Twelve young birders, parents, grandparents, and friends spent a gorgeous Iowa spring morning searching for migrants and learning about birding basics at Des Moines Water Works Park near downtown Des Moines. We started the morning with a short exercise on using binoculars and practiced our skills on a distant sign. With several different habitat types yet to explore, we started off in search of birds all the while discussing what to look and listen for that can help with identifying birds. For example, observing different bird behaviors (e.g., tail bobbing) and the microhabitat within which the bird is (e.g., forest understory or forest canopy) can greatly help to pinpoint which species you see. We had the opportunity to practice these observation skills on a Yellow-throated Warbler singing high in the treetops. Luckily, the bird came down to mid-level in the tree for all to see! Not long before an adult Bald Eagle was seen soaring high overhead.
We continued through the park. American Robins and Chipping Sparrows were numerous, and we stopped to observe an occasional Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, or Chimney Swift overhead. A distant Mourning Dove had us all fooled into thinking it was a raptor until we approached, and a couple of Killdeer in an open grassy field were very cooperative. Now on to the wetlands!
We were quickly greeted by a couple Canada Goose families, the goslings dutifully following the parents into the water as we approached. Double-crested Cormorants were occasionally flying overhead and eventually landing gracefully in the water. Oliver spotted a Great Blue Heron in the distance, which sat tight as we approached to offer clear looks for all. A Red-tailed Hawk was also perched in a distant tree. A Mallard pair joined the Canada Goose families, and several Blue-winged Teal and Northern Shovelers were seen on a distant pond, the colorful males of both species clearly visible from a distance. We finished the morning hiking along a couple more wetlands near the parking lot. Although the birds were quiet, the Chorus and Northern Leopard Frogs were very vocal!
Many thanks to all those who attended our trip on this gorgeous morning! You can view our species list here and some photos from our trip here.