On June 2, 2018, 17 young birders, parents, and grandparents gathered at Fontenelle Forest Nature Center in Bellevue, Nebraska for our joint Iowa Young Birders and Omaha Youth Birding Group field trip. A string of thunderstorms earlier that morning left behind cool air and sunshine and sparked some activity in the birds! We were excited to get started!
We started down the boardwalk into the forest with birds singing from all directions. We were immediately greeted by a singing Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and stopped a bit further down the trail to listen to singing House and Carolina Wrens. We chatted a bit about the preferred habitat of the House Wren compared to one of our target species, the Scarlet Tanager, and how we could use that knowledge to help us identify and locate these different birds. While learning about this, a Wood Thrush was serenading us from a distance. We were also lucky to see a pair of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds while stopped, one of which appeared to be carrying nesting material. All this excitement and we were only 10 minutes into our trip!
We continued down the boardwalk and quickly noticed that American Redstarts were numerous in the forest. We were offered many great looks at these hyperactive, colorful warblers as they flitted and foraged through the treetops. We learned how to distinguish between males and females of this species based on color and were even lucky enough to observe some territorial displays of two males in the presence of a female. Other great birds in the forest included Red-headed and Pileated Woodpeckers, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Tufted Titmouse, and Eastern Wood-pewee.
We finished the morning at the Fontenelle Forest wetlands below the Nature Center, a habitat quite different than that in which we birded earlier in the morning. And as no surprise, we quickly noticed the bird community was a bit different as well. We heard both a Common Yellowthroat and Song Sparrow singing along the trail, along with Tree Swallows foraging on the wing overhead. We were very lucky to hear both Willow and Alder Flycatchers singing nearby, allowing us to easily compare the songs of these nearly indistinguishable species. The “icing on the cake” for our visit to the wetlands, however, was a pair of Prothonotary Warblers. The male was frequently singing and offered great looks to all. This was a life bird for several young birders present, a fantastic way to end a fun morning with friends and family!
We’re grateful to Fontenelle Forest for hosting us and to Bob Wells and Tisha Johnson with the Omaha Youth Birding Group for their leadership. And as always, many thanks to the young birders and their families for joining us on another fun and educational trip! You can view photos from our trip here and species lists for both the Nature Center and wetlands below:
Fontenelle Forest Nature Center
Fontenelle Forest wetlands