On August 18, 2018, eleven young birders, parents, grandparents, and volunteers met at Memorial Park in Ottumwa for a morning of birding in southern Iowa. The morning started off cool and overcast but quickly warmed up when the sun appeared. Lucky for us, the birds were hot all morning!
Our target bird at Memorial Park was the Mississippi Kite, a unique Iowa bird. Memorial Park is one of two regular nesting locations for this species in Iowa, and the nesting pair had returned for another southern Iowa summer. It didn’t take long for us to find the small family as one of the adults was perched in the top of a White Pine tree near the parking lot as young birders arrived! However, this was only the beginning of what continued to be an amazing spectacle as both adults actively hunted overhead, showing off their talent in aerial acrobatics. The two juvenile birds were also present, continuously calling to remind their parents of their hunger and expected receipt of any captures. After an hour of watching in awe, we decided it best to leave for our second destination despite the desire to watch these birds even longer. This was a life bird for all young birders present, and for the parents and grandparents as well!
Next, we traveled south of Ottumwa to Pioneer Ridge Nature Area. Owned and managed by Wapello County Conservation Board, Pioneer Ridge contains a variety of habitats that makes birding this location very exciting. Although the temperature was rising quickly, the birds were still quite active and we were immediately greeted by Gray Catbirds and American Goldfinches. Several Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were also putting on a great show, chasing each other along the edges of a nearby pond. We stopped along the trail to examine a Baltimore Oriole nest and spotted two young Great Crested Flycatchers in the distance. Later on our hike, we took a break in a nearby barn shelter to search for bats in the rafters (beneath the piles of guano) and enjoyed close-up views of a Black Swallowtail butterfly captured by one of our young birders!We finished our hike at a nearby pond. A pair of Belted Kingfishers were hunting and chattering nearby as the young birders accumulated quite the collection of snail shells from the water. A great place to finish a great morning! I’m grateful to all who attended to make this morning a ton of fun and to Kornelia Robertson for sharing some great photos from our trip. You can view photos from our trip here as well as a species list from Memorial Park here and Pioneer Ridge Nature Area here.