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Field Trip to Kellerton Grasslands April 11, 2015

April 15, 2015 11:25 PM | Tyler Harms (Administrator)

Sixteen young birders, parents, and grandparents enjoyed great looks of Greater Prairie-chickens through spotting scopes at the Kellerton Grasslands on April 11, 2015.  We observed up to 28 prairie-chickens on the lek at one time!  When we arrived, we were lucky to occasionally hear the males “booming”.  This is the loud, low-pitched sound made by the males by inflating air sacs on the side of their necks while displaying.  It was fun to see the males and females dancing with one another!  Shortly after we arrived, we had a surprise visit by Bruce Ehresman, Non-game Avian Biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (Iowa DNR). Bruce was just finishing up his lek survey for Greater Prairie-chickens and shared with us his vast knowledge on the Iowa DNR’s reintroduction of the Greater Prairie-chicken as well as current efforts to conserve this species and its habitat.  Bruce also shared his knowledge and experience with other grassland birds such as Henslow’s Sparrows, Northern Harriers, and Short-eared Owls. After about 45 minutes viewing the prairie-chickens, we walked down the gravel road through the Kellerton Grasslands.  The chorus of Eastern Meadowlarks was spectacular, and we observed Northern Harriers and other raptors soaring and hunting the grasslands. We even found a pair of Loggerhead Shrikes that were cooperative and offered many good looks through the spotting scope! When we returned to the viewing platform, we greeted a migratory flock of American Golden-plovers that landed in a harvest soybean field near the parking lot.  These birds are often spring visitors to Iowa on their long trip from their wintering grounds in South America to their breeding grounds in the high Arctic.  This was a life bird for many of the young birders! Many were disappointed that we were unable to locate an Upland Sandpiper, one of our targets for the day.  However, as we were all leaving in our vehicles, we stopped on the gravel road to viewing two Upland Sandpipers right beside the road. Many thanks to Bruce Ehresman for taking some time to share with us his knowledge about Greater Prairie-chickens and other grassland birds. Overall, we observed 19 species.  Thank you to Walt for keeping our eBird checklist that can be viewed here:  http://ebird.org/ebird/ybn/view/checklist?subID=S22804755

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