On Sunday, April 28, 2019, 10 young birders, parents, and volunteers rendezvoused at Hickory Hill Park in Iowa City with hopes of capturing a small window of spring migration. After a cold, rainy, and windy Saturday forced us to postpone our trip to Sunday, everyone was anxious to take advantage of the fantastic weather and see which birds arrived after the recent weather system.
Before starting down the trail into the woods, we watched and listened for birds from the parking lot which was completely surrounded by trees. Several birds were foraging in shrubs along the edges including a pair of House Wrens, a Northern Cardinal, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-capped Chickadee, and Blue Jay. Binoculars were pointing in all directions as young birders and parents called out different birds in a moment of birding excitement! We then turned to head towards the trail, but paused briefly to watch a Turkey Vulture, Northern Harrier, and Broad-winged Hawk soaring overhead and a Chipping Sparrow singing low in a nearby tree. We were even offered the great fortune of seeing a second Broad-winged Hawk perched in a tree, offering a great opportunity for all to study this bird from a short distance.
Once in the woods, we all looked and listened intently for birds high and low, hoping for views of a Hermit Thrush, Scarlet Tanager, or any other warbler species in the area. Shortly down the trail, we paused briefly at the sight of a Hairy Woodpecker working in a nearby tree. Not long after, a Downy Woodpecker landed in a different tree allowing us to learn about the subtle differences in these similar species. We also heard a Red-bellied Woodpecker calling from a distance and a Tufted Titmouse occasionally announcing his presence. A tip from a fellow birder resulted in our first migrant of the day - a Great Crested Flycatcher was foraging high in the canopy. Further down the trail, we watched a Barred Owl fly through the trees back to a small group of pine trees from which we watched some Blue Jays chase it off earlier. Owls are always a treat to see!
As the time passed, the birding slowed, but we still enjoyed time in the woods observing other woodland inhabitants including various woodland wildflowers and glimpses of a beautiful Red Fox working through the understory. We continued to see Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, and finally were able to see a White-breasted Nuthatch and American Goldfinch, both species we had been hearing but had not yet seen. As we hiked back towards the parking lot, we stopped to view the Barred Owl again napping in the same pine trees and noticed it had a friend sharing the napping place. We also encountered a Hermit Thrush, Eastern Bluebird, and Eastern Phoebe before finishing up our 2-mile hike on this fantastic day.
As always, we’re grateful to all who joined us! You can view photos from our morning here and our species list here.