On November 10, 20 young birders, parents, grandparents, and volunteers ventured out on a brisk fall morning to Cedar Lake in Cedar Rapids in search of migrating waterbirds. We had some target birds including Snow and Greater White-fronted Goose, American White Pelican, and Dark-eyed Junco, but we were most excited to see what was visiting this birding hotspot!
Before starting down the trail on the north side of the lake, a flock of Canada Geese sounded their welcome while flying overhead, and an occasional Ring-billed Gull cruised by searching for a snack in the icy-cold water. As we started down the trail, we were drawn to the northwest corner of the lake where there was a large congregation of waterbirds. Before reaching our vantage point for viewing the waterbirds, however, we were excited to see one of our target species, Dark-eyed Junco, as well as other landbirds including Northern Cardinal, Black-capped Chickadee, and White-breasted Nuthatch. With scopes set up, we then turned to the water on which both male and female Mallards were numerous, allowing us to carefully observe characteristics of this dimorphic species. Also present were numerous Ring-billed Gulls, some more Canada Geese, a single Pied-billed Grebe, and single Cackling Goose. And the best part? As if on cue, a single Snow Goose and single American White Pelican flew in to join the other waterbirds as if they both knew we wanted to see them!
Further up the trail, young birder Oliver scouted a pond near the trail where several Mallards were resting out of the brisk wind and very close to the trail. We were surprised to see a female Hooded Merganser among the Mallards, again allowing a nice comparison of characteristics between these two very different ducks. We were also surprised to see a Red-headed Woodpecker along the trail, and both Red-bellied and Downy Woodpeckers where in the area as well.
After a quick break to warm up at our vehicles, we headed off toward the south end of the lake to look for more waterbirds. Along the way, we found a Red-tailed Hawk perched upon a light pole who later was feasting on a recent catch. We added more waterbirds to our list on the south end of the lake including small groups of Double-crested Cormorants, Common Goldeneyes, Ruddy Ducks, and Buffleheads as well as a couple more Pied-billed Grebes. We finished the morning by summarizing the characteristics of all the waterbirds on our list – it was a diverse group!A huge thanks to the young birders, parents, and grandparents who bundled up to join us on this cold morning. Thanks also to Coralee Bodeker and Fawn Bowden for helping lug a second spotting scope along to view the many waterbirds and for keeping our species list which you can view here. You can also view photos from our trip here.