Twenty-seven young birders, parents, grandparents, and friends joined us at Kent Park on June 4, 2022 for a morning searching for lingering migrants and summer residents among the diverse habitats at this premier birding location. Though the skies suggested earlier rain would continue, they held back long enough to allow for a pleasant hike and a flurry of bird activity.
Our morning started only a few steps from the parking lot, where we paused to view a Mourning Dove perched atop the Conservation Education Center and a male Indigo Bunting perched and singing in a nearby tree. Also singing in our midst was a male Common Yellowthroat, though his skulky behavior typical of this species prevented us from getting a good look. We continued down the trail but were quickly distracted by a dark bird flying low across the trail. Some brief searching in the underbrush produced a Gray Catbird, confirmed by its characteristic “mew” calls.
Further along the trail, we emerged from the woods into an opening near the pond. Here, we were treated to great views of a trio of Red-headed Woodpeckers chasing each other around a tall snag likely hosting a nest in one of the many cavities. We also saw a trio (two males and one female) of Baltimore Orioles foraging in a tall cottonwood tree. We searched the nearby pond for some loafing waterfowl or a sneaky Green Heron came up empty-handed. And we can’t forget the Question Mark butterfly captured by volunteer leader Jayden Bowen, offering an up-close inspection of the wing markings for which this pretty critter gets its name.
From the pond, we hiked up to a prairie area with hopes of seeing some grassland birds. We were quickly rewarded with a singing male Eastern Meadowlark and Dickcissel, both species that rely exclusively on prairies during the nesting season. Also singing from a nearby shrubby edge was a Field Sparrow, its song a series of short whistles resembling a bouncing metal ball. From within the nearby woods we heard a Rose-breasted Grosbeak singing but it, too, eluded the spotting scope. A short time later, young birder Zita spotted an Orchard Oriole perched in a small tree along a field edge.
Our search for grassland birds continued along the property boundary where prairie and lightly-grazed pasture met to produce a nice mix of grassland structure. It was along this boundary that we found a pair of male Bobolinks. They put on quite a show for us, perching in a tree long enough to allow everyone great looks through the spotting scope and later showing off their skills as aerial vocalists. We also heard a Grasshopper Sparrow singing in the pasture and saw an Eastern Kingbird overhead assessing the threat of our presence. What a great list of birds utilizing this unique area of the park!
We finished our hike looping back to the parking lot, observing more of the same birds as well as more butterflies and dragonflies along the way. We’re extremely grateful to volunteer leader Jayden Bowen for his enthusiasm and for planning a fun morning for us! Thanks also to Kristen Morrow with Johnson County Conservation for helping us spread the word about this trip and allowing us some time in the Conservation Education Center after our hike (we highly recommend a visit). And, as always, thanks to the young birders and their families for attending! You can view photos from our morning here as well as a list of birds we saw here.