June 21, 2009
and this photo. The Cliff Swallows were nesting right nearby.I wonder how common the Barn Swallows were back when there were no barns or homes and where they nested. I am pretty sure they used to nest here but where else and what else did they use? Has anyone seen them nesting away from barns and homes as well? This discovery still intrigues me to this day.
June 20, 2009
We got to see one out on the knob thanks to the sharp eyes of one lady there. The first rattlesnake of any sort that I have ever seen in the wild is pictured below.
The rattlesnake was brought out of the net for pictures and better looks and then it was time to do research on it. Some of the snakes are implanted with a micro chip and this one is one of those snakes. All rattlesnakes that we saw were females and the one in these two photos is pregnant.
June 19, 2009
I enjoy hearing them sing their unique song every spring and summer as I ride my bike down the gravel roads.
Another thing that I like so much about them is the fact that the only areas in Iowa where you regularly see them is in the west, where I live. We kind of have them all to ourselves. I love to tell all of the central and eastern Iowa birders at the ornithologist union meetings of the Blue Grosbeaks I have had in my yard.
So what's not to like about this bird?
June 18, 2009
Taken at 10:49pm, this picture shows how much the lighting lights up the sky and everything else.
and the next morning across the street, the wind damage was easy to see just across the street from my house.
June 17, 2009
While hiking around the park in the humid weather we saw a number of birds including one that is fairly rare to our part of the state.
When we got to a place called Turtle Lake I heard the song of a Prothonotary Warbler! This is a pretty rare bird for our area. This past week a birdwatcher found a pair nesting about 45 minutes north from there on the IA-SD border. It is amazing that the area has has a couple sightings of this species in late June. I never did see the bird but maybe I will some other day when I'm out there. I also heard a Northern Parula which was the first one I saw at the park this year.
The valley that the lake is in has a small stream that had a few birds along it like a singing Louisiana Waterthrush and a Summer Tanager. We were able to see the tanager out in the open, which doesn't happen often.
After that we started to hike back. On the way I checked for the Cerulean Warbler that I heard a couple weeks beforehand but we could only find a Louisiana Waterthrush.
Other common forest birds that we saw or heard on the way back included Ovenbird and Scarlet Tanager but not much more.
June 16, 2009
As we were watching him my attention turned to a white colored tern that was flying over with a group of Black Terns. It had completely plain gray upper wings and a hint of black on the underside of the primaries, he was smaller, and had an orange-red bill. This turned out to be the first Common Tern that I had seen in Iowa.
After the stop at the slough we went on and spent some time fishing. We caught bullhead and I even snagged a carp but the line got when we tried pulling it up. It was only a couple feet from us when the line gave out. That was the "fish that got away story" of the trip.
When the fishing was done with my dad and I went out and did some more birding before we had to head home. On Grover's Lake on the Iowa/Minnesota border I was pleased to find two breeding plumage Red-necked Grebes along with five Redheads. At Storm Lake, about an hour south of there we came across a group of thee Caspian Terns. I chased them around trying to get photos but they didn't cooperate.
The day ended up being nice and sunny which was nice since the weather has been bad lately. The fish were biting (for a while at least) and the birds were nice too.
I love to hike in this park and am always finding something new and interesting there, especially when it comes to birds. I am going out there tomorrow and hope to find some more good birds so keep watching for a post on that.
June 15, 2009
Back on June 1 I took the 3 hour journey up to Pilot Know State Park in north central Iowa with Paul to look for a Hooded Warbler and other warblers that were being seen there. The park is named after the hill there which is the second highest point in Iowa. We got started a little bit late but we still saw some nice birds. The first bird on our list of things to find was the Connecticut Warbler. We looked and played a tape right where it was seen the day before but we were unsuccessful in finding it.
The Hooded Warbler is quite the rarity this far north in Iowa. They usually hang out in the southern and eastern areas of the state.
The other bird we were wanting to find was a Cerulean Warbler. We found one of these stunning blue birds and I got a great photo of it. The natural lighting was great, plus I added the flash to make the eye and the underside stand out. Obviously I had the settings just right when I took that photo. It turned out great, and the eye showed up which really added to the photo!
When we were done with looking for warblers we went off in search of other woodland birds around the park. We heard a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher while driving and walking around. Another thing that we found was a family of Eastern Phoebes. The young ones were all squished tightly into the nest which was under a picnic shelter's roof.On the way home we stopped by Eagle Lake (marsh). There were lots of cattails and plenty of deep water for marsh birds to reside in. When we first got there I easily discovered a Red-necked Grebe and a Western Grebe. Since the discovery I made, the local birders have been monitoring these birds which are still there. Ruddy Duck, Sora, Northern Harrier, Marsh Wren, and Swamp Sparrow were also there on the marsh. We heard an Alder Flycatcher there and on the way out we picked up five Olive-sided Flycatchers.
We had a great day of birding and I got one life bird as well as four year birds. That concludes my birding adventure to the second highest point in Iowa.
June 14, 2009
The Loess Hills Prairie Seminar was created to help acquaint people with these hills (which I live in) and get them to understand their importance. Many people including me go to the seminar to learn about these hills and about all the plants and animals that inhabit them. I didn't just go to learn this time like I have in recent years but I also went to teach. I did a presentation called "An Introduction to Birdwatching". Twelve people came and a few seemed very interested in birdwatching and some even took notes! It was neat to have a chance to share birding with other people.
I saw a few birds including Black-billed Cuckoo, Blue-winged Warbler, and Northern Parula while I was at the seminar a few weeks back.
One thing I tried to do at the seminar is to learn about plants. I went on a hike to learn about prairie plants with a professor from Iowa State University and learned a lot from him as did the other participants. I took some of these pictures of the plants I saw the trip and during the rest of the weekend. Amazingly I managed to not get one single photo of a bird! Don't worry, the plants will never replace the birds.