Our sixth year of providing fun, educational, family-friendly programs on birds and the outdoors in Iowa, 2018 was one to remember for Iowa Young Birders. We hosted ten field trips across the state starting with our Junior Duck Stamp Day at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge and ending with a brisk morning at Cedar Lake near in Cedar Rapids. From Dudgeon Lake in eastern Iowa to the wetlands of northwest Iowa and even over the border to Fontenelle Forest in Nebraska, we saw 128 species of birds that included many life birds and many great memories for young birders. And best of all, 147 young birders, friends, and families spent 30 hours of fun in the Iowa outdoors!
Pictured to the right (in the red shirt), young birder Bobby joined us at Fontenelle Forest for his first Iowa Young Birders field trip. Excited about his newly found passion for birds and bird illustration (he is a very talented artist), Bobby had Prothonotary Warbler on his target list for the day. Nearing the end of the morning, we ventured from the mature forest high about the Missouri River to the wetlands of the Missouri River floodplain near the Hitchcock Wetlands Learning Center. As we walked along the trail, listening intently for the loud, "Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet" song of the male Prothonotary, we talked about Prothonotary Warbler habitat and ongoing conservation efforts for this vibrant yellow songbird. As we neared the viewing platform at the end of the trail, we heard it...a male Prothonotary was singing to the left along the wetland edge. We hurried along, listening and searching carefully for a quick glimpse. Then, as if wanting to show off, the male Prothonotary Warbler appeared at close range moving slowly in the shrubs near the water. Everyone on the trip, including Bobby, was locked on to this beautiful bird, fully immersed in that moment when you realize that nature is quite amazing. Not only was this a life bird for Bobby, but was also a memory that will last a lifetime. This is but one of the many amazing stories from our exciting year that are captured in the photos above.
Our amazing year of stories and memories could not have happened without the support of our many members, sponsors, and volunteer leaders. Each year, these folks make our programs possible through financial gifts, spreading the word about our events, showing a young birder a new life bird, and simply providing suggestions and encouragement to keep us going. We are extremely grateful for these dedicated individuals and organizations for supporting the future of birding and bird conservation in Iowa!
We can't wait for 2019!