Despite rain and thunderstorms earlier in the morning, the clouds vacated and the sun appeared just as 10 young birders, parents, and grandparents gathered at Voas Nature Area with Dallas County Conservation Board (DCCB) for a morning of summer birding. Mike Havlik with DCCB was our leader and local expert. Mike has a wealth of knowledge about birds and a contagious enthusiasm for the outdoors. We were lucky to have him along on this fine morning!
Before embarking on our search for wetland birds, Mike shared briefly with us the history of this critical habitat area for grassland and wetland birds. It started as a crop field, but a donation from a conservation-minded individual sparked a series of wetland restorations through a mitigation program that resulted in this fantastic 700-acre area. “If you build it, they will come”, Mike continued to say as we experienced the many great birds of this area, and Mike’s statement was certainly true!
After listening carefully for a Yellow-billed Cuckoo in the parking lot, we loaded the van to head to the first stop. En route, we spotted an American Kestrel near a nest box and stopped to view Mallards, Blue-winged Teal, and Canada Geese on a sheetwater wetland. At the first stop, we heard and saw several Marsh Wrens as well as a few Yellow-headed Blackbirds and Great-tailed Grackles, three of our target species for the morning. We also had spectacular views of a pair of Ruddy Ducks as well as an American Coot and Pied-billed Grebe. On a distant wetland, we watched a flock of American White Pelicans lift off among foraging Forster’s and Black Terns.
We stopped at another wetland basin briefly where we had great looks at an Eastern Kingbird perched on a sign, heard an Eastern Meadowlark singing, and carefully studied a female Red-winged Blackbird, a bird often confused with other species. A couple stops along the east side of the area produced singing Alder and Willow Flycatchers, a Yellow Warbler, and a Song Sparrow.
Next, we returned to the parking lot to hike through a recently-restored savanna. Mike shared with us the importance of this unique habitat type to some birds and the great success story of this restoration effort as we hiked, listening to Red-headed Woodpeckers, Eastern Wood-Pewees, and watching an Eastern Bluebird flit from branch to branch. We also heard a Northern Cardinal and Indigo Bunting singing and stopped to admire a Barn Owl nest box. A Northern Leopard Frog and Eastern Garter Snake captured our attention on the return hike to the parking lot.
We had a ton of fun on this sunny morning! A huge thanks to Mike Havlik for his leadership and for sharing his knowledge and passion with us. Thanks also to young birder Noelle Wagner for keeping our trip list, which you can view here. You can view photos from our morning here.