Spring 2019 Migration Reports


"One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese cleaving the murk of the March thaw, is the spring." - Aldo Leopold

May 10, 2019

Spring has sprung, and is hopefully here to stay! This past week saw the arrival of many species of sparrows including White-crowned, White-throated, Harris, Lincoln, Clay-colored and Lark. Shorebirds have also begun arriving and new species to the area include American Golden Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Long-billed and short-billed Dowitchers, and various Sandpipers (Solitary, Pectoral, Semipalmated, Upland, Least and Stilt). Other new birds include Brown Thrasher, Western Kingbird, Sora, Bobolink, and Orange-crowned Warblers. 


April 25, 2019

Spring migrating birds continue to arrive at the Refuge.  New arrivals observed this week are; Red-breasted merganser, Glaucous Gull, yellow-rumped warbler, American bittern, Forster's tern, white faced Ibis, western grebe, Clark's grebe, eared grebe, Baird's sparrow and Willet.  

Waterfowl continue to come and go with all usual species here.  New shorebirds continue to arrive each day.  
The tour route road on the Refuge remains closed due to flooding.  It will remain closed until the water recedes and we can assess damages.


April 16, 2019

Waterfowl and other migratory birds continue to arrive at the Sand Lake NWR on their spring migration.   All the usual species of ducks have been observed, and of note is the large influx of diving ducks.  With all the high water on and off the Refuge, diving ducks can be seen just about everywhere.  Snow geese continue to trickle through the area but there are fewer observations each day.  Canada geese are busy making nests and some are sitting on eggs.  Other migratory birds sighted this week are; American avocet, marbled godwit, greater and lesser yellowlegs, song sparrow, American tree sparrow, Iceland gull, California gull and mourning doves.  

Warmer weather in the next 5 days with result in a big influx of other migratory birds making their way north.  The Refuge remains about 50% ice covered but that will change quickly as stronger winds are moving the ice around and breaking it up.  
Be aware that some area roads around the Refuge have been or will be closed due to high water.  The Refuge tour route road remains closed as much of it is under water, and we have no plans to re-open it until the water recedes and damages can be assessed. For access questions, please contact Jay Peterson at 605-885-6262.

April 1, 2019

Snow geese numbers continue to build in the counties surrounding Sand Lake NWR in South Dakota.  Large numbers of snow geese can be found along Highway 12 from just west of Aberdeen, SD to the Missouri River.  Also, large numbers of snow geese are currently located from south of Aberdeen to the Watertown area and east towards Webster/Waubay.   

The Sand Lake Refuge remains ice covered and the melting of snow in area fields continues and more open fields and sheet water is available for migrating waterfowl.  Mallards, pintails, common mergansers, American wigeon, common crows, red-winged blackbirds and common grackles have all been seen over the weekend.  The weather will be warming considerably by the end of this week, accelerating the snow melt.  Over 50 bald eagles were observed using the Refuge last Friday. The spring migration will likely ramp up considerably by this coming weekend just in time for the Sand Lake NWR open house on April 7th, called "Eagle Day".


March 28, 2019

No influx of snow geese has occurred yet at the Refuge, however, portions of the Sand Lake Wetland Management District to the west do have high numbers of snow geese. The area from west of Ipswich to Bowdle, SD is now stacking up with large numbers of birds.  Also, areas just south of the refuge into southern Brown and Spink Counties now have larger amounts of snow geese. Sheet water has opened in the last couple of days and the snow pack is melting, allowing birds to access food in agricultural fields.  Cooler temperatures are forecast for the next three days, slowing the snow melt. We will continue to post as birds move into our area. 


March 27, 2019

Small flocks of Canada geese continue to arrive at the Sand Lake NWR and surrounding areas.  Snow geese are not in the Sand Lake NWR area yet but have been seen in areas south of the Brown County area from Watertown, SD to the Pierre, SD area.  Snow continues to cover the landscape in the Sand Lake NWR area and slow melting has been occurring.  No open water exists on or near the refuge at this time.


March 21, 2019

On Monday, March 18th, the first Canada geese (approximately 30 birds) were observed at the refuge.  Deep snow covers the landscape throughout the Sand Lake area and all refuge pools remain ice and snow covered.  Some melting has taken place this week with temperatures in the upper 30's and sunny skies.  Significant melting will be required to open up food sources for snow geese and other migrating waterfowl to use once they arrive.  When will they arrive in the Sand Lake NWR area?  It all depends on the snow pack melt. 

Other migrating birds observed this week are western meadowlarks and robins.  We will update the website as significant changes occur with bird arrivals within the Sand Lake NWR area.