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Iowa/Illinois Young Birder Weekend

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In addition to the News Posts below, we also send a periodic eNewsletter.  You can view our newsletter archive here and you can sign up to receive future emails at the bottom of this page. 

  • June 03, 2015 11:14 AM | Anonymous

    We're very excited that Iowa Young Birders is featured in the latest issue of the American Birding Association's Birder's Guide to Conservation and Community.  The ABA has been very supportive of young birder programs across the country.  This article: Iowa Young Birders: Story of a Start-Up is a tribute to all the organizations, volunteers, parents, grandparents, and especially the enthusiastic young birders who have made it all possible.

    We're on page 10--the entire magazine is free online right here: http://bg.aba.org/i/521079-may-2015/

  • May 28, 2015 10:07 AM | Anonymous

    This year Iowa Young Birders offered our first scholarships to attend one of the American Birding Association Young Birder Camps in either Delaware or Colorado.  Applications were due April 1 and we are pleased to announce our second scholarship awardee for 2015, Walt Wagner-Hecht of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

    Walt, age 16, is a member of Iowa Young Birders and has taken part in more than 30 of our field trips.  He also volunteers to track all of our field trip checklists in eBird.  He is registered to attend the ABA’s Camp Avocet in Delaware this coming August.  Iowa Young Birders will make a $500 award toward Walt's camp tuition.  If a scholarship winner is not able to attend their camp of choice, Iowa Young Birders will award him or her with a three-year student membership in the American Birding Association.

    Each scholarship applicant is required to submit an essay describing his or her most memorable Iowa birding experience and how it has changed their thoughts, ideas, or outlook on conservation. 

    Here is Walt’s essay:

    Last week I went birding at our family’s cabin in Washington County. As soon as we arrived at the cabin, I put on my jacket, boots, and binoculars and began my search for woodcocks. It was still a bit early for them to be displaying, but that would give me time to find an area of good habitat. I decided that the best area to see woodcocks would probably be the large central prairie bordered on one side by the riverine forest of Long Creek and on the other by a forest of white pine. As I climbed a prairie hill towards the pine forest I disturbed a flock of pheasants and noticed savannah sparrows popping in and out of the grasses.

    I arrived at the prairie in time to see a gigantic flock of robins gathering before flying over to the marsh to roost. As they arrived, my presence disturbed a pair of Canada geese, who began honking continually for half an hour. I sat down to calm the birds and looked out over the prairie. As the sky darkened, the frogs began to croak and a great horned owl in the pine forest hooted. It was almost time for the woodcocks to begin displaying.

    I positioned myself in an area of burnt prairie between two large grassy areas. Suddenly a highpitched twittering sound echoed down from the sky. I knew that the woodcocks had begun their dance.

    A minute later, a “peent” coming from the grass below preceded another flying leap into the air. This time I had my binoculars ready, and followed the woodcock as he spiraled into the air then fell back to the ground. Soon, there were multiple birds peenting at the same time. I sat in wonder for a while before realizing that my mom would probably want me back at the cabin soon. I walked back down the prairie hill trail towards the cabin as the woodcocks continued to fly and sing. I counted seven woodcocks in total before saying goodbye and taking off my binoculars on the cabin shelf.

    Coming to one of the Wagner farms is always fun and there are plenty of opportunities for birding. Whenever I come, I remember that this was only here because my family worked to restore the forests, prairies, and wetlands that were once here. I think about what I could do to help protect birds and their habitats, and how when I’m older I can help keep places like these full of amazing wildlife.

    For more information about the Iowa Young Birders Camp Scholarships including how your support can helps us encourage more young birders like Walt, click here.

  • May 26, 2015 10:53 AM | Anonymous

    In 2015, Iowa Young Birders offered our first scholarships to attend one of the American Birding Association Young Birder Camps in either Delaware or Colorado.  Applications were due April 1 and we are pleased to announce our first scholarship awardee, Devvin Schroeder of Decorah, Iowa.

