Counting Ducks

On this cold, sunny morning, I took part in the first winter waterfowl count of the season at South Platte Park.  Organized by personnel at Carson Nature Center, the counts occur monthly through the colder months, documenting the number and variety of waterfowl that winter at the refuge.

While the highlight of this weekend is a massive flock of common mergansers on Cooley Lake (estimates were over 900 at one point), our group was assigned several of the "Middle Lakes" which are on my routine eBird survey route at South Platte Park.  American wigeon were most abundant, followed by northern shovelers and gadwall.  Other species included Canada geese, mallards, hooded mergansers, buffleheads, common goldeneyes, American coot, ring-billed ducks, green-winged teal, two northern pintail and a lone pied-billed grebe.  Of course, a couple of hours in the field offers the opportunity to observe other species as well and we were fortunate to observe an immature bald eagle as it flapped across the refuge, no doubt looking for a potential meal of duck. 

Replicated throughout the country and across the globe, bird counts are conducted primarily by volunteers and are important in assessing the health and distribution of avian populations.  Such data fuels the protection of natural habitat, documents the effects of human activity and, in the case of waterfowl, helps to establish hunting regulations and restrictions.