Twenty-seven young birders, parents, grandparents, and volunteers met at Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) on November 12, 2016 for our first Waterfowl Migration and Conservation Day. Although a bit chilly in the morning, the sun was shining and it looked to be a fabulous day for this unique opportunity to tour the Refuge during the peak of waterfowl migration. The latest report said 25,000 ducks on the Refuge! Needless to say, we were all excited and quickly loaded the vehicles to begin the tour.
The Louisa Division of Port Louisa NWR, the area we visited, is closed each year from September 15 – December 31 to minimize disturbance to migrating waterbirds as they rest on their southward journey. Therefore, we were very lucky to be visiting this area as part of their annual fall migration bus tours. Cathy Nigg (Refuge Manager) and Jessica Bolser (Refuge Biologist) of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were our tour leaders, providing a wealth of information about the unique habitats on the Refuge and their significance. The importance of this area to migrating waterbirds was quickly evident to us as hundreds of ducks were in view upon entering the Refuge. Among the many ducks, we identified Wood Ducks, Mallards, Northern Pintail, and Northern Shovelers. A group of eight Trumpeter Swans was also a nice surprise!
As we continued our tour of the Refuge, several Ring-billed Gulls and Double-crested Comorants were seen flying overhead. An extra special treat for one of the vehicles was an extremely cooperative American Bittern standing less than five feet from the road. We stopped briefly at the viewing platform overlooking Fox Pond, where we added Red-winged Blackbird, Swamp Sparrow, and American Goldfinch to our list. We also had great looks at a Bald Eagle nest on the east side of the Refuge. We finished our drive along the east side of the Refuge, where thousands of ducks were lifting off offering an amazing spectacle described as a “duck-nado” by our group.
Unfortunately, we were unable to plant trees due to high water levels. However, we had an enjoyable afternoon hiking trails around the Port Louisa Visitor’s Center. Exciting birds included a Tufted Titmouse, several White-throated Sparrows, and a small group of Cedar Waxwings.
We’re extremely grateful to Cathy Nigg, Jessica Bolser, and the staff and friends of Port Louisa NWR for hosting us. Many thanks also to volunteer Kevin Murphy for his leadership. And as always, we’re thankful to the parents and grandparents for providing the transportation means for the young birders to join us! You can view photos from our trip here and a list of species here.