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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 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.
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
Click below to start a slide show or on the thumbnails to view any image or click on this
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
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).
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
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
Iowa Young Birders was featured in the January 2015 issue of the Bur Oak Land Trust Environmental Journal (http://www.buroaklandtrust.org).
With the generous support of many donors, Iowa Young Birders is announcing the creation of the Iowa Young Birder Camp Scholarship.
Each year, the American Birding Association offers two week-long young birder camps. Camp Avocet (Delaware in August) and Camp Colorado (Estes Park in July) are considered premier opportunities for young birders to increase their birding skills, learn about bird conservation, and about careers in ornithology. Above all, young birders have the opportunity to meet other young birders from around the country.
Iowa Young Birders is committed to encouraging the development of young birders and we are excited to offer a scholarship of up to $500 to one or more Iowa young birders interested in attending an ABA camp.
Scholarships are available to any young birder who is a resident of Iowa and is between the ages of 13 - 18 (the age range eligible for the ABA camps.) Young birders need not be a member of Iowa Young Birders nor do they need to show financial need.
As part of their application, young birders are asked to submit an essay written describing their most memorable Iowa birding experience and how it has changed their thoughts, ideas, or outlook on conservation. The deadline to apply for the Iowa Young Birder Camp Scholarship is April 1.
If you would like to contribute to the Iowa Young Birder Camp Scholarship, please click here.
Twenty-four hardy birders explored the wonders of a wintry George Wyth State Park near Waterloo on February 21, 2015. Our group included 12 young birders ages 8 to 16. Led by our local guide, Francis Moore, we braved an icy trail to an area that traditionally hosts one or more Northern Saw-Whet Owls. During our pre-walk orientation, we learned how this little winter visitor got its name by listening to a brief sample of its distinctive song and call. "Whet" means to sharpen something and even though none of us have ever actually heard the sound of someone sharpening or "whetting" a saw, at least we understand the concept!
When we approached the cedar trees that were likely to have a roosting owl, we paused as a group and sent Francis on ahead to (hopefully) locate an owl. While we waited, we learned some of the techniques for finding roosting owls including looking for large amounts of "whitewash" (owl droppings) on the trunks of trees.
In a few minutes, Francis returned with the news that he had found at least one owl. We sent small groups back into the brush with Francis and all took turns quietly observing the owl.
With this kind of view, it was a very happy group of young birders, parents, and volunteer leaders!
As we walked back to our cars, one of the resident Red-Shouldered Hawks flew right overhead.
Another field trip highlight was that we had two copies of the Sibley Guide to Birds donated to Iowa Young Birders. The name of each young birder was on a slip of paper and two names were drawn at random. And two young birders went home with a book!
Thank you to volunteer leaders Francis Moore and Bill Scheible for your help and to the parents who drove (and who, I'm quite sure) also enjoyed seeing the Northern Saw-whet Owl!
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