Twenty-four hardy birders explored the wonders of a wintry George Wyth State Park near Waterloo on February 21, 2015. Our group included 12 young birders ages 8 to 16. Led by our local guide, Francis Moore, we braved an icy trail to an area that traditionally hosts one or more Northern Saw-Whet Owls. During our pre-walk orientation, we learned how this little winter visitor got its name by listening to a brief sample of its distinctive song and call. "Whet" means to sharpen something and even though none of us have ever actually heard the sound of someone sharpening or "whetting" a saw, at least we understand the concept!
- The owl trail
When we approached the cedar trees that were likely to have a roosting owl, we paused as a group and sent Francis on ahead to (hopefully) locate an owl. While we waited, we learned some of the techniques for finding roosting owls including looking for large amounts of "whitewash" (owl droppings) on the trunks of trees.
- Learning how to find owls
In a few minutes, Francis returned with the news that he had found at least one owl. We sent small groups back into the brush with Francis and all took turns quietly observing the owl.
- Francis points out the owl
- Our target bird. Photo by Tyler Harms
With this kind of view, it was a very happy group of young birders, parents, and volunteer leaders!
- Cheering for the owls
As we walked back to our cars, one of the resident Red-Shouldered Hawks flew right overhead.
Another field trip highlight was that we had two copies of the Sibley Guide to Birds donated to Iowa Young Birders. The name of each young birder was on a slip of paper and two names were drawn at random. And two young birders went home with a book!
- Field guide winners
Thank you to volunteer leaders Francis Moore and Bill Scheible for your help and to the parents who drove (and who, I'm quite sure) also enjoyed seeing the Northern Saw-whet Owl!
Overall, we observed 18 species. Many thanks to Connor, Coralee, and Walt for contributing to our eBird checklist which you can see right here: http://ebird.org/ebird/ybn/view/checklist?subID=S22004682