It was 31 degrees with a brisk 30-mph wind, but that didn’t stop 18 young birders, parents, grandparents, and volunteers from scanning the water and searching the woods at McIntosh Woods State Park near Clear Lake on April 2, 2016. A cold but fun morning it was!
We started off the morning braving the wind to scope diving ducks on Clear Lake. Despite the strong winds, there were several birds moving about, and we quickly noticed a group of Lesser Scaup close to shore. Among the Lesser Scaup were two Redheads and several Bufflehead and Ring-necked Ducks, offering the young birders great views of these common diving duck species. A bit of searching with keen eyes also yielded four Double-crested Comorants and a single Common Loon on the far side of the lake.
We then moved to a small pond located in the center of McIntosh Woods. There was a small dock and viewing blind on the pond, and all the young birders ventured onto the dock to look at the many dabbling ducks on the pond. Mallards, Wood Ducks, Hooded Mergansers, Blue-winged Teal, and Northern Shovelers were loafing and feeding on the pond at close range, their many colors stunning in the morning light. Here, we learned about the habitat and life history differences between dabbling and diving ducks and even got to look at some of what the dabbling ducks were eating.
Next, we focused our attention to the woods to search for migrant passerines. It wasn’t long before we located some migrating Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets flitting about near the trail. Walking a bit further, we saw an Eastern Phoebe foraging along a wooded edge, a first of the year for many adults and young birders alike. As we exited the woods, we were able to see and hear some migrating Fox Sparrows and a Barred Owl, a favorite on the trip. We finished the morning by scoping the lake once more, and were able to see several Common Loons at close range. A great way to finish the morning!We are grateful to Todd Von Ehwegen and the Cerro Gordo County Conservation Board for co-sponsoring this trip and for providing Kaufman Field Guides for all young birder attendees. Many thanks also to our volunteers Carolyn Fischer, Linda Rudolph, and Bill Scheible for their leadership. You can view our bird list here and photos from our trip here.