Field Trip to Cone Marsh – April 6, 2013

It’s overcast and the wind is howling.  The rain is holding off but that just means we are standing in a virtual dust storm because it’s been dry.  Typical spring birding in Iowa… and we are having a blast!

IMG_0590We were six young birders, four parents, and two volunteer leaders heading off to explore Cone Marsh in Louisa County.  Spring birding at Cone Marsh can be exciting and today was no exception.  Our group started in Lone Tree where we started with a flitting Golden-crowned Kinglet in the yard just south of the BP Station.  Heading south across open farm country, it’s not readily apparent that we are actually crossing an ancient glacial lake bed of which Cone Marsh is a remnant.


IMG_0572Our first stop at the marsh was the NE corner.  We could see the marsh was swarming with migrating ducks and geese.  The wind made it difficult to study the bird through our spotting scopes but we did spend a minute studying the distant field full of moving white forms.  Our first thought was swans but it turned out to be a large collection of white Snow Goose decoys!


 Along the south road bordering Cone Marsh, we studied a group of diving ducks including Lesser Scaup and Ring-necked Ducks.  More wind and dust.


Apparently Carl is trying to conjure up some good birds with his eyes closed!

On to our next stop where we tried walking out on the dike that traverses the marsh.  More diving ducks and more wind, dust, and now also smoke from a recent burn conducted by the DNR.


Check out the wind swirls on the water surface

Just then, I received a call from James Huntington who was also at Cone Marsh and remembered that our young birder field trip was today.  He said he and John Rutenbeck were nearby and had some good birds for us.  So we moved again to the NW corner of Cone Marsh and were delighted to find both shelter from the wind and, yes indeed, good birds.  James and John pointed out a single Ross’ Goose swimming with two Snow Geese and also an Eared Grebe.   Time to break out the cookies and celebrate!


James Huntington putting his scope on an Eared Grebe for our group


John Rutenbeck in the orange hat



A number of our young birders write down everything they see





We love seeing families out birding


After leaving Cone Marsh, we returned to Lone Tree and checked out a large oak tree in the center of town where James had tipped us to an active Great Horned Owl nest.  After a few minutes, the nice lady in whose yard we were all standing came out and told us exactly where to look.  Sure enough, a barely visible juvenile bird was peeking out at us!


Juvenile Great-horned Owl in the nest


Thanks to Jason Paulios for helping out as a leader and to James Huntington and John Rutenbeck for finding some good birds to share with young birders.   Special thanks to Linda Bendorf for her unflagging support of Iowa Young Birders and for taking some great photos!


Total of 47 species at two locations:

Cone Marsh:  Greater White-fronted Goose  15, Snow Goose  4  (2 blue, 2 white), Ross’s Goose  1, Canada Goose  24, Wood Duck  2, Gadwall  22, American Wigeon  1, Mallard  103, Blue-winged Teal  6, Northern Shoveler  4, Green-winged Teal  10, Canvasback  1, Ring-necked Duck  2, Lesser Scaup  130, Bufflehead  2, Pied-billed Grebe  1, Horned Grebe  5, Eared Grebe  1, American White Pelican  5, Great Blue Heron  1, Turkey Vulture  5, Northern Harrier  1, Bald Eagle  3, American Coot  37, Killdeer  6, Greater Yellowlegs  6, Pectoral Sandpiper  9, Ring-billed Gull  6, Mourning Dove  1, Red-bellied Woodpecker  2, Northern Flicker  2, Eastern Phoebe  1, Horned Lark  4, Tree Swallow  4, Black-capped Chickadee  1, American Robin  3, Song Sparrow  1, Northern Cardinal  1, Red-winged Blackbird  151, Common Grackle  1, House Finch  1

Lone Tree:  Eurasian Collared-Dove  1, Mourning Dove  13, Great Horned Owl  1, Red-bellied Woodpecker  1, Downy Woodpecker  2, Blue Jay  3, Golden-crowned Kinglet  2, American Robin  4, Common Grackle  13, House Finch  1, House Sparrow  3