PRAS's Christmas Bird Counts (CBC)
Join us for the entire day, or for a few hours. Not an early bird? Meet us at lunch and bird in the afternoon. Count with us one day or both, it is your choice...we will appreciate your help and company!

Saturday, December 17th: Bremer County CBC
For those carpooling from Waterloo-Cedar Falls, meet at 7 a.m. at the Logan Ave Hy-Vee (2181 Logan Ave, Waterloo) and we will meet other volunteers in Tripoli.
Approximately 7:45 a.m. we will meet everyone in Bremer County at the convenience store, Guppy on the Go (600 7th Ave SW, Tripoli) which is next to Panther Lanes. 
We will bird till noon and then break for lunch at Panther Lanes (
502 7th Ave SW, Tripoli). After lunch we will typically bird till about 4-4:30 p.m. for those who want to continue counting. If you plan to participate, please email Francis Moore or call 319-269-0741.

Sunday, December 18th: Cedar Falls-Waterloo CBC & Compilation Potluck

7 a.m.: Meet in the dining area at the University Hy-Vee in Waterloo (4000 University Ave, Waterloo). We will bird till noon; return back to the University Hy-Vee for lunch and then continue counting birds till about 4-4:30 p.m. If you plan to participate, please email Francis Moore or call 319-269-0741.

5 p.m. to 7 p.m.: Compilation Potluck--Cedar Falls Visitor's Center (
6510 Hudson Rd, Cedar Falls). Bring your own table service and a beverage, bring a dish to share (or not...there is always plenty of food!) and we will enjoy time together as we compile our count lists for the weekend. Even if you weren't able to help count birds with us, we invite you to join us for our compilation to hear about the birds we did see. 

Interested in other nearby Christmas Bird Counts, check out details on the Iowa Ornithologists' Union CBC webpage.

Owls, Owls & More Owls!
Recently three different winter owl species have been observed in Black Hawk County -- a Snowy Owl, Long-eared Owls and Northern Saw-whet Owls. Here are some details:

Long-eared Owl @ Martin Lake - Photo by Tom Schilke
Two Long-eared Owls have been observed at Martin (Greenbelt) Lake in Waterloo since November 29th.

  • Long-eared Owls generally form communal roosts with 2 to 20 birds during the winter. 
  • They often perch closer to the tree trunk than other owls and will elongate their body to camouflage. See how long the owl's posture is in the photo to the right. 
  • These owls always seem to have a "surprised" look on their faces.
  • The male's hoot is a single low hoot that is repeated slowly and can be heard up to 1 kilometer (0.7 mi) away.
  • Long-eared Owls are not easily seen in Iowa, so be thankful if you find this bird. These owls are mostly nocturnal, hunting in the dark, only rarely will they hunt at dusk (crepuscular hunting). 

Snowy Owl - Photo courtesy of Black Hawk Wildlife Rehabilitation
This Snowy Owl was rescued on November 29th & cared for by Black Hawk Wildlife Rehabilitation. If you find an injured bird or animal call their hotline at 319-277-6511. This owl had a slight head injury and was dehydrated, but is believed to be able to be released back to the wild after recovering. Consider making a tax-deductible donation to Black Hawk Wildlife Rehabilitation so they may continue their important work. 

  • Snowy Owls normally live in the Arctic and thus, have feathers on their feet to protect them from the severe cold. The feathered feet are apparent in the photo to the right.
  • They are white because of a lack of pigment in their feathers. This leaves more room for air, which increases the insulating ability of the feathers.
  • Snowy Owls hunt during the day, unlike most owls. This is due to the fact that it does not get dark during the summer months in the Arctic.
Northern Saw-whet Owl  Photo by Bruce Plakke

Two Northern Saw-whet Owls have also been seen at Martin (Greenbelt) Lake in Waterloo. Saw-whets are generally winter guests here in the Cedar Valley, but they can be hard to find. PRAS Board Member, Tom "Saw-whet" Stone has seen up to 8 in one day in past years! 
  • Saw-whet Owls are very small (only 5-9 inches) so they cannot eat a rodent whole like big owls. You may see a mouse in the bird's talons while they are perching. 
  • They are generally found perched about eye-level in conifers in Iowa. Small cedar trees seem to be preferred, but you will find them in pines to.
  • When prey is plentiful they will kill up to 6 mice in rapid succession and cache them for future consumption. 
  • These little guys can often be heard doing their call that sounds like a truck backing up. Sometimes you will hear them doing the call that inspires their name. 
  • Saw-whets typically hunt at night with rodents and an occasional bird making up their primary diet.
    Information from Ibird Pro 3 and the Owl Research Institute website.
Sad news...“When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” –Kahlil Gibran

It has been our delight to call PRAS Board member, Dick Lynch, our friend and we greatly miss him already. 

We are sad to share the news that Dick passed away early the morning of November 29, 2016, following a short illness. Please keep Dee and their family in your thoughts and prayers. 

Richard "Dick" Lynch (1933-2016)

Memorials may be directed to First Presbyterian Church, Prairie Rapids Audubon Society, New Horizons Band or the Rotary Foundation. Memorial gifts to PRAS in Dick's honor may be sent to:  PRAS  P.O. Box 682, Waterloo IA 50704

Dick was an extraordinary man, so kind and generous, and we are all better for having known him. 

An Irruption of Nuthatches...
Red-breasted Nuthatch  Photo courtesy Wikimedia
This fall, PRAS members began noting early observations of Red-breasted Nuthatches and they were not alone.  Fall 2016 is an irruption year for this species. PRAS members spotted a Red-breasted Nuthatch at the feeders at the Folkert's in early September at our field trip to their place.

The Birdseed and Binoculars blog reports: "Irruption years seem to happen when these nuthatches can’t find the seeds they need in the conifers in their usual winter territories, so they move farther south to see what they can find. (The American Birding Association reports that Pine Siskins and Purple Finches may be irrupting this year as well, for the same reason, a poor pine cone year in the north.)"  

Red-breasted Nuthatches sound like little tin horns and they behave much like the White-breasted Nuthatches we are accustomed to seeing here in Iowa. iBird Pro3 provides some interesting facts about this species: 

  • Red-breasted Nuthatches have a greatly enlarged hind toe and a short tail, which help them climb up and down trees.
  • They apply sticky conifer resin to the entrance of its nest hole. The male puts the resin on the outside...while the female puts it around the inside. It may help to keep out predators or competitors.
  • A group of nuthatches are collectively known as a "jar" of nuthatches.

-- Information provided courtesy of All About Birds-The Cornell Ornithology Lab and iBird Pro3. 

PRAS Board Members pledge support for IWILL (Iowa's Water & Land Legacy)
At the October 18, 2016 PRAS Board meeting, a motion was passed to express the PRAS Board members' unanimous support of Iowa's Water & Land Legacy initiative to secure funding for the constitutional amendment that was passed in 2010 to fund conservation efforts in Iowa. 

Here's the background information: In 2010, 63 percent of Iowans voted for a constitutional amendment to create the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, a permanent and constitutionally protected funding source dedicated to clean water, productive agricultural soils and thriving wildlife habitats. Six years later, the Trust Fund sits empty because it requires a sales tax increase of 3/8ths of a cent for funding. 
Given our enormous challenges related to water quality and the clear benefits tied to soil conservation and improving our wildlife habitat, Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy supports raising the sales tax to fund the Trust Fund. --Information courtesy IWILL website
Learn more about this issue on the IWILL website.
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