Monday, January 11, 2010

Weekly Bird Survey at Hagerman NWR

On Tuesday morning at 8 a.m., an eager crew of birders rolls out in the Refuge van to do a bird survey at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge. Refuge Volunteer Karl Haller has been the “designated driver” each week for many years, for these bird census outings at Hagerman, and he also recorded sightings on both Tuesday and Thursday surveys. While Karl continues to drive, the survey is now conducted once weekly and Jack Chiles is the official recorder. Here are highlights from the count January 5:

2,500 geese, 20 gadwall, 70 pintail, 50 green winged teal, 20 bufflehead, 15 hooded merganser, 15 canvasback, 12 turkey, 20 horned grebe, 5 pied-bill grebe, 3 eared grebe, 6 red shouldered hawk, 8 coot, 12 yellowlegs, 4 killdeer, 4 least sandpiper, 700 ring billed gull, 12 flicker, 2,000+ horned lark, 7 cedar waxwing, 3 American pipit, 40 Harris’s sparrow, 50 chipping sparrow, 250 meadowlark

With Jack’s help, Grace and Michael Haight are creating a computerized file of the records from past years, as well as current data.

Wondering how you count 2500 geese or 2000 horned larks? There is a method – isolate one area of geese with say, 15-20 birds in that area, count them, then estimate the number of similar size areas taken up by the flock; multiply the count from the first area x the number of similar areas = bird count. Birds not in large flocks are counted individually.

Local birding volunteers are joined from time to time by birding visitors from all over the country. These groups complete their rounds by 1 p.m., but there is no rush to lunch, as the crew is well fortified with homemade cookies by the end of the ride. There is also some history behind the statistics. For example, the number of trips per year was reduced in 2007, 2008, and 2009 by the flooding of Lake Texoma, and the most unusual bird sighting has been the pair of whooping cranes that visited the Refuge in December, 2007.

Hats off to these volunteers for recording bird history at Hagerman NWR. To keep up with the weekly survey highlights, visit the Friends of Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge Facebook page or Reports are usually posted each Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning For information about Hagerman NWR, see

Photo Collage by Grace & Michael Haight


  1. Who makes the cookies?

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Could be Betty Crocker with a little help from a friend.