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The Madison Waterfowl Production Area is approximately 5 miles southeast of Madison, in Lake County.
It is 1 mile south of the intersection of Highway 34 and Highway 19, just on the
west side of Lake Madison. From I-29, take Highway 34 west about 20 miles
to get to the intersection with Highway 19. From I-90, take Highway 19
north about 30 miles to get to the WPA.
Geographic Coordinates: 43°
58' 3" N, 97° 4' 30" W
A fairly large, shallow
lake sits at the center of the Madison Waterfowl WPA, and is a little over 1
mile in total length. The majority of the lake is extremely shallow,
although it must have deeper sections as it does support a large population of
carp and perhaps other fish. The shallow edges of the lake are ringed with
herbaceous wetland vegetation, which on some parts of the WPA can be quite
extensive. Note that water levels in the WPA can fluctuate quite a bit from year
to year, which can have a very big impact on the mix of waterfowl, wading birds,
and shorebirds that are found at the WPA. The lake and wetlands are set amidst a surrounding landscape of
grassland with a few small belts of trees, areas that can also be decent to
bird. To view actual photos of
the WPA, click on the magenta numbers (1, 2, 3) on the black-and-white aerial
photograph shown below.
Lake Madison itself sits just across Highway 19 to the east. In
addition to large open water habitat of the lake itself, Lake Madison also
has significant areas of shallow water and wetlands, especially in the
northwest corner of the lake.
Points of Note:
Click on the numbers on the Google Map for actual ground photos for those
locations. While Highway 19
does intersect the water body on the eastern edge of the WPA, the best access
can be found by use of a gravel access road running along the north edge of the
water/wetland (shown in red on the aerial photo below). Note that the road
can get muddy and almost impassable after a recent heavy rain, and be careful
where the road goes over a culvert, as the road often washes out after heavy
rain. While most
of the road is at the north edge of the wetland or runs through the upland
grasslands surrounding the wetland, it does intersect water and wetland at point
"1" (shown below). Good luck can be had just parking at point 1
and waiting for the birds to get used to your presence. After a time,
otherwise shy Sora,
Virginia Rail, and
Herons may appear out of the thick vegetation and come into open view, while
Blue Herons, gulls, terns, waterfowl, and shorebirds may also be seen from
this location depending on the time of year.
Grassland areas along the north side of the access road can
sometimes provide good viewing opportunities for typical grassland species,
including Bobolinks, an occasional
Sandpiper, and grassland sparrow species.
note that a gravel road intersections a shallow water and wetland vegetation
expanse at the western edge of the WPA, shown at points "2" and
"3" on the aerial photo below. Water and wetland vegetation on
both sides of the road can offer excellent viewing of waterfowl, wading birds,
and shorebirds. This area offers perhaps the best chance to view
shorebirds during migration, but only if lower water levels result in areas
of very shallow water.
Birds of Note:
The vast expanses of shallow water can make the Madison WPA a nice location for
shorebirds in the spring, depending upon water levels. The road running through
the west edge of the WPA (near points 2 and 3) offer perhaps the best spring
viewing opportunities for shorebirds. Depending on water levels, point 1
may also offer good viewing opportunities.
Spring and late summer/early fall also may offer viewing of
large numbers of American White
Pelicans, Great Egrets,
Herons, Great Blue Herons,
while an occasional Snowy Egret or
Egret may make an appearance. Very large numbers of
and Bonaparte's Gulls are sometimes
present, while lesser numbers of
and Black Terns can also be
Waterfowl can often be found in huge numbers during the spring
and fall, with excellent viewing opportunities available from near points 2 and
3, and even from Highway 19 as it intersects the WPA.
Click on the photos or species names on the bottom of this page
for actual bird photos taken within the WPA.
Other Birding Locations (sorted by distance):