    Devvin Schroeder at IAYB field trip to Ledges SP on May 16, 2015Devvin is 18 and a member of Iowa Young Birders.  She hopes to attend Camp Colorado.  If there is space, Iowa Young Birders will make a $250 award toward Devvin's camp tuition.  If a scholarship winner is not able to attend their camp of choice, Iowa Young Birders will award him or her with a three-year student membership in the American Birding Association. Congratulations to Devvin!

    Each scholarship applicant is required to submit an essay describing his or her most memorable Iowa birding experience and how it has changed their thoughts, ideas, or outlook on conservation. 

    Here is Devvin’s essay:

    Hi, my name is Devvin Schroeder, I have been very fortunate to grow up in a family of conservationist.  Both of my parents have worked in conservation for many years, and they are teaching me how to help our birds and our other wildlife.

    My most memorable Iowa birding experience is when I went birding with Larry Reis and Dennis Carter at Cardinal Marsh close to the Howard/Winneshiek county line.  Both Larry and Dennis taught me how to identify different shore birds.  Larry taught me to identify them with what color their legs and feathers were, and by what size of beak they had.  Whereas Dennis taught me how to identify them by their size, the shape of their bodies, and their flight pattern. Larry also taught me how to identify some of the different dragonflies.  Cardinal Marsh is where I actually saw my first Green Heron, Lesser and Greater Sandpipers, and some other really cool and beautiful shore birds.  When I first saw these birds I was amazed at how small they were and how fast they could run.  It was fascinating watching the sandpipers run along the shore looking for things to eat.  Just watching them stick their beaks in the sand piping for food was amazing. Cardinal Marsh is also were I saw my first Sandhill Crane.  Seeing the Sandhill Crane was really special to me because at the time I didn’t know if I would ever see another Sandhill Crane again.

    I was actually really looking forward to going to Nebraska to see the Sandhill Crane migration with the Iowa Young Birders.  Instead I’m going to southern Texas with my mom to pick up my grandparents. We took them to Texas over Thanksgiving and we were able to go birding for a week.  I’m so excited to go back to Texas because we may be able to see some of the Whopping Cranes at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.  That is if they haven’t migrated yet.

    I find bird watching very relaxing, because all you really have to do is find a beautiful spot to find birds and hike because the birds are all around you.  You just have to take the time to listen and to look at what’s around you.  If you’re not careful you may miss them.

    After being at Cardinal Marsh it showed me that we have to keep our water ways and our wetlands clean from pollution.  Because if we don’t the future generations may not be able to see a Green Heron or a Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs.  If it wasn’t for conservation and the effort of many wildlife groups like the DNR, the future generations would not be able to see a Prairie Chicken. 

    Many of our bird species are disappearing because of the habitat loss.  With so many birds being threatened it pushes the birds that are on the brink even closer to being gone, for good.  With people working hard on preserving these wild places many of our rare bird species could make a comeback.  Unless we do something, like get more children, young adults or even older adults interested in birding that could make a big impact on the future of our birds.

    By not cutting that dead tree down in your yard that your wife/husband really dislikes you are helping a bird.  You may wonder how not cutting that awful tree down can help?  Well it helps by providing a place for some birds to nest in, and many insect and different bugs will slowly start to decay the tree.  Many of the insect and different bugs help feed a variety of birds, like woodpeckers and nuthatches.

    When I graduate from high school, I’m going to go to college at Iowa State University and major in Natural Resource Ecology and Management.  So that I can use my knowledge to help educate people on the growing need to protect our disappearing wildlife.  We are not going to solve this problem in one day or in a year; but with so many more people starting to understand that we have to do something before birds and other wildlife go extinct.

    If you would like to help us encourage young birders like Devvin, please consider making a contribution to Iowa Young Birders.

  • May 22, 2015 9:15 AM | Anonymous

    We received very nice coverage in the Ames Tribune courtesy of Todd Burras.  It was great to have Todd and his daughter, Elizabeth, join us on our field trip.  http://amestrib.com/sports/outdoors/iowa-young-birders-explore-inspire-conserve

  • May 20, 2015 11:02 AM | Anonymous
    Eight young birders took part in our field trip to Ledges State Park in Boone County on May 16th.  We started with sharing how to properly adjust our binoculars and we started practicing on a nearby stop sign but a Baltimore Oriole perched right overhead and we studied him in our spotting scope. READ MORE BELOW...

