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Mad Island Marsh Christmas Bird Count

Our thanks to Brent Ortego for allowing us to post these results!

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Other Statistics

233 Species !
Number 1 in the Nation

17 December 2001

We are Number ONE for the 5th year in a row!! Our continued success is making a statement that not only are we the top count for species, but we may be the Premier CBC in the country. We consistently produce more species than any other site, we are regularly in the top 3 counts for producing highest counts of individual species (we were still tops for 17 at the end of January), we are a model for other CBCs for obtaining access to private property, we attract large numbers of birders from considerable distances to attend, and we have the support from the community and local industry. Folks, we have produced a very special count and everybody associated with it should be proud!

Freeport and Santa Barbara appear to be tied for 2nd place this year with 206 species each and Point Reyes Peninsula had 205 species. Another local product that is steadily increasing each year is the San Bernard CBC which reported 190 this season. Rain appeared to really hamper the best CBC south of us and Corpus Christi only had 175 species this year.

As frequently happens with these bird surveys, weather can have devastating effects. The best weather for the CBC season was on the first day and San Bernard enjoyed the benefits of a calm, cool day. The next day was very blustery and winds reduced bird activity. However, Sunday, the day before Mad Island turned out to be warm and muggy. It was hard to attract the attention of many birds during my pre-count scouting in this very oppressive condition and the results at Freeport show how the weather effected the day. Fortunately for us, a front blew in Saturday night and cooled temperatures for Monday, our day. Strong winds (30+ m.p.h.) definitely suppressed numbers of each species found and a few species might have been missed because of conditions, but overall we were able to work through the adverse conditions.

Extra time was put into finding hummingbirds in Matagorda and Selkirk Island this year, and the effort produced 6 species with 1 being new for the count. Maintaining feeders is not the most enjoyable thing to do and the necessity to manage them for several months through the winter is work. We really appreciate the interest and the effort of the Rivers End Garden Club for feeding the hummers, and Marilyn Sitz for coordinating the surveying the yards. It paid off with dividends this year.

9/11 had its effect on us as well as the whole nation. Increased security concerns necessitated reducing the number of birders we sent to STP and Equistar, and changing the location of our post count banquet. However, the birding teams we sent there in the field did very well. And of course, our banquet host Equistar, contracted for an outstanding meal at the Wadsworth Community Center. We have heard only compliments for the quality & quantity of food and for the nice, spacious facilities provided.


The Costa's Hummingbird found enjoying its winter in Bevil Carter's yard by Charlie & Olivia Brower was so special that we did not even conduct the customary vote by Section Leaders. As of 1995, there had only been 4 photographic records of this species in Texas. Charlie went one step further and actually captured and banded the bird (a first for Texas) the day after the CBC. I would like to take credit for Charlie's great skill since I have trained him to band hummers, but actually Charlie did it all on his own. He did a very good job identifying the bird on the wing that was the result of careful study of the bird and references.

Other outstanding birds found during the count were N. Gannet and 2 species of scoters on the Peninsula; Lesser Nighthawk, Glossy Ibis, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Anna's Hummingbird, and Green-tailed Towhee in the Matagorda Area; Black-throated Gray Warbler and Ovenbird at Selkirk Island; E. Wood Pewee, Raven, Golden-winged & Prothonotary Warblers at Equistar; Least Grebe, Yellow-breasted Chat and Yellow-headed Blackbird at STP; E. Kingbird and Ferruginous Hawks on the W. Roads; Yellow Rail and Say's Phoebe at the Nature Conservancy Preserve; Black Rail, Solitary Sandpiper, Henslow's Sparrow & Rusty Blackbird at the TPWD wildlife management area, and Pacific Loon on the bay.


233 SPECIES and 1.3 million birds. Six species (Lesser Nighthawk, Costa's Hummingbird, E. Kingbird, Golden-winged Warbler, Green-tailed Towhee & Rusty Blackbird) new to the count bringing the total for 9 years of CBCing to 302 species at Mad Island in southern Matagorda County.

As of the end of January with over 1700 CBCs logged in the United States, Mad Island was leading with the highest number of 17 species: Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, N. Harrier, Am. Kestrel, Least Flycatcher, E. Phoebe, Ash-throated Flycatcher, E. Kingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, House Wren, Golden-winged Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, LeConte's Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow and Boat-tailed Grackle. We placed 2nd on 12 additional species and 3rd with 5 species. Super Results!

With 88 Texas CBC reporting, Mad Island had the highest tally for 62 of its 233 species. Mad Island CBC is truly the flagship count of Texas.


Even as good as all of our birders are, we still miss species that regularly occur on the count. This year Harris's Hawk, Wild Turkey, Groove-billed Ani, Burrowing Owl, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Black-throated Green Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Harris's Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco and Bronzed Cowbird were not found by 115 birders. Just think if we obtained ideal weather conditions, access to all of the land in the count circle and had a few dozen more skilled birders how many species could we tally. Our record for is 235 for one day and 302 species for 9 years. 250 species in a day might be possible under ideal conditions.


We produced 70 high and 58 low tallies. In general, waterfowl were in very low numbers because mild weather had not forced birds south. Most woodlands were very wet and many ground foraging birds lacking hip boots went elsewhere. Strong winds made surveying open habitats very difficult and grassland/wetland bird numbers suffered because of count day conditions.


Set your calendar. The 10th running of the Mad Island Marsh CBC will be held, Monday, 16 December 2002. Bring a friend and help the Mad Island Team along with area landowners, corporate sponsors and community leaders produce another quality Christmas Bird Count in Matagorda County. This count is truly something special because we have collectively made it so.


The compilers, The Nature Conservancy of Texas, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Bay City Nature Club and Matagorda County Birding and Nature Center wish to extend a sincere thanks to all participants of the Christmas Bird Count. A very special thanks is extended to: Celanese, Equistar Chemicals and South Texas Nuclear Operating Company for their continued financial support for the bird count, and for providing staff and land to help out; Wadsworth for the use of their Community Center; and the Rivers End Garden Club for attracting and feeding the birds. And lastly, the private landowners (Carl Anderson, Jack Miller, Eugene Welfel, Don Erdale with PCS Phosphate Co. Inc., Linda Stovall, Glenn & Eddie Douglas, George Harrison, Bert & Dorothy Huebner-Baer Ranch, Simon DeSota, Greg Holub, Roy Poinsett, William Smith, JoAnn Williamson), who manages the land for the birds and provides us access. Through the efforts of everyone, the Mad Island Marsh CBC continues to rank highly for Matagorda County, Texas and the Nation.

This part of the mid-Texas coast is gifted with a diverse and abundant number of birds and other wildlife. We, the land stewards of the coastal prairies, marshes and woodlands of Matagorda County, will continue our efforts to provide the kind of conservation needed to enhance the area's natural habitats. Until next year, keep in touch and keep birding. The compilers, the landowners and corporate sponsors look forward to seeing you at the 2002 Mad Island Marsh CBC. Thanks again.

Brent Ortego
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
2601 N. Azalea, Suite 31
Victoria, TX 77901
Mark Dumesnil
The Nature Conservancy of Texas
P.O. Box 2563
Corpus Christi, TX 78401
David & Marilyn Sitz
Bay City Nature Club
Rt. 1, Box 180
Bay City, TX 77414

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