On October 9, 2021, a lively group of young birders met at Great Western Park in Manning, Iowa to search for fall-migrating waterfowl and other birds. After brief introductions, sharing of our favorite birds (always one of the most fun aspects of the morning), and discussion of what we might see that morning, we started off down the trail with binoculars in hand. The crisp fall air was full of excitement and anticipation.
It wasn’t long before we encountered our first birds of the morning, flying circles above us and landing near the top of a nearby tree. American Goldfinches! We took a few minutes to learn about molt in American Goldfinches, as well as other birds, and learned a couple identification tricks for our state bird in flight: an undulating flight pattern and a flight call that sounds like “potato chip”. A bit further down the trail, a small group of American Robins flew over, a few of the more than 60 American Robins we would see throughout the morning.
While walking down the trail, we noticed a collection of nest boxes on fence posts. We took a few moments to learn about these boxes, built for Eastern Bluebirds and used by other species such as Tree Swallows, and admired the careful architecture of a nest in one of the boxes. Suddenly, young birder Noah spotted a Peregrine Falcon flying low and directly overhead, offering everyone great views of its long, pointed wings and falcon-like body shape. While definitely not on our list of expected birds, we were pleasantly surprised to see our fastest bird in North America!
We continued to add to our list of fall migrants along the far side of the pond. A Yellow-rumped Warbler, one of the last warbler species to migrate through Iowa, perched in a tree over the trail voicing its characteristic “chupp” all along, and we were able to patiently entice a duo of Marsh Wrens from the cattails and into view. A small flock of six Blue-winged Teal burst into flight from a shallow part of the wetland and a group of 13 Canada Geese decide to spend some time loafing on the pond. As we started back towards the parking lot, we paused several times for Northern Flickers, Blue Jays, and American Robins that were bopping among the treetops, and a Bald Eagle and Turkey Vulture soaring in tandem was a nice end to a great morning of fall birding in Iowa.
Many thanks to all those who attend and to Ms. Tina Newman for helping organize this trip. You can view our complete species list here and some photos from our morning here.