On a cool and breezy spring morning, twelve young birders, parents, and friends gathered at Swan Lake State Park near Carroll to look for migrating waterfowl. Many were already commenting about the many ducks seen on the lake within the park. We also had a visit planned from Savanna and a raptor companion from Saving Our Avian Resources (SOAR). Needless to say, we were excited for the morning!
We quickly noticed that American Robins were obviously migrating that morning. They were everywhere! We stopped to observe a few perched in a nearby tree along with a Red-bellied Woodpecker. As we walked down the road towards the lake, we stopped to look at an American Kestrel through the spotting scope, who found an Osprey nest platform to be a convenient location to survey the surrounding area for small-mammal snack. Farther down the road, we saw a White-breasted Nuthatch perched on a fencepost while listening to a Mourning Dove singing from a nearby tree. And, of course, more American Robins running around.
We finally arrived at the lake and quickly noticed a Common Loon gracefully floating on the surface. We were able to locate it in the spotting scope for a quality look before it started diving. This bird was likely en route to breeding lakes farther north but, lucky for us, stopped to take a break at Swan Lake. Also present on the lake were Canada Geese, Northern Shovelers, Blue-winged Teal, and Lesser Scaup. A pair of Common Mergansers also flew by while we watched the waterfowl and a mysterious songbird (later identified as a Fox Sparrow) was singing from the nearby shrubs.
Once finished at the lake, we ventured to the Bald Eagle enclosure to meet Savanna with SOAR. Savanna was accompanied by Ginger, a gorgeous female Red-tailed Hawk who helps educate about raptor rehabilitation and conservation. Savanna shared with us Ginger’s story and also talked with us about the important work that SOAR does to help advance raptor conservation. We learned a ton from Savanna and Ginger was a favorite of all attendees.
Once the presentation was finished, we paused briefly to look for another singing Fox Sparrow before completing our morning with one more stop at the lake. A trio of Red-breasted Mergansers swimming by was a new species for many and both a pair of Bufflehead and a single Great Blue Heron flew by. It was a great finish to an exciting morning!
We are extremely grateful to Savanna Judson and Ginger with SOAR for sharing their time and knowledge with us, and for the great work they do to conserve our raptors! Thanks also to Ms. Tina Newman for helping organize this fun field trip and to the young birders and friends for attending. You can view photos from our morning here as well as a species list here.
To learn more about SOAR, click here.