Twenty-one young birders, parents, grandparents, and volunteers kicked off the fall birding season with an exciting morning of birding at Red Rock Reservoir on September 8, 2018. Our target bird list included everything from Ruby-throated Hummingbird to Pileated Woodpecker. When you start the morning off seeing warblers from the parking lot, it’s hard not to be excited!
We spent the morning below the main reservoir at both Ivan’s and South Tailwater Recreation Areas. Immediately from the parking lot at Ivan’s, we spotted a couple American Redstarts in a nearby tree hyperactively looking for insects. We quickly checked one species off our target list by spotting a Ruby-throated Hummingbird at a feeder in the campground. We slowly moved toward the river, carefully watching the treetops and enjoying the extremely pleasant fall weather. Once at the river, we noticed both Caspian Terns and Ring-billed Gulls foraging over the water as well as a large, mixed flock of migrating swallows overhead. We walked farther along the river and stopped to carefully examine an adult male Mallard in non-breeding plumage, making a list of characteristics that help us identify the bird such as the dull yellow bill, overall brown color, and purple speculum on the wing. The occasional Bald Eagle and Turkey Vulture cruised overhead, and several flocks of American White Pelicans were seen taking advantage of breeze throughout the morning.
Next, we started down the paved trail between Ivan’s and South Tailwater Recreation Areas. Although the birds were quiet initially, we enjoyed capturing and examining a Cricket Frog and watching what we all felt was the largest Snapping Turtle in Iowa crawl through the mud in a nearby off-channel wetland. A Great Blue Heron posed nicely in the water for us allowing young birders long, close looks through the spotting scope. As we continued along the trail, we were greeted by White-breasted Nuthatches, a Warbling Vireo, and Red-bellied Woodpecker. We were drawn off the trail for a bit to explore a nearby shale deposit with a stream running through it. What an interesting geological feature!
Once back on the trail, we found a little hotspot of bird activity in which we saw a Black-and-White, Magnolia, and Golden-winged Warbler while a Carolina Wren and Yellow-throated Vireo sang to us from nearby. We turned back towards the parking lot and, on the return trip, added Ovenbird, Swainson’s Thrush, and Red-eyed Vireo to our species list among others. A cooperative Belted Kingfisher perched on a limb near the wetland was an exciting bird for young birders. Back at the parking lot, the bird activity was even hotter than earlier and young birders spotted several Chestnut-sided Warblers, a Bay-breasted Warbler, and another Black-and-White Warbler low in the brush. What a great finish to the morning!
This trip could not be possible without the assistance of Marla Mertz with Marion County Conservation Board. We’re grateful to volunteers from the Red Rock Lake Association for their leadership on the trip and for providing snacks. And as always, many thanks to our young birders and families for attending! You can view photos of our trip here and our species list here.