May 27, 2009

Memorial Weekend Birding Part I

Spring migration is coming to an end and I am seeing less and less migrants and more resident birds instead. This past Memorial Weekend I tried desperately to get as many birds as I could to add to my year list and even my life list. We were a bit short on passerines like warblers and vireos. This spring was absolutely HORRIBLE for migrating passerines. I have only seen 12 species of warblers so far this spring compared to the 23 species I saw during spring migration last year. That is a difference of eleven species! Despite the lack of warblers we still had a good weekend.

Although not considered part of Memorial Weekend I am going to include Thursday because it was the first day of summer break and sort of started the weekend for me. To celebrate the first day of summer break my mom and I headed out in search of birds around the county that we call home. We ended up with 98 species, with one of them being a life bird. The first good bird that we found was a Lapland Longspur at a place called the Luton WMA. This was the latest date that anyone had seen one in Iowa by one day. It was neat to see it in it's full breeding plumage. I tried to get a picture of it but my attempts were unsuccessful. In the same general area we had three Blue Grosbeaks (foy) and some Dunlin.

The next two places we stopped at were cattle farms. They produced 31 Snow Geese and two Upland Sandpipers.

Sandhill Lake had some good birds including a Black-bellied Plover which was my 308th life bird! It was on a small pond that had lots of other shorebirds on it. More Snow Geese were there but only four.At a place called Brown's Lake we found a number of birds but none was of much interest except for some Purple Martins that were on a nesting box. Not far from there was New Lake. We found 8 Hudsonian Godwits as well as some Great Egrets. An Osprey was tending it's nest that sits on top of a cell phone tower about a mile away from both New Lake and Brown's Lake.

After a successful time birding the Missouri River Valley we decided to bird some Woodland areas up in the hills. We visited Stone State Park and Bacon Creek Park and found Scarlet Tanagers, Ovenbirds, etc. At Bacon Creek I was lucky enough to see a Cerulean Warbler. The bird was reported to me by a local birder. The directions he gave me were very helpful and I found the bird right where it was said to be. It was singing up a storm and seemed very territorial. I managed to get a few crappy shots of the bird. The lighting was worse here than anywhere else we had previously visited.

We finished the day back in the valley at Owego Wetlands. I needed a few more birds for my day list so we headed down there so I could do some wading. I scared up three Soras and saw a Green Heron fly by. The last new bird of the day if I remember correctly was a Western Kingbird, but I could be wrong. It was a fun day to be out and I was able to add some birds to my lists. Stay tuned for part two of my Memorial Weekend Birding.

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