!
Tom Schultz WSO Field Trips co-chair