Madison Audubon’s Goose Pond Sanctuary is located about 30 minutes south of the Baraboo Hills near Arlington, Wisconsin and is one of the area’s premiere birding destinations. In fact, now is a great time to check it out.
For the first timer, Goose Pond seems rather underwhelming. It’s simply 2 ponds, (Or muddy, marshy areas depending on water levels.) divided by a country road surrounded by a vast open area of nearly barren, windy, farmland. Still, one can imagine a time when this divided pothole and the cornfields (once prairie) beyond, had attracted oceans of migrating birds. Today more than 250 species of birds still find this last protected remnant of wetland and the small, restored prairies near by.
As I said, this is not a “beauty spot”, you come for the wildlife who seem to have accepted the passing trains and working farms. Once you pull up alongside the road or turn into Prairie Lane where there is a small viewing area, you can usually expect to be amazed by large numbers of waterfowl, especially during peak migration seasons.
This year we’ve visited Goose Pond on about 4 or 5 occasions and have rarely been let down. On Monday, we found Tundra Swans, tons of geese, a variety of ducks and even 3 pelicans! At times the sky over the wetland was so full of ducks and geese that it reminded me of the spring hatching of lake flies around Devil’s Lake. Amazing!
Last winter in this same area, on County Rd. K, to the south, we spent a good part of a frigid afternoon watching a rare Snowy Owl hunt for prey from high atop a farm silo.
Now, you don’t have to be a hardcore “birder” to enjoy Goose Pond. Just stop, look and enjoy. If nothing is there, you’ll know it right away and off you go! Usually though, you’ll find plenty to watch, even if it’s just Canada geese and coots. (And who doesn’t like watching coots??)
The great part for many folks is that you can simply pull over and stay in your car if you wish. (In fact, that’s often the better choice anyway!). The easy access and generally good number of birds makes this a great first “birding” experience for kids as well.
I would recommend a good pair of binoculars and a camera with a zoom. If you do decide to get out of your car, it would be best that you do that over at the viewing area set up on Prairie Lane. Definitely stay on the gravel areas. Oh, and this time of year, bring a coat, hat and gloves. The wind can get bitter as it blows across the open fields.
For more photos from Goose Pond, other wildlife and natural areas visit our Pinterest page right here.