Spring Birding & a Second Benton County ESO Red Morph

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©Coralee Bodeker

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.

Bald Eagle, Benton County

Bald Eagle, Benton County

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.

Bald Eagle on-nest; Black Hawk County

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.

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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.

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There’s an Eastern Screech-owl somewhere in this photo…click on the photo to enlarge.

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Now do you see me?

 Left side of the photograph, in the focus circle.  Tufts!

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©Coralee Bodeker

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I see you!

 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.

Eastern Screech-owl (red morph); Benton County

Eastern Screech-owl (red morph); Benton County. Look at those talons! Such a small bird, but he’s tough.

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Eastern Screech-owl silhouette.

 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! 😉

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13 thoughts on “Spring Birding & a Second Benton County ESO Red Morph

  1. Oh, my gosh, the kids have great eyes! How lucky to see an owl. I wonder if an owl box would convince them to nest? Also, I was going to ask if you wanted to be a nest monitor, but as usual you are one step ahead of me. We took the course and have four nests here. We are great about getting to the nests in March and May but have been late in June for some reason and miss the fledging. We have vowed to not be any later than June 15th this year. I love hearing your reports! We saw 9 hooded mergansers doing a mating dance around one female through the scope on Thursday night at Pool Slough in New Albin and heard sand hill cranes.

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    • Coralee was researching nest boxes last week & printed out a bunch of pdfs of birds she’d like to see nesting on our land…this owl was one of them! I really hope they just nest in that cavity–so much easier, lol. I think that’s awesome you monitor 4 eagle nests! You live in what our trainer on Saturday called “eagle nesting mecca”–your part of Iowa truly is the best! I love it up there! Coralee wasn’t with me when I saw the Hooded Mergansers last week, she’d really like to see those this year. Sandhill Cranes! Always a treat! Thank you for stopping by the blog, Bernice, miss you!

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  2. Oh oh oh! What GREAT pics, AGAIN! The little guy is so sweet tucked away in that tree. Great spot by Coralee! She really DOES have a birder’s eye! Isn’t it fun seeing your kids develop tastes for different things? Loved the post!!! Hugs, Nana & Mom

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  3. Simply amazing. This is just so wonderful to read and sharing these amazing photos of the owl- your kids are the bomb Ruby good on you guys for raising such nature lovers…it speaks volumes. That owl is just too cute…talons and all.
    xo

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    • We actually found one last night not three miles from our house–now the adventure entails trying to figure out how to get a good view of it as it’s along the river and not easily accessible. Thank you for your encouragement! xx

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  4. Pingback: Two! But which owl is the original? | Being Bodeker

  5. The owl story is a hoot, particularly the no trespassing edict by Coralee. A canvasback spot is a real treat also as they have become rare. it is a large duck but also the fastest. Dad

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