Coralee & I (sometimes June) have been parked on the side of this road multiple times this past week in both the early mornings and just before dusk, observing migrating waterfowl as they stop-over in the ditch slough. We’ve seen a lot of interesting ducks–Hooded Mergansers, American Wigeons, Wood Ducks, one male Canvasback, a bunch of Canada Geese, & our first-of-the-year Red-winged Blackbird (ok, not a duck). The best part? This slough is literally less than three miles from our house. Coralee calls it her “secret birding spot,” but a lot of people have probably seen our car parked on the side of the road & wondered what on earth we were doing (a shoulder is practically non-existent)…we’re not very good at keeping secrets.
We’ve seen several Bald Eagles in the vicinity of our house. There has to be an eagle nest somewhere nearby. The Cedar River is less than five miles away.
Coralee & I became certified DNR Volunteer Wildlife Monitors this past Saturday & visited one of our two Bald Eagle nests this morning. See the yellow beak peaking out of the nest above? This nest is on Wolf Creek in an adjacent county. Our county, Benton County, is one of less than a handful of counties in Iowa that has ZERO confirmed Eagle nests…Iowa has 99 counties total. Coralee is determined to find at least one nest in Benton County before the summer is out. We see Bald Eagles on a daily basis here, so it’s inconceivable that none of these adult birds are nesting nearby.
Today in our own yard, along a small creek that feeds into the larger Prairie Creek, Coralee & Merritt literally stumbled upon an Eastern Screech-owl in a dead tree cavity. And I do mean stumble. They were looking for fossils at “Fossil Cross” (the best place to find fossils, I’m told, in our creek run) and happened to look above their heads and spotted a stunning red morph Eastern Screech-owl. I previously posted on another rare sighting of this bird here. Different individual. Our ESO is quite a bit smaller, so we’re thinking it’s a male. The one at the Benton County Nature Center has been deemed a female by the naturalists.
Left side of the photograph, in the focus circle. Tufts!
Incredible. I still can’t believe we’ve now seen TWO of this color variation in our own county in about a month’s time.
We attempted to remain calm & quiet, but after hauling the scope into the creek* (through brush, under an old barbed wire fence, over slipperly creek rocks, across mud–always mud at our house), obviously he was onto us. He allowed us at least a 10 minute view & then flew to a nearby tree. Coralee has instructed us all that we are NOT to enter the creek anymore looking for him. She wants him to stay in our yard. If we want to check the tree cavity we must do so from the yard itself with binoculars.
I think we’re raising ourselves a birder here.
*I had sweet potato tots cooking in the oven & Brian had polish on the grill when Coralee came vaulting into the house yelling at me, breathlessly, “there’s a red morph Eastern Screech-owl in the creek, come on!!!!” For a split second I thought maybe she was kidding…but she ran back out the door. I rushed into the garage, threw on slop boots, searched the car for the scope, & sprinted down the front hill after her. Food be damned! There’s an owl in the creek! 😉