Excited to welcome some spring migrants, 16 young birders, parents, and friends gathered at Hartman Reserve in Cedar Falls on April 30, 2022. After planning to spend the morning indoors due to forecasted thunderstorms, we were surprised to find fairly pleasant conditions at Hartman when we arrived, thus allowing us to spend the entire morning outdoors!
Our luck continued throughout the morning with some great birds. We hiked from the Nature Center down to the bottomlands near the Cedar River in search of migratory songbirds and waterbirds. Descending towards the river, we stopped briefly to listen to a singing White-breasted Nuthatch that eventually flew into the tree directly above us for a great look. While listening to the nuthatch, an Eastern Phoebe lit on a cable along the trail for a brief look before flying back into the woods. We continued down the trail, admiring the many spring ephemerals in bloom such as Anemone, Dutchman’s Breeches, and Bloodroot, and stopped at the bottom to observe three male Mallards loafing on a nearby pond.
It became obvious very quickly that the bottomlands was where the birds wanted to be. A bit further down the trail we briefly heard and saw an Ovenbird low in the bushes along with a couple Ruby-crowned Kinglets bouncing in the canopy. A bit later in the morning, a few young birders were lucky to see a Ruby-crowned Kinglet on the ground not more than 10 feet in front of them! Other birds along this section of the trail included a flyover Broad-winged Hawk, White-throated Sparrows, a singing House Wren, and singing Northern Cardinals.
Continuing down the trail, we stopped briefly at a woodland pond to watch a very cooperative Green Heron stroll along the water’s edge. A handful of Wood Ducks erupted from the water as we walked closer, and a Louisiana Waterthrush was singing from somewhere near the water (unfortunately, we never did see it). A non-bird highlight from near the pond and throughout the hike were the many land snails out and about, capitalizing on the moist ground. Before moving on from the pond, we noticed a Gray Catbird darting low in the forest understory and heard a distant Pileated Woodpecker calling.
We continued through the bottomlands, adding species such as Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Black-capped Chickadee, and Brown-headed Cowbird to our list. We paused for a few minutes near a stream, where many of the young birders saw two White-tailed Deer farther up the trail. We took a group photo near a small branch fort and met a Bernese Mountain Dog named Murphy.
The remainder of our 1.5-mile hike went rather quickly due to sporadic rain showers, but not before stopping at a pond to see a pair of Canada Geese and adding Northern Flicker, Eastern Bluebird, Swainson’s Thrush, and Yellow-rumped Warbler to our species list. A huge thanks to Katie Klus, Naturalist at Hartman Reserve Nature Center, for leading us on a super fun hike! And thanks to all the young birders, parents, and friends who joined us! You can view some photos from our morning here and our species list here.