    Click below to start a slide show or on the thumbnails to view any image or click on this

    As we walked, we talked about how to spot and describe the location of a bird and the basics of bird identification.  A pair of Eastern Phoebes kept returning to the same perches along the creek which gave us a chance to talk about this distinctive behavior of flycatchers.  We learned what "sallying" is as well as the difference between "canopy" and "understory."

    After crossing the creek several times, we stopped to study the Cliff Swallows nesting in their mud nests built, appropriately, on the face of the cliff.  A couple of Rough-winged Swallows were also feeding in the area.

    Several Indigo Buntings perched for our spotting scope and we pursued and glimpsed a Common Yellowthroat.

    After returning to the parking lot, we talked about birding etiquette and how we respect the birds and their environment AND also each other as we bird and learn as a team.

    Every young birder received a copy of the new Iowa Ornithologists' Union Yellow Book which helps us to know about the seasonal occurences of Iowa's birds.

    Overall, we found 23 species of birds and a complete checklist can be viewed at http://ebird.org/ebird/ybn/view/checklist?subID=S23487357

  • April 17, 2015 11:00 AM | Tyler Harms (Administrator)

    The 2016 American Birding Association's Young Birder of the Year contest is now open!.  We encourage all young birders ages 10-18 to take a look and consider entering.  It's a great experience for all those who enter.  Young birders from Iowa, if we can be of any assistance, don't hesitate to ask us for help! Here are all the details (http://youngbirders.aba.org/young-birder-of-the-year-contest).

  • April 15, 2015 11:25 PM | Tyler Harms (Administrator)

    Sixteen young birders, parents, and grandparents enjoyed great looks of Greater Prairie-chickens through spotting scopes at the Kellerton Grasslands on April 11, 2015.  We observed up to 28 prairie-chickens on the lek at one time!  When we arrived, we were lucky to occasionally hear the males “booming”.  This is the loud, low-pitched sound made by the males by inflating air sacs on the side of their necks while displaying.  It was fun to see the males and females dancing with one another!  Shortly after we arrived, we had a surprise visit by Bruce Ehresman, Non-game Avian Biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (Iowa DNR). Bruce was just finishing up his lek survey for Greater Prairie-chickens and shared with us his vast knowledge on the Iowa DNR’s reintroduction of the Greater Prairie-chicken as well as current efforts to conserve this species and its habitat.  Bruce also shared his knowledge and experience with other grassland birds such as Henslow’s Sparrows, Northern Harriers, and Short-eared Owls. After about 45 minutes viewing the prairie-chickens, we walked down the gravel road through the Kellerton Grasslands.  The chorus of Eastern Meadowlarks was spectacular, and we observed Northern Harriers and other raptors soaring and hunting the grasslands. We even found a pair of Loggerhead Shrikes that were cooperative and offered many good looks through the spotting scope! When we returned to the viewing platform, we greeted a migratory flock of American Golden-plovers that landed in a harvest soybean field near the parking lot.  These birds are often spring visitors to Iowa on their long trip from their wintering grounds in South America to their breeding grounds in the high Arctic.  This was a life bird for many of the young birders! Many were disappointed that we were unable to locate an Upland Sandpiper, one of our targets for the day.  However, as we were all leaving in our vehicles, we stopped on the gravel road to viewing two Upland Sandpipers right beside the road. Many thanks to Bruce Ehresman for taking some time to share with us his knowledge about Greater Prairie-chickens and other grassland birds. Overall, we observed 19 species.  Thank you to Walt for keeping our eBird checklist that can be viewed here:  http://ebird.org/ebird/ybn/view/checklist?subID=S22804755

  • April 13, 2015 11:19 PM | Tyler Harms (Administrator)
    Iowa Young Birders member and author of "A Prairie Girl's Notebook" Coralee Bodeker shares her experience with a winter visitor to Iowa, the Snowy Owl, in her essay entitled "Iowa's Tundra Tourist".
  • April 01, 2015 11:14 PM | Tyler Harms (Administrator)

    Thirteen young birders ranging in age from 8 to 16 along with 20 parents/grandparents/friends boarded our charter bus in Iowa City and Des Moines for the 430 mile trek west to central Nebraska.  Near Grand Island we stopped to stretch our legs (but mainly to go birding!) at Mormon Island Recreation Area (http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/parks/guides/parksearch/showpark.asp?Area_No=123) .  The warm sun and blue skies made this a very pleasant stop but even better were the 15 species of waterfowl including a single Eared Grebe.  A flock of 30 Sandhill Cranes flew overhead--a tiny preview of tomorrow's adventures!  Here is a link to our checklist for this location
    (http://ebird.org/ebird/ybn/view/checklist?subID=S22562013) .  We arrived in Kearney right on time and were greeted at our hotel by the Kearney Visitor and Convention Bureau.  Everyone on our trip received a welcome bag filled with information and goodies including lens cleaning cloths to hang on our binocular straps.   Dinner at Ruby Tuesday was excellent and one of our young birders celebrated his birthday with a pretty impressive ice cream dish! We arranged with the Microtel to put our breakfast at 4:30 a.m. and by 5:15 we were back on the bus for the short trip to Rowe Audubon Sanctuary. (http://rowe.audubon.org/)   After an orientation and video, we were led out to our reserved viewing blinds by volunteer leaders.  Since our blinds were right on the river above the nighttime crane roosts, we were completely silent, unlike the cranes!  Even as we
    walked to the blinds, we could hear seemingly thousands of cranes bugling and sounding off with their contact calls. As the morning slowly grew light, we could begin to seeing a mass of cranes resting on the sandbars.  We spent the next two hours marveling at one of North America's last great migration spectacles!  As the light grew, so did the number of cranes!  Cranes as far as the eye could see.  Even dense clouds of crane flocks on the horizon.  It was truly spectacular!  After returning to the headquarters, we managed to gather together for a group photo.  And in with the blackbird and starling flock at the headquarters feeder, we enjoyed great looks at as many as four Yellow-headed Blackbirds.  Here is our checklist for Rowe Sanctuary
    (http://ebird.org/ebird/ybn/view/checklist?subID=S22585301).  On our way back to Iowa, we spent several hours at Desoto National Wildlife Refuge (http://www.fws.gov/refuge/desoto/) north of Omaha/Council Bluffs.  Tom Cox, project leader for the refuge, took time out of his busy day to narrate a very interesting bus tour of the refuge and we learned about the evolution of habitat and wildlife management at Desoto.  While we were watching a new Bald Eagle nest that Tom pointed out, one of the adult eagles cruised in a went to the nest. Here are our checklists for the road tour around Desoto (http://ebird.org/ebird/ybn/view/checklist?subID=S22585300) and our time at the visitors center (http://ebird.org/ebird/ybn/view/checklist?subID=S22585299) . Lots of happy birders on the way home!  And a big Iowa Young Birders thank you to:
    * CIT Signature Transportation for their excellent bus service (our driver, Paul, was awesome)
    * Ross Silcock and Bill Scheible for their great volunteer leadership
    * All the parents, grandparents, and friends of young birders who made this trip possible
    * Our 13 young birders whose energy and enthusiasm made this trip a lot of fun
    * Walt Wagner-Hecht for coordinating our eBird checklists
    * Rowe Audubon Sanctuary for their work in preserving this critical habitat and sharing it with visitors
    * Tom Cox and Desoto National Wildlife Refuge for hosting our visit and their work with habitat restoration

    And our trip sponsors: Gold Level:  Eagle Optics, Sharon & Dick Stillwell, and Quad City Audubon Silver Level:  Kearney Visitors Bureau, Loess Hills Audubon,  Tallgrass Prairie Audubon

  • March 04, 2015 11:48 PM | Tyler Harms (Administrator)

    Iowa Young Birders was featured in the January 2015 issue of the Bur Oak Land Trust Environmental Journal (http://www.buroaklandtrust.org).

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